Incompletion #5 (batted ball & should have been INT’d) - Gun Left Tom R-Swap Weak 629
The Rams rush to the line of scrimmage with their 11 personnel set (1 TE, 1 RB, 3 WRs). Unfortunately, the Rams are extremely rushed by the playclock on this play. This is a 3x1 formation, with three eligible receivers to the offense’s left, and one eligible wide receiver to the offense’s right.
The Rams are running max protect. The runningback (Todd Gurley) and the tight end Gerald Everitt will stay in to block. There will only be three eligible receivers running routes on this play. To the offense’s right, wide receiver Brandin Cooks will run a go route, clearing out the right half of the defense. To the offense’s left, the pair of wide receivers will run a slant and a dig route.
The Patriots are in a 1-3 quarter defense. The quarter defense puts seven defensive backs on the field. Typically, a quarter defense will have three defensive linemen on the field and one linebacker, but instead the Patriots only have one defensive linemen on the field and three linebackers onto the field. You will notice that the linebackers are not lined up on the line of scrimmage. They are lined up off the line of scrimmage. This makes the pre-snap read harder on the defense because they do not know where the pass rushers will be coming from. The linebackers could pass rush, or they could drop back into coverage and the blitz could come from a defensive back who is pretending to show coverage.
Here is what the Patriots will do after the snap of the football. They will send five pass rushers towards the quarterback (all the defenders with a triangle). The rest of the defenders are in man coverage. The Patriots will also play with one high safety in deep coverage. This is a disguised Cover-1 defense.
Here’s the post-snap shot. Typically, when defenders whose man coverage assignment stays in to block, the defender will then pass rush the QB. The Patriots reverse this typical defensive reaction by having the defenders drop into coverage. Here, in this post-snap picture, we can see the two defenders assigned to cover the TE and RB stay in coverage after the snap of the football, once they see that the Rams RB and TE are staying in for pass protection (the max protect).
The Rams offensive line gives Goff a clean pocket. He looks to his left to the two wide receivers running the slant and dig. As always, when a QB scans the field, he must be aware that any zone coverage defenders will be reading his eyes. The two defenders who were in man coverage assignments on the RB and TE are essentially now in zone coverage, and are reading Goff’s eyes. They react to him looking to his left and drift towards that side of the field.
Goff gets the pass off. He’s throwing the ball to Robert Woods on the slant route, but the pass is immediately deflected at the line of scrimmage. The ball flutters in the air.
And Goff was lucky that the pass was deflected because if it had not been deflected, it would have been intercepted. The Patriots defender Devin McCourtney dropped back into the passing line and was in the perfect position to intercept the pass.
Here’s a great view of what the play looked like for Jared Goff. He saw Robert Woods open with a step on his defender. Goff did not see the Patriots defender who deflected the football in the passing lane. This defender was somewhat obscured by the offensive line in front of Goff. But more importantly, Goff did not see the Patriots defensive back Devin McCourtney (off the screen to the right) who was dropping back into coverage to intercept the pass.
As a QB, when you’re throwing a crossing route across the field, you always must be conscious of what the defenders are doing in front of where your receiver is headed. You must look well ahead of where your receiver is going to make sure that the area in which you will be passing the ball will be open. Goff made this mistake here. I believe Goff felt a little rushed throughout this entire play due to the short play clock, and due to a defender penetrating the pocket right before he got the pass off.
In conclusion, this was a disaster of a play that Goff got lucky on. This could have easily been an interception and perhaps even a pick-6.
Incompletion #6 (Incompletion) - Gun Left Yo Weak R-Swap Levels
Goff’s 6th incompletion occurs on the next drive. The Rams are have 11 personnel on the field (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs). The formation is a 3x1 formation, with three receivers to the offense’s left, and one to the offense’s right. Josh Reynolds and Robert Woods are split out left. Tight End Gerald Everett is off the line of scrimmage to the left of the offensive line. Brandin Cooks is to the offense’s right, but in a tight split.
The Rams are running a “levels” play which features multiple receivers running crossing routes all to the same side of the field, at different depths. If the defense plays man coverage, the receivers just need to beat their defenders. If the defense plays zone coverage, the defenders can be forced into high/low read situations, and it is the responsibility of the receivers to sit in between the zone defenders. WR Josh Reynolds is running a “go” route to the offense’s far left. His responsibility is to clear out the defender from that side of the field for the levels routes underneath.
That Patriots comes out in a 1-3 quarters defense. They have one defensive linemen on the field, three linebackers, and seven defensive backs on the field. The defense appears to be showing man coverage pre-snap.
But the most important question for the Rams offense pre-snap is to identify the possible pass rushers. This Patriots made this difficult by overloading one side of the offensive formation (the right side), and by bringing some defensive backs into the box. The Rams probably had little idea where the pass rushers were going to come on this play. It’s unclear if the linebackers overloading the offense’s right will all pass rush, or if they will feign and drop into coverage while defensive backs in the box pass rush. There could be as few as three pass rushers, or perhaps as many as seven. The Rams will have six pass blockers in on this play (the five offensive linemen and runningback CJ Anderson).
Here’s a picture of the play post-snap. The Patriots are bringing five pass rushers: 1 defensive linemen, 3 linebackers, and 1 defensive back. The other two defensive backs who had dropped into the box instead backpedal into coverage. The Rams should — in theory — be able to provide sufficient pass coverage on this play, since they will outnumber the pass rushers six to five.
For a brief two seconds after the snap, the pass blocking looks to be sufficient.
But a split second later, it turns out that the pass protection was not sufficient. Rams Center, John Sullivan, got beat on the play. The Patriots defensive tackle sped by him, penetrating deep into the pocket. (John Sullivan is obscured by defensive tackle.) Rams RB CJ Anderson seems oblivious to the penetration which is occurring right next to him.
A split second later, the pressure is on Goff, and he is forced to get rid of the football.
Goff throws the ball deep to WR Josh Reynolds on the go route. The pass is dropped by Reynolds but he was tightly defended and it was not an easy play to make.
At this point in the game, Goff is 4/10. Again, not a great stat line to start, but let’s see how those incompletions happened.
Incompletion #1 - throw away (Goff pressured)
Incompletion #2 - dropped pass (Goff pressured)
Incompletion #3 - incompletion (Goff pressured)
Incompletion #4 - incompletion (bad read)
Incompletion #5 - incompletion (should have been INT’d)
Incompletion #6 - incompletion (Goff pressured)
I feel like I’m starting to notice a trend. Throwing good passes when you’re under pressure is hard. Most QBs’ decision making and accuracy will deteriorate when under pressure (unless you’re Ben Roethlisberger whose QB rating goes up when pressured). Of course, it’s not always expected that QBs will have clean pockets and no pressure. QBs have to make passes while under pressure, and Goff is no exception.
For Goff to ascend to the highest tier of NFL QBs, he will have to improve his play while under pressure. That being said, credit also has to be given to the Patriots for developing a defensive game plan which — at this point in the game — has succeeded fairly well in disrupting the Rams offense.
The Patriots have thrown a variety of defensive looks at the Rams. Of the six incompletions we’ve covered so far, Goff has seen the following defensive sets on each play:
Incompletion #1 - 3-3 Nickel zone defense
Incompletion #2 - 3-2 Dime Cover 1 (man coverage)
Incompletion #3 - 4-2 Nickel Zone
Incompletion #4 - 3-2 Dime man coverage
Incompletion #5 - 1-3 Quarter man coverage
Incompletion #6 - 1-3 Quarter man coverage
The Patriots started the game with more typical Nickel and Dime defenses with 2 to 3 linebackers on the field. Perhaps the Patriots were concerned with the Rams trying to run the football, hence why they did not want to try their quarters defense (with seven defensive backs) earlier on.
By this point in the game (almost half way through the second quarter), the Patriots had seen that Rams RB Todd Gurley was not going to be the main runningback for the Rams. Gurley took the first handoff of the very first Rams offensive play at the very start of the game, but had not been given another carry since then. (Instead, Cal alumni CJ Anderson was the main runningback.)
It’s almost as if Rams head coach, Sean McVay, was trying to trick the Patriots by giving Gurley a run on the very first play of the game; he was feigning that Gurley was going to be starting and playing all game. McVay was probably hoping to force the Patriots to focus on stopping the run more than the pass. But once it became obvious that Gurley was not going to be playing in this game, then the Patriots could put their quarters defense on the field in obvious pass situations and start teeing off on the Rams pass offense with exotic looks and blitzes.