Pick 32: Breaking down a play from each team over week 5.

Atlanta Falcons

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This play is going to be a play action pass. On a play like this, it’s crucial to get your opponents linebackers to believe you’re going to run and step forward, as Pittsburgh’s did here.
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So as you see it worked pretty well. On the bottom of the screen two defensive backs for Pittsburgh have to guard two Atlanta receivers, and with the linebackers moving up to stop a run, Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu can get by everyone.
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At this point Sanu only has one man to beat, and he’s able to run past him for a touchdown.

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Arizona Cardinals

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There’s nothing super fancy about this one, San Fransisco’s going to blitz. They have five on the line and an additional man is going to rush Josh Rosen as well. This leaves a one on one for 4 different receivers, with only one safety back.
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The only way for this play to be a positive is for Arizona’s offensive line is able to do their job well. This time they did and were able to give Josh Rosen time. At this point, Rosen can essentially choose which matchup he likes best, and when you have a future hall of fame wide receiver on your roster, it makes for a pretty easy decision.

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Buffalo Bills

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Josh Allen’s going to run a bootleg here. To make this work, Tennessee has to believe that Buffalo’s going to hand it off to a back. To help sell that, Buffalo has a tight end and a fullback in the game.
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As you can see from this shot, the fake works. Besides from the defensive back who has to guard a receiver, every Titan is away from the bottom half of the field.
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So Allen’s under pressure, but has space to work with. Tennessee’s secondary is doing a pretty good job of covering Buffalo’s receivers, So Allen’s going to run with the ball. It makes sense, as there’s only really one man in position to make a play. Everyone else is guarding a receiver or out of position, and much like the Falcons touchdown earlier, if you can put yourself in a position where you only have to beat one man to get a touchdown, you’ll usually take that.

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Baltimore Ravens

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I only have one image on this play, and that’s because it was essentially a big play for Baltimore before the ball was snapped. The Ravens have two tight ends and a receiver on their left, meanwhile Cleveland’s positioning is almost symmetrical. Even with a Cleveland defensive end positioned pretty far outside of the play, all Baltimore has to do it make their blocks. If all three of the Ravens who are on the outside successfully block their assigned men, Cleveland’s nearest unblocked man is way over at the right hash marks, and since the play is a run to the left, it’s a relatively easy big rushing play for the Ravens.

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Cincinnati Bengals

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I’m going to change things up a bit here and break down a defensive play for Cincinnati. Miami’s running a play action play here, so they’re expecting Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson to move to his right to stop a run. However Johnson realized it was a fake, and ran straight forward, which gave him practically a straight shot to Ryan Tannehill.
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Despite that, Tannehill was able to dodge Johnson. But now he’s in a tough spot, he’s surrounded by Bengals who are closing in fast, and he had to focus on evading Johnson’s pressure, so he couldn’t make the pass that the play was designed for. He decides to throw it away. He can’t just throw it out of bounds, because he’s still in the pocket, but Miami has a tight end in the game who’s an eligible receiver, so Tannehill decides to throw it his way. But in a weird sort of football karma, the ball ricocheted backwards and ended up it the arms of Johnson, who started this whole mess in the first place.

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Cleveland Browns

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So this is a play designed to get a good matchup, Cleveland’s going to send a halfback to their right, forcing a linebacker to keep an eye on him. With Baltimore sending 5 men to rush Mayfield, and a 6th covering the aforementioned halfback, they now have just 5 defensive backs to cover 4 Cleveland receivers, which guarantees several one on one matchups, and obviously the more of those you can get the better.
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Here, Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey is expecting Browns receiver Rashard Higgins to break outside. It makes sense in theory, the more you spread out your receivers downfield, the less receivers a safety can cover. Instead Higgins cuts inside a little, which fools Humphrey, and results in a touchdown.

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Carolina Panthers

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Okay so there’s a bit to unpack here. Carolina is going to run a fake jet sweep, and instead hand the ball off to McCaffrey to run up the middle. the first thing that needs to be mentioned is the Panthers offensive line’s blocking assignments. Two linemen are going to be stepping up to block New York linebackers. Meanwhile they’re going to leave a Giants defensive end completely unblocked (the circled guy). The tight end at the top of the screen is going to block the other Giants linebacker, and the tight end at the bottom of the screen is going to run to his right, helping sell the jet sweep, and drawing several Giants away from the actual play.
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It doesn’t leave the most straight forward hole, but a gap is a gap, 

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Denver Broncos

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This is a pretty simple play for Denver. The one thing to note is they’ll have two receivers running to the bottom of the screen, including the intended target Courtland Sutton, who’s route’s in yellow.
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So at first the Jets are doing a pretty good job with their coverage, but Denver’s offensive line is doing their part as well.
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Keenum was able to roll outside , which buys time for Sutton to get open, and puts Keenum closer to where he would be, and Sutton’s able to make a great catch for a touchdown.

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Dallas Cowboys

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Dallas is one of the better teams at screen passes, and they had another good one last week against Houston. On a play like this, ideally you want to get the opponents defensive backs as far downfield as possible, and the easiest way to do that is send your receivers downfield. It’s worth mentioning Dallas had a big touchdown last week on a screen pass to Elliott, which I’ve included below.

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So here, Houston’s ready for a screen to Elliott. They have three men rushing Prescott, and another two guarding Elliott, however the screen instead goes to tight end Geoff Swaim, who has blockers and open field to run.
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This was a big gain, but it probably could’ve been a bigger one. As I’ve circled, Dallas has two blockers on Tyrann Mathieu. This should absolutely result in Mathieu getting taken out of the play.
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However, they weren’t able to finish the block, allowing Mathieu to get free and force Swaim away from the sideline, where he eventually got tackled. It was still a great play for Dallas, but it was very close to a touchdown. 

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Detroit Lions

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Green Bay is running out of a set where everyone’s close to the offensive line. It bunches things up, but could also make for an easier throw is someone gets open.
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So a few things to notice here, Detroit’s secondary is doing a good job covering Green Bay’s receivers. Lions defensive end Romeo Okwara is also pressuring Aaron Rodgers, forcing him out of the pocket. It’s also important to look at Davante Adams and Ty Montgomery, who I’ve circled in yellow. Adams’ route seems pretty clear, however I’m not entirely sure what Montgomery is doing. They clearly weren’t on the same page, which you’ll see in the next photo.
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Adams and Montgomery run into each other, which takes them out of the play. Also Packers tackle David Bakhtiari fails to block Okwara.
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At this point Rodgers had three linemen coming for him with no blockers in front of him. Technically 4 if you don’t count Ty Montgomery’s corpse as a blocker. That being said, I think Rogers thought Bakhtiari was going to do a better job blocking Okwara (because he’s a good player and typically does). So Rodgers thought he still had time to throw, but Okwara got there so quickly he was able to hit the ball out of an unsuspecting Rodger’s hands.

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Green Bay Packers

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From a good play by the Lions defense, to a bad play by them. Detroit’s playing man coverage on this play.
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Adams was lined up on the outside, but is going to cut in, meanwhile Marquez Valdes-Scantling was lined up on the inside, but cuts out. It looks like one of Detroit’s defensive backs was trying to switch assignments on their routes, but the other didn’t realize that, leaving two men on Adams, and nobody on Valdes-Scantling

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Houston Texans

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This play’s actually pretty simple. Houston puts a man in motion, and since a Cowboy follows him, they know it’s man coverage. 
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Dallas ends up blitzing here, and it’s a good blitz, as Watson has very little time to throw the football. However he doesn’t need much time, the blitz leaves Hopkins on a one on one coverage, and Watson’s able to make the read quickly, and get the ball to his best receiver, who’s then able to take care of the rest.

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Indianapolis Colts

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This is a play for Indianapolis that’s designed to set up a one on one matchup in the endzone. Eric Ebron’s going to run to the endzone, while two other Colts receivers are going to cut in. New England will have 4 players on the bottom of the screen, so for the Colts to get a one on one matchup in the endzone, they need to send their tight end there. The reason for that is New England is showing blitz, so it’d be a lot tougher for a linebacker who’s at the line of scrimmage to get to the endzone, then it would the corners who are assigned to cover Colts receivers.
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As you see it works out well, New England now had three men on two Colts receivers, leaving just one man on Ebron.

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Jacksonville Jaguars

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There’s nothing too fancy about this play, the first step is to get Kansas City’s defensive backs away fro the top of the screen, which is done by Jacksonville sending their receivers to the bottom of the screen.
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Now, the only man left at the top of the screen is T.J. Yeldon. All of Kansas City’s defensive backs are running in the opposite direction of Yeldon, leaving the only man guarding him to be an out of position linebacker, which resulted in a pretty easy touchdown.

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Kansas City Chiefs

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Okay, so this is the initial play design for Kansas City.
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The coverage is pretty good for Jacksonville, so Mahomes is going to roll out to his left. Also worth mentioning, Travis Kelce ends up colliding with two Jaguars, which helps clear up some space.
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At this point Mahomes has two options, he could throw it to his tight end Demetrius Harris. However that’d be an across the body throw and a dangerous pass. He decides to run it, which is a dangerous play in a different sense, as it could result in him taking a big hit. However he’s able to beat Telvin Smith and get into the endzone.

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Los Angeles Chargers

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Okay so another defensive play here, Oakland’s going to run play action pass at the goal line on this play.
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So since Los Angeles was somewhat expecting a run, it leaves a lot of defenders rushing the passer, meaning Carr has to get the ball out quickly. This play is really won by the two chargers who I’ve circled in black, as they’re playing great coverage, leaving Carr with only one option. Raiders tight end Derek Carrier does have a little bit of room, but Melvin Ingram realizes the situation he’s in perfectly, and he hangs back and is able to get an interception.

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Los Angeles Rams

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Okay so the Rams are going to run a play action pass on this play, first they’re going to fake a jet sweep, and then they’re going to fake a handoff to Gurley.
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Seattle bites on the fake pretty badly, they have a man protecting the jet sweep, and two linebackers move up to stop Gurley.
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With no linebackers in the area, Goff’s able to make a pretty easy throw for a big gain.

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Miami Dolphins

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The propose of this play is to set up a favorable one on one matchup. Miami’s going to have to receivers cut inside, and they’re going to send Kenyan Drake downfield. A linebacker’s covering Drake, and anytime you can get a linebacker covering a halfback on one on one coverage it’s a good thing for the offense.

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Minnesota Vikings

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This is a play that’s going to get Adam Thielen in a one on one matchup against Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills. Mills knows Thielen has three options, to cut back, to cut in, or to keep running straight. 
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Since the Eagles are blitzing, Mills decided to run up, expecting Thielen to make a cut to allow Cousins to make a quick throw. However Thielen doesn’t cut, and Minnesota’s offensive line does a good job picking up the blitz, which allows Thielen to get by Mills and make a big play.

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New England Patriots

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This play is going to be a screen pass to Cordarrelle Patterson, and it’s executed very well.
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Patterson moves up make the catch, which gives Chris Hogan good positioning, and he’s able to block two Colts, resulting in a pretty easy touchdown for Patterson.

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New Orleans

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There’s nothing too fancy about this one. New Orleans is looking like they’re going to run, with a fullback and 2 tight ends in the game. however they’re instead going to run a play action pass.
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Several Redskins got fooled, but the most crucial one was Josh Norman. He realized it was a passing play too late, and it resulted in a pretty easy touchdown.

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New York Giants

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Personally I love when teams have non quarterbacks throw the ball, I think it’s a really underutilized play. The first thing New York has to do it a play like this is try to get as many Panthers away from the top of the screen as possible. So they’re going to send a tight end on a route towards the middle of the field. They also have another tight end motion over to help block for Odell Beckham Jr.
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Teams typically don’t expect wide receivers to throw the ball, and Carolina was no exception, as they all started heading Beckham’s way, leaving Barkley wide open. And with the blockers New York sent out, Beckham had time to throw and hit Barkley for a touchdown.

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New York Jets

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Nothing too fancy on this one, the Jets put a man in motion, and since Denver’s playing man coverage, a Bronco follows him to the top half of the screen. The play’s going to be a run to the bottom of the screen, so the less Broncos New York can get over there the better.
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This is simply a case of everyone doing their job. Every Jet makes their block, Crowell just has to make one man miss to make a big gain, and he does.

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Oakland Raiders

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For Oakland, this is a play designed to get men open deep downfield. The Chargers are playing zone, and the best way to attack it is by sending multiple receivers deep.
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As you see here, Los Angeles ends up having four men covering just two Raiders, and another one covering a Raider offscreen. This means there’s only two Chargers left to cover the two Raiders who went deep, and since a safety can’t allow a receiver to get behind him, it’s pretty easy for a receiver to get open and pick up a big gain.

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Philadelphia Eagles

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So Minnesota’s main focus on this play is going to be on Alshon Jeffery, they have a man on him, plus a safety’s going to move over to help cover his route.
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However this ends up leaving a linebacker covering a halfback, and in a footrace the halfback’s typically going to win. 

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Pittsburgh Steelers

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This one might seem like a pretty silly play to breakdown, since it’s a pretty standard red zone route, but I still saw something interesting on this play.
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Look how early Roethlisberger throws the ball on this play. Atlanta’s playing pretty good coverage, but Roethlisberger knows Brown will run his route well, and all he needs is a little bit of separation, and it works out perfectly.

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San Francisco 49ers

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This was a really fun play design by the 49ers. It starts off like a run play, with two San Francisco offensive linemen moving up to block, and all of their receiver’s routes staying away from the middle of the field.
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Instead they run a play action, so now 49ers halfback Matt Breida is past Arizona’s entire defensive line, since they now believe it’s a passing play. Then Beathard can just flip it to him. Now Breida has two blockers in front of him, and is able to score a relatively easy touchdown. It’s one of the most creative 5 yard plays you’ll see.

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Seattle Seahawks

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This play is a fake jet sweep, with two Seattle receivers downfield.
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Los Angeles has to guard each Seattle receiver that’s gone deep. Which ends up leaving only one Ram in the middle of the field. Meanwhile back at the line of scrimmage all hell has broken loose. There’s pressure from the Rams, so Russell Wilson has to scramble around to avoid it.
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Here, Rams safety John Johnson is expecting Wilson to run the ball, which is a bit understandable, after all Seahawks tight end Nick Vannett didn’t have a route on this play, he was just in to block. However it was certainly regrettable in hindsight, as Wilson was able to flip it to Vannett who had all the space in the world to pick up a big gain.

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Tennessee Titans

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Tennessee needs a first down on this play, so they’re going to put 4 receivers in the game. Two are going to be sent downfield, and two are going to cut not too far past the first down marker. This will spread out the defense, and make it easier for Tennessee’s receivers to get open. 
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Buffalo’s secondary does a good job covering Tennessee’s receivers. But with good blocking from the Titans offensive line, the play’s still alive. Marcus Mariota has two options, he could give it to his running back, but that would give Buffalo’s linebackers more time to run in and stop him. It’s a key third down, so Mariota decides to keep it himself.
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At this point, typically a quarterback has to make a decision to slide and avoid a hit, or get the first down but also take a hit. However Mariota chooses a different option, he hurtles over Bills linebacker Matt Milano, gets the first down and avoids a big hit (although there was still some contact).

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Washington Redskins

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This was an interesting play design, Washington has 5 receivers in the game, four of which are on the bottom of the screen. They also have things set up like it’d be a screen pass.
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New Orleans believes a screen pass is coming, and also two men end up covering the Redskins receiver at the top of the screen, leaving 6 men on the 5 receivers. It makes sense to expect a pass when there’s no running back in the game, but Alex Smith runs a quarterback draw. All Washington needs to do is have their five offensive linemen cover New Orleans’ five other defenders, and Smith is able to take the ball in for a touchdown.

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