What if I Told You…Sometimes You Should Never #Checkdown

I’ve seen enough.  It was a back-to-back showing on national TV and the script did not change.  No more, should the WR position shoulder the blame of ineptitude.  Sure, some of the fault could be laid at Andy Reid’s feet – but he has won a few games in this league, has gone to the playoffs, a Superbowl, etc…The issue at large lies squarely in the small hands of Alex Smith.

Did you watch last night’s game?  Do you remember anytime Alex Smith looked for a secondary read?
Or, did you witness as I did, a professional quarterback, a former 2005 #1 draft pick, no-longer a spring-chicken, stare down his primary target.  After three quarters, Alex Smith had 6 completions and 2 turnovers.  His numbers ended up being decent and yet that was garbage-time – no one who watched the game would say he was decent.

The problem with Chiefs having Cap’n Checkdown as their quarterback is they single logo_small
do not stretch the field.  You have to feel for Chiefs fans.  Sure Andy Reid does not run enough with Jamaal Charles, but the inability to throw further than 10 yards with any consistency is alarming, and as long as that guy is your quarterback – Kansas City will never win.

As for the Packers, word is, Aaron Rodgers is prettay, prettaay, prettaaay good.  How good? Aaron Rodgers threw five touchdown passes, and Green Bay has now won their last 10 regular-season home games – scoring 383 points – the highest total in team history over a span of 10 home games. The only other NFL teams to win 10 consecutive home games while scoring as many points as the Packers; were the Rams in 1999 and 2000, and the Broncos spanning 2012 and 2013.

Rodgers has now thrown 43 TD passes at Lambeau since his last interception there (in 2012), more than twice as long as any other streak of TD passes without an interception in home games in NFL history.  It sure does help when you also have a tank in the backfield.  You know how they say “it takes a village” to raise a child? It also takes a village to stop Eddie Lacy. Green Bay’s 5-foot-11, 234-pound back ran 10 times for 46 yards — not great numbers, but enough to show he can turn a corner real quick and run you over.


Here week3’s #NFL perfect lineups

DraftKings

DK_perfectL_wk3

FanDuel

FD_perfectL_wk3


On the Lighter Side…

This is an actual ad that was posted to Craig’s list in Arkansas.  Top Marks for ingenuity – They are counting the days Bert.


 

Denorfia’s blast gives Cubs a rare kind of victory

Chris Denorfia hit the first pitch of the bottom of the 11th inning for a walkoff home run to give the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Royals on Monday. He’s the first pinch-hitter in major-league history to hit a walkoff homer for the only run of an extra-inning win.

Denorfia is only the third player to hit a walkoff home run for the Cubs at Wrigley Field in extra-innings of a game that was scoreless to that point. Joe Pepitone’s 12th-inning home run was the only run of a Cubs’ 1-0 win in 1971, and Frank Secory hit a two-run walkoff homer in the 12th inning in 1946.

Cardinals blank Pirates the hard way

Six Cardinals pitchers combined to shut out the Pirates on Monday, despite issuing 10 walks. It’s the first game in 33 years in which a team threw a nine-inning shutout while walking at least 10 batters. The Mets were the last team to do that, in a 1-0 win in Montreal in 1982.

nullOsuna joins the man who David Letterman called “a fat tub of goo”

Twenty-year old Roberto Osuna picked up his 20th save of the season in Toronto’s come-from-behind win in Baltimore on Monday. The only other pitcher to save 20 games in one season at age 20 or younger was Terry Forster, with 29 saves for the White Sox in 1972.

nullRodriguez wins 10th game of season

Eduardo Rodriguez, the Red Sox’ 22-year old left-hander, improved to 10-6 and lowered his ERA to 3.85 in Boston’s win over the Yankees on Monday. The last Red Sox left-hander under the age of 23 to win 10 games and finish a season with an ERA under 4.00 was none other than Babe Ruth. The Bambino did that in three straight seasons: 18-8 with a 2.44 ERA in 1915, at age 20; 23-12 with a 1.75 ERA in 1916 and 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA in 1917.

The Red Sox have allowed one run in their last four games, their best stretch since the final four scheduled games of the 1978 season, when they gave up one run in four games to the Tigers and Blue Jays. That left the Red Sox tied for first place in the A.L. East with the Yankees, who won a one-game playoff-the “Bucky Dent Game”-at Fenway Park the next day.

nullIf only Sano had arrived earlier

Miguel Sano drove in the first run of the Twins’ win in Cleveland on Monday, giving him 51 RBIs this season. Sano, who made his major-league debut on July 2, is the second rookie in major-league history to drive in more than 50 runs in a season without having any before July. The other player to do that was Josh Phelps, with 58 RBIs for Toronto in 2002.

nullScherzer falls short of second no-hitter of season

Max Scherzer took a no-hit bid to the eighth inning in the Nationals’ win over the Reds on Monday. Scherzer, who no-hit the Pirates on June 20, is the first pitcher since 2011 to take a no-hit bid to the eighth inning after having completed a no-no earlier that season. Justin Verlander had two bids ended in the eighth inning that year after holding Toronto without a hit on May 7; and Francisco Liriano also had a no-hitter end in the eighth inning after his no-hitter against the White Sox.

nullCarter’s clutch homer

Chris Carter’s seventh-inning home run gave the Astros a lead they would not relinquish in their victory in Seattle on Monday. It was Carter’s first go-ahead homer in the seventh inning or later this season, although he hit three of those homers in each of the past two seasons.

 

 

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.