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Let's Talk About: one great defensive play from Monday Night...


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Let me start off by saying that I am not in love with the Falcons' defense right now.  There's a lot of ugly going right now, still a few sloppy fundamentals, still too many yards surrendered, BUT there are some things going on that I do like.  There's actual teeth to this defense and I can see it coming together.  With that I'd like to take a look at the key defensive play of the Monday night game vs. the Saints.

1st and 10 Atlanta's 11 Yard Line: Now this is the route combo.  Pay no attention to the top of the screen; it's just window dressing.  The read is to the bottom of the screen.  Fleener, the tight end, is running the vertical up the seam, which is supposed to swab out the underneath coverage and the two receivers at the bottom are running that in and out concept which usually creates something like a natural pick vs. man coverage and leaves one of them wide open.  It's actually a well designed play.

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Now this is what Brees is reading.

As you know, quarterbacks are always looking for pre-snap indicators to give away the coverage.  This empty spread formation means that the defense can't hide or disguise anything.  The single safety high (Allen) to the right of the screen and Keanu playing shallow tip off the Cover-3 Buzz.  It could be man except 'Spoon to the left of the picture is over a wide receiver -- which there's just no way 'Spoon is getting left man-to-man to cover an NFL receiver, even with safety help -- so it's zone all the way.

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Ball is snapped, and this is one of those calls that Quinn ran a lot in Seattle.  The cover-3 look with a linemen peeling off in zone to close the middle of the field. Here it's Babineaux...

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Now I wanted to examine the play from this view to focus on Deion Jones and give you just a little insight into what it's like to be a linebacker in coverage.  LOOK AT BREE'S SHOULDERS IN THE PIC DIRECTLY ABOVE...

Now look at Brees's shoulders in the pic below.  In zone, defenders -- safetys, especially -- are taught to read the shoulders of the quarterback.  It's kind of hard to see, but note how Jones has his eyes on Brees the whole way.  He's staying with Fleener (#82), but he's "feeling" him, he's not hard focused on him, not turning his back and running with him up the seam.  Instead he is reading Brees.

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Now look at Brees's left hand start to come off the ball.  This is when you are supposed to break.  Quarterback's shoulders point, hand comes off the ball,  linebacker, you break!

Look how hard Deion Jones breaks before the ball is even out of Bree's hand.  This is the virtue of zone coverage...

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And this is the play.  Poole played it beautifully.  I honestly have no idea what Brees was looking at.  It was zone all the way.  Brees for all his greatness is very arrogant with the ball.  Most of the time it works to the tune of some of the most prolific offensive statistics the game has ever seen, but not so much this time.  

Maybe he was expecting a matchup type zone where it plays like man, and instead got a spot drop, but whatever natural pick he was expecting didn't happen and Poole held his ground and made a beautiful play on the ball...

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Blurry, but you get the idea.  And look how much ground Jones has covered...

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From here, it's just the good ole tip drill that gets worked on every day...

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And it's deuces...

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Now I love defense... I mean, I really love defense.  It hurts my eyes to see teams get drug up and down the field and games finishing with 60 total points scored, but I have to remind myself that they call it "growing pains" for a reason and this defense is still a work in progress.  

I did not see enough of this kind of play Monday Night, but this is just a little glimmer of what these guys are capable of when they play disciplined and decisive and something I expect to see more of as the season progresses.  

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Despite how ugly they have looked at a few points this year, I actually have seen enough glimmers to feel more confident about this defense than I have in several years.  I just hope it doesn't take all season (or another off-season) to come together.  

A really big help would be if Beasley and Freeney could get cranked up.  A strong pass rush off of a four man rush can mask a lot of other deficiencies.

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PMF I think he has under estimated Jones speed.

Brees looking vertical at the TE Jones holds and knows he has safety help over the top as soon as Brees shoulders square out Jones can move towards the ball.

If Jones doesn't hold like he did I think Brees goes down the seam to the TE.Again I think he's underestimated Jones's speed to get to where Poole knocks the ball up and then it's pick 6.

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15 hours ago, kiwifalcon said:

PMF I think he has under estimated Jones speed.

Brees looking vertical at the TE Jones holds and knows he has safety help over the top as soon as Brees shoulders square out Jones can move towards the ball.

If Jones doesn't hold like he did I think Brees goes down the seam to the TE.Again I think he's underestimated Jones's speed to get to where Poole knocks the ball up and then it's pick 6.

Yeah, I definitely don't think he expected Jones to be any kind of factor in that play.  I think he knew before the snap he was throwing that in-out concept to the right just because of the way the Falcons had been playing it.  He had been squeezing throws in all night.

He might have looked to throw that vertical if Jones hadn't given him that 7 yard cushion, but he played it beautifully.  It was really disciplined coverage by everyone... well, except for 'Spoon, who jammed his receiver then fell down.

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15 hours ago, Jy23 said:

I think Brees thought Poole was going to the flat...maybe I'm wrong but wasn't that his responsibility on that play. But instead he just made a **** good play 

Very good observation.  Poole was the curl-flat defender.  But in that concept, he plays curl first (not an uncommon way to play that coverage) and let's the throw take him to the flat.  I wish I knew if it was an adjustment made on the sideline, if the call was different, or if Poole just improvised.

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6 hours ago, falcoatlantae said:

Great post, very educational.  Thanks for the lesson!

On Alford's near pick, was he baiting Brees?   After last week's unnecessary PI, I think we should give Alford credit for a heady play.

I think I know the play you're talking about but I need to refresh my memory.  Do you remember the quarter?

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37 minutes ago, PeytonMannings Forehead said:

Very good observation.  Poole was the curl-flat defender.  But in that concept, he plays curl first (not an uncommon way to play that coverage) and let's the throw take him to the flat.  I wish I knew if it was an adjustment made on the sideline, if the call was different, or if Poole just improvised.

Actually Poole was heading to his responsibility Peyton but he noticed the in route coming and broke to it causing the tip and jones being heady and fast was in the right position for the pick. These are things we wouldn't have gotten from Worrilow and Adams last year. 

 

I also think our young D has played better than the numbers indicate because our offense was up 2 scores in both the Oakland and NO games and we started trading yards for clock. I hate that strategy but being up 2 scores I understand. But that has skewed our defensive numbers. Both at the end of halves and at the end of the games. 

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1 hour ago, Geneaut said:

It may have been the very next drive. It happened after the pick by Jones.

I think the next drive they drove back down the field and scored then our drive we punted and then their next drive is when Alford almost picked it off. But was over returned 

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2 hours ago, Geneaut said:

It may have been the very next drive. It happened after the pick by Jones.

Here you go.  Found it.

1 hour ago, BCEagleATLFalcon said:

I think it actually may have been the Saints' final drive of the game. 

And you would be correct.

 

Here's the offensive play...

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And just for interesting juxtaposition, here's a look at the defensive call.  Another Cover-3 Buzz call; this time with Shelby peeling off to play the hook

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BTW... for anyone who is curious what Cover-3 Buzz means vs. say a Cover-3 Sky, it simply changes the force defender.  Here, the only safety in the picture buzzes down to play the hook and the linebacker to the bottom of the screen, 'Spoon plays the flat.  If it was a Sky call it would be just the opposite; the safety would play the flat and the linebacker would play the hook.

 

Now to the actual unfolding of the play.  I'm not sure I'd say he baited him.  Alford was just playing the defense.  You can see that Brees wanted to get it out to that hook as fast as possible and probably thought because of the off coverage he could squeeze it in... but Alf as you can see had his eyes on Brees the whole time and just let them take him to the ball.

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Now all this happens in split seconds and I'm not sure this pic shows it, but Alf is actually making a break on that route right as Brees starts his throwing motion.  

Edited by PeytonMannings Forehead
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