At times it can be easy to forget that there is another team on the field when the Jets play. When things don’t go well, it can be easy to get frustrated with Jets players for not executing or coaches for doing something wrong. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opponent for top notch execution, though.
The Falcons did go to the Super Bowl last year, and their quarterback Matt Ryan was the MVP of the league. While Ryan had a really rough time handling the football in Sunday’s rain storm, the touchdown that put the Falcons ahead in the fourth quarter was the story of a brilliant play by a top notch quarterback.
The Jets appeared to be in zone coverage with four zones deep covering the end zone and three underneath.
Mohamed Sanu’s route took him from the zone Marcus Maye was coverage (orange) into the zone Jamal Adams was covering (blue).
For his part, Ryan had to deal with a pass protection that was less than pristine.
Leonard Williams was looping on the defensive line to an open spot.
Kony Ealy also looked like he was winning his matchup on the edge. Was Ryan in deep trouble? No, because like a good quarterback, he knew he had room to step up in the pocket to evade the rushers.
Without anybody breaking open immediately, Ryan decided to leave the pocket and scramble left, making it a schoolyard football play. He still was going to have to avoid Muhammad Wilkerson who was in front of him after he stepped up in the pocket. Ryan just got the ball into throwing position to make Wilkerson think he was going to pass. Wilkerson jumped to try and knock a throw down. With Wilkerson in the air, Ryan wouldn’t have to deal with the defensive lineman scrambling left.
With Ryan scrambling, Maye left his zone to prevent the quarterback from scampering for a good gain and potentially a touchdown. He didn’t have to cover anybody since nobody was in his zone. This, however, did leave his area of the field vacated for Sanu to run into, which was a very tough cover for Adams based on where he was.
This is where things might get a little bit tricky. You probably will look at this next picture and think you are seeing two Marcus Maye’s. I have drawn a second Maye on the field to show where he would have been had he stayed in his deep zone. He would have been in position for Adams to pass off Sanu. You just will have to take my word for it that the real Maye was heading to try and tackle Ryan.
Ryan threw an absolute strike to Sanu, and the receiver made an excellent catch. Even though he was put into a tough spot, Adams’ coverage was pretty good. It was just top shelf execution.
Can you get on Adams here? Maybe a little bit, but he didn’t do a bad job at all.
Can you get on Maye here? Not really, in many instances teams want their players to do something like that when a play breaks down. Even if the initial call is zone coverage, once the quarterback leaves the pocket it morphs into man coverage. Everybody is responsible for covering the man who was in their zone at the time the quarterback leaves the pocket, and the other guys are supposed to go get the football.
Really this was just a brilliant play by Ryan. This play is an example of why the quarterback position is so important in this league. There are a lot of close games in the NFL that come down to a few plays. When you have a quarterback, your team can make those plays. There wasn’t much Atlanta did well here from the play call to blocking to route running. Ryan still found a way to make something happen. Good quarterbacks have a way of succeeding even when the rest of the team is struggling.
Maybe one day the Jets will get to experience that.