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Film Study: Keenan Allen Seals the Win on 3rd and 19

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The Chargers odds of winning the game increased from 85% to 95% on the back of Keenan Allen's biggest play, and it went a long way toward icing a Week 1 win against the Detroit Lions.

Keenan Allen Wins on 3rd and 19
Keenan Allen Wins on 3rd and 19
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Instead of watching the Chargers find a way to blow a second half lead in their season opener, they flipped the script on the Detroit Lions by rallying from a second half deficit of 11 points to take the lead early in the 4th quarter.

Later, with possession of the ball and nursing a 5 point lead, the Chargers had a chance to ice the game with a time-consuming drive and a score.

However, following a holding penalty, and two plays which netted 1 yard, the Chargers faced 3rd and 19. If no yardage was gained, Detroit would get the ball via punt and have about 3:30 to drive for the win. If some yardage was gained, the Chargers faced a long FG try by rookie PK Josh Lambo - at best, the Lions would get the ball via kickoff and have to go 80 yards in 3:20 to tie the game.

Luckily for the Chargers and their fans, WR Keenan Allen decided the Lions didn't need to have a realistic chance to either tie or win the game.

The Play: 4:18 remaining in the 4th Quarter. Chargers 3rd and 19 at the Lions' 42 yard line.

The Chargers use "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR). Shotgun, trips right formation. Here's a diagram of the play. If it looks familiar, it's because it's almost the same play as Keenan Allen's hurdling TD against Denver in December 2013.

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Play Diagram


The Chargers' Offense, from left to right.

  • WR Keenan Allen (13) runs a Shallow Cross route.
  • RB Danny Woodhead (39) stays in to pass block.
  • TE Ladarius Green (89) runs an Out route.
  • WR Stevie Johnson (11) runs a Seam route.
  • WR Malcom Floyd (80) runs a slant and go

The Lions' Defense (from the defense's right to left).

  • Up Front: DE Philip Hunt (58) DT Haloti Ngata (92) DE Jason Jones (91)
  • In the Middle: LB Stephen Tulloch (55), DE Ezekiel Ansah (94), SS Isa Abdul-Quddus.
  • In the Secondary: CB Rashean Mathis (31), SS James Ihedigbo (32), FS Glover Quin (27), CB Quandre Diggs (28), CB Darius Slay (23).
  • The Lions are running a 4-1-6 defense by personnel. By formation, the look is closer to a 3-3-5.

Elements of the Play

Figure 1 shows the pre-snap business. Allen is alone on the boundary side of the formation, while the Chargers have Green, Johnson, and Floyd to the field side of the formation. Woodhead is left of QB Philip Rivers. Unlike many instances in the past, the Chargers do not send anyone in motion to get the Lions to indicate zone or man coverage.

Detroit's 2 deep Safties (Ihedigbo, Quin) are lined up right at the 1st down marker (22 yard line). Tulloch, Ansah, and Quddus are all standing near the line of scrimmage, possibly indicating a 6 man pass rush.

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Figure 1

At the snap, Figure 2 shows a 5 man rush. Ansah joins the rush while Quddus retreats and picks up coverage on Green. Tulloch is responsible for Woodhead. As Allen starts his Shallow Cross, Mathis bails out and takes over the intermediate-deep zone on the right side of the defense. In the meantime, Ihedigbo recognizes Allen's route and breaks across the defensive backfield anticipating where Allen will be following the reception. Diggs picks up Johnson, and gets beat quickly off the snap, while Slay picks up Floyd.

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Figure 2

At this point in Figure 3, let's take a look at the pass protection. Most notably, look at LG Orlando Franklin (74). Ngata beats him easily to the inside with a swim move. This means that Woodhead's responsibility in blitz pickup becomes Ngata, as Franklin then blocks Tulloch's blitz.

LT King Dunlap handles Hunt without trouble. Meanwhile on the right side, C Chris Watt (65), RG Jerry Hairston (75), and RT Joe Barksdale (72) easily handle a stunt between Ansah and Jones. Ansah goes into Hairston, who then moves him to Barksdale. Then Jones runs into a double team of Hairston and Watt on his move inside. Best of all, Woodhead picks up Ngata, and allows Rivers time to throw without any real pressure.

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Figure 3

In Figure 4, Allen has made the reception and has three defenders in front of him. The 1st one with a chance to make the play is Ihedigbo, who is running full speed to reach Allen at about the 35 yard line. Then Allen makes a severe cut upfield, causing Ihedigbo to lose his footing and slide out of Allen's way, giving Allen a free run to the 30 yard line.

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Figure 4

Figure 5  - Allen picks up a block from Floyd on Slay - after Floyd does a nice job of avoiding a block-in-the-back penalty. This means the only Lions defender left who can make the tackle before Allen gets the 1st down is Quin. Allen makes a second cut upfield, sliding past Quin at the 25 yard line, and getting tripped up at the 21 yard line. 1st down Chargers, which leads to another minute burned off the clock and Woodhead's 2nd TD run, and a 12 point lead with 2:37 to play.

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Figure 5

Here's a GIF of the play:

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Takeaways

The play is essentially a screen pass on a field wide scale. The play isn't quite executed to perfection. There are two opportunities for downfield blocks by Green and Johnson, which could have allowed Allen to score - had he beaten Quin at the 25 yard line. Also, I can't imagine anyone would be thrilled with the idea of Woodhead blocking Ngata one-on-one after beating Franklin inside. Still, thanks to Woodhead's block on Ngata, the strong play of the rest of the offensive line, Rivers quick release, a downfield block from Floyd, and Allen's dynamic open field abilities, the Chargers converted on a crucial play which sealed their 1st win of the season.