Anatomy Of A Play: The Interception


I took a bit of heat earlier in the week when I suggested that Jackson’s interceptions were truly on him and not the freak plays every else said they were. After re-watching the game a few times to look at various players (NFL Rewind is awesome!) I’m going to stand by my previous assertion. But let’s back up and I’ll show you exactly what I mean.

This is the 2nd of Jackson’s 2 interceptions from last week’s against the Falcons. Here is the formation pre-snap. Miller has already come in motion across the formation.

The defense is in cover 2-man. This means that it’s man coverage underneath, with both safeties playing over the top. The pre-snap read of cover 2 by the safeties, and with play-action, means that Miller should be Jackson’s primary read.

After the snap, the play action freezes the linebackers, while the vertical route down the sideline by the receiver at the top of the screen causes the safety on that side of the field to widen, leaving a big gap down the center of the field.

When Jackson gets turned around to see the receivers and defense, Miller is already even with the linebackers, and all 3 still have their hips facing the backfield, so it’s clear Miller is going to be open. Jackson should be starting his throwing motion now.

By the time Jackson releases the ball, Miller is already 5 yards further down field, which means 5 yards closer to the safeties:

In the next picture, you can see the ball and a wide open Miller. If Jackson had released the ball earlier as he should have, the ball would be to Miller.

By the time arrives, Miller had already reached the goal line, and closed the distance between him and the safeties.

One last thing to consider. Notice that the ball is high. Had Jackson thrown the ball lower and/or more inside, like around the hashmarks. The hit either wouldn’t have happened, or wouldn’t have been able to dislodge the football. This view from the endzone angle shows just how much gap there was to work with, since you can see the other safety.

So there you have it. There’s actually a lot that goes into the success or failure of any one play. In this case, the pass was late, and thrown either too high or too far to the outside. Had Jackson not made any one of those 3 mistakes on that play, the end result would have been a touchdown and not an interception.

Saying that this interception wasn’t Jackson’s fault simply because it was a big hit and lucky bounce is ignoring the mistakes he made on the play, and it was those mistakes that created the interception and cost the Seahawks a much needed touchdown.