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Skol Schemes, Week 12: Anatomy of a Touchdown

Six more points for the good guys!

NFL: New England Patriots at Minnesota Vikings Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Football has a lot of moving parts. 11 hyper talented players on each side of the ball execute individual assignments to create a larger picture. We often only focus on one of those parts; a Receiver making a nice catch or a Quarterback throwing a perfect ball is easy for us to digest. Yet, one of the many beautiful parts of football is the interdependency of each player’s assignment. A catch is not possible without a throw, and a throw cannot be made without a block.

The Vikings game winner on Thanksgiving versus the New England Patriots showed us how each moving part can help the other out on the road to success:

In his post game interview, Kirk Cousins revealed that the above play was called more than once during the game. Those times required Cousins to audible out of the play because the Vikings were not given a premium look by the defense. Premium looks are the aim of Kevin O’Connell’s offense. O’Connell wants to get his players into advantageous numbers and leverage situations through formation, play call, and game flow. A premium look for the above play would be man coverage that would force defenders to chase the Vikings Receivers across the entire field. Jefferson’s pre-snap motion helps indicate man coverage and Cousins does not need to check out of the play as he did on multiple occasions earlier in the game when someone did not follow Jefferson’s motion.

The play’s design is simple by football standards. Off play action, Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson ran crossers at each other to challenge the defense. The Cornerbacks had outside leverage and had help from the middle of the field Safety as Thielen and Jefferson were lined up in condensed splits. Ideally, the Cornerbacks would be able to pass off routes that broke inside with the middle of the field closed off.

Justin Jefferson’s gravity helps make this play work. On Jefferson’s crosser, the Cornerback passed the route off to the Safety and became the new middle of the field player. Jefferson was accounted for by multiple players and opened up space for his teammate. As the defense smiled knowing Jefferson was covered, Adam Thielen was in a 1 on 1 race to the back pylon versus a Cornerback working through traffic in a tough situation. Kirk Cousins delivered a throw on the money and the Vikings started the celebration.

As with most successful plays, not enough credit is given to the offensive line. Right Guard Ed Ingram (#67) locked up #8. Center and Left Guard Garrett Bradbury (#56) and Ezra Cleveland (#72) held up on the stunt just enough for Cousins to get the ball off. Left Tackle Blake Brandel (#64) passed off the stunt before looking for work, Right Tackle Brian O’Neill (#75) secured the edge, and even Tight End Johnny Mundt (#86) got in on the fun. No play should go without recognition for the constant battle in the trenches, and this touchdown is not possible without every split second that Cousins had in the pocket.

All of these moving parts led to a Vikings touchdown. Jefferson’s required attention, Thielen’s quickness, Cousins’ throw, and the line’s technique all helped to put six points on the board for the 9-2 Minnesota Vikings.