Play Breakdown: Dolphins' Clemons Fails Fundamental Task

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At this point Goodson is gone and Clemons (red arrow) is stuck behind the broken block of the WR on the CB.  The CB in blue has broken free with his spin but unfortunately he loses his balance and falls further keeping Clemons out of the play.  It wouldn’t have mattered anyways because at this point all of the Dolphins defenders are behind Goodson in pursuit.

 

As Goodson breaks away from the defense his field of vision turns to the middle of the field.  He is at the 45 yard line of the Dolphins and there is no players in front of him.  The closest defender is Karlos Dansby who is north of Clemons in this image and the off camera defender to the right of this image who is pursuing from behind now.  Had Clemons taken the proper route, the off camera defender would have shored up the gap where Clemons angled and Clemons would have had the over the top angle to push Goodson out of bounds.

To put the finishing point on this play, we go back to the start of the play.  Clemons is at the Raiders 48 yard line evidenced by the starburst on the field to his right.  At the plays start, he does what all safeties are taught to do, he back-peddles off camera to around the 45 of the Dolphins before making his move up-field as Goodson gets the ball on the swing/screen pass.  Unfortunately his point of contact based on his pursuit would have been five yards up-field at the 50.  We saw in the early image that he was there early as Goodson made his turn and was already stuck in the traffic of the blocking WR.  Had he slit across the field for a better angle, he would have met Goodson to the Dolphins side of that block and likely would have hit him out of bounds at the Dolphins 46 yard line.

 

The illustration show the importance of pursuit angles in football.  At any level.  While the closest distance between two points is a straight line, when two moving objects of varying speed approach each other, the distance is cut in half.  In this case, Clemons decision to take a straight angle to the ball carrier cost the team a long touchdown.  The decision of pursuit is one that is made in milliseconds and the time from Goodson’s up-field turn to the 50 yard line is about 2.5 seconds if that.  Still, the fundamental teaching of pursuit should be second nature at this level of play.

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