Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford again showed why he is a legitimate MVP candidate as he engineered yet another 4th quarter comeback victory over Washington. Stafford effortlessly moved the Lions down the field with under 2 minutes remaining in a drive that showcased traits such as awareness, a quick release,functional mobility, accuracy, timing and sheer arm power. Let’s go to the tape and take a look.
All Video Capture courtesy of NFL Game Pass.
With just over 1:00 to play, Detroit comes out in 10 personnel and the Redskins are deploying a two high safety shell pre snap with their cornerbacks 5-7 yards off the ball.
As the ball is snapped Josh Norman (CB, Top of Screen) begins his back pedal and is now 10 yards away from WR Marvin Jones who is a legitimate down field deep threat. Washington still has their two high safety look in tact.
Stafford sets up in the pocket we begin to see excellent route spacing and design taking shape. Washington has now (Post Snap) retreated into a Single High Safety look as their SS is now playing a hybrid robber/deep curl defender.
After Stafford’s initial setup, he is forced to step up and out of the pocket to his left as defensive end Ryan Kerrigan rushes up-field and creates a void for Stafford to buy more time to throw.
As Stafford buys more time, the Lions receiving threats are doing an excellent job of horizontally stretching the Redskin defense with a concept specifically designed to beat this particular defense. Marvin Jones is running a deep in breaking route and the WR at the bottom of the screen – Anquan Boldin, is running a deep comeback to the outside.
Stafford releases the ball with a flick of the wrist while not setting his feet, this clearly is a special throw by a special quarterback. Also notice how he is throwing somewhat across his body and into a window he expects Marvin Jones to eventually be.
The pass is complete and the Lions are rolling into Washington territory.
With momentum on their side but time running out, the Lions need a big play. Detroit deploys trips to the field side of the formation with their TE attached to the LOS. Attempting to decipher the Washington coverage at this point is tough to do. Stafford most likely has his eyes focused on the SS at the snap of the ball as that will be his coverage indicator.
At this point, we begin to see elements of the SS coming down into the box. This will signify to Stafford that there is a high probability of single high safety coverage with the “weak” safety rotating to the middle of the field.
As Stafford sets up into a clean pocket it becomes evident that Washington is electing to play coverage and rush three which in theory tightens any potential throwing windows down the field. Meanwhile we see again how Detroit has perfected the use of WR spacing as their receivers use angled releases which stresses the defense horizontally. Detroit also runs their TE on an “Under” route which will further stress the under-coverage of Washington.
As Stafford begins his throwing motion the picture is now clearly defined. Washington is in a single high safety look and Anquan Boldin who is in the slot, is creating leverage to come back into the weak area of this defense. Golden Tate is now running across the FS face in this modified four vertical concept.
The Window to place the football to Boldin is indeed very small but Stafford is one of the few QB’s who can actually make this throw happen. Stafford is essentially betting on his arm to fit the ball into a very small window. Also notice how the TE is in Stafford line of sight and actually influences the Will Linebacker just a bit.