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Skol Schemes, Week 12: Anatomy of an Interception

Other team gets paid too!

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

As Al Pacino disguised as Coach Tony D’Amato addressed the Miami Sharks in Any Given Sunday, he reminded us of the importance of the minuscule inches that make the difference in a football game. Sometimes those inches can add up to yards and lead to less than stellar plays:

The Vikings opened up this play in an Empty Formation with Dalvin Cook split out left. The Patriots matched Safety Jabrill Peppers on Cook. This is a potential man coverage indicator because a defense is more likely to keep a Cornerback on the outside when in zone coverage. Peppers also followed Cook as he motioned back into the formation. There are, as always, exceptions, but the Patriots are in the top 10 in man coverage snaps across the league.

The Patriots are in a coverage that I refer to as Cover 1 Hole:

You may have seen this defense referred to as Cover 1 Cross. I use the term 1 Hole to describe a man coverage defense where the down safety/high hole player is to the passing strength side. I use 1 Cross when the down safety is coming away from the passing strength. This differentiation, which may be overcomplicating things for no good reason, is used because the aims of both coverages are slightly different. 1 Hole can work as a functional double team to the passing strength while 1 Cross is used heavily against trips formations where the inner most receiver may run a deep crosser. Either way, the high hole player is feeling for any crossing routes and taking the route from someone else who will become the new high hole player.

These Cover 1 variations allow for a defense to be physical with Receivers, tighten throw windows, and target specific route combinations or receivers with an extra player. When a defender passes their route off to the hole player, they can become the new hole player and look to the Quarterback’s intentions or any other crossing routes. That is exactly what occurred on the interception.

As Justin Jefferson got into his route, he was contacted by a Linebacker before having his route passed off to the down Safety. Jefferson’s initial defender, Jonathon Jones (31), became the new hole player and was able to find a stumbling receiver, a high ball, and an interception.

The throw was heavily influenced by the Patriots’ pass rush. New England has a formidable front that the Vikings were able to deal with for parts of their Thanksgiving matchup. On this play, Daniel Ekuale (95) knifed inside after the Offensive Line passed off his stunt and was able to stop Cousins from stepping into the throw. The pressure, the coverage, and the throw all led to an INT.

Throughout a game, there will be negative plays for our beloved Minnesota Vikings. The other team deserves credit at times too despite a Vikings 33-26 victory on the way to a formidable 9-2 record.