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Anatomy of an Interception: Kerry Rhodes Comes up Clutch in Overtime

by Photo of Taylor Armosino

The breakdown behind the decisive play in Sunday’s Dolphins-Cardinals thriller.

Anatomy of an Interception: Kerry Rhodes Comes up Clutch in Overtime

In this article…

Sunday's matchup between the 1-2 Dolphins and the 3-0 Cardinals wasn't expected to be much of a contest. The rebuilding Dolphins had struggled through the first three weeks of the season while the undefeated Cardinals emerged as the season's early surprise. However, Miami played extremely well and this became one of the best games of the weekend. Behind 431 passing yards from rookie signal caller Ryan Tannehill, Miami's offense was able to find success against the hard-hitting Cardinals defense. Receiver Brian Hartline was unstoppable, catching 12 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown. Miami jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead, but Arizona was able to claw its way back into the game and force overtime. Tied 21-21, Arizona's offense sputtered on the opening drive of the overtime period. However on the next possession, the Cardinals were able to come up with the defining defensive play of the game.

Here is video of the play:

Lets break it down:

On third down with 6 yards to go, Tannehill and the Dolphins came out in the shotgun with three receivers and a tight end. Miami has the three receivers running streaks down the field while the tight end runs an "in" route. Hartline is highlighted in red and that is where Tannehill is trying to go with the ball. 

In the secondary, Arizona is playing man coverage across the board with a high safety in the middle of the field. Safety Kerry Rhodes is highlighted in red, as he is the man who is going to intercept Tannehill's pass on this play. The reason Arizona is successful on this play is because they run a great blitz up the middle. 

This is the Cardinals blitz scheme. The key players in this blitz are highlighted in red, number 94 Sam Acho and linebacker Paris Lenon. Acho runs a stunt and attacks the 'A' gap inbetween the left guard and the center. In doing so, he hopes to take up both the guard and the center and allow Lenon to run free to the quarterback. 

Acho does his job and draws a double team. Adrian Wilson, number 24, draws the attention of the halfback. 

Acho and Wilson both draw blockers away from Lenon, who has a clear path to Tannehill. As you saw in the video, Lenon hits Tannehill and greatly impacts the pass.

Tannehill wants to go down the sideline to Hartline on the play. If you observe his eyes and the way he opens up his feet and his arm, you can see that he is looking to get the ball down the field. However, the Cardinals time the blitz perfectly. Lenon hits Tannehill as he throws the ball and as a result the pass is a fluttering duck. Safety Kerry Rhodes has his eyes on the quarterback and prepares to move in and intercept the pass. 

Tannehill's pass, circled in yellow, floats right in-between the tight end and the receiver. Because he was looking into the backfield, Rhodes is able to move quickly and intercept the pass. Rhodes does an excellent job of keeping his initial depth, but then changing direction quickly enough to move in and make a play on the ball. He intercepts the rookie quarterback and returns the ball back to the 47 yard line.

Arizona took possession and went down the field to win the game. A Kevin Kolb third down completion and a few Ryan Williams runs set Jay Feely up for a 46 yard field goal. It was a heart breaker for Miami, but it really was a gritty win by the Arizona Cardinals. Great teams don't play great all of the time, but they are great when they need to be. On this Kerry Rhodes interception, they were great. They had good fundamental secondary play and executed their blitz with precise timing. Arizona has ridden their defense and their NFL-leading 16 sacks to their hot start and that trend continued when it mattered. Plays like this signify why the Cardinals are now 4-0 atop of the NFC West and why they should be able to continue their success for the rest of the season. 

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