Tyrann Mathieu injury, Odell Beckham Jr., Panthers, #NFL Week 15 – The MMQB w/Peter King

name of site - hunter thompson style

“How you feeling?” someone asked Bruce Arians a few minutes before 1 this morning, as the Arizona Cardinals’ buses left Lincoln Financial for the airport in Philadelphia, and the long flight west.

You kidding? He’s great! Got to be! The Cardinals just demolished the Eagles 40-17 on national television, clinching the team’s first NFC title since 2009—and setting a record for the 96-year-old franchise for wins in a regular season (12). Arians did it a short drive from his hometown of York, Pa., and against one of the teams that spurned him when he was dying to be an NFL head coach. Sunday was a big night, and this coaching lifer had to be on Cloud Nine. Or Cloud 12.

“I’m melancholy,” the coach of the NFC West champions said.

There’s a story there.

* * *

The physical play between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman crossed the line on multiple occasions during Sunday’s game.

Photo: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Quite a day in the NFL:

• The most electric receiver and best cornerback in football faced off in New Jersey, and a UFC fight broke out.

• The Broncos, who’d owned the AFC West all season, now could be one loss away from being the conference’s sixth seed.

• Grown men wept on the field in San Diego—and not because they were sentenced to play for the 4-10 Chargers. (I’ll write the lead to my Tuesday column on the end of days, possibly, in St. Louis and San Diego on the heels of their final home games. Thanks in advance for your patience.)

• The Texans, 0-13 at Indianapolis in their history before Sunday, finally won there, behind a quarterback who wasn’t good enough to play in Cleveland or to back up in Dallas. And now Houston’s playoff life will depend on one Brandon Weeden. “Crazy day, crazy month, crazy year,” he said from the scene of the crime Sunday.

• The Jets could win their final six games, beat the reigning Super Bowl champs, finish 11-5 and miss the playoffs. Easily.

• Washington wins the NFC East by winning Saturday night. Philadelphia wins the NFC East by winning its last two games.

• Regular-season wins for New England the last four years: 12, 12, 12, 12 (and counting).

• Kansas City is amazing. First team to lose five in a row then win eight straight in one season. (Wherever do they find these silly records?) Average margin of victory in the eight straight wins: 17.5 points. And 3-11 Cleveland and 6-8 Oakland come to Arrowhead for the last two regular-season games, so the Chiefs have a heck of a shot to extend that win streak to 10 straight. With a possible first-round playoff game at Houston, it’s quite possible that Kansas City could carry an 11-game winning streak into a divisional game at Cincinnati or Denver.

• Pittsburgh’s three-headed wideout monster (Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton) caught 32 passes in the win over Denver. How often have the fifth and sixth seeds in a conference playoff been the biggest threats to No. 1? This could be that year, with Kansas City and Pittsburgh the kryptonite to New England.

• Speaking of hot wild-card teams: Seattle has won five in a row, and Russell Wilson—statistically and in every other way—is the best he’s ever been. How can you be better than 19 touchdowns and no interceptions and a 143.6 passer rating over five games?

There’s a lot going on. The Giants might be wise to work on one game plan with maniacal Odell Beckham Jr. in it and one with him out of it. Concussion opens this week. You should see it; it’s important. Three teams in eight days are preparing to say goodbye to their cities forever, and some fans are into the love-in of it all, and some want vengeance. And did I mention Brandon Weeden is relevant again?

But we start on the bus in south Philly, with Bruce Arians’ favorite player in trouble………(continue reading)

Source: Tyrann Mathieu injury, Odell Beckham Jr. Panthers, NFL Week 15 | The MMQB with Peter King

Coached Up

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Trying to figure out or rank the NFL’s coaches is a difficult task because so many X-factors exist in the determination of success and failure. Sometimes an average coach is in the right environment and he thrives and sometimes a good coach is in a toxic environment that even the best couldn’t dig their way out of. One thing is for sure, though, the better your head coach the higher the chance you’ll have at winning. Below is a smattering in no particular order:

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots

Belichick is on a legen…(wait for it)…dary path and while discussing 32 coaches is difficult, agreeing on who is #1 is not. Belichick has been AP Coach of the Year three times, won four Super Bowls, and been to the playoffs 12 out of 15 seasons.

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs

Reid’s run in Philadelphia was a very good one but more impressive perhaps is how quickly he turned the Chiefs into a playoff team. Anytime you can do that in multiple environments, you’ve shown your abilities. Injuries bit the Chiefs last year, as well as the allergic reaction his WR’s had to the endzone, lead an expectation that Reid will lead his team to a rebound year.

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints

Last year’s meltdown was hard and it would be quick to condemn both Payton and the Saints based on one bad season. The Saints rebounded from their post Bountygate season to make the playoffs and in 2009 they rebounded from 7-9 to win a Super Bowl. Payton is likely the best offensive mind in the game. His offense has been in the top five every year except for one since he coached the Saints and they were #1 in the NFL last season. He’s been AP coach of the year and led his team to the playoffs five times in eight seasons.

John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens

Any coach that survives the retirement of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed to maintains this level of success, deserves credit. He’s been to the playoffs 6 times since 2008 and he has won a Super Bowl.

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers looked like they might be falling apart, before we saw a big resurgence from Ben Roethlisberger last year in part thanks to the explosion of Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell. Make no mistake, Tomlin plays a huge part in keeping this team competitive despite the big drop off defensive talent and the hole now left by Lebeau . He’s been to the playoffs 5 times with a Super Bowl title since 2007.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

His player friendly style has worked wonders both at USC and in Seattle. While anyone could win with the talent he’s assembled he deserves a lot of credit for cultivating and maximizing those players. His run the last two years with two Super Bowl trips and one title has been dominant.  Maybe next time he’ll run the ball.

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

He brings a certain level of toughness, and the Colts seem to be on the verge of really big things.  But it seems we have seen this movie before with the previous QB era.  Jury is still out until we see more besides just Andrew Luck.

Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams

Fisher is a fantastic coach that knows how to assemble a roster and get the most out of his players. His Achilles heel in St. Louis remains his inability to get consistent healthy quarterback play. Maybe Nick Foles can bring consistency and change that; and if he can the Rams are a team to take very seriously.

John Fox, Chicago Bears

Fox has had successful stops in Carolina and Denver. The Bears are elated to have someone of his quality and he should be able to turn things around quickly, but the ceiling is always low.

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants

His improbable two Super Bowl title runs have kept him in New York much longer than anyone expected. He knows how to get his squad up for the most important games, that’s for sure.  Remember, his Jaguars still have more playoff victories than the Cowboys in the last 20yrs.

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals were a Super Bowl contender before the injury of Carson Palmer. Arians has done a fantastic job there after being a very successful assistant coach for a long time. He deserves that job based on how he filled in for Pagano in Indianapolis.

Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

One could argue McCarthy has underachieved a little bit considering his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. He’s still an excellent offensive mind, though, and there’s no question his 94-49-1 record speaks for itself.

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

He’s a disciplinarian that runs a tight ship and has Super Bowl experience with the Colts. His first season in Detroit was promising.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

He catches some heat and he’s been fortunate to hang on to his job as long as he has but he is a premiere defensive coach. Unfortunately he’s never had enough talent, under center, to really take this team to the next level, but he’s still an above average coach.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers defense has been dominant the last couple of years and Rivera has greatly benefited from a weak division. He’s been a gutsy coach that seems to have a great feel for the game.

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans

His turnarounds of both the Texans and Penn State are nothing short of remarkable. But can he compete at the top?

Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers

The Charges have been ok under McCoy, but he’s been a bit of a disappointment and hasn’t really shown that he’s an upgrade over Norv Turner.

Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills

Ryan is a good coach who had success in New York for a while despite poor quaterback play, but can he turn around a team in Buffalo with the same exact problems?

Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders

Will he be able to succeed where it seems like everyone else fails? He’s got a good history as a defensive guy, but for this team to win Derek Carr will need to develop and Del Rio will need to stay out of the way.

Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos

This is a good fit for a prolific offense. His stint in Houston was mediocre at best but he’ll be working with more talent.  It is now or never to show what he is capable of.

Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles

The jury is still out on Kelly but he certainly seems to have blown up his roster. And as explosive and exciting as his style has been at times, the team still hasn’t won a playoff game in two seasons with him. A lot of talk without results. It’s hard to see the Eagles being better this year unless Sam Bradford can stay healthy and productive.

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

Quinn seems as solid as it comes in terms of coaching defense. The Falcons will need it as they were 32nd overall last season. We’ll see how he does as a head coach, though, there are a lot of unknowns.  Lucky for him he has Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to help him figure it out.

Mike Pettine, Cleveland Browns

A solid effort to get the Browns to 7-9 last year but with Hoyer gone it could be worse this year.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Garrett has underachieved and like Romo he cannot get it done in the postseason.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

He did an admirable job last season considering the Adrian Peterson situation. It remains to be seen if he’s the right man for that job, though.  Having Norv Turner is going to help.

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

He’s had a couple good years with elite talent as a defensive coordinator in Arizona. A lot of unknowns exist on how he’ll do as a head coach in a new environment.  Alot hinges on the growth of Geno Smith.

Lovie Smith, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

His credibility took a big shot as the Bucs regressed last year. The future of his head coaching career now rests on the arm and head of Jameis Winston. I’d be nervous.

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins

He’s 23-25 since 2012 with no trips to the playoffs. He’s a mediocre coach for an average football team.

Ken Whisenhunt, Tennessee Titans

Last season was a disaster in Tennessee. He’ll be looking for a new job soon if results don’t improve.

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

Not only was Gruden’s team a disaster on the field last season, there were issues off the field surrounding the management of RGIII. I’m not sure any coach could succeed in this environment, many have tried.

Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers

Really have to question his qualifications here and based on the offseason he’s really set up to fail.

Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

7-25 since 2013 speaks for itself, unfortunately, but there is talent and they play harder than most teams.

Training Camp Counselor

It’s the dog-days of summer and football training camp is a few days away – NFL Films’ Greg Cosell will be doing a series of posts for Shutdown Corner taking a deeper look into the finer points of football, explaining how fans can look for the subtle nuances that make the game so interesting beneath the surface. – so in the meantime – ENJOY!

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
By Greg Cosell – July 5, 2015 12:30 PM – Shutdown Corner MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 30: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers calls a play at the line of scrimmage during the third quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings on December 30, 2012 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Packers 37-34. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

On Sundays, I usually watch games without taking notes or looking at schemes or searching for details about why plays did or didn’t work. I just watch casually. And I know most people watch games that way, and that’s great.

But I also love when I come to the NFL Films offices on Monday and start to look at the coaches’ film to unlock why certain plays worked or didn’t, and what makes players successful or not. Those nuances, to me, are what football is all about.

Since NFL.com introduced the all-22 film (that’s the term for the high-angle coaches film you’ll see on my posts at Shutdown Corner) on Game Rewind, many serious fans have taken advantage of it. But I’ve told people, breaking down NFL film isn’t something you can do after dinner in 20 minutes. It took a lot of time before I knew what to watch for. Thankfully there are people who taught me various aspects of the game, like former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski teaching me how to watch from a quarterback’s viewpoint, or former New England Patriots coach and longtime NFL defensive coordinator Rod Rust explaining defensive concepts. There have been many others I’ve learned from, and I’m always learning new things.

What I’d like to do in a series of posts here this summer is pass along some of the things I’ve learned to look for when watching a game. Some things can be picked up by watching the television broadcast — though it can be a challenge because of the tight shots of game play — at the stadium or watching film afterward. My hope is that some of these things help your appreciation of your favorite team, or football in general. I love the intellectual side of the NFL. To me, that’s what makes the game great.

Here’s an obvious starting point for this post: There are things you can note before the snap on each play. I’ve watched film for so long, checking for these keys before the ball is snapped has become second nature.

Let’s use two plays from the Green Bay Packers‘ win against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 5 last season as examples. This was a second-and-7 at Green Bay’s 34, in the first quarter. Here’s the first picture of the play I see:

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

This looks like a typical football formation, but there’s so much we can learn just from this one frame.

On offense, the first thing I look at is personnel. There was a player in the fullback position, and I can see right away that’s not their normal fullback, John Kuhn (it’s tight end Andrew Quarless). Then my eye goes to the fact that they have two split receivers. The Packers often run play-action from this look, though I know that from years of studying coach Mike McCarthy’s offense. Then I noticed that the ball is on the right hash and the receiver at the right of the formation, Jordy Nelson, had tighter splits (meaning he was a little closer to the formation) than usual. I’m thinking, if this is a pass, Nelson will run some route that is taking him across the field. He has to get across the field, so he’ll take a tighter split. It will take too long to get across the field if he’s lined up wider. There was a reason Nelson is there. These are things you pick up the longer you study film.

After I’ve seen the offensive personnel and formation, I move to the defense. I’ve worked with Jaworski for years at the NFL Films offices, and he says about his pre-snap process watching film as a former quarterback: “I usually go from safeties to cornerbacks to the linebackers to the line.”

I start with the safeties too. New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton told me years ago, if you reduce it to simple terms you’re trying to see if it’s a two-deep safety shell or a single-high safety, and then you look for blitz indicators. The Vikings safeties on this play showed a two-deep shell, which indicated a zone coverage. They could be disguising the coverage because neither safety is that deep. One could drop down right before the snap, in theory. Anything can happen with those safeties, but it was a two-deep shell zone look.

Then look at the corners, especially the corner on the bottom of the screen. They were lined up slightly to the outside of the receivers, which indicated they are anticipating inside help from the safeties. That means it’s a zone coverage. Also, at the snap, if cornerbacks turn and face the sideline to push the receiver outside it tells you there’s man coverage, and if the cornerbacks turn to face the field it’s usually zone. And you can look at the linebackers’ first steps; if their first steps are backward it’s a zone coverage.

There was no blitz indicator from the Vikings on this play. If corners are playing tight man coverage, that could be a blitz indicator, but they weren’t here. The linebackers were stacked behind the line, and that was an indication they would not blitz. It would be different if a linebacker was up on the line of scrimmage or creeping up to it. The safeties showed two-deep shell, and that’s not a blitz indicator. Anything can change at the snap because teams will try to confuse the offense, but the Vikings’ alignment indicated this was a zone coverage with no blitz. It’s hard to blitz out of a two-deep shell, because you have two safeties deep and if you take another defender out of the front seven to blitz there are a lot of voids in the defense.

Keep in mind that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers saw all of this and processed the information in about a second or so. And as we’ll see, what he noticed mattered. As it turned out the Packers had a play called to beat the exact defense Rodgers saw.

The Packers went hard run-action to the left, the defense reacted (it was playing quarters zone coverage, with each defensive back being responsible for a deep fourth of the field). The safety to the run side was an “alley” defender, because he had run responsibility and he would run in the alley in run support if it’s a handoff. Rodgers faked it, and rolled to the right. Nelson released inside and he ran straight at the safety. The other safety stepped up in run support because of the fake, and also the receiver on the left side ran a route to occupy that safety. Nelson was screaming at safety Harrison Smith, who is a very good player, but couldn’t cover Nelson in that situation. Nelson caught a 66-yard touchdown.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That play was designed to beat a zone defense, to get Nelson running at the safety. That’s why the first look at the Vikings’ alignment, with all the clues of what defense they were running, mattered. There was a play earlier in the first quarter, and Rodgers called an audible to a run to beat a much different defensive look.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That was a lot different alignment by the defense. This appeared to be man-to-man coverage with a free safety, called “man free.” You know it’s man because the three cornerbacks were pressed up on the three receivers. Strong safety Smith was up on the line to the right side of the Packers’ formation. The two inside linebackers were lined up hard inside, slightly inside of the guards. It looked like a blitz mostly because of Smith. The way the Vikings aligned should send alerts to your brain: man coverage and potential blitz.

I don’t know if the Packers had a run or a pass called — the same touchdown to Nelson we described above probably wouldn’t have worked against this man defense, by the way — but Rodgers called an outside zone run to the left. Why? Because the linebackers were hard inside, they couldn’t stop Eddie Lacy outside. And it was to the left because Smith was lined up to the Packers’ right side. Randall Cobb, from the slot, ran like he might catch a bubble screen and that took the slot cornerback out of run support. The extra defender was the free safety, lined up about 15 yards deep. The Vikings were in trouble before the ball was snapped. Lacy gained 29 yards.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)

That type of play is why coaches like Arizona’s Bruce Arians say they don’t want quarterbacks who didn’t do anything at the line of scrimmage in college. Rodgers made this run by what he did at the line. If you just casually watched the game you might have thought it was a great play by Lacy, but in reality Rodgers deserved most of the credit for this. Rodgers was able to set up the run by diagnosing the Vikings’ defense from the snapshot he got before the snap.

And now you can look for some of the same things before the ball is snapped.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.