Barring some epic happenings, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team has found itself on the outside looking in at the title race.
The Tide hosted the Texas A&M Aggies and, in a game that I did not expect to play out in this fashion, first year coach Kevin Sumlin got a victory over the top-ranked Tide. It was a tremendous blow to a team that looked to be the class of the nation.
Alabama's defense struggled with the mobility of Johnny Manziel early but the Tide were in a position to get the win late. Until their final offensive play sealed their fate; an interception on fourth-and-goal.
Against LSU it came down to TJ Yeldon exploding through the Bayou Bengals' defense on a great play call by Doug Nussmeier. This week the deciding call was a pass play going into the end zone from inside the five-yard line.
We see here in the initial set the Tide sends a receiver in motion. There is a tight end back side, Eddie Lacy is in the backfield with AJ McCarron as the quarterback lines up in a shotgun set.
Texas A&M counters with man-to-man coverage. We know this because of the defender traveling across the formation with Alabama's motion man. The linebackers inside are responsible for Lacy, depending upon which side he releases to.
The backside tight end stays in to block. Lacy also becomes part of the pass protection, creating a three-man route for this play. The point man from the bunch pushes up field as the other two players look to stretch towards the sideline.
The protection is great with outstanding blocking up front. No one is anywhere near McCarron and he's got time to set up and deliver a good ball.
Except he doesn't. The ball is behind a well-covered receiver. The defensive back is in better position to get the ball than the receiver. You'll notice the top-side receiver is open to the corner but McCarron goes for the shallow route.
Boom. Game over. Deshazor Everett gets the interception on a poor decision and poor toss by McCarron. Down goes the Crimson Tide.
The interesting thing here is the switch that goes unrecognized by McCarron. The Alabama quarterback is expecting Kenny Bell, the motion man, to be open shallow because his man-to-man defender is trailing, going over the top of the defense chasing Bell.
However, what the Aggies do is switch the route. Everett stays outside to play the shallow route and the man originally covering Bell, Steven Terrell, takes Amari Cooper. Not a perfect switch, Cooper is actually open going to the back pylon.
If AJ McCarron had gone through the read post-snap he likely sees the switch develop. Unfortunately, McCarron banked on his pre-snap read and it ultimately cost the Tide a shot at victory. The play call wasn't a bad one. The decisions made after the snap were where things went awry for Nick Saban's team.
In this small instant you can see how every piece of the 11-man puzzle must operate. The pass protection is outstanding. The wide receivers run their routes well. McCarron makes the wrong decision and in an instant nothing else matters because instead of six points and the lead, the ball is going the other way for the Aggies.
Great win for Kevin Sumlin and a tough loss for Alabama. A week after being on top of the world, this team is hoping to pick up the pieces and move forward. There are still football games to be played and an SEC Championship to be won.