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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Tags: Chris Clemons Miami Dolphins Mike Goodson

  • Mark Loiselle

    I could hear John Madden while reading this.

  • txmedic5

    Wow that was so not very nice….LOL.

  • Chris

    Dansby’s angle was equally bad.

  • Martin

    The corner you keep referring to is Reshad Jones (#20), our second safety.

    I agree that Clemons’ failed, but Reshad Jones is a safety too.

    As the safety on the left side, it was Jones’ job to either tackle the
    running back (ideally) or force him to cut back to the inside (where his
    teammates and fellow safety could bring him down). I actually think
    Clemons took the route he took under the assumption Reshad would hang to
    the outside, forcing the running back inside.

    Instead, Reshad was either blocked to the inside by the wide receiver
    or tried to shed the block by moving inside. In either case, he failed
    to force the running back to cut to the inside, and because Clemons in
    effect blocked by the WR blocking Jones, Clemons couldn’t make a play.

    On this play, Jones didn’t do a good job.
    Also, Dansby was equally guilty of taking a terrible angle – he horribly underestimated the running back’s speed.

    • txmedic5

      Sorry Martin, while I couldn’t tell from the video (grainy) who was the guy with Bey If you pull up the entire video of the score on you will see that Clemons committed to that spot immediately. He NEVER should have been taken underneath that block by Bey. Had he held back about 2 yards, he could have forced Goodson to slow up to make a decision or would have had enough time to react to Goodson staying straight or turning in.

  • Alan Bigham

    The outside defender, Jones has to maintain outside leverage and force that play inside. It’s not all on Clemons as he should never have had to run over OR under that block as the run should have been contained.

    How many times do you see a DB spun around by not meeting the ball carrier and running around or away from a block? That’s effectively what would’ve happened if Clemons came over the top to the sideline.

    • txmedic5

      Actually, that is philosophically wrong when you are on the sideline. You force the play outside on a down-field stretch. The sideline is your friend here. I understand that Jones didn’t get off his block but the safety player on this play is Clemons (safety meaning the last defender) and his route stops that TD. He didn’t do it.

      A lot went wrong on this play, but it could have been stopped around the 50 with a very basic angle. Which is the point that I was making with the article. The TD in and of itself is not Clemons’ fault, but his angle could have prevented it and didn’t.

  • IMAWriterRobJ

    This is perhaps OT, but if we allowed Jones to blitz the QB occasionally, some of these plays would never develop. Jones does this well. Our passive defense leaves the rest of the secondary constantly vulnerable