Welcome back to One Big Play. For the second straight week, we’ll be looking at a big play in this game that contributed to the Packers losing. I’m sorry. I’m a massive downer. Let’s hope the Packers win this weekend so I can put up a great Packers play in this space next week.
When I was deciding which play to look at this week, I had a couple choices: either the game-clinching catch by T.Y. Hilton or the Ha Ha Clinton-Dix almost-sack of Andrew Luck on 3rd and 10 at the Colts 25.
As it turns out, the choice between those two wasn’t really a choice at all. I had to go with the almost-sack.
Let’s set the stage: after looking ineffectual for most of the game, the Packers offense came to life in the 4th quarter. Through the first three quarters, Aaron Rodgers’ line looked like this: 15/28 (53.6%), 169 yards (6.04 yards per attempt), 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 68.9 QB Rating.
In the 4th quarter, his line looked like this: 11/15 (73.3%), 116 yards (7.73 yards per attempt), 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 135.0 QB Rating.
The Colts scored a touchdown early in the quarter to take a 31-13 lead, but the Packers put up 13 straight points to pull to within 5 points. The Colts were reeling, facing yet another 4th quarter collapse.
The Colts faced 3rd and 10 at their own 25 yard line with 3:19 on the clock. The Packers had 1 timeout left plus the two minute warning. A stop here would give the Packers plenty of time for a game-winning drive.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix  attempts to disguise his blitz off the edge, but the hard count of Andrew Luck  forces Clinton-Dix to show his hand earlier than he wanted. Frank Gore  is in the backfield. The Packers have the line stacked with rushers, so Gore isn’t exactly sure who is coming and from where. It appears as though he is looking for an inside loop from Kyler Fackrell . Datone Jones  also has a loop to the outside, so Gore has a couple reasons to look inside.
Anthony Castonzo  also has reasons to look inside, with both Julius Peppers  and Datone Jones looking to that side. Castonzo has no choice but to squeeze to the inside.
All of this means that Clinton-Dix has a free rush at Andrew Luck off the edge. Luck is a big guy and can be slippery in the pocket. Clinton-Dix comes flying off the edge and attempts to wrap up Luck. Luck is able to give a little duck-and-twist move and Clinton-Dix isn’t able to hold on. Luck shrugs free and finds Jack Doyle  downfield for a first down.
Let’s look at it from another angle:
Everything went perfect, until it didn’t.
Even though Gore was looking inside, he still kept just enough position to force Clinton-Dix to take a wider angle on Luck than he would have liked. If Clinton-Dix were able to take a more direct route, he could have lined up Luck and gotten both arms around him. As it was, Clinton-Dix’s angle was just wide enough to only allow him to get one hand on Luck. With a guy like Luck, that isn’t always enough. It certainly wasn’t in this case.
Having Fackrell covering Doyle down the field certainly isn’t ideal, but those are the risks you take when you bring pressure from odd angles.
Here’s one more thing to look at: with Clinton-Dix coming off the edge, the deep safety to that side of the field is undrafted rookie Marwin Evans . He originally drops wide to take away the sideline throw, but that receiver declares for a sideline curl pretty quickly. Evans is caught watching that route long after it has broken off and doesn’t get back to the middle of the field in time. If he had immediately looked back inside – or not had quite as wide of a drop – it’s possible he would have been able to break up this pass. A more experienced safety likely would have been in better position. I wonder what would have happened if Evans had blitzed and Clinton-Dix been back in coverage. These are the things that keep me up at night.
Albums listened to: Yeasayer – Cold Night EP