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Anatomy of a play: Earl Thomas' interception of Eli Manning - Dec. 17, 2013

Anatomy of a play: Earl Thomas' interception of Eli Manning - Dec. 17, 2013


Earl Thomas settles under the ball for an interception of Eli Manning. The Seahawks intercepted Manning five times in 23-0 win over Giants.
all photos courtesy of NFL Game Rewind

by Curtis Crabtree
KJR reporter
Twitter: @Curtis_Crabtree

RENTON - The Seattle Seahawks intercepted New York Giants' quarterback Eli Manning five times during Sunday's 23-0 victory to improve to 12-2 on the season.

There were many opportunities to choose from, but I elected to break down S Earl Thomas' final interception of Manning due to CB Richard Sherman decribing the play so well after the game.

First, I'll let Sherman describe the play from his vantage point.

"To tell you the truth, I was playing for the slant. I was playing inside leverage. We were running zero – this Texas play – and Earl… that’s how you can tell Earl is just everywhere because it wasn’t one-high (safety). It wasn’t one-high at all. The back stayed in and that was his man and he just sprinted to where the ball was," Sherman said.

"I played inside and I saw him go for the fade and I thought ‘he’s slowing down so the ball must be in catchable range.’ So I put my eyes up and I knew it was going to be a jump ball situation and I know that Earl or Kam are on their way at all times. They’re speeding somewhere to the vicinity so I tried to tip it up with enough air for someone to get under it and Earl got under it."

Here's a look at the pre-snap alignment...

The Seahawks are running "Cover 0." That defense means there isn't going to be any safety help designed on the play call. Seattle is going to play man-to-man on the Giants' five eligible receivers and blitz the remaining six players against Manning.

As Sherman described, he's lined up slightly to the inside of Giants' WR Hakeem Nicks to try and take away the slant. CB Byron Maxwell has WR Rueben Randle on the near sid. S Kam Chancellor has TE Brandon Myers in the near slot and CB Jeremy Lane  has WR Jerrel Jernigan in the far slot.

Thomas, though aligned in the deep middle of the field, isn't playing as an over-the-top defender. He has RB Andre Brown man-to-man. Sherman referenced "Texas" in his description of the play. A Texas route is a route from a running back where they release out of the backfield and angle back over the middle of the field. Thomas would be responsible for covering that route from Brown.

UPDATE: Sherman clarified that "Texas" was the defensive play call in this instance, not the route Thomas was responsible for specificially.

However, with Seattle rushing six players at Manning, if all five receivers released into pass routes someone would come free unblocked at the quarterback as the Giants would only have five blockers to pick up Seattle's six pass rushers.

As you can see in the shots above, Brown stays in as a blocker to pick up LB Bobby Wagner in pass protection.

Thomas initially moves toward the line of scrimmage in order to be in a position to react to Brown if he were to release into a pass route after helping pick up the blitz. However, Brown sticks with Wagner and Manning gets the ball out quickly with the pressure closing in.

Manning throws the fade route toward Nicks and Sherman as Thomas reroutes to chase the ball in the air. Sherman has the inside position on Nicks and manages to tip the ball in the air as Thomas sails underneath for their fifth interception of the game.

Thomas' range is what makes him special. His ability to move from his responsibility when he realizes there is no longer a threat and help Sherman on this play shows why he is the lynchpin to Seattle's top-ranked defense.

 

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