Welcome to Big Play Breakdown.
Each week, we will recall a play from the Baltimore Ravens’ 2016 season, a pivotal one, and go eagle’s-eye with it, illuminating the how’s and why’s.
Today’s play is actually not a Ravens play, it is from Super Bowl LI. It is related to the Ravens, however; they, too, had a special teams trick play that was close to reaching paydirt but didn’t quite pan out.
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On the First play of the 4th Quarter, the Patriots were still pretty deep in the hole. They tried a trick play that was first executed to perfection by the 12th-man-immune Rams in 2014 vs. Seattle:
This attempt was not noted by the commentators, nor pointed out. It was just seen as an acrobatic catch of the punt by S Patrick Chung. Yet, further review proves that the Patriots definitely were setting up a play designed to jump start a comeback. Let’s look at the play, and point out the development:
- At :06, we can look at the direction of the coverage. The yellow arrows depict the Falcons, watching WR Julian Edelman and veering right. But the red arrows show PAtriot blockers flowing to the left, setting up a return.
- At :21, we can see Edelman put on the sell job by rushing forward to “catch” the ball coming up “short.”
Basically, all but 4 Falcons bit this fake. 3 of the Falcons, including the Punter, would have been inconsequential had Chung had a return. The 4th was the one who stopped the play cold. Let’s take a look at the other coach’s film angle:
- at :08, we freeze it so you can see the divide of direction. The Falcons release right, the Patriots release left, and the ball careens to the left from Punter Matt Bosher’s foot. Was this on purpose, or a gaffe? It couldn’t have been on purpose, because of the trajectory of their coverage.
- At :19, we see that gunner Justin Hardy recognizes that the ball was going left. Look at the play again, he initially is running to the right as contain, but seems to notice that Chung is looking up and running downfield. He then adjusts his direction, and looks up to find the ball.
Judging by Hardy’s change-up in the middle of the play, I would guess that this punt was not supposed to go this way. And it did, for some reason. The Patriots had it schemed perfectly, save one factor.
The awareness of said WR, Hardy.
By paying attention to his opponent, he recognized that Chung was looking at a ball. He could have easily ignored the trailing off pressure and gone for Edelman. Instead, he had the presence of mind to look up as well, quickly locating the ball. At this point, the play was diagnosed, and Hardy ended it. He was a hero, because the sheer amount of space and blockers suggests that Chung would have scored.
Even though his heroics were for naught, this unaddressed big play should be remembered for the rest of his life. A story for his grandkids. Can you imagine the major shift in momentum, had he not been thinking on his feet? Perhaps overtime would not have been needed.
That concludes this week’s Ravens Big Play Breakdown; I assure you, the rest will have far more purple and black represented.
For now, we can give a hat tip to a special teamer who plays it like Ravens do.