Examining the Defense on Groot's INT


(Dope AF picture unrelated)

Defensive Dominance

There's no debating it anymore, so far this season the Bills defense has been dominant and part of that has been the turnovers. So I figured why not take a look at the defense on Groot's INT and really examine how the defense as a whole played it. McDermott and Frazier have had great game plans for each opponent we've faced and with everyone executing their role it's allowing players to make plays. This play really highlights how well they are working as a unit and why even if Groot doesn't make a play KC likely only gains 1 or 2 yards.


So the play is run out of a RPO. After watching this play from multiple angles I'm not sure if Mahomes ever considered the R (run) as option after his pre-snap read or if the play design is just a delayed WR screen with the dressing of a RPO. I lean towards the latter because Mahomes doesn't appear to read anyone on defense post snap. Yes Edmunds takes a step forward but Mahomes is a great QB. That wouldn't signal to someone of his caliber the LB bit on run. It could be based on his pre-snap read he just said F the R and lets throw it. If that's the case that's a L on his part. I can't tell but who cares.

So how is this play supposed to run?


The RPO, specifically the passing option is to throw a delayed wr screen to Hardman. I have to say this upfront, I've seen these before but never in a RPO. I don't think it's a good play to run out of a RPO as you'll only have the slot receiver as a blocker. Normally you'd have some linemen pulling as well. We're in Cover-2 so in theory the defense knows it's vulnerable against the run. In theory...

So you're REALLY counting on deception, selling the run (which lawl KC backs weren't threatening), and Hill to help making this work. Hill is a threat wherever he's lined up so thinking he will probably get additional attention from the safety make sense. If you don't sell the run and Hill doesn't draw an additional defender it's going to go very poorly for Hardman.

Hill in the slot, Hardman at the bottom, and Kelce motioning to the other side of the line. Hill is going to run a slant inside and then in theory he should turn to block the slot corner to help clear the alley for Hardman. I imagine they probably draw it up to have the safety come down to help on Hill when the LB, Edmunds, vacates his area to attack the run. With Hill drawing attention from the safety and blocking the slot defender there should be a lane for Hardman. You'd expect Hardman to win a foot race with pretty much every corner.

Why not run outside? He's going to catch the ball between the numbers and sideline so he won't have as much space to work outside with. Maybe 6 yards? Catching it between the numbers and sidelines increase the amount of green inside for him to run. In theory if everything pans out how you draw it up well it's a great play call. In practice? Yikes.

Doomed by Design or Failure to Read?

Like I said before, I'm not sure if this is a delayed screen dressed up in the RPO or Mahomes never bothers reading post snap for the RPO. Why it could've been the latter: Mahomes' pre-snap read of the defensive formation shows him we're in Cover 2. What he sees with regards to Wallace is exactly what he wants to see if he wants to pass. Why? Hardman is lined up at our 9 yard line and Wallace is at the 1 and a half yard line. Which means there are 7ish yards between the 2 of them. There's a large cushion giving Hardman enough time to catch the ball, turn and run under normal circumstances.

These are not normal circumstances though. KC is at the 8 yard line! The textbook would tell you Cover-2 is vulnerable against the run and in the passing game the middle and boundaries are vulnerable. So if the defense respects the run you have a good shot at getting defenders to move out of position. Lets just get this out of the way: KC's RBs had a horrible day running the ball against our 2 high safety formations. The run was never a threat from them. This is where theory breaks down in practice. It's like in theory a WR1 can catch the ball. Then in practice you trot out a mentally checked out Kelvin Benjamin and well you get pissed.


Post snap, Edmunds only takes a step forward and is looking in the backfield. Klein didn't even move >_<

Some situational awareness should've informed the Chiefs coaching staff our LBs weren't going to bite. This play really needs Edmunds to come down hard and he doesn't. Again the way the game had been going, why would he?

Look at where Hyde and Poyer are. Pre and post snap, Hyde is lined up at the 'C' and Poyer is on the 'S' of "CHIEFS" in the end zone. I know the angle makes it hard to tell but Poyer is in the green between 'F' and at the start of the 'S'. I think it was Kelce that said "the middle is open" when he was motioning over. The safeties are kind of wide. Also, the field is super condensed here. It's only 19 yards vertically! So the depth defenders need to drop back is really shallow compared to say if they were on the Bills 40 yard line. Defenders don't have a lot of ground to defend here. So the Chiefs really need to move our guys around and well...


The ball was snapped at 2:58 and notice the time in the above screen shot. It's 2:57. So 1 second has passed. The run fake is over and now Mahomes is getting ready to throw the screen to Hardman. Notice where the defenders are and where they are looking. White and Wallace are watching their guys. Wallace is back at the 1 yard line now while Hardman is near the 7. Edmunds, Johnson, and Poyer are all looking in the backfield. Even Groot is playing a game of peak-a-boo and looking back there (super important).


Now that Mahomes is winding up to throw to Hardman, where's Wallace looking? At Hardman still. Defensively you want Wallace to force the receiver back inside to where the help is. Wait aren't the Chiefs trying to run it inside? Yes. Again, a weird play call that did not match up well with the flow of the game or what we were doing pre & post snap.

Edmunds started on the 3 yard line, took a step and a hop forward to about the 5 yard line, reads pass and reacts in a second. He's now shifting toward the sideline and isn't aware Hill is running towards him. Johnson started at the 6, is back to the 4, and has only moved vertically. Chiefs haven't gotten the post snap movement from the defense they wanted.

Notice Poyer doesn't get sucked down inside, he doesn't have to because Edmunds is more or less still in the same place. Hill is starting to run his inside slant move but Poyer stays put giving himself a clear shot to fill the open space between Johnson and Wallace.


The ball is now in flight. Groot is putting up his tree trunks for arms and Edmunds is now moving inside. You'll notice Poyer is starting to move up to fill the open space. Johnson is staying put as well. Look at White at the top. He's still watching his man and notice the difference between the 2 outside receivers. You can't see Wallace here but odds are he isn't standing still and he's definitely not back pedaling. He was watching Hardman the entire time and given how Hardman is turning back you would expect Wallace to be breaking towards Hardman here.

You can't see the time but it's still 2:57. You've spent how many minutes reading and only 1 second in real time has gone by in the game!


The ball is about to hit Groot in his hand here. Edmunds now sees Hill, Poyer is looking at Hardman and starting to come down. Wallace is still off screen and we should conclude by now he's pulled a Vontae Davis and quit mid game.


Groot batted the ball up into the air but look at the defenders behind him. Edmunds, Johnson, Poyer are all looking at and moving towards Hardman. Wallace is actually looking at the ball and if you watch the play in real time he starts towards Hardman but quickly sees the ball get batted up. He stumbles as he adjusts to where he's going to run to. It's likely he would've come down hard on Hardman had the ball not been batted up.

From the top of the numbers to the sideline it's 12 yards. Hardman is about halfway between the two. If you look at the top, White and the receiver are a decent proxy for how much space is there between the player and sideline. Remember the Chiefs spread the field horizontally to give Hardman more space to work inside. What do you see inside? Poyer and Johnson. Since Poyer is coming down towards Hardman and Johnson is looking to move his way as well, the green space with the frowny face is no bueno for Hardman.

In a world where trees don't play football, Hardman would likely turn up field after the catch and do 1 of three things.

  1. He immediately goes inside and gets gang tackled for 1 or 2 yards
  2. He immediately turns outside and is pushed out of bounds for 1 or 2 yards
  3. He dances around and gets gang tackled for no gain
I don't include "he makes a defender miss and runs it in for a TD" because the literal second delay between catching the ball / turning up field and forcing Wallace to miss likely has Poyer and Johnson cleaning things up. Given the flow of the game, how we had stopped the run while predominantly in Cover-2, and the defense making a lot of tackles underneath I don't get why they called this. There have to be better plays in the playbook to run for the Chiefs in the red zone. Defense played great but the play call / execution did the Chiefs no favors.


That he did so lets look at it! Post snap you see Rousseau is looking in the backfield.


The fake hand off was pretty bad. You can't see it from this angle but at this point Mahomes is actually pulling the ball back while the back is still crocodile arming it to "take" the handoff. Not great execution honestly. There is a clear lane for Edmunds (off screen) to see it.


This is getting long so I spliced 2 pictures together. The players in gray are where they will be in the future. I know it's the reverse of what I did above with Edmunds. Whatever, I'm not redoing the pictures so deal with the inconsistency.

In normal color, you can see Rousseau still looking at Mahomes. At this point, 1 second has passed, and it's clear Mahomes is going to throw. Hill is already starting his inside slant and by the time Mahomes is coming forward with his pass (in gray) Rousseau has slide into the passing lane.

The gray dome at the bottom is Hardman's helmet. I drew in the rest of him (not to scale) for reference. The angle of the camera also makes the straight lines I put in look exaggerated in length. He's a little more than a yard behind the grayed out Hill but from this angle he looks much further back. Go reference the picture where I wrote the "ball is now in flight." This is a fraction of a second before that.


I'm sick of how long this post is so I spliced more pictures together. In the first you get a good angle of what Mahomes / Hardman were seeing. In the left most picture the ball is traveling toward Rousseau to the left of Mahomes' shoulder pad and up. It kind of blends into the blue jumpsuit in the background. There is definitely a tight window there.

In the second one Groot's hand is making first contact with what will be a career first INT. It's hard to tell from the above but the ball moved up in the second picture. Tthe ball is more directly over Mahomes' shoulder pad instead of outside of it in the first.

The last picture is the first 2 spliced together. Rousseau occupies a lot of space with his massive frame and layering them over each other highlights that. You get a real sense of how much space he can fill up in a split second in the last one. Body shifted out more, arm fully stretched out, and what was a tight window is now closed. Notice how the left toe is essentially in the same spot. It's not a angle thing, he's a wide boi, and I'm here for it.

Rousseau comes down with the pick at 2:56. The ball was snapped at 2:58 and Groot's paw knocks it up in the air at 2:57. All of this occurs in the span of 2 seconds. Edmunds and Rousseau reading pass and reacting in a single second. Poyer, Johnson, and Wallace reacting to Mahomes' pass in less than a second. Yet from the above you can see a lot happened in a little time. The defense as a whole played very disciplined and made the right reads. Even watching it in real time you can see a lot is taking place in that 1 second window. Incredible play by Groot and the defense as a whole. Players executing their responsibilities correctly and working as a cohesive unit? YOU LOVE TO SEE IT.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of