Let's take a look at the play that won the game for Minnesota on Sunday afternoon.
The Vikings are facing a third and five from their own 13 yard line.
The Jets are playing this down aggressively. They are playing man to man across the board. Everybody else is blitzing. The Jets are going to have seven players rushing the quarterback against just six blockers, the five linemen and a back who will be left in. This is a gamble. The idea is to try and rattle the young quarterback. Under pressure the rookie might make a mistake. A stop here, and the Jets get the ball back. If Teddy Bridgewater gets rattled, he might take a sack or turnover that ends the game. This is the type of dice roll that is easy to make in overtime when you are 2-10.
David Harris drops before the snap, perhaps too early. As soon as Bridgewater sees this, he changes the play. It looks like Harris might have tipped off the call the Jets are in. One other thing I would note is that Dawan Landry was not on the field. The Jets are at a point of the season where they might as well get younger players more playing time. If the veteran Landry is on the field, perhaps he sees Bridgewater change the play and makes his own adjustment. Then again, Bridgewater is a rookie making his change.
The five Vikings linemen appear to slide right. That means they are responsible for a zone or gap to their right at the snap. Bridgewater has changed the play to a pass where he will throw immediately to a predetermined target to his right. He has three guys on there. So do the Jets. In an ideal world, the Vikings will be able to block two of those guys. It will be up to the receiver to beat the third unblocked guy. If the other guy is blitzing more than you can block, the ball has to come out quickly because one rusher will not be accounted for. The hope is that guy will be the furthest on the outside with the longest distance to the quarterback to give the passer as much time as possible.
In this case, Bridgewater has to get the ball out even quicker than originally planned because Vladimir Ducasse completely whiffs on his assignment, Calvin Pryor. This means the Jets have two unblocked guys, one of whom has a direct path to the quarterback up the middle. The call is so good in this spot that Ducasse's failure to execute doesn't matter.
The Vikings are getting the ball to Jarius Wright on the outside immediately. They are going to try and block the two Jets closest to him with the two receivers. It also looks to me like they want to get a lineman out there to take out Jaiquawn Jarrett, but realistically it is going to be up to Wright to beat Jarrett. A lineman probably won't beat a defensive back to the spot.
Darrin Walls, Wright's original assignment, gets caught in traffic. Kyle Wilson overruns the play, and makes himself easy pickings for Kyle Rudolph to block. All that is left between Wright and the end zone is Jarrett who has a chance to make what should have been a relatively routine tackle. I'll spare you the grisly ending, but we all know Jarrett misses, and despite good effort from Sheldon Richardson and Phillip Adams, there is nothing between Wright and the end zone.
There are many takeaways. I hope for one we can get past, "How dumb is our coach for calling that?" There were reasons the play was called. There were also likely reasons the Jets didn't adjust at the line.
The big takeaway for me is what Bridgewater did recognizing exactly what the Jets were doing and changing to the perfect play. Whenever there is pressure on the quarterback, the offensive line usually takes a lot of the criticism. A lot of this falls on the quarterback, though. The quarterback is more responsible for his own protection than people realize, and this is one very subtle way. Quarterbacks need to help themselves out in a way I haven't seen young quarterbacks for the Jets do very frequently these past few years. It is one reason the Jets have struggled so at the position.