For several different reasons, I want to talk about this play that happened yesterday.
First, let's set the stage. The San Diego Chargers trail 21-13. They have just been held to a field goal, but they have scored 10 unanswered points. They have some momentum, but the Detroit Lions can take another commanding lead with another score.
The drive starts with a 36-yard screen pass to Ameer Abdullah, and then a 6-yard completion to Golden Tate. After an incompletion, Matthew Stafford is facing a very manageable 3rd & 4 situation. And then...
The Detroit Lions are set-up with Trips right and they believe the Chargers are in zone defense because Melvin Ingram looks ready to defend one of the receivers. In reality, the Lions have no idea John Pagano's defense is planning because it looks like they're sending 9 guys at the QB...
I believe Jahleel Addae is the only guy deep. Everyone else is on the line. That's not Eric Weddle playing a linebacker spot, that's him switching gaps to overload the right side and freak out the RB.
So, what happens? Well, it's a Dick Lebeau-esque zone blitz.
The ball is snapped, and half the guys go forward while the other half go backward. Unfortunately for Stafford, his offensive line guessed wrong on which guys to block.
Five Detroit Lions offensive lineman are left blocking three defensive linemen, Kyle Emanuel ends up blocked by the RB (sort of) and Melvin Ingram comes free.
Pagano, unlike the offensive line, guessed right. Notice that there are five Chargers defenders hanging out right around the yellow line (and only four Detroit receivers). Their job is to play the "sticks" route.
Seeing as how his RB is busy saving his life, Stafford has two options. He can...
- Hit Golden Tate on the quick slant and hope he can make it to the sticks.
- Chuck it deep to Calvin Johnson, who has a Safety shading over the top, and hope that Megatron can out-jump two guys to get the ball.
Leaving Ingram unblocked takes away every other option, and makes those two options risky as well. Stafford hesitates in his decision (seemingly because he doesn't see the unblocked pass rusher), and he pays the price.
He decides to go with Calvin Johnson, and we can see why he waited. Johnson is running a stop-and-go, a double-move that takes a while to develop. Near the sticks, he fakes like he's going to cut in before trying to run past Brandon Flowers down the field. Flowers didn't bite, but it doesn't matter.
Ingram is robbed of a sack, just barely, but Emanuel has defeated the RB assigned to block him and is ready for the weakly-thrown pass to fall in his hands for his first career interception.
There's a rumor flying around this morning that Stafford was injured on this play. After getting hit in the throwing arm/shoulder, Stafford returned to the game wearing a sleeve on that arm.
In between the play above and the final drive, where the Chargers mostly played prevent defense and let the Lions charge down the field for a touchdown, Stafford was useless. Let's take a look at that stat line:
4/7, 27 pass yds, 1 INT
I believe the only pass he threw that traveled more than 5 yards through the air was the should've-been interception by Eric Weddle (I don't have the stats to back this up, but every completion in this time frame is either for 5 yards or less or thrown to a running back on a screen).
So, not only did Ingram and Emanuel notch a turnover (which was turned into the Melvin Gordon fumble, if you're wondering), but they may have injured the opposing QB to the point where he couldn't keep the Lions offense running smoothly.