MGoBlog user the fume suggested in the comments of my last diary that Kovacs' interception in the 2nd quarter came from the same defensive play call that led to Notre Dame's final score, so I thought that I'd satisfy my own curiosity and look at that play too.
It's 3rd and 9 at the 36 yard line, ND 14-UM 0. Michigan brings all of its defensive personnel to within 3 yards of the line of scrimmage, with three down linemen (Black, MM, RVB), three linebackers (Hawthorne, Demens, Ryan) and five defensive backs (Avery, Gordon, Robinson?, Kovacs, Floyd). Here's the look:
Rees checks into a new play. This is the play he checks into:
He's focused in on Floyd at the bottom of the screen. Michigan, however, is going to rush 3 and drop 8 into coverage. It's a 3-deep zone coverage with five players in the short zones:
The pressure on the defense will come at the bottom of the screen, since the slot receiver will run a seam route straight up the hash marks, and Floyd is running a 12 yard curl route. Although the seam route is open, Rees apparently expects man coverage, as he seems to have decided already to throw it to Floyd.
The seam route is open. If Rees sees it, it's probably a touchdown. Note that the safety playing the center of the field is at the 44 yard, on the other hash marks, running like crazy up field. He's the only defender who has a chance at preventing a touchdown if Rees sees the seam.
But Rees is staring at Floyd, and Kovacs is watching Rees' eyes. Here's what it looks like when Rees starts to throw, with Black breathing down his neck. Note how open the slot receiver still is.
Rees compounds his error by making a poor throw too far inside. I suppose he thinks that Kovacs is running with the slot receiver and that Floyd will be wide open.
The result: Kovacs makes the pick.
It's a great play by Kovacs. This defense clearly has a problem, however. The player who plays the center deep third of the field needs to turn at the snap and get deep. He doesn't have time to survey the field and adjust his position. Here it's even worse than on the touchdown in the fourth quarter, as the deep center defender is on the opposite side of the formation from the receiver he needs to cover.
As several people commented, Mattison is not adverse to taking risks with his defensive play-calling to generate turnovers and uncertainty. Sometimes, as here, it works. Sometimes it doesn't. But I think all of us are happier with this approach than the very passive approach taken by the past coaching regime.
I thought it was the same play, but nobody believed me :( . Anyway, as I said then, I would expect the FS to back out at least a few yards before the snap after showing blitz from now on, this play obviously is easily exploitable, and I don't think the FS backing out last second would lessen the confusion at all (for example, the Kovacs pick would still hve happened, but the TD might not have). I also still think that the last ND TD was just a blown coverage by Woolfolk. I think he saw his guy go inside a bit on a seam, and passed him on to the not-yet-in-position FS.
Wow. I wouldn't be surprised if they showed Rees a photo of that after the play, thus, the later TD.
That also seems like what people describe as the classic problem of a 3 deep zone against 4 verts, that middle safety just has to cover way too much ground.
Edit: After watching the play, I really don't understand why they roll the pocket, that seems to make it a one receiver route. It would take a very difficult throw, across his body, to get the ball to the wide-open seam route..
I think it helps to guard against an overload blitz from that side. The line knows that if someone is going to be unblocked, it should be on the side that the QB is rolling away from. Since they had 5 receivers in the pattern, protection is a big issue, and that lets receivers get more than 10 yards downfield before the ball has to come out. Of course, that does limit the number of receivers you can throw to, but you've already made the defense account for those players, so it really simplified the game for the QB; he just needs to worry about 1 or 2 receivers and only half of the guys in coverage. Had Rees not suffered from a form of early-Navarre tunnel vision with Floyd, this might have gone for a TD.
On the last TD, we ran Cover 3 and had Marvin Robinson up at the line disguising a blitz and dropping to the deep middle and he couldn't get back in time.
It was a smart call on 3rd and short because you drop 5 guys short and cover the quick out, hitch, slant, etc. However, you can't disguise the deep safety and expect him to get back...M-Rob was in a dead sprint and wasn't even close. Like one blogger said, Ed Reed is the ONLY person in football that can make that play. The ONLY one.
IMO you disguise it like it's Cover 2 or Cover 4 with 2 deep safeties...then you run one of them up into one of the short zones and have the other slide to the deep middle if you're playing Cover 3. You can still have 7 guys in the box and make it look like you're going man on all the WRs and sending the house. It's very possible Rees reads man or cover 2 and checks to a quick slant or hitch, you bail out at the snap and drop a LB right into his passing lane for the INT (see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=et3_UXSHugc&feature=related (we didn't disguise shit on that play, but we rushed 3, dropped 8) ...it's the opening play)
And for the record, I don't like the play at ALL when it's 3rd and 9 like it was during the Kovacs INT. IMO we got away with one. The LT for ND was too busy trying to think of the 2nd line to the chorus of Katy Perry - Firework and totally didn't see Black or whoever that is coming off the edge. If he's even half blocked that's a potential touchdown.
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Scary how open that one ND WR was, but the pressure bascially forced Rees to roll to his right immediately and he might not have been able to make the throw at all even if he had seen him. Seems like a blown coverage by UM, and lucky we got an INT on that play instead of it being at TD for ND.
Robinson bails looks left (which is to the WR side who catches the TD) and then turns right. TWoolf has deep 1/3, Robinson has deep 1/3 center. But the route and pass is dead center in between those two zones--which is the exact spot where the cover 3 is vulnerable.
Agreed. It's less of a problem if the CBs and FS are deep
because they can watch the routes develop and react to them. When the guys responsible for the deep zones are up close, it's harder for them to react as they're sprinting upfield.
That's why the "QB is coached to look off the Free Safety and throw to the #2 receiver away from him." (Steve Sharik, published on Smart Football) But if the FS is running up the field there's no need to look him off because he's not looking at the QB.