Sometimes brilliance at the safety position is subtle. I think that was the case on Sunday when Jamal Adams’ pressure on a two point conversion won the Jets the game.
On the play the Jets were flashing man coverage with Marcus Maye providing safety help over the middle. Adams lined up over Jason Witten as though that was his man.
Ezekiel Elliott motioned from the backfield into the slot. Neville Hewitt followed him, further suggesting man coverage.
The Cowboys spread the field with receivers. In this congested part of the field, they’re looking to stretch the Jets coverage horizontally as much as possible. I’m pretty sure the primary target is Witten here. They just want him to use his big body to box out the defender right in front of Dak Prescott.
Dallas’ protection has each lineman taking the guy on his outside shoulder. Protection schemes are generally built trying to correctly identify the fifth blitzer. A standard pass rush is four men. The fifth guy is frequently a mystery. This is a good protection if you think the fifth guy is an outside linebacker. Since both outside linebackers blitz along with the three offensive linemen, technically they got the fifth rusher right.
The problem is the Jets bring a sixth guy, Adams. He isn’t covering Witten. Instead Maye will take the future Hall of Fame tight end.
And Adams just times the snap count perfectly. You can see where he is disguising his coverage vs. where he ends up at the snap.
And part of this is understanding the protection in advance. Jamal is as good as anybody in the league when it comes to film study. The center is tied up with the guy lined up over him. The right guard has the guy lined up over his outside shoulder. Jamal knows this means the seas will part in the A gap.
For the record, what could Dallas have done here? Had Prescott done a better job recognizing Adams as a blitzer, the Cowboys had a few options. The offense was in a perfect protection for five blitzers, but the Jets brought a sixth. They could have left Witten in.
I think there would have been a better way to approach it, though. When you spread the field in a shotgun set, your quarterback has the opportunity to scan the field and get the ball out quickly. You can leave in five blockers, and make the quarterback responsible for the sixth. Ideally you block this inside out. The unblocked guy is coming from the outside since he has the longest path to the quarterback. In a well-oiled offense, Tavon Austin (10) would adjust his route to go to the spot vacated by the outside blitzer, and there would be a throwing lane to get it out quickly. Adams would be blocked in this scenario.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Adams played cat and mouse with Prescott and won. His pressure forced an early and inaccurate throw.
How well did he time the snap count?
On the final 2-pt conversion play, Jets DC Gregg Williams called a Cover-0 blitz (6 pass rushers) against the Cowboys empty formation.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) October 13, 2019
Jamal Adams pressured Prescott in 1.5 seconds, while Cowboys receivers averaged 0.73 yds of separation at pass forward.#DALvsNYJ | #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/h6c9QsezvN
That’s a safety wrecking a play if I ever saw such a thing.