For the second time this year, I don't have my full charting done because of issues on my DVR. I do have the game waiting for me at home and should be able to still compile all the data for my season totals, but I don't have it done yet and since I really wanted to get something out each week, I have something I think you'll enjoy.
I want to show you Mike Evans' 43 yard touchdown catch and give a little background from within the game that shows how that touchdown likely came to happen.
Have you ever watched an NFL game and seen them show the shots of the QB on the bench between drives, and he's looking at a binder full of pictures? Well, what those are is pictures of how the defense lined up on each snap and what coverage they were in. So much of what an offense is trying to do is to identify certain looks and certain coverages from a defense so that they can know how to respond. If they can then identify a giveaway, a tell, or a tendency, they can attack it.
Bruce Feldman wrote about this in his fantastic piece about following the Aggies for the week prior to the Alabama game. In that article, he described sitting in on film sessions as the Aggies honed in on what they wanted to attack versus the Tide.
"I want this right here every time," Manziel says as he pauses the video where A&M's 6-5, 225-pound go-to receiver Mike Evans is matched up one-on-one with Alabama cornerback John Fulton attempting to jam the hulking wideout at the line.
"Mike gets really angry with (dudes) in his face," Beaty says.
The Tide won't like Mike Evans when he's angry.
"If we can get this 100 times, I'll take it all 100," says Manziel.
Manziel torched Alabama in Tuscaloosa last November. He went 24-for-31 and piled up almost 350 yards of total offense. Manziel, and everyone else in College Station, has heard all summer about how the Tide, coming off a grueling come-from-behind win at LSU, was caught off guard by the Aggies or about how Nick Saban and his defensive coordinator Kirby Smart have had 10 months to come up with answers to bottle up the free-wheeling QB.
On the video showing the Tide's defense, Manziel matter-of-factly points out the Alabama linebacker he'll look off to the three-receiver side of the formation, "We do this, and it'll be like stealing."
What he was describing was prophetic, as A&M continually attacked Alabama every time they showed press coverage on Evans without a safety over the top. As we all know, Manziel repeatedly connected with Evans down the right sideline to the tune of nearly 300 yards.
That connection has continued to prove effective for the Aggies all season, and I think it's safe to say that when the defense presents certain looks to the Aggies, if Manziel can recognize it in time, it's an automatic throw to Evans.
That is where disguising comes in to play. Defenses don't want to give away their intentions until the last possible moment. They want to show one thing but then do another. I could go on for a long time about all that, but suffice to say, it's a giant cat and mouse game. It's why the quarterbacks study those pictures between drives, so they can see what the defense actually did at the snap as opposed to what they were doing before the snap.
What I'm going to show you below is how A&M defeated Vanderbilt in the feline and rodent game. I took pictures (from section 209) at the game of every play in the first two drives. I snapped the camera right before (or right at) the snap each time. Going through those pictures, it's easy to see that for the most part, Vanderbilt lines up with two deep safeties. Obviously this was done to keep a safety over the top of Evans and prevent the deep pass to him. Sorry for the large amount of photos, but it's to prove a point. Look at how many times Vandy uses a Cover 2 look.
That's all well and good, but you may recall that on the first two drives, Johnny Football completed basically every pass he threw and led two quick scoring drives with a barrage of short passes. At some point, Vanderbilt had to change something.
What they attempted to do was show a two safety look, again, but then at the last minute bring a safety down into the box and switch to a single high safety look with press man-to-man coverage on the receivers. The problem was, they gave away their intentions too soon. As you can see in the video, they make their move too early, and Johnny sees exactly what they're doing. As soon as he sees that (before the snap), he knows that he has the exact same thing he drooled over while prepping for Alabama: man coverage on Evans with no help over the top.
And it was no contest. Evans easily beats his defender off the line and Manziel lofts a perfect pass to him. The safety? Unable to help since they switched to Cover 1 and he had moved to the middle of the field. Had they stayed in Cover 2, this touchdown likely doesn't happen. However, had they stayed in Cover 2, what IS likely to happen is the same thing that happened on the first two drives: the Aggies picking them apart with short passes. Vanderbilt had to try something different. The Aggies were well prepared to attack the Cover 1 look as soon as it was presented. And as described above, it worked out for the Aggies in large part because of the fact that Vanderbilt gave away their true intentions a little too soon
Johnny Manziel 43 yards TD pass to Mike Evans (via mattywatty01)
It's a fascinating game, isn't it?