Football is an intricate dance, one in which 22 players complete elaborate and discrete tasks. It is beautiful, it is complicated, and we are here to break down a crucial play in order to teach you something about how the game works. Take out your utensils, tuck your napkin into your shirt, and pop two digestive enzymes: It’s time to eat some tape.
For this week’s feast, we travel to Indianapolis, where the Colts wilted late against the Ravens and lost, 24-10. The most pivotal play of the game came in the first quarter, with Indy’s offense driving it into Baltimore territory and threatening to build a two-touchdown lead, until Ravens defenders Marcus Peters and Chuck Clark collaborated on a fumble return for a TD. This play deserves a more careful analysis. While Clark took it to the end zone, our breakdown will focus on Colts quarterback Philip Rivers. See if you can pick up on the tactics he applied in the following play:
Bravo, sir. Let’s break it down.
At this point, Rivers is the only man in front of Clark. Mo Alie-Cox trails Clark, and if the Colts are going to keep the Ravens off the board, the tight end and his quarterback must set a trap. As the red hexagon indicates, Rivers is cutting off Clark’s angle of attack, theoretically presenting the safety with the choice to zoom down the sideline or cut back into Alie-Cox.
Alie-Cox is not a defensive player accustomed to tackling, so he errs by diving rather than coordinating with his teammate. Rivers, a seasoned vet, pulls out a largely forgotten yet brilliant tactic of brinkmanship: the Tidepooler’s Folly. Watch as the QB gets horizontal and seeks to cover the most ground possible as quickly as he can:
Let’s get a new angle on what happens next. Rivers has done his job and forced an engagement. Clark might rather try to avoid the QB, but Rivers has thrown a gambit. The Tidepooler’s Folly takes the epistemological precept that tackling is best done from an upright position and flips it on its head—or rather, its butt. Look here at Rivers’s limbs, ready to spring the trap. He hits all the checks: His supine body covers ample ground, his head is up to read Clark’s posture, and his ass is the only thing touching the turf. Will he make the play?
He will not. A cheeky dodge by Clark, to be sure. “I saw the move that I wanted to do, but then I saw him fall,” the Ravens safety said after the game. “So, I was like, ‘Alright. I’m just going to jump over him and keep going.'”
Rivers knows he’s lost the one-on-one, but he doesn’t give up on adding value to the play. The QB maintains starfish posture just in case he can slow down an incoming would-be blocker. The man never quits!
For Rivers, it’s a lesson learned. I hope you enjoyed your meal. Time to do the dishes.