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All-22 Analysis: The Interception

Some plays don’t need a whole lot of introduction

There’s been one play on a permanent loop from the Buffalo Bills’ victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. And yet, if anything, the importance has been mostly understated. Most of the repetition amounts to basking in the sheer awesomeness of the The Interception. Don’t get me wrong, that’s perfectly appropriate. Bask away. While you’re doing that, let’s get into the minutiae to bask at a deeper level.


The whole deal

First things first, here’s the entire play. Use this as a reference point for later GIFs. You’ll notice this one is off a bit graphically. When you have an entire passing play, followed by a 101-yard run-back for a pick-six it’s a lot longer than your normal play. So much so that I had to use a different compression setting to get it all in one shot in a file small enough to share here. Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty!

Lamar Jackson and the pass

This GIF is here for a real simple reason. From the evidence available, Lamar Jackson is pretty well locked in to one section of the field and one section only. Please don’t construe this as a fatal flaw that I’m saying exists for Jackson. I’m only talking about this one play. Without the benefit of the play call it’s also hard to know if this is intended or not. Another consideration is did he have other realistic options elsewhere?

Not really. The four circled ones are the “other options.” The “X” is the throw that actually occurred to Mark Andrews. Jackson’s running back is in to block as noted. The option marked as “Nope” might work if it was heading to the corner. It curls back in and there’s next to zero chance this will be completed. The one marked “Uh uh” has Taron Johnson underneath in the passing lane and help in the back to crash down and break it up. The option marked “Doubt it” is very similar.

Lamar Jackson has a big target one-on-one with Tremaine Edmunds. Andrews sells the look to the right and quickly cuts back to the left. If Taron Johnson isn’t there this is a touchdown. So...

Taron Johnson and the interception

The Ravens didn’t use any pre-snap motion on this play, which might have given additional clues on how Buffalo planned to play this. Taron Johnson could be in either man or zone coverage based on how he lines up. As he allows “his” man to run by it’s clear he’s in zone, but this play develops so fast adjustments would not have been easy. Johnson is reading Jackson the entire time and has his hips oriented to break either direction. Effectively he’s in BOTH passing lanes. Jackson likely thinks he’ll shadow his original receiver rather than hover in essentially the perfect spot.

If you were like me, for about a second you really wished Johnson would have downed the ball to get the touchback. Let’s take a look at what he saw.

The vast expanse of field in front of Taron Johnson is pretty absurd actually. The skill positions on his side of the field are the closest, but only Mark Andrews has any shot to make a play. Matt Milano is there to block nearly instantaneously. From there it’s a safe bet Johnson will get to at least the 20. And as Matt Warren discussed earlier, the sprint and block from Tre’Davious White seals the score.

Let’s focus in on those last two things to wrap this up. Here’s Milano.

And here’s Tre’Davious White.

The Bills played this snap to near perfection. One of the minor hiccups, Mark Andrews gaining separation from Tremaine Edmunds, tipped it even further in Buffalo’s favor. The temptation to throw to what looked like an open target in a sea of covered ones put the ball in the air. The Bills took care of the rest.