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Momentum Changing Pick Six

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the video of the Falcons’ LB Deion Jones’ pick six off a deflection by DE Vic Beasley:

Take a good look.

For the past few weeks I have been harping on one of the troubling aspects of Byron Leftwich’s play calling vis-a-vis his play designs. One of the main issues has been poor spacing.

I find it particularly ironic that last week versus the Lions, Leftwich said he didn't want to pass the ball with three timeouts and 36 seconds before the end of the first half because he was worried about a tipped pass interception—-and yet—-with a 7-0 lead in Atlanta and all momentum on the Cardinals’ side, Leftwich makes this play call?

First of all, when one is working with a young QB (or any QB for that matter) one of the most important things a coordinator needs to try to ensure for the QB are clear passing lanes.

As a former high school coach, I had a rule with my QBs—-if there isn't a clear passing lane, don’t throw the ball. Tuck it in and run with it or throw the ball away, otherwise.

When Josh Rosen has clear passing lanes he’s been effective—-like the dime he dropped in the bucket during the first TD drive to David Johnson on his wheel route.

On this poorly designed play, watch the 45 degree angle David Johnson takes right past the DE. Because he is so close to the DE, all Vic Beasley has to do was get his hands up to deflect the ball. Beasley was sitting right smack dab in the play—-and right smack dab in the passing lane.

Typically you tell your RT to try to cut Beasley so that he brings Beasley’s hands down and the QB can throw over the top. On this play, RT Joe Barksdale does nothing of the sort.

This is one of the strangest passing angles I have ever seen a RB take—-

Why not run Johnson on a swing pass where the passing lane is wide open?

Why not run Johnson on an out route wide of the DE? Again—-for the sake of a clear passing lane.

You’ve already beaten the Falcons’ secondary on a wheel route so chances are they are very likely going to cushion Johnson on an out route and you can pick up a good 5-6 yards at the very least.

This momentum changing mistake is on Byron Leftwich or David Johnson (if he ran the wrong route), not Josh Rosen.

But, this is the case of a poorly designed play that takes the wind of a young QB’s sails.

I find it especially disconcerting that Leftwich employed a number of poorly designed plays that allowed Beasley, a Pro Bowler and the Falcons’ most disruptive edge player easy opportunities to wreak havoc on the Cardinals’ offense.

Take for example, the jet sweep to T.J. Logan.

TE Jermaine Gresham is flexed ro Beasley’s outside shoulder in perfect position to block down on him and seal the edge...only Gresham releases downfield instead.

All the unblocked Beasley had to do was take one step forward and blow up Logan on the play...which resulted in a 4 yard loss.

Again—-Beasley is sitting right in the play.

That blowup led to another 3rd and unmanageable situation and got the Falcons’ defense and their fans even more into a frenzy.

The good news was that Leftwich was finally using Logan, the fastest RB on the team.

The bad news is—-Logan who is a lightning quick north/south runner was used by Leftwich as an east/west runner twice on blown up plays before Mike Glennon finally got Logan upfield on pass routes.

After David Johnson’s wheel route the Cardinals never once threatened the Falcons deep. We know there is a max protection deep post pass in McCoy’s old offense because the play worked big-time to start the 49ers’ game on the road.

All of these screen passes and east/west hitch passes are so easy to defend because the Cardinals do nothing to back the defense off.

The best passing of the day was from Mike Glennon who simply threw all of his passes into clear passing lanes.

The great news is—-Leftwich and Rosen are doing a superb job of engineering first drive TDs—-something that BA’s offense struggled mightily to do last year,

But, it’s time for Leftwich to get the spacing right on 2nd quarter and 3rd quarter pass plays so that Rosen can feel confident about throwing dimes into clear passing lanes and so that he finally can start to get a rhythm going.

Some of Rosen’s other interceptions have come when two receivers are running routes too close together. Again—-it’s a matter of proper spacing to create clear passing lanes—-and to make it easier for Josh Rosen to shine.