The Bad: Red Zone Coverage
Dec 7, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Jaron Brown (13) catches a touchdown pass in the third quarter as he is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs safety Ron Parker (38) at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Chiefs 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Whenever a defense gives up points, you can initiate the countdown to a finger-pointing frenzy. It’s like a shark tank in the middle of a slaughterhouse.
Make no mistake, Kelcie McCray isn’t the culprit on this play. (The All-22 film isn’t available yet, so you’re stuck with a GIF from the broadcast for now.)
The Cardinals are trailing by five, and it’s 3rd-and-18 from Kansas City’s 26-yard line. The Chiefs only rush four, but said four happen to be Poe, Justin Houston, Tamba Hali and Dee Ford.
Though he doesn’t bring added pressure, Bob Sutton banks on Drew Stanton having a limited lease on time. If that proves to be the case, Arizona’s passer will likely have to target an underneath route. And in these kind of scenarios, said routes tend to run across the middle of the field.
Furthermore, given the time and deficit, improving field position for a field goal attempt isn’t the end of the world.
Considering those factors, Sutton (seemingly) elects for a man-zone combo coverage.
Obviously, without access to the All-22 angle, it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact assignment of every Chiefs defender. However, prior to the snap, clues (Phillip Gaines playing outside technique, Husain Abdullah not following the motion man, etc.) tell Stanton that he’s likely facing a zone-oriented coverage.
Defensively, Ron Parker is the exception. He plays press-man versus Jaron Brown, whose inside feint causes the corner to turn his hips, allowing the wideout to gain a clean release at the line. (For the record, Parker usually shows off solid fundamentals, but Brown’s sell job was top-notch.)
Meanwhile, the defense morphs from a pre-snap Cover 2 look, as McCray plays the role of “robber” and scampers toward the middle of the field, offering insurance against any crossing routes. To compensate, it appears that Kurt Coleman—who’s out of frame until the reception is made—slides over as the single-high safety.
A few seconds later, the stadium erupts.
McCray wasn’t without fault. Ideally, you’d like him to disguise his intentions more subtly, potentially prolonging Stanton’s read. But Parker’s miscue is what ultimately gave way to the touchdown.