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Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Texans (Week 2)

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Welcome to the Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Texans (Week 2) article, as we look at the successful passing plays from this game.  We’ll break down some film to see what went right for the Titans this week.



To put it simply, the Titans caught the Texans napping on this play.   This play has to be credited to the coaching staff, but not just because it’s a gutsy call.  The play shows on field awareness by the players, which goes back to fundamental coaching.  I went back and looked at all the punts from the Texans match up against the Patriots last week, and they covered the gunners on every single one.  I went back to the Week 13 match up last year, and they covered the gunners, even double teaming them at some point.  I have no idea what they are trying to do here because a free release to the gunners essentially allows them to run down the field and get a clean hit on the returner.  Kevin Byard gets the call here and he throws a good pass to Dane Cruikshank for the touchdown.  Once you consider that it’s “just a fan” out there, this throw is amazing.   Cruikshank does the rest, with a good open field move on the returner to ensure the touchdown.  It’s a gutsy call by the coaches, and a good throw by Byard, although the coverage scheme doesn’t make sense at all.



The first example in this article is a special teams pass from a Pro-Bowl safety, and the second example is a pass from a running back in the wildcat formation.  This technically counts as a pass to Taylor, and the young receiver does well to make a positive impact.  It’s almost blown up by JJ Watt, but Taylor runs around him to turn the corner.  The negative aspect of this play is the block missed by Rishard Matthews because he lets the defender run right by him with a bad angle of attack.  Taylor runs past that defender nonetheless, and makes it a positive play.  While it will go down as a pass, the play is mainly made by Taylor’s vision and elusiveness here as he escaped both Watt and the defensive back in the open field.



This is a long one, but I wanted to show the audible on the play from Blaine Gabbert.  The Titans started with a 3 receiver stack to the left of the formation, but Corey Davis goes in motion, and a defender follows him across the formation.  It’s not the case always, but if a defender follows a receiver across the formation, it’s an indication towards man coverage.  Gabbert realizes man coverage and calls an audible because the defense isn’t set for a quick screen.   Notice the defenders to the left side of the formation, and notice the positioning specifically.  They have three defenders on two receivers, but two of the defenders are essentially stacked on each other, while the third one is approaching the line of scrimmage.  It’s a clear tell that one of those guys is blitzing, and they are trying to take away the quick hot read.  The slot corner back blitzes, and Gabbert hits Taylor for the quick pass.  Once again, Rishard Matthews misses a block, as he takes a bad angle, but Taylor gets around it.  The hero on this play is really Kevin Pamphile, because he lets his direct defender go up field (since it’s a screen pass, the pass rush won’t get to Gabbert in time) and then rushes down the field to block the secondary player.  It’s that block, which allows Taylor to run down the field, and shows extremely good mobility.  Taylor does the rest with a great move on the safety in the open field and runs in for the touchdown.



This is just a great showcase of anticipation from Gabbert.  The throw to Corey Davis is out a step before Davis even makes his cut to the outside, and it’s perfectly on time.  It might not be that evident in this angle, but Gabbert releases the ball a bit early to get the pass over the safety, because a low trajectory on this pass will lead to an interception.



There isn’t much to breakdown here because it’s a simple concept.  The Titans are running a play action roll out, and the only real option here is Luke Stocker.  The play depends on the middle linebacker biting on play action enough to let Stocker slip behind him.  There are down the field options in the set up, but they are extremely well covered on this play.  This was basically Stocker or throw it to the sidelines as the second option.  The pass itself is very impressive because of how accurate it is while being on the run.  The most impressive part is Gabbert getting away from JJ Watt because the Texans’ star did not bite on the play action at all.



This play only shows up on the positive side because Tajae Sharpe makes a good catch in traffic.  The first aspect to notice is the receiver going in motion, without a defender following him, which now indicates zone coverage most of the times.  On this play, the read is the slot defender and his choice dictates the pass.  If the defender falls back with Sharpe, then the short pass to Corey Davis will be open.  If the defender stays up (As was the case here) then Sharpe will have a brief window to be open on this play, because it’s zone coverage.  Notice the route of Sharpe on this play, because the defender has outside leverage.  However, Sharpe is running at the defender, who has to worry about an out route, go route, or in route, which makes him reactionary.  Gabbert has to take advantage of this, and release the ball early (Play No. 4 is a good example) so he can hit the window when Sharpe makes the cut.  Instead, Gabbert waits to throw the pass, which meant there is no separation now between the defender and receiver, and it’s a 50/50 situation.  Even the safety becomes a factor on this play because of the delay, but Sharpe comes down with the pass.



This is another great pass from Gabbert as he’s rolling to his left, and hits Corey Davis in stride.  The Titans are once again running a play action roll out mirrored, with crossing pattern as the main target.  Unlike the pass to Stocker, Gabbert has to reset his shoulders on this play, but he makes a great throw and Davis reels in the catch.



How is this a positive play? I believe Gabbert already mentioned the pass was intentional, and I think that’s a great reflection on the coaching staff.  This is a pretty ingenious reaction in the heat of the moment.  As many remember from the Chiefs game in the playoffs, the Titans are familiar with blocked passes being caught by the QB.  The rule is that the QB now becomes the receiver, therefore he can’t throw the ball forward.  In this case, Gabbert becomes the receiver but he can’t run anywhere because defenders are in his face, and he’s about to be sacked for a loss of about 8 yards.  If he’s sacked in this 2nd and 7 play, it would be somewhere around 3rd and 15.  However, if he throws away the pass and it isn’t called intentional grounding, then it’s only a 5 yard penalty without the loss of downs.  At that point the Texans have to weigh between 3rd and 7 (Declining the penalty – which meant Gabbert negated the possible sack) or 2nd and 12 (Accepting the penalty- which meant Gabbert traded 5 yards for another down on a lost play).  The Texans accepted the penalty, but this is just an exceptional line of thinking in the moment.  I’m not the biggest Gabbert fan, but that was extremely impressive.



The very next play for the Titans, and it’s a great effort topped by a lucky break.  The pass is a simple quick hit to Corey Davis, but he wheels his way around the defense to gain 18 yards and a first down.  The first hero of this play is Tyler Marz, who made a great down field block to allow Davis to spring free towards the middle.  The second hero is Dion Lewis, who initially takes out the linebacker with a direct shot at Corey Davis, and then helps punch out the ball out of bounds, so the Titans retain possession.  I read that Lewis punched it out on purpose, but he does get lucky in the sense that the Texans defender just didn’t have a better grip on the ball.  Corey Davis is the star for most of this play, as he does a great job of evading tackles in the open field and getting the first down.  However, the tackle from JJ Watt jars the ball from his hands, and almost causes a turnover.  These are two straight plays (from Gabbert and Lewis) that showed excellent critical thinking under fire, and that should have you excited as a fan.


The Titans won the game unexpectedly, and that’s a great sign for the coaching staff.  As soon as I heard that Gabbert was the starter, I assumed the offense was going to struggle, and I was mostly right.  However, the coaching staff really threw in some wrenches and made gutsy calls to save the day.  Blaine Gabbert had an OK game, although he had opportunities to make this a great game.  I’m more excited about the offensive schemes because you can see how they are setting up offensive plays.

Thanks for reading Positive Passing Plays: Titans vs. Texans (Week 2), and please read the Negative Passing Plays Article, and follow on Twitter!

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