Thanks to having a gig on Halloween I knew that I was going to be short on time to look at coaching tape this week, but I knew I wanted to find a way to keep looking at some tape on these weeks when that was the case so I’m trying something a little different this week for my Amateur Adventures in Film. I was at the Bengals at Rams London game last Sunday and so I decided to look at Cooper Kupp’s seven catches for two hundred and twenty yards to find out what went wrong as the dirty secret is that when you are at a game, it’s still not possible to tell exactly what is happening on the field and all I knew was that Kupp kept turning up in the middle of the field wide open.
Having gone through those catches and several of his drops the quick answer is what happened a lot of the time was the Bengals’ defence. Now, I don’t mean to diminish Kupp who is a shifty receiver who leads the team in receiving yards and touchdowns and clearly played well, but whilst there were a couple of plays where he beat coverage and another when Jared Goff made a hell of a throw deep, most of the time he was open because a combination of offensive scheme and defensive play.
Now, the communication in the Bengals’ secondary that seemed to be a problem early in the game looked to smooth out a bit later in the game, or at least there wasn’t the obvious communication between the Bengals’ secondary players, but Tony McRae who seemed to be following Kupp all game had problems all the way through. Now in fairness, a lot of the time McRae was struggling because of natural picks set up in the Rams offensive plays. You are not allowed to block a defender down field as a receiver, but one the things that makes the Rams offence tick is the bunches of receivers running routes that takes one defensive player into the other or forces the player to go round the first receiver to get to the second. In the plays that I watched from this game, Kupp was moved around the formation a lot and was also motioned pre-snap. This allowed Kupp to get away from McRae and find lots of space in the Bengals secondary. Despite McRae seeming to follow Kupp around the field, the Bengals looked to be often using zone concepts and Kupp kept finding gaps between the second level defenders and the deep safety.
The two exceptions to this in terms of big plays by Kupp were very different in execution. The first one that obviously leaped out of this game was a vicious double fake play towards the end of the second quarter that was a league wide highlight. It sill feels a little like overkill for me as the Rams were moving the ball well enough already, but to be fair the teams were level at this point and it was this game that got them the lead. It was a beautiful play as the Rams lined up with 11 personnel (one running back and one tight-end) in a singleback formation. Cooper Kupp ran a jet sweep motion across the formation from the left before the snap and took a hand-off from Goff before tossing the ball to Robert Woods running a reverse behind the formation so taking the ball back behind the line. The clever bit was that Kupp kept running and turned up the right side line so when Woods tossed the ball back to Goff, Kupp was wide open as the Bengals’ defence had reacted to the reverse with BW Webb dropping into a second high safety. Kupp catches the pass to him in space, helped by Webb turning the long way round to get back to Kupp and slipping over as tries to get back enabling Kupp to fly up the sideline and score the touchdown. Now William Jackson III came across the field from the opposite corner position and if he’d committed to the tackle straight away he might have saved the touchdown, but high speed tackles when a receiver in space is not easy and the damage had already been done before his hesitation allowed the score. In fairness, this is the second week in a row where I have seen a player involved in play-action fake end up catching the ball, and it is devastating as whilst the defence can react to the play, it is very hard to do so and keep account of the player involved in the first fake action. It was this beautiful play design that manufactures the opportunity to score, made all the more so when you can watch the all twenty-two and see how it worked out.
The other big play that I wanted to mention was a forty yard in the Rams’ final touchdown scoring drive on third and ten where the Rams had 11 personnel on the field but this time in a shotgun formation. Once again Kupp motioned across the formation to line up as the inside slot of three receivers on the left of the formation, only this time he ran a simple post that saw him followed buy McRae (although he was behind for most of the coverage) but also doubled by safety Shawn Williams and yet Goff was able to drop the ball over the pair of Bengals’ defensive backs for Kupp to make the deep catch and keep the drive alive. For all the talk of Goff’s pay this season, this was a really nice throw.
As I said, the main thing I took away from this game was the way Sean McVay used route combinations to get his receivers open, which Cooper Kupp really benefited from as well as taking advantage of the problems the Bengals had in coverage, which is not surprising given they are ranked thirtieth in the league in pass defence DVOA. It is still frustrating to see your team lose, but at least I now know what happened and the fake reverse flea flicker as I’m calling that spectacular play that yielded a sixty-five yard touchdown for Kupp was a thing of beauty.