Film Session: Derek Carr’s Precision Beat Near-Perfect Coverage on Monday Night

The opening drive of the Raiders 24-16 win over the Broncos ended in spectacular fashion on Monday night. Derek Carr hit wide receiver Tyrell Williams in heavy traffic to cap off the Raiders first possession with a score. It was a tone-setting drive that covered 72 yards in 10 plays, including two conversions on third down. What made the final play really stand out is the fact that it never should have happened. Let’s jump into the film and find out why.

The offense is running a Sail / Drive concept out of a 3×1 formation and ’12’ personnel. Tight end Foster Moreau is lined up as the ‘X’ receiver running the corner route at the bottom of the screen. His route is designed to pull as much coverage as possible out of the middle of the field. Running back Josh Jacobs will run a flat route for a similar purpose and to function as a possible check-down if nothing else comes open.

Carr’s primary target will be the ‘Drive’ concept being run to the field side by Williams and fellow wide receiver, Ryan Grant. Williams’ ‘Dig’ route and Ryan’s ‘Drag’ route is designed to create a High/Low read based on how the defense covers them. If the coverage is deep then Carr will throw the ‘Drag’ and will throw the ‘Dig’ over the coverage if it is shallow.

There is some initial confusion in the secondary but they eventually line up in a Cover-1 look. This is a perfect coverage call to combat the ‘Drive’ concept. It brings extra defenders into the center of the field where the offense is trying to attack.

This alignment will tell Carr that he has man coverage with one or two defenders playing zone coverage in the middle of the field. These two defenders are commonly referred to as the ‘High Hole’ who plays a deep middle zone and the ‘Rat’ who plays shallow. Their zone coverage will give them the advantage of being able to read the quarterbacks eyes and drive on any pass in the area.

Modern NFL coverages have rules built into them that make them a bit more complex for the players executing them, but are very effective in preventing completions. In this instance, the ‘Rat’ has zone-match responsibility for any shallow crossing route that comes into his area. This simply means that he will take over the man coverage responsibility for that receiver and the defender who was in man coverage will take over as the ‘Rat’. It’s a process known as ‘Cut and Robot’.

Don’t confuse this action as double coverage though. There is no point in this coverage were two defenders are simultaneously responsible for any individual receiver. Once the ‘Cut’ defender takes over, he is on his own in man coverage while the ‘Robot’ becomes the new ‘Rat’ and takes over the middle shallow zone responsibility.

As you can see in this shot, the coverage was effective and created a situation where there are four defenders in the area the offense was targeting. It would appear that Broncos HC Vic Fangio called a perfect coverage and with pressure closing in, this play should have ended in Carr throwing the ball away, or even taking a sack.

Of course, we already know it doesn’t. Carr is able to deliver and absolute dime over the coverage and into Williams’ outstretched hands, scoring the first points of the contest. It was refreshing to see how aggressive he was in his decision making throughout the game as well as on this individual play.

Complex coverages employed at the perfect time won’t always have the desired result. Sometimes a quarterback just delivers a perfect pass and there is nothing the defense can do about it. The Chiefs will be in town this week and the Raiders could use a few more throws like this one.


2 thoughts on “Film Session: Derek Carr’s Precision Beat Near-Perfect Coverage on Monday Night

  1. Huge fan of these dissection videos, as well as all of the articles in general on this website! Please continue to write more and even add a few more articles like this one please!

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