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Jets vs. Bengals: A Look at Geno Smith's Interception

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Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Smith was unfortunately back in the turnover column last night with an interception late in the first quarter. What happened? It's difficult to nail this down for sure because somebody made a mistake. Without knowing the play call or the playbook, we cannot identify the culprit or culprits.

What we can say is that it appeared to be on a timing route with David Nelson. The quarterback and receiver need to be on the same wavelength on a play like this. The quarterback needs to know exactly where the receiver is going to end up and when he is going to get there. The receiver needs to know when the ball is going to be on him.

The play begins at the 41 of the Jets. Nelson runs a six yard route to the 47.

Nelsonroute1_medium

Nelsonroute2_medium

Nelson, however, isn't ready to look for the ball by the time it gets to him, and it sails for an interception.

Below you can see where Geno is when he plants his back leg to throw.

Genoplant1_medium

This is right when he's about to throw. It suggests to me that Geno thought Nelson was running a five yard pattern, not a six yard pattern just due to the amount of time it would have taken Nelson to get that extra yard.

Another clue is that the ball sailed over Nelson's left shoulder. If Geno was trying to drill it to him six yards down the field, it probably would have hit him in the back. The fact it sailed over his shoulder might suggest Nelson was at a greater depth on the field than Geno was anticipating.

Genoplant2_medium

Who is at fault here? It is impossible for any of us to say. Geno took responsibility in his postgame press conference, but that could easily be a case of the quarterback taking the hit in public for his teammate.

Just looking at Geno's mechanics and timing on the play in addition to where he threw it lead me to believe he thought Nelson was cutting his route a yard shorter. If a gun is to my head, I'm guessing Nelson just ran a sloppy route here and is to blame. It could also be that Geno both threw early and misfired. It could also be that the timing was off for both players.

The replays only provide us with so much information. Maybe the biggest takeaway is the example it provides of how precise an NFL offense has to be. When you think about receiver play, you probably think about a guy beating a defensive back. There's more to it. Even if the quarterback and the receiver miss each other by a yard, it can make all of the difference in the world.

It certainly gives you more respect for how good these guys are, doesn't it?

Feel free to offer you own interpretation below. The thing about analyzing a play is two people can see two totally different things watching the same play.