Tale of the Tape from NFL Week 12

Matt Bowen NFL National Lead WriterNovember 25, 2013

Nov 24, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin (11) carries the ball for a touchdown in the first quarter as Chicago Bears cornerback Zack Bowman (38) tries to catch him at the Edward Jones Dome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Every Monday, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen takes you inside the Xs and Os of the game. Here are his four key plays from the Week 12 Sunday NFL schedule.


Logan Ryan’s Fourth-Quarter Interception Versus Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

Before the crucial special teams mistake from the Broncos in overtime that resulted in a turnover (and the eventual game-winning field goal), New England Patriots rookie cornerback Logan Ryan made a big play when he intercepted Manning in the fourth quarter, leading to a Tom Brady touchdown pass.

Let’s check out the Patriots' pressure scheme and focus on the technique/jam from Ryan versus the Levels concept.


Broncos vs. Patriots

Personnel: Posse/11 (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles Gun Far

Offensive Concept: Levels

Defensive Scheme: Cover 1 Pressure


There's nothing exotic here from the Patriots on the blitz. It's a nickel pressure scheme with Cover 1 in the secondary. At the snap, Kyle Arrington will blitz off the slot (safety will roll down over Wes Welker) with Ryan matched up outside versus Eric Decker in a press alignment.

With the Broncos using quick play action, however, there is no one to account for Arrington off the edge (running back can’t slide to the blitz side to pick up the rusher). That gives the Patriots a free run at Manning—and the ball has to come out.


In the Levels concept, No. 1 (Decker) runs the inside smash from a “plus” split (three yards outside of the numbers). Decker wants to create leverage and shield the defender on the inside cut; however, look at Ryan’s jam.

With his feet square, the rookie can use his hands to impact the release. That allows the defensive back to dictate the situation and get his eyes back to the quarterback. That’s the type of quality technique we should expect at the pro level.


Because of the pressure off the edge, Manning leaves this throw to the outside, and with Ryan in the proper position to drive this route, the rookie can undercut the throw and finish the play. It's another reminder that technique wins outside of the numbers.


Philip Rivers, Chargers Beat the Chiefs Secondary for the Win

With less than a minute to play, and trailing by four, Rivers (392 yards, three touchdowns) targeted wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu on the 9 (fade) route to beat the Chiefs 2-Man scheme. It was a perfect throw versus trail-man technique to get the win on the road.

Let’s take a look at the route concept, discuss the defensive scheme and break down how Ajirotutu got on top of the secondary for the win at Arrowhead. 


Chargers vs. Chiefs

Personnel: Posse/11 (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles Slot Gun Far “Dakota”

Offensive Concept: “Seattle”

Defensive Scheme: 2-Man


The “Seattle” concept is a vertical scheme paired with a backside shallow drive route (underneath crosser) from a 3x1 alignment. Here, the Chargers align the tight end as the backside X receiver (“Dakota” alignment). The Chiefs use a “cut” technique versus the tight end (safety drives crosser, cornerback replaces) and play standard 2-Man technique to the open side of the formation.

In 2-Man, the underneath defenders will sit hard inside and trail the vertical concepts with a deep-half safety over the top. Sean Smith gives up the outside release and drives to the hip of Ajirotutu with safety Quintin Demps in the deep half (top of the numbers drop). Demps has to gain depth, stay square and read the quarterback to overlap both vertical concepts to the open side of the formation. 


This is where the Chiefs get in trouble. Demps doesn't have enough depth in the deep half, he is late to come out of his break and now he has to take a flat angle (instead of a downhill, 45-degree angle). Plus, with Smith in a trail technique (and looking back for the football), Ajirotutu can create just enough separation on the 9 (route).


It was a top-tier throw from Rivers. He puts this ball on the upfield shoulder of Ajirotutu (just over the reach of Smith) for the score. That’s impressive given the game situation and the defensive call. It was a big win for the Chargers on the road. 


Tavon Austin, Rams Run Past the Bears

The Rams beat up the Chicago Bears defensive front all afternoon during their 42-21 win in St. Louis. The rushing numbers tell the story there (258 yards), and early in the first quarter, St. Louis used some creativity with alignment/personnel to get the ball to Austin on the edge.

Here’s a look at Austin’s 65-yard touchdown run out of "Joker" personnel (three receivers, two tight ends) on the counter toss.


Bears vs. Rams

Personnel: Joker/02 (3WR-2TE)

Formation: Empty

Offensive Scheme: Counter Toss  

Defensive Scheme: Cover 2


This plays out like a counter toss for the Rams despite all the pre-snap window dressing. St. Louis aligns Austin in the slot, uses pre-snap motion and sells the closed- (strong-) side toss with the tight end (H-Back alignment) coming back across the formation on a “crunch” block.

That forces defensive end Shea McClellin and Sam ‘backer James Anderson to flow/pursue (take the bait). With the backside contain now removed, the Bears have to lean on their secondary to make a play versus Austin at the second level. 


This is a tackle free safety Chris Conte can make as an “alley” player from the deep half (support between wide receiver and the core of the formation) if he attacks the ball-carrier; however, because Conte stops his feet, the safety doesn’t eliminate the distance to Austin. That allows wide receiver Chris Givens to wall off Conte and give Austin a running lane to the outside.

As a defender in this situation, you have to target the inside shoulder of the ball-carrier (take away the cutback) and come downhill hard. You can’t hesitate or break down early. Go make the play.


I love this block down the field from wide receiver Austin Pettis because it’s an effort play. Pettis was aligned to the closed side of the formation and came back across the field to get this crack-back block on the sideline. Once Pettis clears out the defender, no one is going to catch Pettis on his way to six points.

There was creativity and execution from the Rams on that one.


Bucs Defense Takes the Ball Away from Matthew Stafford, Lions in the End Zone 

Late in the third quarter, with the Detroit Lions driving, Tampa Bay Bucs safety Keith Tandy made a key interception versus the double-post concept to keep Detroit out of the end zone. Let’s take a look at the play, break down Tandy’s technique and talk about Stafford’s decision to throw this ball on one of his four interceptions on the afternoon.


Bucs vs. Lions

Personnel: Posse/11 (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles Slot Gun Far (Bunch)

Offensive Concept: Double Post/Wheel

Defensive Scheme: Cover 1 Pressure



The double-post is extremely tough on a single-high safety defense (Cover 1, Cover 3) as it puts pressure on the free safety to play two routes.

With the Bucs sending Cover 1 pressure, Tandy has to drive on the inside post (or deep crosser) and play with enough depth to create an angle to Calvin Johnson on the outside post. Here, he stays square (some coaches will teach the safety to open the hips) and can read the shoulders/eyes of Stafford.



Check out Tandy on the break. Once he reads Stafford targeting Johnson on the outside post, he opens the hips and drives on the throw. With rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks playing from an outside leverage position, Tandy has to take the proper angle to make a play on the ball.



Because Tandy is square in his drop and plays with enough depth on his initial alignment, the safety can drive/undercut the outside post and finish this interception to keep the Lions out of the end zone. Stafford never moved the safety from the middle of the field (or forced him to lean inside), and Tandy took advantage of it by making the play. 


Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is an NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.