Raiders’ defensive scheme on game-winning touchdown pass deserves scrutiny

Las Vegas Raiders v Los Angeles Rams
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Sandwiched around three straight Las Vegas wins, the Raiders lost to Jeff Saturday five days after he arrived in Indianapolis and to Baker Mayfield two days after he landed in L.A. It’s as embarrassing and confounding as it gets.

Compounding the embarrassment is the way it happened last night. The game-winning touchdown pass from Rams quarterback Baker Mayfield to receiver Van Jefferson came against a defense that seemed less than ideal for the circumstances.

The Rams had the ball on the Raiders’ 23 yard line, with 14 seconds to play and no timeouts. The Raiders needed to primarily defend the end zone, and secondarily the sideline.

They didn’t. They played man-to-man, press coverage, daring one of the receivers on the outside to get open — and daring Mayfield to make the throw.

He did, with Jefferson getting just enough daylight to grab the ball as it fell into his hands.

“Seeing the coverage and I was truly shocked they pressed him up for 15 seconds left knowing that we didn’t have any timeouts left,” Mayfield told reporters after the game. “He did a great job winning off the line of scrimmage and going and making a play. That was just a — put it up for him to make a play.”

Jefferson was the first, and only, read for Mayfield. He saw the coverage, he knew Jefferson would have a chance, and the quarterback went for it.

Look at the Next Gen Stats illustration of the play. The Rams had four of eleven players protecting the middle of the field. But with any play that ended in bounds and short of the goal line, it would have been nearly impossible to get the players to the line of scrimmage, snap the ball, and spike it.

Also, safety Tre’Von Moehrig was wasted on the play, roving the middle of the end zone when no one was running into that area of the field. As a result, he couldn’t get over to help cornerback Sam Webb.

And safety Duron Harmon bit to the inside, covering receiver Tutu Atwell and ignoring Jefferson.

Although coach Josh McDaniels is an offensive expert, it’s on him to be sure that, in key moments, the defense is using the right approach. Press coverage with so many bodies wasted in the middle of the field was not the right approach — and it allowed the Rams to complete an amazing come-from-behind victory.

8 responses to “Raiders’ defensive scheme on game-winning touchdown pass deserves scrutiny

  1. This year defense has been extra terrible this year. Either give up a lot of points early putting the offense in a huge hole. Or giving up a good sized lead late. Yet Carr gets most of the blame.

  2. Not sure what the safety was doing on that play as Baker stared down his target. Bad scheme and worse execution.

  3. A lot about the raiders deserves scrutiny. It’s spanned too many coaches, too many GMs to be bad coverage on one play.

  4. These things always fascinate me. Like when DBs are 7+ yards off the receivers in short yardage and sometimes you’ll even see that down by the goal line where the DB is line up several steps into the endzone. They’re clearly doing what they’re told but the defensive call is just totally wrong for the situation.

  5. We’ve seen Tom Brady do what Baker Mayfield did 100 times. Brady has made unbelievable drives where he just makes several perfect passes. Passes that are put in a perfect spot, despite good coverage. That’s what Tom Brady has always done. Baker Mayfield did it last night. He made several unbelievable throws that fell into very tight spots, and the coverage was good. There’s no defense against the perfect pass. When Brady does it, it’s just Brady being great. We don’t have to second guess what the defense was doing to stop him. It was just Brady being Brady. But when Mayfield does what Brady does, we have to blame the defense? I can’t do that. What I saw was an amazing five minutes of football from a non-elite QB. It happens. Mayfield might throw four interceptions his next start, and never play that well again. But last night, Mayfield was as good as Brady has ever been for about five minutes. I mean, every time someone completes a pass, you can blame the defensive coach. What I saw with my eyes last night was just an amazing five minutes of football from a QB who’s been down on his luck and criticized like none other. When you criticize a player the way many have criticized Mayfield, you tend to blame someone else, rather than eat your words. I think that’s what’s going on here. It’s ok. It’s human nature. I’ve criticized Mayfield a ton. He’s still a mediocre QB. But for five minutes, he got to feel like Tom Brady. Deal with it.

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