Play Breakdown: Dolphins' Clemons Fails Fundamental Task

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It’s a fundamental practice in football.  It’s taught at the earliest levels of play.  Drills are designed to teach it.  On Sunday, had Chris Clemons remembered it, the Miami Dolphins would likely have kept the Raiders out of the endzone and posted only a 3 point giveaway.  It’s called the “angle”.  When taken properly, a player on one side of the field can run down a player on the opposite side of the field.

Here is an image breakdown of why Chris Clemons and NOT the corner-back was more responsible for Mike Goodson‘s TD catch and run.

First we need to look at what angles are supposed to be.

The concept is simple and the implementation is just as easy to put into practice.  Illustrated in the image below the gray line represents the run by Goodson.  There are two branches off that line in which Goodson could have chosen to run based on the pursuit of Clemons.  The X and the Y represent the down-field WR blocking the CB.  Chris Clemons is represented by the circle. His route to the ball carrier is highlighted in red while the angle he should have taken is in blue.

 

Angles of pursuit are all about anticipation.  In the above “crude” drawing, the angle that Clemons chose to take would have worked well had Goodson chose to cut back into the middle of the field however from Clemons’ position on the field, he should have seen that option would not have been a likely choice and still would have had time to react had Goodson cut under the block.  Instead, Goodson continued his pat up-field and Clemons was out of position to make the tackle.  If he would have chosen the other path, Goodson would have either been tackled by Clemons or pushed out of bounds.

Here is a look at captured images from the actual play.

 

In the above image, we see Clemons indicated by the ‘red arrow’ and to his right is a blue diamond that represents another Dolphins defender coming up-field at a crossing angle.  Clemons started this play from center-field and by the time this image was shown had already taken the wrong route as I will illustrate over the next few images.  The red line indicates the vision of Clemons who is locked on the runner but his angle is wrong.  Had he cut towards the Dolphins 40 yard line (the green line) he would have been in position to make the tackle.

 

What we see in our next frame is that Clemons has over committed to the angle and is now realizing that it’s too late.  He can’t turn down-field towards his own endzone because he is stuck behind the block of Heyward-Bey on the Dolphins corner.  Goodson’s field of vision is now directly on that block.  Some will say that had the corner got off the block he would have forced Goodson to the inside and then into Clemons.  However, Clemons still has over-committed his angle and thus would likely have had to plant and turn.  In the next image you will see the other defender that is off screen of this one.

 

Now we see the full spectrum of Clemons’ error.  In the blue diamond we see the defender that has been off screen previously.  He made the right angle of pursuit and took away the cut back into the middle of the field.  As evidenced by the two yellow vision lines, Goodson is looking at the block by Heyward-Bey and the middle angle cut off by the other Dolphins defender.  His only choice at this point is to continue straight up field.  Without safety pursuit, he only has to get past the fifty yardline and he is home free.  The block on the Dolphins corner was executed perfectly but Clemons created a pile up by taking the inside angle instead of the right one.

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