Breaking Down Brandon Carr’s Overtime Interception
At the New York Times, I took a look at the key Brandon Carr overtime interception that sealed the win for Dallas.
After a 7-yard gain on first down, the Steelers faced a second-and-3 at their 27-yard line on the second play of overtime. Having won the coin toss, Pittsburgh could seal the victory with a touchdown only. That fact might have played a role in how the two teams went about attacking each other on this particular play.
With “11” personnel — one running back, one tight end, and three receivers — the Steelers lined up in “Gun Tight End Spread.” Pittsburgh seemed content to steadily move the ball up the field through the air; Roethlisberger had totaled over 300 yards and 8.54 YPA in regulation, and the Steelers had passed on first down to begin overtime. Originally lined up with two deep safeties, Gerald Sensabaugh began to walk toward the line just before the snap. The Cowboys used nickel personnel and didn’t show blitz on the play.
The Cowboys did indeed rush only four defenders, sitting back in a safe Cover 3 look. Remember, Dallas knew that only a touchdown could beat them on this drive, so it was in their best interest to perhaps play a bit softer than normal. Their Cover 3 defense was characterized by four underneath defenders: two linebackers, a safety and a nickel cornerback. The single deep safety and the outside cornerbacks — which included Carr on Wallace — had deep-third responsibility, i.e. their goal was to not let anyone get behind them in their portion of the field.
Roethlisberger seemed to recognize the coverage pretty quickly, stepping up comfortably into the pocket and making what would normally be the right decision to get the ball to Wallace. Since the outside cornerbacks in Cover 3 have no deep help, they tend to play soft, surrendering underneath routes. When Wallace ran a 10-yard out, Carr really shouldn’t have been in position to make a play on the ball. From snap to throw, Roethlisberger took only 1.9 seconds to unleash his pass.
Check out the full analysis at the Fifth Down.