In a couple oof hours I will be taping this week’s Red Rain Podcast. In this episode, I want to begin by expressing some concerns about Colt McCoy, Isaiah Simmons and Jonathan Gannon.
I believe that playing deep cover safety in a Cover 1 or Cover 2 is one of the most difficult assignments in all of sports. Thanks to my childhood idol Larry Wilson, I vowed to play free safety in high school. I finally got my chance to start as a senior and let me tell you, virtually every offense is designed to put the free safety in what’s called “no man’s land” —- typically caught between a TE over the middle and a WR over the top.
Free safeties have to make split second decisions —- whether to come up hard to defend the middle or run deep to protect over the top. All this while trying to read the QB’s eyes —- while sensing where the intermediate route is and where the deep route is.
My coach always told me —- “once you make your decision commit to it 100%...don’t get caught in no man’s land.”
While Isaiah Simmons has been receiving the brunt of Cardinals’ fans’ rancor for the TD pass from QB Patrick Mahomes to WR Justin Watson —- upon further review —- it is actually commendable that Isaiah got as close to Watson as he was because that deep half of the field was not his —- it was Jalen Thompson’s.
The Cardinals are in a Cover 2 zone with 2 the two safeties being Simmons to Mahomes’ left and Thompson to the right. Th Cardinals are zoning the intermediate area with 5 defenders, while rushing 4.
Isaiah’s responsibility is to provide deep help to the LEFT half of the field.
One of the key mistakes the Cardinals made on this play was from DE Victor Dimukeje while rushing to Mahomes’ right. With no-one to contain Mahomes to his side, Victor is denied a strong outside rush and then makes the poor decision to try to spin move his way to the inside, thus leaving Mahomes with a small meadow of open grass as he flushes easily to his right.
This is a MESH concept play underneath where TE Travis Kelce is running a crosser from the left slot over the middle to the right, while be criss crossed by the WR to the other side.
The Cardinals two inside linebackers, Josh Woods (#51) and Josh Barnes (#56) are in perfect position to make a SWITCH call, with Woods picking up Kelce and Barnes switching over the the WR.
But, when Jalen Thompson (who was playing a little too shallow) saw that Kelce was in a position to deepen his crosser, Jalen came up to take Kelce, thereby leaving the deep right side of the field wide open.
The good news for Jalen is he stopped Kelce’s from continuing his route.
However not containing Mahomes on this play was the last thing Jalen Thompson would have wanted —- which is why Victor Dimukeje should have known better.
Justin Watson began the play lined up all the way to the left and ran a deep corner across the field to the right side. His route is designed to open up the left flat of the field for the WR who is crossing on the MESH. Only on an extended play is Watson a viable option because of how far he has to run.
Once Mahomes started to flush to his right, Isaiah followed the flow of the play, then, when he saw how wide open Watson was, he sprinted like crazy to try to catch up to him. But, in reality, with the deep right side of the field vacated, Isaiah had no chance, Certainly not against an un-pressured Mahomes who has easily extended the play.
This is why Isaiah looks confused after the TD —- but it wasn’t confusion as to what his job was —- it was confusion as to why and how Jalen Thompson left the RIGHT side door of the end zone wide open.
There were obviously some other plays later on in the game where Isaiah made conspicuous mistakes—- which he took ownership of after the game —-Li’l Rock and I will discuss those on rRd Rain.
Just wanted to be fair and set the record straight —-, this TD pass was not Isaiah’s fault in the least. Despite what it looks like.
Isaiah actually deserves praise here —- for his hustle into an area of the field that he was not assigned to cover.