Thursday, September 20, 2012

Inside the Play: Heath Miller Touchdown

For this week's video breakdown post, I decided to take a look at the Heath Miller touchdown, which was the go-ahead score in the game. The Steelers had driven down the field at the end of the second quarter and just converted a 3rd down to put them at the 1 yard line. They came out in a jumbo package with 3 tight ends (Miller, Leonard Pope and David Paulson), a full back (Will Johnson) and Isaac Redman in the backfield.

Before we start, let's take a look at this formation. It just screams "run". There is a tight end on either side of the line and an unbalanced I in the backfield (Will Johnson has his right foot on the hash mark while Redman is standing directly behind Ben). If you look at Ben closely, you'll notice two things that also scream "run" - his feet are not parallel but staggered, which causes his hips and shoulders to be "open" and not parallel to the line. For all intents and purposes, Ben's body language says he is going to take the snap, turn to his left, and hand the ball off to Redman, who is going to follow his lead back (who is already positioned on the left side of the backfield).

Taking a look at the wider angle, David Paulson comes in motion from the top of the screen down to the end of the line before the snap. The two key players are Heath Miller (circled in yellow) and Jets LB David Harris (circled in white).

At the snap, it still looks like a running play. Heath engages the defensive end at the line of scrimmage and the rest of the line gets a hat on a hat. Will Johnson looks squared up to go after the edge rusher, leaving Redman one-on-one with Harris, who should fill the hole. The problem for the Jets is, this isn't a running play. Harris reads and reacts quickly, charging forward towards the hole that he sees opening in front of him.

In the next instant, things change. Heath releases from his block and Ben pulls the ball away from where Redman would take it. Harris reacts to this by planting his left foot in the ground in an attempt to make a cut to cover Heath. For a perspective on just how fast this happens, you'll note that the game clock and play clock read the same in this shot as they did in the previous screenshot. It takes less than a second for this play to go from a run look to a pass look.

At this point, Heath has the clear advantage. He has broken free from the defensive lineman and has a wide open path to the corner of the end zone. Harris is still coming out of his cut while Heath is already running at speed. If you watch the video (linked below), you'll note that Harris takes a full three steps coming forward before he has to stop all of his forward momentum and make a cut to try to follow Heath out into the flat. This is enough time for Heath to gain the advantage.

Less than a second after he released from the lineman, Heath is clearly open with Harris desperately trailing him. Ben sees it and squares his body up to throw. Ben lofts a perfect ball towards the sidelines where only Heath can make the catch. Touchdown.

You can find the whole video on and watch for yourself.

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