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NFL Playbook: Jared Cook Goes 25 Yards to Set Up a Titans Victory

by Photo of Taylor Armosino

See the breakdown behind the key play of Tennessee’s 26-23 Thursday Night victory over Pittsburgh

NFL Playbook: Jared Cook Goes 25 Yards to Set Up a Titans Victory

NFL Network's Thursday Night Football gave us a thrilling battle between the 2-2 Steelers and the 1-4 Titans. Pittsburgh was coming off their bye week while Tennessee was without starting quarterback Jake Locker. Veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck gave the Titans a solid performance en route to the victory. With 4:19 remaining in the game, Hasselbeck hooked up with receiver Kenny Britt for a five yard touchdown pass that tied the game at 23. With 54 seconds left, Pittsburgh kicker Shaun Suisham missed a 54 yard field goal (ironic huh?). Suisham's miss set up Tennessee's game winning drive.

After a five yard completion and an incomplete pass, the Titans had a 3rd and 5 at the 50 yard line with 39 seconds left in the game. Hasselbeck dropped back and hit tight end Jared Cook on a crossing route. Cook scampered 25 yards down to the Steelers 25 yard line to set up Rob Bironas' 40 yard game winning field goal. 

Here is video of the big play: 

Here is the breakdown:

Tenneesee comes out on the play with Hasselbeck in the shotgun with four receivers (Cook is a tight end, but he is used as a receiver on this play). The goal of the play is to clear out the left side of the defense and get Cook space to operate on his crossing route. The slot receiver runs a post down the middle of the field, while the outside receiver runs a deep "in" route. In running these routes, the receivers hope to hold the safety in the middle of the field as well as the defenders covering them. 

Pittsburgh is blitzing on the play. I actually like the play-call here. Obviously it doesn't work out for them in this situation, but I like the aggressiveness. Often times, you see defenses in this situation playing soft defensively which backfires. Look no further than the Raiders-Falcons game on Sunday in which the Raiders lost the game in the final minute because of soft defense. Back to this play, Pittsburgh is bringing the slot cornerback and middle linebacker on a blitz. As the slot corner blitzes, the safety on that side mans up on the slot receiver. Pittsburgh is playing cover 1 man, meaning the other safety is playing the middle of the field. Linebacker James Harrison has a really tough assignment. He has to drop back out of his stance and guard Cook. The other linebacker, Lawrence Timmons, drops into the middle of the field in a zone coverage. 

Chris Johnson and right tackle David Stewart do a great job to pick up the two blitzers. Johnson doesn't get a real solid block, but his block is plenty good enough for the play. The Titans offensive line gives Hasselbeck the time he needs to get the ball out cleanly to Cook who easily separates from Harrison.

As you can see, and is highlighted in white, the Titans have done a good job of clearing that part of the field. As Cook, red, separates he has tons of running room down the sideline. In blue, you can see the safety in the middle of the field was held by the two in breaking routes. Harrison cannot keep up with Cook and his 4.47 speed. Hasselbeck hits him in stride and Cook is off to the races. 

Cook gets all the way down to the Steelers 25 yard line. Two plays later, Rob Bironas' 40 yard field goal ends the game. Tennessee wins 26-23.

My disdain for the Steelers put aside, it really was not a bad play call by them. I commend defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau for being aggressive, rather than playing passive defense. As the old saying goes "the only thing prevent defense prevents is victories." As the Raiders saw on Sunday, that adage often proves correct. This was not a bad play call by LeBeau, but it was a great play call on Tennessee's end and great execution. They ran the perfect play against that particular defense. Give all the credit to the Titans as they won this play and they won the game to get to 2-4 on the season. 

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