The biggest play that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had against the Pittsburgh Steelers was the 41-yard completion to Louis Murphy from quarterback Mike Glennon with 35 seconds left in the game.
I thought all of you might like to see this play broken down properly.
Pre snap, the Steelers show a cover-2 look with safety Troy Polamalu being the deepest at roughly 23 yards off of the line of scrimmage.
While it looks like cover-2, the coverage is indeed cover-3 with 4 men under playing zone. You will notice safety Mike Mitchell rotate down as he has underneath responsibilities when it comes to covering the middle quarter of the field on his side.
You will notice the No.3 wide receiver run an in-breaking route at about seven yards and Mitchell breaks hard over the top on this. He has to pass this route off to linebacker Lawrence Timmons a little better, however, as his help is needed underneath on the throw to Murphy.
Cornerback Brice McCain probably could’ve helped cheat this a little bit as well, even though he looks like he covered his underneath quarter properly.
What makes this play so tough to cover is the fact that the route run by tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins up the quarter seam forces the top of the coverage to push up the field. The route by Murphy, which starts breaking at about 15 yards, really stresses that quarter seam underneath zone when combined with the in-breaking route at seven yards we talked about earlier.
It also doesn’t help that the Steelers four-man pass rush gives Glennon a full 3.6 seconds to get rid of the football. Glennon also is able to stare down the seven-yard in-breaking route because of the lack of pressure and that also had Mitchell biting hard.
On top of everything else, this play should have only gone for 20 yards, but because Polamalu is thinking the ball is going to Seferian-Jenkins, he is out of position and unable to tackle the in-breaking Murphy. Cornerback Cortez Allen is also just late getting to Murphy at the 20-yard-line.
This play was perfectly executed by the Buccaneers and in my opinion, Mitchell should have played it more conservatively with under a minute to play. He has to trust that Timmons will pick up the in-breaking route underneath and even if he doesn’t, he has to know that Polamalu or William Gay will stop it for a 20-yard gain.
The back breaker here, in my opinion, is the 20 yards after the catch that Murphy gained and not the actual reception on the perfectly designed play. If the defense gets Murphy at around the 20, that still leaves a lot of grass for the Buccaneers offense to cover with under 20 seconds left in regulation.