Let us take a closer look at Barkley’s first interception against ASU. Many debate over whether this was Barkley’s mistake, a poorly designed play, or a great play by Burfict. However, the intent of this post isn’t to lay blame or praise, but to show exactly what happened. I leave it to you to determine your own opinion of this play.
To view the play, go here: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=7017250
USC comes out in Shotgun with five wide receivers. Robert Woods is on the right sideline at the top of the screen. ASU’s defense shows blitz and has three defensive backs on the right side of the field covering two wide receivers. The left side of the field shows two defensive backs and possibly the linebacker covering the wide receivers in trips.
Here is my drawing of the formation in the frame.
Robert Woods is highlighted in yellow and Burfict is highlighted as red. The defensive tackles are lined up in the A gaps in the 1 technique (one defensive tackle may also be in the 0 technique, it is hard to say) and the defensive ends are in the 5 technique. Burfict shows blitz in the B gap on the right side and the other linebacker looks to cover a wide receiver or blitz on the outside (but a blitz would leave a WR on the left completely open). From here, it looks like they will put safety support on top of Robert Woods.
However, prior to the snap, the safety on the right side motions all the way over to the left on top of the closest wide receiver. On closer inspection of the video, you can see the linebacker on the left side pointing to the wide receiver while looking at the safety. It is possible that the safety lined up incorrectly at first and was corrected by the linebacker. The linebacker knew he was blitzing on this play and didn’t want a wide receiver uncovered on the left side.
This leaves the two WRs on the right with one on one coverage.
Formation at Snap
Here is a look at the snap of the ball.
This is where things get interesting. Let us look at the overhead first. It is pretty much what was shown last time, so let us take a step back and look at how this play is designed.
Kiffin called this play a Jailbreak Screen play to Robert Woods. In this play, Robert Woods advances forward a couple yards before cutting and coming back towards the quarterback. The WR next to Woods will cross and block the corner who is directly in front of Woods. The center and right guard bump their respective players then advance to block for Woods. I imagine in the general case, the right guard is responsible for taking Burfict out of this play if Burfict does not blitz.
On the left side is another screen pass setup. The two WRs on the left side double team block one of the defensive backs while the third WR gets behind them. If the ball gets thrown his way, he has to break the tackle of the unblocked defensive back. If he can accomplish this, it could potentially be a big gain.
Now let us look at the defensive play.
The defensive play call was a blitz by two linebackers, including Burfict, with man coverage backing them up. The left defensive end starts with a rush, but breaks contact and drops back into coverage. The purpose of this is to open up the B gap for the blitzing linebacker, who does a switch. The defensive tackles both rush the A gaps and the right defensive end rushes around the offensive tackle. Burfict is supposed to rush the B gap on the right side here.
Against this defensive blitz, the jailbreak screen should be an easy touchdown. The Right Guard will bump Burfict before going out with the center to double team block the defensive back. On paper, this play should have three USC blockers against two ASU defensive backs and the ball in Robert Woods’ hands. It is a simple numbers mismatch and should succeed.
Let us look at what happens.
In this frame, Barkley has seen Burfict blitzing. Barkley then turns to his left to pull the defense onto the screen play forming away from the actual play side. The center has bumped his man and is already on his way to block down field. Robert Woods has made his cut and is getting in position. Now lets look at the next frame.
After looking off the play, Barkley turns back to his right and fires the ball towards Robert Woods. The Right Guard has bumped Burfict and is on his way to get in front of Woods. Unfortunately, Burfict has been bumped right into the passing lane. It is at this point that Burfict’s instincts cause him to slow his momentum down rather than continuing on the blitz. Please note that Burfict did not actually “drop back” into coverage as some people have said. He always kept his forward momentum going, but simply did not follow through on the blitz. Next frame.
Had this play not been broken up, you can see the center coming down on the defensive back with the right guard not too far behind him. Woods is in position for the ball. Unfortunately, Burfict reads the ball in the air and makes a jump on the ball.
Burfict intercepts the ball and it is going the other way.
I hope that this helps in the general understanding of what occurred on that play and the play call. In my own opinion, this was a great play by Burfict and not the fault of the play call itself. Barkley did make a mistake that he did not properly locate Burfict after trying to look off the play, but I also believe this is not a huge mistake. I do put some blame onto Barkley, but I think this play was more a great read by Burfict.
Take another look at the video of the play in action: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=7017250