NFL coaches don’t just roll the ball out there and say, "make plays." They might use the early portion of the game to set up the opposing defense, running a play repeatedly, getting ready for a counter-punch and a chance at a huge score when they need it.
That's what happened on Andrew Luck's game-winning touchdown to T.Y. Hilton that capped the Colts' great comeback win against the Chiefs. They set that up for the first three-and-a-half quarters.
The Colts started in a three-by-one set, with three receivers to the left. That's a staple of what they do, as a team that increasingly relied on "11" personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) as the season went on. The play is a three-level stretch concept. LaVon Brazill ran a short route, Coby Fleener ran a corner route, and Hilton ran a post route. This is a route concept that’s in a lot of playbooks. The Saints are masters of this.
But what the Colts did here is they played off of a route Hilton had run numerous times in this game. He ran a ton of corner routes to the outside against the Chiefs. So the Colts picked this time to play off that.
You can see Chiefs safety Kendrick Lewis' body position as Hilton starts running; it’s as if Lewis was waiting for another corner route by Hilton. Lewis turned to play that. Now he couldn't play the post. He had turned to the sideline. He couldn’t turn and run with Hilton.
That’s why Luck threw the ball. That’s what quarterbacks are coached to do, to look at a safety’s body position. And Luck saw that Lewis turned to the outside and knew he couldn't play the post.
There was one other critical element, and it was the backside route by Da'Rick Rogers. He was the X-iso on the right side, he ran vertically and did his part. He had to make sure the safety to that side, Quintin Demps, didn’t cheat over and take away Hilton's deep post. That’s why Rogers ran the route he did, at a depth of about 17 yards, because he had to make sure Demps was threatened by his route.
That’s what coaches do. They set up a play like this at every level.
Hilton also sold the corner route. He had to make sure Lewis turned his body to the outside, and it looked immediately like that was where Hilton was going, like he was trying to go to the outside. And then he took it as vertical as he could, to "step on the toes" of Lewis, as they call it, before he turned to the post.
Then it was an unbelievable throw by Luck. He threw it about 46 yards in the air on a rope. And he did that even though Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali lifted tackle Anthony Castonzo about at the same time Luck threw it.
In the NFL, you get into those kinds of games and you have to win them if you want to be a champion. And you have to make big-time throws to do it. That’s just the way it works. Luck is arguably the most talented quarterback in the game – I’m talking just pure talent. That’s the way I see him anyway. Now, he and the Colts could go to New England this weekend and lose, and that wouldn’t be surprising. But he’s a remarkable player.
And they won the Chiefs game because Luck made a big-time NFL throw.
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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.