Wednesday, December 2, 2009

TMQ and Santana's 4 yard touchdown

I noticed the following passage in Gregg Easterbrook's most recent Tuesday Morning Quarterback column:

Santana Moss of Washington was covered by no one on his 4-yard touchdown reception in the same contest. Eagles safety Macho Harris lined up across from Moss, then simply stood there as Moss ran a slant for six. TMQ contends it is amazing how often, on NFL plays, there is at least one gentleman standing around basically doing nothing at all.
Tonight I sent Easterbrook the following email, which you will find closely mirrors my write-up of the touchdown in the 2nd quarter review:

You are unfair to Macho Harris - I disagree that he "simply stood there." Here's how I interpret the play:

- Redskins line up with Malcolm Kelly wide left and Santana Moss in the left slot.

- Sheldon Brown lines up outside Kelly to keep from giving up the easy fade (Kelly's big).

- Likewise, Macho Harris lines up on Moss' outside shoulder because otherwise Moss could easily beat him to the flat for a free touchdown.

- Because of his outside positioning, Sheldon Brown is totally out of position when Kelly runs a slant.

- It appears the Eagles prepped for this: Macho Harris abandons his coverage on Moss and jumps Kelly's slant. It appears to me this was by design.

- Jeremiah Trotter then moves to the outside to disrupt Moss's slant, but he is late because he bites on the Redskins O-line's run action to the opposite side. If Trotter had read the play quicker, or if Campbell had hesitated before getting the ball out, Trotter would have broken up the play. However, as soon as Campbell saw the outside alignment of the DBs I think he knew exactly where he was going.

In short, I think that Macho Harris did his job - the slant to Malcolm Kelly was covered. And the shift in coverage appeared to me to be a planned reaction to the Redskins running slants. If anyone blew their assignment, it was Trotter.

Keep in mind that I am a Redskins fan and not in any way predisposed to defend an Eagles player.

Do you see the play differently?

This is why I enjoy going over plays multiple times - it really lets you gain an appreciation for all the variables that go into the result of a football play.

At the same time, of course, everything is still open to wildly different interpretations. I inferred what I could from watching the players on the field, but I have not studied the playbook of either the Eagles or the Redskins. Maybe I am assigning motives and strategies where there were none? Easterbrook could be totally right, and no one other than the Eagles coaching staff would be able to correct him with confidence. And of course there is the real possibility that we both missed the real crux of the play.

Football is one of those things that just gets more interesting the more closely you look at it - but as an outsider you also have to accept that there are limits to what you are able to understand.

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