While writing this week’s Film Room column over at FootballOutsiders, I was unable to include one play. Therefore, I’m going to break it down here.
The idea this week on FO was to look at the Kansas City Chiefs and how they have become a 5-0 team. With a dominant defense and a well-designed offense, the Chiefs were only truly lacking a top-tier quarterback. Alex Smith is serviceable but limited. Smith’s limitations are obvious to anyone who watches the tape on him, but sometimes the best way to point something out is to show the complete opposite of that point.
Fortunately, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck had made unbelievable throws on Sunday that showed off their seemingly endless talent. I felt I had got the point across by detailing Tannehill and Wilson’s throws, so I decided against detailing Lucks.
However, because that throw is so special, I think it’s still worth seeing.
The Colts come out with two receivers to the right, one is a tight end, and one receiver to the left. The ball is on the 27 yard line of the Colts and the play will ultimately result in a touchdown to T.Y. Hilton, who is lined up to the bottom of the screen with Richard Sherman across from him.
After the snap, Luck fakes the ball to Trent Richardson in the backfield. This draws the attention of Sherman whose eyes are in the backfield as Hilton runs passed him. The Seahawks are playing zone coverage and rushing four defenders. Sherman is responsible for the deep third to his side of the field, while Earl Thomas is playing center field with Brandon Browner on the other side.
Sherman’s initial infatuation with what is happening in the backfield allows Hilton to get by him, but he is also reluctant to fully commit to recovering that ground as he allows himself to be distracted by Coby Fleener running an out route. By the time Sherman accelerates back down the sideline, Hilton is already clear of him. Because of the route Hilton is running, Earl Thomas also has no chance of getting to him before a well-thrown pass.
Luck is a phenomenal quarterback, but this is still a very difficult throw. Throwing deep down the sideline isn’t easy and even though Hilton has a window, that window will quickly close because Sherman and Thomas are phenomenal athletes. This ball needs to be thrown on time, with perfect precision and velocity. Most quarterbacks won’t make this throw very often.
None will make it the way Luck does.
Luck completes this pass despite having a defender in his face. He can’t fully step into his throw, yet the ball still arrives in good time after travelling more than 48 yards in the air. Most quarterbacks wouldn’t throw with the high release point that Luck does to avoid the pass rush and I’m not sure there is another one outside of maybe Aaron Rodgers who would still have the control of the football to put it in a spot where Hilton can make the catch, evade Thomas and run in for a touchdown.
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