This is the tale of two Hail Mary passes, those last gasp attempts at winning football games, and how two defensive coaches who knew they were coming, decided to approach the problem of covering them.
Patrick Graham of the Giants is a hero today. Gregg Williams of the Jets is looking for a new job.
Playing on the road, the Giants were five points ahead of the Seattle Seahawks with time evaporating. Facing a fourth-and-18, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson took the snap from center and dropped back, pursued by three Giant defenders. The rest of the Giants were dropping back in the secondary which, after all, was where Wilson’s Hail Mary was headed.
When the pass, intended for DK Metcalf, arrived in the end zone, the Seahawks’ receiver was surrounded by four New York defenders. The pass was batted away. The Hail Mary was a Fail Mary and the Giants had secured the victory.
Thank you, Patrick Graham.
On the other end of the country, the hapless Jets, winless for 11 games, were threatening to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders. They had staged a stirring fourth quarter rally, erasing an 11-point deficit to take a 28-24 lead. With five seconds left in the game and the Raiders at the Jets’ 46-yard line, everybody in the building knew Derek Carr would hurl a last chance Hail Mary.
The defensive call was “Zero Cover,’’ which translates to a blitz on the quarterback and that translated to leaving the Jets’ rookie-laden secondary with no help, on its own. Carr was delighted to see that and so was speedy Henry Ruggs III, whose 4.27 40-yard dash in the NFL Combine made him a first-round draft choice. Lined up against rookie cornerback Lamar Jackson, an undrafted free agent, Ruggs made one move and then sped past Jackson and caught Carr’s pass in full stride for the game-winning touchdown.
Thank you, Gregg Williams.
How good was Graham’s defensive call? Perfect. It dared Wilson to threat the needle between a multitude of Giant defenders and he was unable to do it.
How bad was Williams’ defensive call? The Jets players were stunned by it because It meant Jackson would be by himself, sort of on a football island, with little chance against Ruggs’ speed. The excuse was that Williams has a reputation as an aggressive coach and he wanted to rattle Carr. Instead, it was Jackson who got rattled as the Jets snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Football philosophy says there are three things that can happen when you throw a pass and two of them – incompletion or interception – are bad.
Gregg Williams learned about another one. He got fired.
Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire