Earlier this week, I broke down the film from the Colts’ first two sacks against the Browns. I chose to wait on this final sack so as to use the All-22 film to completely breakdown what is happening, as it’s occurrence had more weight (or could have) than the other sacks did.
The play itself was an interesting call, after averaging over four yards per carry on the drive, the Colts decided to pass on third-and-three. Interestingly enough, the play very well may have succeeded if not for the sack.
Let’s break it down.
The Colts drive had moved steadily from their own 19 to the Browns’ 44, using a healthy dose of Vick Ballard runs. After a seven yard run on first down, Ballard was stuffed on second, leaving the Colts three yards to the first down.
The Colts are in a heavy, two TE front with Vick Ballard as a halfback and Dwayne Allen as the fullback. Wayne comes in motion from split out to the right to the right side of the line. The Colts will run a play action to the right side to Ballard.
As you can see, Luck has completed the playfake, and is rolling to his right. Ballard and Allen (circled in blue) are running routes out to the right flat, and Wayne (bottom left) will run a deeper corner route. In the background, you can see Jeff Linkenbach and Anthony Castonzo giving half hearted blocks. However, Sheldon Brown, Castonzo’s man, is the only one that will be important here, due to his speed.
From here we’ll move to the All-22 film.
You can see that Luck is now outside of the hashes, and has two Browns bearing down on him, one from directly in front of him and one from his backside (red). He has two open receivers on the flat (blue), and Reggie Wayne covered deep.
The smart play here would be for Luck, now or a second earlier, to throw the ball to either of the two players in the flat. There is a defender between them, but a second earlier he was not quite in the throwing lane, and Luck still has room to get the ball over him, and to Ballard, who would have Allen between him and the cornerback.
Another problem that Greg Cowan and I discussed on our Monday Night Breakdown radio show is that it’s very possible that Ballard or Allen ran the wrong route. The play design would be quite poor if both targets were supposed to be a yard apart for nearly the entire duration of the play. The confusion by one of them may have thrown Luck off.
Nevertheless, Luck opts not to throw, instead trying to sidestep the defender coming at him, never seeing the defender coming from his left.
Here you can see Luck actually stepping to avoid the first defender, which he likely would have had there not been a second one coming from the backside. Interestingly enough, you can see Reggie Wayne has tripped and fallen downfield. It doesn’t have any bearing on the play, but still.
As indicated by Luck’s head angle (which I can assure you stayed relatively similar for the entire play), Luck never sees Brown coming from his blind side, which definitely played a role in his decision making. Luck’s confident enough in his athletic abilities to avoid the first defender (which he does), and certainly would have created something on the play had Brown not have been there.
As for blame on the play, there’s four players who share it on this play.
First is Anthony Castonzo, who, taken by surprise on the cornerback blitz, failed to get substantial contact on Brown. Had he slowed him, this play ends much differently.
Second, is backup TE Wesley Saunders (85), the player whose poor block on the DE allowed Luck to get initial pressure. Had the DE been stalled by Saunders, Luck’s throwing lane to Ballard/Allen would have been completely clear, and the throw likely would have happened.
Third, is Allen or Ballard, one of whom almost certainly ran the wrong route. Their confusion may or may not have effected Luck’s decision-making, but either way we can be fairly certain that something went wrong there.
Fourth, is Luck himself, who failed to recognize two things. one, that he had two receivers open at the sticks, and a throw could have been made at some point in the play. Two, that he had a defender bearing down on him from his left for the entire play. Had he recognized that, he could have at least saved the Colts from a turnover.
So, an entire team effort for the turnover, the kind that just one better play from any of the individuals could have saved the day.