Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett has taken a verbal beating over the last two days following a goal line play call that led to a game-changing, 100-yard interception return by Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Sean Smith in Sunday's 23-13 loss.
The gallery above shows the play call and what quarterback Jeff Tuel was probably thinking as the play unfolded. The first three stills show the play design: it's a packaged play, with a run the primary call and a route combination to the right that the quarterback can opt into if he sees a specific coverage from the defense. Still one shows that the Chiefs were in man coverage, which is almost certainly what prompted Tuel to check out of the run and focus on the proverbial pick play to the right.
Stevie Johnson was not Tuel's primary read on the play; he may only have been the third option, in fact. T.J. Graham, running under a pick from Robert Woods, was the primary option, and the player onto which Tuel locked his gaze. Kansas City had two defenders unblocked on the left side of the line, including star pass rusher Tamba Hali, meaning that even if Tuel had made it to his third read, he'd have likely taken a big hit before he could deliver the football. A quarterback that had worked with Johnson for more than a week may have recognized that one-on-one matchup pre-snap and exploited it (he'd have also had to correctly guess that Derrick Johnson was rushing the quarterback), but Tuel seems to have completely ignored it in favor of the designed play call.
Our friends over at YardsPerPass.com posted this GIF online yesterday, which shows Johnson juking Smith into a stumble that left him right in Tuel's throwing lane as he looked at Graham:
There's a chance that Smith was supposed to sit on that underneath route the way he ultimately did, but that's exceedingly unlikely, given that Derrick Johnson was sent on a blitz. As smart as Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is, leaving a Bill completely and utterly uncovered doesn't seem like it's in his wheelhouse.
The final set of stills above (4-6) show that Graham was covered up well by nickel corner Marcus Cooper. Even if Smith hadn't landed in the throwing lane, Tuel's high throw likely would've led to an incomplete pass (which, of course, was far better than the actual outcome), or perhaps something worse like a tipped ball.
We'll be moving onto the Bills' next opponent, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in very short order. Here, then, is your last golden opportunity to air your grievances about this gut-wrenching play.