If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It -- Lions Non-Video Rewind
Posted by Derek
Todd Bowles in his first press conference as Eagles defensive coordinator:
On how he thinks CB Nnamdi Asomugha can best be utilized: "He’s a corner. He’s best utilized mixing man and zone coverages, as we have been doing. There aren’t too many things as a corner that you can or can’t do. You can’t go into a game and say, ‘We are going to lock him down the whole game.’ If you play 75 snaps of man coverage you’re going to get beat three. If you play all zone coverage, you’re going to get beat. We have to continue to mix it up and make sure that the game plan is conducive, not only for him, but also the other 10 guys."
Nnamdi Asomugha after the Eagles blew a fourth-quarter lead to the Lions:
"The fourth quarter was a lot of blitzing," Asomugha said. "So, the fourth quarter, they were able to find the matchups they wanted amidst the blitzing. You could say, 'You should blitz more,' but we did that and it didn't help us in the end..."
"We kind of just mixed it up," he said. "I was on him most of the game. I think when we got to the fourth quarter, there was a lot more trying to give him a different look. We talked about, 'Let's give him something else,' so that he doesn't get comfortable with the one guy or however it is. So we just wanted to give him a different look. So there were some times that Dominique, especially in the fourth quarter, would go to him. But it wasn't something in particular."
Nnamdi Asomugha an anonymous source talking to Bob Grotz after the Castillo firing:
Interim Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has been heavily involved in game plans and almost certainly was calling the coverages during games an NFL source said.
The fourth quarter change in the Eagles' coverage of Lions receiver Calvin Johnson had someone else's fingerprints on it per the source.
The Eagles were doubling Johnson with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and a safety until varying the coverage with other defenders. While Asomugha was puzzled by the shift in tactics, head coach Andy Reid denied the coverage changed significantly.
Let's look at every passing play in the Lions game and see why those statements carry so much meaning.
Nnamdi on CJ at the bottom of the screen. We immediately do the one thing I thought we wouldn't see all day, rotating to a cover three away from Nnamdi, meaning he's running deep with CJ without safety help.
It's worth looking at the play itself, although we'll get back to the coverages soon. As you can see, it's a screen that's missing it's running back:
So what happened? Well, they ran play action, at Jason Babin, right before he executed a spin move:
So as his back is turned, he thinks the running back has the ball:
Which means he comes out of the spin and "tackles" him:
Anyway, back to the coverages. Pass #2:
Again to cover three, this time rotating over Nnamdi with DRC running deep. That allows Nnamdi to undercut the in-breaking route without fear and knock the ball away. Great play.
Our first man look on a pass play, with a free safety. Some of my blogging brethren are going to argue that Stafford had a bad day, and they'll point to this play, because he "misses" the open Scheffler running up the seam:
The problem is that once Scheffler got past the safety, he made the very human mistake of slowing down his route and turning his body to face the quarterback as he ran. The ball was already out, with the QB assuming he'd keep going down the field, the way an NFL receiver should. The resulting very slight overthrow was on Scheffler, not his QB.
Next play, we're doubling the inside receivers and manning up everyone else:
Note how aggressively Nnamdi can work his jam, knowing he has help:
Good coverage on the other side as wel:
Next play. I swear all our worst outcomes this year start with Kurt Coleman worrying about that backside run. We're in man free here. Tight end on the other side will block down for a beat, faking out the linebacker, then release with his rolling QB:
Linebacker (Kendricks) sucked way too far inside to get back out.
Next, something a little different. We're going to quarters coverage (four deep):
It should be a fantastic call for the route that gets run (CJ is putting himself into double coverage), but we don't execute very well and he is rather tall.
Next, we're going to start to see how they handle bunch routes these days. CJ motions inside:
We audible to a box, 4-on-3 coverage:
Works perfectly against the route package:
And notice how much ground Nnamdi makes up driving on the ball to get there as it arrives. I was very impressed with Nnamdi in this game:
Next, we're in man free again, but we're going to blitz two guys:
Which means 11 minus 6 rushers minus 1 safety = 4 people covering 5 receivers:
Stafford took the PI up top instead, but oops.
Next, looks like man free at the start. There aren't as many coverages you can run (successfully) this close to the end zone:
But then CJ motions inside, which is going to freak out everyone. It's hard to see in these photos, but the safety who had been inside in the previous picture flips with the corner and gets up tight into jam position:
You can see they do a good job getting vertical separation, so when those receivers cross, our guys don't run into each other and he can get outside:
How it looks from end zone:
Cover two man on the next one:
Teams are starting to do a good job teeing off on the one guy covering the running back with screen passes when we run man, and here's good execution on this one:
Next, and there's a lot going on with this one:
Note first that we're doubling CJ out of the slot. Then we have three guys in man (red lines). But then something weird is happening with that double yellow arrow. I had to see a few of these plays a couple times before I was able to figure out what we're doing.
When that WR comes in tight to the formation, we're evidently very concerned about crossing routes, so what happens is that the CB and S switch to an inside/outside coverage. If the route comes outside, DRC stays with him. If he breaks across, the safety will pick him up.
Remember that for later.
Also, the coverage was really friggin' good the first three quarters of this game. Look at Kendricks on the TE coming up the seam. Stafford tried to fit something in here:
No chance. Next drive:
For this one I drew the routes and the paths are defenders took. I honestly have no idea what happened at the end of this play. Early, it made sense:
That's great coverage. But then as Stafford scrambled around:
Maybe our guys just aren't used to covering that long? Definitely strange.
Anyway, next play is the Nnamdi end zone interception, and again it's quarters coverage:
Except we played it much better this time:
Let's pause here for a moment and revisit a very similar play from the Cardinals game. You remember which one. Guess how it started?
That's right, Kurt Coleman staring into the backfield, worrying about his run assignment. We were supposed to be in quarters here too, but it broke down after he charged forward.
Interesting sidenote, we talk about a one-gap defense, but when there's a fullback, you need a second guy in that gap. That was Coleman:
Back to the Lions, but unfortunately we're still talking about Kurt Coleman staring into the backfield. He's on the tight end here. That guy is going to block down and then release on the bootleg. Sound familiar?
It even looks like he's got this under control:
Whoops, ran past him towards "the ball carrier":
Bootlegs killed us all day. The first time I watched, I just noticed the way the ends were constantly crashing down the line and losing contain. True enough, but they also got Kendricks and Coleman, as we've seen, and put Colt into an impossible situation, as we'll see later.
But no, coaching hasn't been the problem.
Next play, still puzzled by Kurt Coleman:
Is he supposed to be under the route, over the route, near the route?
Who knows. Screen on the other side, though, and you can see it's well blocked again:
Next play, man free with a double on CJ:
And really, Nnamdi was just in his kitchen all day:
Next, we drop to what looks like cover four (quarters):
But then watch what happens when the top receiver runs a deep dig:
The top safety stays with him on the cross, while the other three guys continue deep:
DRC got his feet tangled, so it almost ended up being completed, but when you can show a coverage that looks EXACTLY like another coverage but then magically morphs into triple coverage on the guy they're trying to throw to and tight man against the "checkdown," you're doing something right.
Next, more trips bunch:
Then cover two man:
Then a double on CJ (very helpful for post-game diagnosis when Nnamdi points at the safety to communicate the plan):
Then more cover two man on the last pass of the half:
Second half. We start with man and a double on CJ. Notice a couple things, though. First they're going to try to get outside DeMeco with a little swing route:
And based on his positioning, that's going to be tough for him to be even with, since he's well inside the RB and has some trash to get through on his way outside:
On the other side, note that we're doubling CJ, but look a) with whom and b) what else he's looking at:
Glad we didn't see that tested with a little play action / bomb.
Next, they're in man again, and on this play Coleman is going to alertly see the cross and come down to help on it, although his "help" will mostly involve decking Nnamdi:
Next, two WRs = auto-double on CJ. This was the play where we forgot to put an LDE on the field:
Not the coaching, though.
Interesting coverage on the next one. We're going to inside/outside another guy:
As the TE runs up the seam, our CB and LB are going to decide who's covering the slot based on where he goes. Everyone else in man with one safety deep:
Next play, back to quarters, but look how far inside Allen is:
This time, CJ runs up the sideline, not the seam, and Allen can't get there in time to help. Nnamdi's coverage is good, but he gets back shouldered. Especially with the TEs staying in to block, Allen's gotta be quicker outside here:
That puts us in the red zone, and we see five across:
And then after the CJ OPI, man with a double:
Now, remember earlier when I talked about how the CB and S were in/out-ing the tight receiver? That's what happened on the catch and run by CJ that ended with him getting shoved out at the one yard line. The look pre-snap:
And then the TE is going to come off the ball and set an obvious but legal pick:
No chance for Allen:
I talked about the TD here on twitter, but in case you missed it, the bootleg killed us again. Pre-snap, we're in an "anyone but CJ" defense:
But see what's going to happen. Trent will rush inside and when Stafford boots, Colt either has to run with him or cover his man, the tight end. Damned if you do / don't:
Next series, after the Vick INT. I think this might have been the play that spooked Castillo into fully abandoning the game plan:
I have no idea what coverage this is. I could describe it by saying "Kurt and Colt run right past the guys they're presumably supposed to be covering":
But I don't know how catchy that is. Bad, bad miss by Stafford on this one.
At any rate, up to this point, you've seen the mix of coverages we used and how effective they had been. This is also where I'm going to stop showing you every single play, because you don't need me to keep pasting images of us sitting in cover two man.
How about a summary chart, before and after the point in the game we're at right now:
This is what Nnamdi was talking about.
Everyone got so hung up on the blitz part of what he said, that they ignored the bigger picture. They had a game plan, it was working, then one guy got hurt and they threw it out the window. Rather than a mix of coverages, with a healthy, healthy dose of Nnamdi and a safety doubling CJ, we saw this:
Over and over and over.
And once the Lions knew what was coming every play, they started making us pay. On the third and two, they know DeMeco will be on the running back and they know where he'll be lining up based on their formation:
They know they can clear out the middle of the field and run pitch and catch over the middle:
Although one of our guys is really damn fast:
Our big innovation was going from 2-man to 1-man with a blitz. Which just emptied things out even more. The LB will blitz, CJ will easily beat DRC's jam, and then he'll blow across the formation:
I mean, there's no chance here:
And remember how the Lions started chewing us up on the ground during the tying field goal drive? That's because our damn safeties:
Were so far back:
That we ended up in a six-on-six situation in the box:
Even Stafford could get yards out of this on a QB draw, expecially once they run the back out wide, yanking DeMeco outside the formation:
The holding penalty in overtime that looked like it might save us? That came on this play:
We blitzed Coleman outside and ...
Yeah, there's no one in that gap. Colt is 17 yards off the LoS. It's a tremendous credit to the linemen over there that this didn't end the game on its own:
But since it worked so well last play, why don't we blitz Coleman again and leave DRC alone on CJ in the slot:
Let's return to a few of the points quoted at the top:
"We kind of just mixed it up," Nnamdi said. "I was on him most of the game. I think when we got to the fourth quarter, there was a lot more trying to give him a different look. We talked about, 'Let's give him something else,' so that he doesn't get comfortable with the one guy or however it is."
Subtext: Because Juan stopped varying our coverages and we were just playing solo man on him every single play, we decided on the sidelines that we'd at least not give him the same person each time.
"He’s a corner. He’s best utilized mixing man and zone coverages, as we have been doing ... If you play 75 snaps of man coverage you’re going to get beat three. If you play all zone coverage, you’re going to get beat. We have to continue to mix it up ..."