Matt Bowen's Week 14 NFL Film Study

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterDecember 4, 2014

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Every week, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen brings you his film study: a breakdown of the league from multiple angles.


Here are 10 thoughts from a scheme and matchup perspective as we look ahead to the Week 13 schedule in the NFL.

1. Antonio Gates in the Red Zone

When the Chargers move the ball to the edge of the red zone, I'd like to see Gates removed from the core of the formation in the backside "X Iso" (or "Dakota") alignment to draw that one-on-one matchup versus the Patriots.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

We know the Patriots are a heavy Cover 1 (man-free) team given their personnel in the secondary, and this alignment will create room for Gates to run outside-breaking routes while working his matchup (I'm thinking Brandon Browner draws the tight end) with the free safety shaded over the top to the trips side of the field.

What do you see from Gates in this field position? Seam and 7 (corner). The veteran tight end needs to be an impact player in the red zone for Philip Rivers and the Chargers to produce versus the Patriots secondary Sunday night.

2. Seahawks Run Defense vs. LeSean McCoy, Eagles

The Eagles are going to run their Cover 3 beaters Sunday afternoon versus the Seahawks (four verticals, sail, etc.), but can they move the ball consistently on the ground with LeSean McCoy against a defense that is playing its best football of the season?

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I love what the Seahawks are doing on defense right now when you watch them fit up the run game. Check out Earl Thomas running the alley from their Thanksgiving night win over the 49ers.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Looking at the tape, the Seattle defensive line is shedding blocks at the point of attack, the linebackers are filling gaps (attacking with the proper shoulder) and both safeties are running downhill with speed. Fast and physical. That's the Seahawks defense right now.

Stop the inside zone, close the edge and limit those cutback lanes versus McCoy and the Eagles' misdirection schemes. I like this matchup for the Seahawks.

3. C.J. Anderson's Impact on Bills' Defensive Game Plan

By establishing balance in the call sheet with Anderson, the Broncos have generated a lot of stress for opposing defenses to limit both Peyton Manning and the run game.

Do you play two-deep to take away the inside seam routes versus Manning and give the Broncos a soft front (six- or seven-man box) to run against? Or do you roll a safety down and create one-on-one matchups for the quarterback to target outside?

Check out Anderson converting a fourth-down run versus the Chiefs this past Sunday night with the running back using his short-area quickness to bounce this ball outside before dropping a shoulder on safety Ron Parker.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Anderson runs hard in the Broncos' zone/power schemes, he displays a nice burst to get up through the hole and he has the lateral movement plus the finishing ability to drive through contact.

Looking at this matchup from the perspective of the Bills defense, I would lean on Cover 4 with my safeties at about eight to 10 yards off the ball. Flat-foot read and come downhill to fill the strong-side C gap and the cutback A gap.

We all know Manning can go to work against opposing secondaries, but I see the Broncos as a tougher team to defend when they bring a balanced (and more physical) game plan to the stadium.

4. Another Chance for Brian Hoyer in Cleveland

I wanted to see Johnny Manziel get the start this Sunday versus the Colts after the rookie came off the bench last week and put together a scoring drive in the loss to the Bills. He wasn't perfect, but the Browns did move the ball with Manziel showcasing his playmaking ability on the touchdown run.

And I was curious to find out what Manziel could do on the field this Sunday versus the Colts with a full week of game prep as the No. 1 guy.

However, with Hoyer getting the start once again, we can focus on the veteran's ability to protect the ball and finish drives. In the last four games, Hoyer has thrown six interceptions with only one touchdown pass. That's not going to cut it for a team that is still in the playoff discussion at 7-5.

Take a look at one of Hoyer's picks versus the Bills on the "dagger" concept (clear-out seam-dig).

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

With the strong safety dropping the seam route to the middle-of-the-field defender, Hoyer fails to read inside. That brings the safety directly to the play as the quarterback locks on to the dig route.

If this happens again Sunday versus a Colts defense that will bring pressure and play press coverage, the Browns coaching staff will be in a tough spot. Bring the rookie back in or ride it out with Hoyer.

Big game for the veteran quarterback.

5. Andy Reid's Game Plan

If the Chiefs want to score points versus the Cardinals defense, we need to see a game plan from Reid that is very similar to the one he used in the win over the Seahawks back in Week 11.

Think pre-snap movement, packaged plays, misdirection and plenty of touches for Jamaal Charles out of a variety of personnel groupings and alignments. Here's an example with Charles getting up the field on the inside trap off the jet-sweep action.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The Chiefs don't have the talent or the playmakers outside of the numbers to win consistently versus Cardinals cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie. That means Kansas City has to manufacture some production and explosive plays within the game plan using Charles, De'Anthony Thomas and Travis Kelce.

Let's see what Reid can draw up this week and how he creates opportunities for Alex Smith and this offense to move the ball.

6. The Development of Green Bay's Davante Adams

After watching the tape of the Packers' win over the Patriots, is it fair to say that Adams would be in the discussion with the rest of the top rookie wide receivers this season if he wasn't playing with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb?

Adams got a chance to showcase his skill set versus the Patriots, and he put some impressive stuff on the film. Sure, he dropped a ball in the red zone. But the route? That was excellent. Sweet footwork at the top of the stem on the slant route.

Here's that footwork on the quick out-and-up versus the Patriots as Adams creates separation on the defender and works down the field for an explosive gain.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

The point here? Adams is just another matchup issue for the Falcons to deal with Monday night at Lambeau Field.

I really like Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant. He can be a star at the position. But I don't see enough overall talent in the Atlanta secondary to limit Aaron Rodgers with Nelson, Cobb and Adams. The Packers quarterback might light this defense up on the national stage.


7. Bears' Off-Man Technique

The Bears defense utilizes the "bail" technique (open hips and sink) or just plays straight off-man at the cornerback position the majority of the time in Cover 1, Cover 3 and zone-pressure schemes.

Playing off-man technique (same in zone and man at cornerback) is hard because of the free release the defense allows at the line of scrimmage. This forces defensive backs to weave in their pedal, work to stay square and then sink the hips to break to the upfield shoulder on the throw.

And oftentimes it creates opportunities for receivers to gain separation at the top of the route.

Check out the Lions' Calvin Johnson versus rookie Kyle Fuller from Thanksgiving on the slant route.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

This is a simple slant-flat combination versus zone pressure (three-deep, three-under). But with the Lions removing the seam-flat defender (matches to No. 2), there is a throwing window for Matthew Stafford to target Johnson once the receiver creates the separation versus Fuller.

I see too much of this on the film from the Bears with the cornerbacks being asked to squeeze or funnel the receivers inside while the linebackers chase play action or are removed underneath.

Fuller struggled versus Johnson last week, and it won't get any easier for the rookie when the Cowboys and Dez Bryant come to Soldier Field on Thursday. If the Bears don't start challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage, we will once again watch as Bryant works the middle of the field on inside-breaking routes.


8. Boom Herron's Role in Indy

Just looking at the tape, is there really a question on the impact factor for this Colts offense when comparing Herron's skill set to that of Trent Richardson?

This is all about speed and the ability to push the ball through the hole. That's it. With Herron, you can see that on the film as the running back gets through the hole and into the second level of the defense with much more speed than Richardson.

Here's an example on Herron's 49-yard touchdown run on the one-back power scheme out of the gun with T.Y. Hilton (reduced split) on the crack block versus the safety.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather can be quicker here with his run/pass key (tight end blocking), but the focus should be on Herron getting through the hole and working off the crack block from Hilton. This allows Herron to get down the field and outrun the angle from the middle-of-the-field safety to put this ball in the end zone.

I like the Colts' one-back runs when they bring three-wide-receiver personnel on the field. And Herron is a better fit for that style of offense when breaking down the film. In my opinion, he should see the majority of the carries versus the Browns this Sunday.

9. Double-Moves vs. Steelers Secondary

Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson should call a double-move for A.J. Green in the first or second series versus the Steelers this Sunday after watching the tape.

Over the last two weeks, the Steelers have given up two double-moves for touchdowns in their Cover 4 scheme with cornerbacks William Gay and Ike Taylor playing with poor eye discipline versus the out-and-up.

In Week 13, the Saints occupied the safety on the inside seam route and went to work on Taylor with Kenny Stills running the double-move.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

A quick glance in the backfield. That's all it takes in the NFL to lose leverage while creating a poor angle to the receiver. And with no help over the top, this is going for six points.

The Bengals and Andy Dalton need to test the Steelers early and find out if these cornerbacks can maintain their cushion outside of the numbers and play through the double-move. After that, go back to the game plan.

But you have to take a shot early given the recent struggles of this defense to play the double-move.

10. Jimmy Graham's Production

Graham was shut out in the Week 13 win over the Steelers, but the tight end can produce some numbers given the matchups he will see Sunday versus the Panthers safeties.

Tre Boston and Roman Harper can't check Graham consistently. And when the Saints remove Graham from the core of the formation, that's when the fade route comes into play, plus the seam and the 7 cut.

In the Saints win over the Panthers earlier this season, Graham beat the rookie safety on the fade route from the back side of 3x1 formation. Win on the snap, stack down the field and finish the play.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

Throw the fade and the slant Sunday. It doesn't have to be complicated with Graham because he has the matchup advantage versus these Panthers safeties. And that also creates more opportunities for Brees to pick up chunks of yardage in a game the Saints should win at home.

10 Quick Takeaways from the Week 13 Film

1. How many coverage busts did the Redskins have in the loss to the Colts? This secondary failed to carry the wheel route in three-deep and looked confused versus basic vertical schemes over the top. That can't happen on Sundays in the NFL.

2. Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins lit up the Titans for 238 yards and two touchdowns. On the deep post with a slight "dino" stem (stem to corner, break back to the post), Hopkins widened the corner and then showcased his separation speed to go get the football. That play jumped off the tape.

Nov 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) runs after a reception for a second quarter touchdown against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

3. I like the Eagles' Cover 3 beater in the "strike zone" (20- to 35-yard line) versus the Cowboys with Jordan Matthews on the deep over (crossing) route. That allowed the Eagles to run off the cornerback to the weak side of the formation with Mark Sanchez targeting the open hole in the zone to find Matthews for a score.

4. Bears offensive guard Kyle Long had a good day versus Ndamukong Suh in Detroit. That makes Marc Trestman's decision to abandon the run game even more curious. Where was the inside zone, the trap, etc.? Really poor game management from Trestman on Thanksgiving.

5. Tre Mason's 89-yard touchdown run was a combination of scheme and the acceleration up the field from the rookie running back. The Rams released the tight end to the flat and showed the boot action with Shaun Hill. That held the unblocked edge defender and forced the linebacker to widen versus the split zone scheme. This allowed Mason to make one cut and accelerate into the open field. Check it out below.

Credit: NFL Game Rewind

6. The Dolphins had the exact matchup they wanted versus the Jets with Mike Wallace running the 7 (corner) route in the red zone versus a safety. That's a play Wallace has to finish on a very catchable throw. Make the play.

7. I don't know why Patrick Chung opened his hips so early in coverage versus Packers tight end Richard Rodgers on the 32-yard touchdown pass. That created leverage for the tight end on the seam route. Stay square and maintain that cushion through the vertical release.

8. Julio Jones beat Patrick Peterson on the fade from a tight split because the Cardinals cornerback gave him a free release. Peterson "opened the gate" at the snap and immediately put himself in a trail position. Tough to find the ball when you are trying to recover versus the fade.

Nov 30, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes a catch against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) in the second quarter of their game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

9. Browns safety Jim Leonhard did an excellent job sliding to the middle of the field, reading the quarterback and breaking on the ball to intercept as pass from Kyle Orton in the end zone. The Bills quarterback never saw him.

10. How about the play Russell Wilson made to escape pressure and find tight end Tony Moeaki on the check-release that went for 63 yards down to the goal line? The 49ers had a free runner on the pressure stunt, but Wilson beat the rush and kept his eyes up to extend that play.

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


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