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How The Eagles Broke The Giants Cover Two

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The Eagles have seen all too often this year how dangerous and sometimes harmful starting rookie LBs can be. Now, so have the Giants. Mat Bowen wrote a great piece on National Football Post about what ended up being the game winning TD from Vince Young to Riley Cooper. It's a great read and really gives you some insight into the complexity of how NFL offenses and defenses scheme. Be sure to read the whole piece, but here's the section I wanted to point out. Basically, the Eagles targeted rookie Mark Herzlich on the play and forced the guy making his first NFL start into a game changing mistake.

I like the call from Giants’ DC Perrry Fewell to play Cover 2 on a third down situation in the 4th quarter. Force the ball to go underneath to Celek, make a tackle and play for a FG. However, as I have detailed before, playing Cover 2 in the red zone can be an issue if the Mike Backer doesn’t get depth at the snap of the ball. Here, the Giants’ Mark Herzlich (highlighted in red) steps up vs. Celek—and that’s all the room V.Y. needs to make the throw. Herzlich should open his hips to the passing strength, play with depth and take away the skinny post.

- Where are the safeties? In Cover 2, this is on the Mike. Both safeties will overlap any throw inside of the numbers. We see it all of the time out in the field vs. the vertical game, but down here in the red zone, the safety has no chance to make a play on the ball.  These routes break at  shorter depth inside of the 10-yard line and the throw takes less time to get there.


This is something that Jimmy pointed out as well. Specifically he noted how Chris Collinsworth diagnosed Herzlich as the culprit right away and Justin Tuck confirmed it the next day. The video in the article shows exactly where Herzlich went wrong.

My whole takeaway from this was really how tough coordinators have. I mean, after reading this would you say that Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell made a mistake? Had Herlzlich done what he supposed to, the window to hit Riley Cooper isn't there and who knows what happens on that play? So Fewell didn't make the wrong call, the players just didn't execute for him. And on conversely, we'll all laud the Eagles for the call, but how would we react if Herlzlich was where he belonged and Young had to check down to his second, third or fourth options?

It's razor thin margins for error out there and frankly, I'm pretty amazed that coaches so often hold their tongues about why a play goes wrong.