Asante Samuel is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL when it comes to jumping routes and picking off throws. He notched his 50th career interception this past Sunday against Josh Freeman and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when he jumped a deep inside route that Tiquan Underwood was running.
Underwood is lined up wide right with another Tampa receiver in the slot. The Falcons are showing a blitz package with their linebackers but are actually playing a form of cover two where all but two linebackers will drop back into coverage and both safeties will drop deep. The difference here is that the two outside cornerbacks won’t stick directly to the flats instead they’ll play zones along the sideline. Underwood is going to run a deep in route to try and find the soft spot in the zone between the linebackers and safeties while the slot receiver is running a basic streak route down the seam.
There wasn’t a huge blitz coming like Tampa expected as the Falcons only send five men. Meanwhile Tampa has seven men in the backfield to protect which really isn’t enough as a Falcons player ends up matched up one on one on the edge with a tackle and gets a step on him and a DT also starts breaking through when Kroy Biermann stunts back into the inside. The other bad part for Tampa is that Josh Freeman is about to throw into an area where there’s four defenders and only two receivers. Underwood’s route doesn’t go as planned as the LB completes his drop right into the middle of the path of the route. Seeing this Freeman tries to throw it behind Underwood in hopes that the WR will turn back towards the ball. Asante reads this like a children’s novel and immediately begins to make his move.
Asante makes his break on the route as Freeman begins his throw. With pressure coming in from behind and in front of him, Freeman can either throw the ball or pull it down and take a sack. He decides to throw it and by the time he does Asante has the route jumped and grabs the ball for an easy INT which gave him #50 for his career. The next part of this play is Asante trying to make an unsuccessful house call once he has the ball.
Asante has a clear path to the end zone if he can make just one defender miss in the open field. Despite putting on his best juke move, the Tampa player manages to bring Asante down. Another aspect of this play to look at is how the Atlanta defenders are setting up a blocking convoy to try and escort Asante to the end-zone. You can see two Atlanta defenders behind Asante and 3 more who are trying to get out in front of him. It’s obvious the Falcons have practiced this drill many times as everyone immediately knows what to do when they hear “Oski” called out.
Plays like this are a result of veteran instincts, great play-calling, and great coaching. While Mike Smith and his coordinators made several questionable personnel decisions during the game, they also did a great job in game planning so that they could get a call like this that would confuse the Bucs and give Asante an opportunity to get another interception.
If you enjoyed this "anatomy of a play" make sure you check out the break down of Matt Ryan's 44 yard pass to Roddy White against the Detroit Lions. Follow Zach on Twitter @GBBZach.