Football fans are becoming more and more familiar with the wide varieties of coverages and schemes that NFL defenses use, which make it difficult to tell who is truly at fault for a coverage bust until days later.
As many of us watched Sunday morning's late fourth quarter, wide open 64-yard Phillip Dorsett stroll into the end zone I'm sure the vast majority of you were screaming at the television...
This play, while it seems to be the fault of the cornerback, as he's the closest person to the ball -- actually falls on one of our two safeties. I call this the Rasheen Mathis-Reggie Nelson syndrome where fans feel it must be the cornerback's fault because he's closest (and Reggie was just awful here for some reason).
Until the press conferences take place tomorrow where the coaches can confirm which coverage we were in we are left only to make educated guesses based on press releases, the coverages we know the Jags primarily run, and basic football IQ.
Before I get into the coverage schemes I just want to point out that TY Hilton had a pretty bad game, but somehow Pro Football Focus didn't correlate that the Ramsey having a great game shutting him down even though he spent at least 40-50% of his time on the field against T.Y. Hilton.
Weird, huh? Nevertheless, let's get to it.
I will attempt to show all possible defensive combinations they could have possibly been in at the time based on how the remainder of the team played the coverage. Note: They were not in man to man defense, based on the tape.
This is the concept of a scissors route.
The Colts ran this same combination earlier in the game on a third down and Luck simply didn't see Dorsett running wide open then and instead threw it to the corner route. At that time I knew they would later come back to it. The goal of the play is, against Cover 3 defense to confuse the corner and safety communication in passing the receiver off to the other's zone.
Picture the above with two wide outs, and instead of running a corner route the inside receiver runs a deeper out route (which looks nearly identical to a corner route at full speed). Instead of running a post to the middle of the field Dorsett runs a skinny post, because... well... he's wide open and it doesn't matter.
As you can see, the free safety (Tashaun Gipson) begins the play in a deep Cover 3 look. As the play begins and the inside receiver runs the deep out/corner route he breaks to the out along with Ramsey. No one stays deep with Dorsett. If you look to the backside safety (Johnathan Cyprien) he's lined up in the box and bails to deep middle by the snap of the ball.
It is possible that they were in this coverage, as the backside corner, linebackers, Cyprien, and basically everyone but Gibson did the above.
The only reason I would doubt that we were in this coverage is because I had not seen us run it before in the past.
Then again, I also had not seen us run a zone blitz in the past until the last two games. We have run them a few times since (like on the play Yannick Ngakoue was guarding T.Y. Hilton 15 yards down the field in this game). Basically, if this was the play call, then it would seem likely that it was Gibson, not Ramsey who blew the coverage.
Below is Cover 2 Sink defense. It is basically just a normal Cover 2 defense, the only difference being that the corners stay with their receivers going vertical until another receiver attacks or threatens to attack their zone.
It is possible that we were in this defense, but I do have my doubts based on the technique used by multiple players during the play:
1. Our middle linebackers did not get very deep into their drop for us to have been in a good Cover 2 defense.
2. As stated before, Gibson attacked the flats instead of staying to his deep half of the field (unless we're stating he busted the coverage).
3. Ramsey played over the top of both receiver (the outside and slot receiver) indicating he was aware that he has deep responsibility. When you're in Cover 2 or Cover 2 Sink you would normally play it tighter and take more chances. Based on this I do not believe that was the play call.
Below is basic Cover 3 defense. As explained above, it is quite possible this is the defense we were in at the time due to a few things.
1. This is one of our base defenses we have run in Gus Bradley's tenure and an NFL (and a Seattle Seahawks defensive staple).
2. Cyprien bails to the deep middle late in the play, indicating he was trying to disguise the coverage as something else (just like in the diagram below).
Now, if we were in Cover 3 (or a disguised Cover 3) where Gibson didn't blow the coverage that would indicate that Cyprien blew the coverage. If you re-watch the play, Cyprien does bail to the deep middle but he also jumps the deep dig route later in the play leaving the entire deep middle vacant.
So, if we assume that Gibson didn't blow the coverage then Cyprien did. The corner is supposed to pick up a corner route in cover three defense while passing off the post (or in this case, skinny post) to the middle deep safety (who was no where to be found).
While there are no player or coach press conferences being held today, I did hear this gem on 1010xl's interview with Rick Ballou who confirmed as much. I'm paraphrasing since I was driving at the time, but he said Jalen refused to name who was at fault directly, but did confirm that he expected safety help help inside on the play. Todd Wash (on the plane ride back) put it on himself calling it a "communication issue".
I am happy that we got the win and am even more happy that this is the bye week. Hopefully the back end of the secondary will be able to work out these "communication issues" during this down time. We are sure to see more teams go back to this well in the future hoping to hit home runs.
To put this to rest, Jalen Ramsey is a man among children -- and he didn't blow the coverage on that play. Not without help from his safeties anyway.