Sometimes we forget that the other team is paid to make plays and that’s exactly what happened during the New York Jets second possession Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The play, a 67-yard touchdown pass from Jets quarterback Michael Vick to wide receiver T.J. Graham, was not only a great call on first down following a run-heavy, 14 play drive, it was also disguised well and executed perfectly.
As you can see, the Jets gave the Steelers a power run look complete with six offensive linemen and two tight ends all on the line of scrimmage. The Steelers combat this with an inverted cover-2 robber defense. The robber is safety Mike Mitchell and his job on this play is to read run first.
At the snap of the football, this play screams stretch run to the left and that’s exactly how Mitchell reads it. Vick uses play-action to the running back and after seeing this, Mitchell slips in his recovery. His job is now to pick up the crosser, which in this case is tight end Jace Amaro. Thanks to Mitchell slipping, Vick has Amaro open if he wants him, but instead he has his eyes on Graham, who is running the deep post.
As part of an inverted cover-2, the two outside cornerbacks, William Gay and Brice McCain, have deep-half responsibilities. While Gay will get the blame for getting beat on this play, he really does play it well. As for McCain, I think he also plays this well. Remember, the post route is designed to split the cover-2 defenders and the speedy Graham runs the route perfectly as he catches the ball right between the hash marks.
There’s no prize for being close, but that’s exactly what happens with Gay on this play as he nearly has a pass breakup. If Vick under throws this ball, it’s not going to be completed. However, he delivers a perfect pass that flies 53 yards in the air as the Steelers don’t get any pressure on him whatsoever.
If you subscribe to Pro Football Focus, you will see that they are charging Mitchell with allowing this touchdown as they probably think the coverage was cover-3. I suspect they will see the error of their ways shortly and shift the blame to Gay.