When I'm watching tape and I see a wide receiver wide open, I might watch it 20 times to figure out what happened. It's rare when a receiver in the NFL is wide open. I'll sometimes talk to people and get different points of view to understand what happened.
Through that process, I think I interpreted how Indianapolis running back Donald Brown was so wide open for a 33-yard touchdown from Andrew Luck against Kansas City last week. It looked like it came from an excellent check down concept that was predicated on the Colts knowing what defense the Chiefs would run.
The Chiefs are a high, high percentage man-to-man defense. Everyone knows that, and so did the Colts on this play.
All of the Colts' routes flowed to the left – Griff Whalen ran a shallow cross from Luck's right, tight end Coby Fleener ran an in-breaking route. The two receivers who lined up on the left ran routes to the left side. And Brown stayed in to pass protect. The Chiefs, in man coverage, had safety Quintin Demps on Brown.
Luck took the snap and looked immediately to his left. I think Luck wanted to throw to T.Y. Hilton, who is in the slot to the left, but cornerback Dunta Robinson did a great job undercutting the route.
At the line, Brown looked like he was pass protecting. Two things can happen defensively when your man pass protects. Demps can "green dog," or rush, because the man he's responsible for hasn't run a route. Or he can become a free defender and react to the routes or the quarterback's eyes. Demps hugs up to the line a bit, then his focus goes to Luck. It’s clear as a bell.
One thing I see on this play, and this is just my opinion, is that it was built into the mechanics of the play for Brown to slip out to the right. You notice how Brown moves up inside to where there are three Colts linemen blocking two Chiefs. He doesn't even look to help the one-on-one matchups to the outside, which would be a normal assignment. I think he's looking to get lost behind the line, so Demps will then focus on Luck.
What happened next is Brown leaked out to the opposite side. There’s nobody to the right because the play has flowed to the left.
I’m not saying that was the design of the play, because I think Luck wanted to throw the ball to Hilton. And if someone missed a block or Demps rushed right away Brown would have to block. But things can be designed for early in the down, and for late in the down. And if it it played out like it did here, Brown can leak out to the right. You see that Luck is calm throwing Brown the ball. He's not worried about where his check down was. It looked like he knew where Brown would go and that there wouldn't be any Chiefs defenders there. They know that Demps isn't going to just stand there and defend air. He's going to do something.
Based on my interpretation of this play, if Hilton won against Robinson, he would have been the target. Brown slipping out to the right is just an option for later in the down based on what they expect from the Chiefs defense. This time, that option led to Brown being wide open for a Colts touchdown.
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.