Defensive Breakdown: What Went Wrong During OBJ’s 84-Yard TD
Under 10 seconds. Under 10 seconds to break a team’s will. Under 10 seconds to expose a team’s lack of discipline. Under 10 seconds to mathematically strike a team from the NFL playoffs.
The 82-yard touchdown from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. appeared to expose a complete lack of coverage from the Miami Dolphins. It seemed as if nobody was in Beckham’s area, or that he was single covered with a struggling player, in this case Jamar Taylor. However, we do not know that this was the case with certainty.
Without knowing the exact playcall, it is impossible to conclusively tell what occurred on the play that emotionally finished the Dolphins during Monday night’s showdown with the Giants. All we can do is watch the film and interpret the play as we will. In this article, I break down this play into stages, attempting to demonstrate what I feel went wrong as the Dolphins embarrassed themselves on national television one more time in 2015.
Please remember that there is no definitive way to say what went wrong on this play. However, based on the film, this is how I feel the Giants were able to exploit Miami’s secondary, catching them in a moment of extreme weakness.
Stage 1: Pre-Snap
To break down any play in the NFL, one must start with the formation and alignment.
The New York Giants had two outside receivers, with Dwayne Harris in the slot. Jamar Taylor and Brent Grimes were both lined up on outside receivers. This is where one element of the interpretation comes in. Nobody truly knows if they had zone coverage or if they were playing man. What we do know for sure is that Reshad Jones and Shamiel Gray each were assigned zone coverage on a side of the field.
The play sees Miami go with the nickel formation, removing a linebacker in favor of an extra defensive back.
Reshad Jones and Jamar Taylor were tasked with covering Odell Beckham Jr. on this play.
Stage 2: The Setup
At the onset of the play, coverage seems to make sense. Reshad Jones sits back deep and attempts to read the quarterback. Jamar Taylor is initially engaged closely with OBJ, as Jelani Jenkins covers the tight end on a short route.
The problem emerges when running back Rashad Jennings emerges from the backfield, seemingly as a check down option for Manning in the flat.
With Odell Beckham seemingly running an inside route, and Jennings in a position to exploit Koa Misi and gain yardage for a first down, Reshad Jones and Jamar Taylor shift their attention. They are caught (at least momentarily) looking towards the check down.
Stage 3: The Mistake
This is where the play gets very dicey for the Dolphins.
Jelani Jenkins attempts to cover the tight end underneath, but it appears that Koa Misi is struggling on Rashad Jennings. Eli Manning looks towards that side of the field, where both Jennings and OBJ are involved.
Odell Beckham Jr. appears to be running an inside route, looking and motioning as if he is planning on cutting back towards the middle of the field. This is where the play goes awry.
Jamar Taylor believes that he has safety help over the top. If Reshad Jones was playing over him, it would be possible that Taylor could make a play on Rashad Jennings, who Manning could be looking towards as a checkdown. Taylor is clearly considering a break towards Jennings at this point.
Reshad Jones should be over the top, but he sees Beckham breaking inside. He could have believed that Manning was planning on passing the ball to Beckham over the middle. If that were the case, Jones could motor down into that area and potentially come away with a huge interception, or disrupt the pass. The other case, and the one that I feel is more likely, is that Jones had the same inclination that Taylor did, and felt that he could help make a big play as Manning looked to check the pass down to Jennings. Either way, after an entire season with the defense on his shoulders, Reshad Jones once again looked to be a one-man wrecking crew.
Both Jamar Taylor and Reshad Jones are trying to do too much, and a miscommunication between the players will lead to a major issue for the Miami Dolphins.
Stage 4: It’s Over
The moment of truth for the New York Giants. Could they catch Jamar Taylor and Reshad Jones off guard and get Odell Beckham Jr. open downfield?
The answer was yes. The play worked even better than they could have ever hoped it would have.
Jamar Taylor and Reshad Jones got caught with a hand in the cookie jar. They both wanted to make the big play, attempting to stop Rashad Jennings, hesitating in coverage. Taylor thought Reshad Jones was over the top in coverage, and Reshad Jones thought Jamar Taylor was covering OBJ.
The problem was exacerbated by both players falling for the fake from Odell Beckham Jr. as he cut up field for a deep play up the middle. Beckham was left uncovered.
Jones and Taylor both immediately realized their mistakes. Taylor noticed Beckham cutting up field, as Reshad Jones attempted to readjust to find Beckham.
It was too little, far too late.
Stage 5: Failure
The Dolphins’ defense failed on this play. Reshad Jones and Jamar Taylor allowed Odell Beckham Jr. one of the easiest touchdowns of his career. All he had to do was run.
The Giants’ plan was complete, as you see Rashad Jennings throw his hand up in the air in victory. He knew that Jones and Taylor fell for his decoy act, allowing Beckham to get free.
This sums up the Miami Dolphins’ defense throughout 2015. Undisciplined, poor communication, and a lack of preparation.
The team allowed a huge touchdown when they could least afford to do so, providing the Giants with the emotional lift they needed to finish the game strong, as the Dolphins’ hopes were deflated.
This moment was all too familiar for Dolphins fans, bringing back memories of the Tom Brady to Wes Welker 99-yard touchdown on Monday Night Football just a few seasons ago. The emotional blow dealt during that play was once again cast over Sun Life Stadium.
The Miami Dolphins know the feeling all too well. The New York Giants outplayed them late, and were able to put the game away by exploiting the defense in the fourth quarter. They sealed the 31-24 loss, as another primetime embarrassment for a team whose season really was summed up by the 84-yard backbreaking touchdown from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr.
One play. 10 seconds. And the end of a season.