Considering the amount of talk surrounding Brett Favre’s INT at the end of regulation in the Vikings’ loss to the Saints on Sunday, I thought it would be a good idea to break down the play — and explain why it happened and how it could have been prevented.
Let’s use the Coaching Players 3D Chalkboard to break it down and then get into the video replay — where we may be looking at Favre’s last throw of his NFL career.
Because of the 12-men in the huddle penalty, the Vikings are now faced with a 3rd and 15 on the Saints 38-yard line. They need a positive play to get into field goal range and bring their Ace personnel (2 TE, 2 WR, 1 RB) onto the field.
In this situation, the Vikings are looking for something simple, something that is easy to complete and moves the ball into a better position for kicker Ryan Longwell. They run what is commonly called the “Spot” route in the NFL: a flat/7 (or flag)/ curl combo — with the curl and the flat acting as the primary receivers in the route.
But, the Vikings add some window dressing to it by motioning to a bunch formation (with the strong TE removed from the formation) and using TE Visanthe Shiancoe as the backside “X” receiver to replace the “Z” receiver (Sidney Rice) in the curl. This is called the “X” spot, and it turns out to be the same route as the “Spot,” just by mixing responsibilities to cause confusion in the defense. Rice, (who is highlighted in blue) in this case, acts as the fourth option — an afterthought in the route — but we all know that he comes into play.
Let’s check out the diagram…
The issue here is the Saints. They play your basic Cover 2, and now the Vikings are running a route that is designed to beat man coverage versus a basic zone that has all 11 defenders facing the quarterback.
The Vikings use sprint action with Favre to get him out of the pocket and to have a clear throwing lane to both the short curl to the “X” receiver and the flat route to the Bernard Berrian who comes across in motion before the snap. And, when you watch the replay, you will see that Saints CB Jabari Greer has conceded the flat route — because of the responsibilities of Cover 2. He has to sink under the 7 route to make Favre throw over him to the TE — which will allow safety Darren Sharper to drive on the ball.
But, as we all know, Favre took his eyes off of his front-side read and decided to go backside to Rice, who is running away from Favre. A bad choice against Cover 2, as corner Tracy Porter has no responsibilities when the “X” receiver drives underneath to the front side curl. He becomes a “poacher,” hanging out and looking inside from any route coming back across the field (I have highlighted Porter in blue).
Why does Porter know this? Look at the splits of the wide receivers. Considering that the ball is on the right hash, they are all considered to be aligned “inside the numbers,” which tells the Saints secondary to look for inside breaking routes just by using the numbers as a landmark on the field.
Let’s check out the video replay…
As you can see, Porter is on the backside of the Saints’ Cover 2 look and is waiting for Rice to come over on the crossing route. He has safety help over the top, and because Favre is rolling away from him with sprint out action, he can “cut” Rice and turn the New Orleans Cover 2 into essentially man coverage.
The throw is late, and for Porter, it turned out to be one of the easiest plays of the day because of the coverage.
Was it a poor choice by Favre? Yes, but he has the ability to throw back across his body. The coverage won in this case when Favre decided to come back to his fourth option instead of taking the primary routes that were open in front of him.
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