On this play, Minnesota’s running a cover 3 out of a nickel double a gap. Detroit’s going to run a pretty standard zone buster on this play, by having TJ Jones run a go route, and Marvin Jones is going to run an out route, where he cuts right in where a gap of coverage would be. TJ Jones’ route helps push Xavier Rhodes further back, creating a bigger gap in coverage for Marvin Jones.
As you see here it works out perfectly, Stafford reads the coverage and knows that he’ll have a window to throw to, and he’s able to make the pass for a first down.
Here Detroit’s running a cover 1 linebacker blitz out of a big nickel, which means 5 men are going to be rushing the quarterback instead of 4. Meanwhile Minnesota’s going to be running a play action on this play.
The play action actually works pretty well, Detroit’s looking to stop a run, and Cousins has more time to throw the ball then he typically would when facing a blitz. Minnesota’s running a sail route concept, which has the receiver closest to the sideline running a go route, and the other two receivers eventually cut towards the sideline. Cousins likes Adam Thielen’s positioning, and so he’s going to throw it there. However look at Darius Slay (who’s circled). Slay’s watching cousins, which most wouldn’t do while playing man, however he’s confident enough in his abilities to cover a receiver even with his head turned.
Since Slay was looking towards Cousins, he was able to stop as soon as the ball was thrown. If he wasn’t watching Cousins he would’ve keep running to guard his assigned man, and Thielen would’ve been open and caught the pass for a first down. However Slay took a gamble, and it paid off, as he was able to intercept the pass.
There’s really one route in particular I like on this play. Detroit’s in zone coverage. Typically when trying to complete a pass against zone coverage, you’re going to try and find a gap in coverage. if you look at the top of the screen, there’s two gaps, one in between Detroit’s linebacker and defensive back, and another at the top right corner of the screen (where the pass ends up going).
Here Kyle Rudolph is going to fake as if he’s going to the first gap in coverage, this draws Lions cornerback Teez Tabor in. Then Rudolph is able to get past him and pick up a big gain.
Minnisota’s running a cover 2 zone out of a nickel. It’s a play designed to take away short passes, so it makes sense to use it on a 3rd and 4 situation like what Detroit is in now.
Sometimes the simple decision is the right one. Here, Matt Stafford has a window to hit one of his receivers on a go route. Granted it’s not a huge window since the Vikings have safety help over the top, however we’ve seen Stafford make a throw like that a thousand times. I think Stafford was concerned about throwing an interception, but in a game where it’s the 3rd quarter and you’ve only scored 6 points, you’ve got to start trying to make plays. Stafford instead holds onto the ball and takes a sack.