Whether or not you agree with Anthony Lynn’s decision to go for two in the final seconds, it capped off a dramatic come-from-behind victory for the Chargers over the Chiefs.
The Chargers actually ran the exact same play earlier in the game for their first touchdown. Below, you can see wide receivers Tyrell Williams (#16) and Mike Williams (#81) stacked at the top of the screen. Tyrell was aligned outside, and Mike was aligned inside.
The stacked formation is intentional here, as it is used to attack man coverage. Stacks are a hassle for defenses because they prevent defenders in man from getting their hands on the receiver who is off the line of scrimmage – in this case Tyrell Williams. The front receiver can also create traffic for the defender covering the off receiver to have to fight through. This often leaves receivers wide open on shallow crossers.
Defenses like to counter this by playing the receivers’ releases. This means, instead of declaring pre-snap which player they will cover, they let the initial steps of the receivers dictate who covers who. This helps avoid the pick problem, but it can cause confusion if both defenders are not on the same page (more on that later).
In the image below, you can see that this is how the Chiefs were playing it. Look how the inside corner (Kendall Fuller) had his body positioned to catch the inside receiver and the outside corner (Steven Nelson) was doing the same for whoever would release outside.
You can see from the route design below that the receivers would end up crossing. Tyrell started outside and ran a shallow in-breaking route. Mike started inside and ran a corner route to the outside.
The Chiefs played the releases correctly here. After the snap, the inside corner took Tyrell Williams when he released inside, and the outside corner took Mike Williams, who ran his route to the outside.
While the Chiefs played it right, Philip Rivers still liked the matchup of Mike Williams (6’4”, 220 lbs) to the perimeter on the smaller Steven Nelson (5’11”, 194 lbs). He threw the ball high to take advantage of the size differential.
The Chargers hoped to generate the same situation on their game-winning 2-point conversion. Things worked out even better than they anticipated.
This time, they called the play to the opposite side of the field. The other difference was that they started in trips-bunch before motioning a receiver across the formation. This was to disguise the fact that this was the same play as their earlier touchdown.
This once again left Tyrell and Mike Williams in a stack, with Mike at the front and inside, and Tyrell off the line of scrimmage to the outside.
You can see the two corners remaining on the right side (Kendall Fuller and Orlando Scandrick) signaled to each other and re-adjusted their positioning after the motion. From their body positioning you can see that the corners were, once again, playing the receivers’ releases.
The route combination was the exact same.
The difference this time was that the outside cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, did not pass off Tyrell Williams and fall off to cover Mike Williams, who ended up as the outside receiver. Instead, he chased Tyrell inside.
The only problem was that the inside corner, Kendall Fuller, was playing inside. The result was an easy game-winning 2-point conversion.
The angle above shows the Chargers’ receivers doing a great job of stacking directly on top of each other in the first few steps of their routes. This helped create more uncertainty for Scandrick, as it wasn’t entirely clear right away which receiver would be going inside and which would be going outside.
Despite the mismatch that Mike Williams on Scandrick might have been, we’ll never know for sure what could have been because Scandrick didn’t give himself a chance.
The miscommunication here is damning considering that the Chargers had already run this play earlier in the game for a touchdown. Also, the Chiefs had plenty of time to discuss how they might be attacked considering the previous play was being reviewed. As has been the case all season, the Chiefs have some things to clean up on defense if they want to have a chance of ending up in Atlanta for the Super Bowl.
For the Chargers, on the other hand, Philip Rivers had a tremendous 4th quarter. Not only did he lead the Chargers back from a 14-point deficit on the road against the #1 seed in the AFC, but he made two serious throws to Travis Benjamin on the game-winning touchdown drive. His 4th-down pass was deadly accurate and was thrown with ridiculous anticipation.
The Chargers appear to be a more well-rounded team than Kansas City. And although the Chiefs are still in the driver’s seat for the AFC West Division title, the Chargers just made things a lot more interesting.
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[…] This was the most critical play of the season at that point, and the Chiefs somehow blew the coverage, leaving Brady’s favorite target wide open in the middle of the field on 3rd down. That is simply inexcusable considering the situation and the fact that the Patriots use this concept so often. But we’ve seen the Chiefs bust their coverage in pivotal moments this season when playing receivers’ releases. Just think back to the final play of their Week 15 loss to the Chargers. […]
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