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How the Jets Failed on a Critical Play Against the Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers v New York Jets Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

With just over 3:00 left in Sunday’s game, the Jets faced a critical play. They had driven all the way to the Chargers’ 17 yard line, but they had a fourth and seven play. The game was likely on the line. The Chargers led 14-7. A first down would give the Jets four cracks at a touchdown. A failure to covert would give the Chargers a chance to run out the clock.

The Jets approached the play as though the Chargers were blitzing, possibly because Los Angeles was crowding the line of scrimmage. There were six near the play with a safety dropping as a potential blitzer (37).

Not taking any chances, the Jets left Matt Forte and Austin Seferian-Jenkins in to block.

You might notice something from the picture above. The Chargers rushed only four defenders. Leaving in Forte and Seferian-Jenkins meant the Jets had seven blockers against those four pass rushers. That sounds good, right?

There is a problem, though. Leaving a back and a tight end in to block means that two of the five eligible receivers aren’t going out on a route. There are only three Jets receivers on this play, and the Chargers rushing four means they are operating against seven defenders in coverage. Those of you who are math majors know that means there were more than two players in coverage for every receiver. Robby Anderson is having a nice season, but the Jets don’t have the type of overwhelming receiving corps to have success in a situation like that.

The first down marker was at the 10 yard line. You can see how clogged the passing lanes were for the receivers past the sticks. Petty decided to take his chances with Anderson (top, red)

As you can see, there was a defender playing deep over the top of Anderson. He was sitting on the deep ball. There was, however, plenty of room behind Anderson. There was a chance to complete this pass by throwing back shoulder or even intentionally underthrowing it and letting Anderson come back to the ball.

Instead, Petty threw into the teeth of the coverage, and the pass was incomplete.

What went wrong here? We can look both presnap and postsnap.

Presnap it is important to understand your opponent. The Chargers’ defense is run by Gus Bradley, one of the most conservative playcallers in the league. His defenses consistently have one of the lowest blitz rates in the league. The odds were against the Chargers bringing pressure, which meant leaving Forte and Seferian-Jenkins in to block was the wrong call.

Postsnap it was not reading and adapting to the coverage. This wasn’t a case of misreading the coverage shell or man vs. zone. It was simply not reading the positioning of a defender and the type of throw he was vulnerable against.

Failures like this on such an important play lose football games.