.@DevontaFreeman extends for the TD!@AtlantaFalcons pull within 7 at the end of the third quarter. #ATLvsAZ— NFL (@NFL) October 13, 2019
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Situation: 3rd and 4 Red from 7 yard line
Formation: Trips RIGHT—-TE /RB Combo Left
Cardinals’ Defensive alignment: 2 DEEP ZONE look (why—-because the Cardinals do not have a man over the inside slot to the right—-so Matt Ryan knows this is zone.
Play Call: 2 Man (TE and RB) Zone combo—-TE runs a corner route, RB slips in behind.
What They Hope: TE (81-Hooper) will draw 3 defenders to the corner and they can make easy throw to the RB (Freeman) underneath.
What the Get: The Cardinals rush only 3, drop DT Corey Peters into middle coverage to go 5 UNDER and shift to 3 DEEP—-and even though to Hooper’s and Freeman’s side the Cardinals have 3 defenders versus two receivers, none of the 3 Cardinal defenders plays the zone correctly:
CB 27—-(K. Peterson)—-should have jammed TE Hooper on the snap to slow the timing (does not) then he should have covered Hooper at least to the goal line (does not) where he can hand him off the the safety, but instead he slides off to the flat where there is no man to cover.
LB 43—-(H. Reddick)—-once Hooper clears, his eyes should be on Freeman—-but he reacts a second too late on the play and cannot defend the pass or make the TD saving tackle.
FS 34—-(D. Thompson)—-the second Hooper crosses the goal line, he should be there to pick him up man to man and be draped on Hooper into the corner, but he is way too late in picking up Hooper.
Result: Easy, totally unpressured, uncontested 7 yard TD throw to a wide open RB, where 3 defenders don't even come close to cover 2 receivers. Notice it would have been an easy TD throw into the corner to Hooper too.
Situation: 1st drive of the day for Falcons—-1st and goal from the 9 yard line
Formation: TRIPS Right, WR (Jones) & RB (Freeman) LEFT
Coverage: MAN look (all receivers covered and they have Jones bracketed with the FS on back side)—-CB 20-Brock is on WR 18-Ridley when Ridley goes in motion, but for some strange reason, while CB 33-Murphy has TE 81-Hooper blanketed over the middle, 20-Brock runs with Murphy and leaves 18—Ridley all alone on his reverse motion. The fonly free man to that side is LB 58-Hicks, but he fails to break down and over-pursues and FS 34-Thompson, who had been helping on Julio Jones is out of position to make a play.
Result: Easy throw 9 yard TD where Ridley has to beat only one LB in space to the end zone.
Situation: 1st and 10 from the 12 yard line
Formation: TRIPS RIGHT, STACK (TE & RB) LEFT
Coverage: Cardinals are showing MAN with inside blitz here, plus they send 7 rushers on the play, leaving 4 in coverage. They were expecting RB 24-Freeman to block ILB 58-Hicks on the blitz pickup, only Freeman slips through the middle and into the flat which leaves no one to cover him as the remaining 4 defenders are locked in man coverage on the other 4 receivers.
Result: Wide open 12 yard TD because the Cardinals showed the blitz too early and the Falcons had the perfect counter, unless the rush would have gotten to Matt Ryan before he can throw it or unless 58-Hicks sees what Freeman is doing and stops his blitz to try to cover Freeman.
Situation: 2nd and goal from the 7 yard line.
Formation TRIPS RIGHT (TE, TE stacked, WR), WR 12 Sanu LEFT, handoff RUN look to 24 RB-Freeman. Only it’s play action.
Coverage: classic ZONE look to first be in position to stop the run on a run look formation.
Result: Off play action on a fake handoff to 24-Freeman up the middle designed to suck in the LBers, they slip TE 81-Hooper on a drag route across the middle—-where 58-Hicks picks up 24-Freeman, but 43-Reddick also initially gets drawn to 24-Freeman as well and thus Hooper is able to cross his face for and easy, wide open 7 yard TD. Note: while Reddick was fooled on the play and hung out to dry, why was 20-Brock playing man to man across the field on Sanu? Go back and check this out. If Tramaine Brock is playing zone—-his responsibility is the left flat, and thus he would have and should have been in a position to lay the wood on Hooper the second he caught the ball. On 2 out of these 4 TD plays, CB 20-Brock appears to blow the coverage and badly blow it—-making it look like only the linebackers’ fault.
- Cardinals are better off sending pressure and playing man to man coverage.
- The zones are too soft and the players lack the technique, sheer speed and the instincts. Plus, the zone are causing the players to think too much and not play freely and aggressively.
- Defenders are making key mistakes on every one of these plays.
- Excellent play designs by OC Dirk Koetter and coverage reads by Matt Ryan. They deserve a lot of credit. The Falcons have the talent and the offensive coaching to stay an NFL top 5 offense all season. No one will want to play them.
- The Falcons made a concerted effort to confuse and out-quick the Cardinals’ linebackers—-and were delighted to see the Cardinals try to cover TE Hooper with LBers. That’s a mismatch in their favor all day long, particularly as zone defenders.
- Vance Joseph can make it easy on his LBers to line them up directly across their coverage matchup (RB, TE) and let them make easy reads, knowing they can stick to their man until it’s obvious they can go and help elsewhere. You know,
- I think Haasan Reddick can cover most TEs, he’s just as fast, if not faster—-BUT—-square him up and have him bump and jam the TEs to disrupt their routes before mirroring their routes. Off-setting him away from the TE and making his first read be on the RB is making it all the more difficult to switch back to the TE with much of chance to stop him.