Week 5 of the 2020 NFL season is filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty over whether games are even going to happen, and uncertainty over what quarterbacks will get the start if they do. Sunday’s game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos is a prime example. The Patriots are dealing with two positive Covid-19 tests, from Cam Newton and Stephon Gilmore, and while both players are asymptomatic this virus has proven to spread quickly, as the Tennessee Titans have demonstrated.
Then there are quarterback issues for both teams. With Newton out on Monday night the Patriots turned to Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham, with varying degrees of success. The Broncos also have questions at QB, given the shoulder injury suffered by Drew Lock.
That meant Brett Rypien, yes Brett Rypien, got the start last Thursday night for the Broncos against the New York Jets. Astute followers of this author - or perhaps more accurately those who do not hold this author in high regard - were probably amused to see Rypien throw three interceptions in that game. But he did get the win (#QBWinz) and if Lock cannot go on Sunday, he will get the nod.
So how did the Jets force the three interceptions? Well one was a poor decision on a throwaway. But the other two are opportunities for the Patriots defense to replicate what the Jets did: Force him to his second read, and show him the unexpected.
This first interception is an example of a trap coverage, sometimes called 5 Cougar, that baited Rypien into the pick. Make sure the volume is up for this video breakdown:
Looking at some Brett Rypien because I can't help myself. His second interception.— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) October 8, 2020
*Defenses making adjustments
*Baiting the quarterback pic.twitter.com/foZ6pGsbSa
Astute observers might remember the term 5 Cougar. Why? Because I wrote about it earlier regarding Stidham, breaking down the coverage in depth, and how the rookie quarterback identified it and avoided the mistake Rypien made on Thursday night.
Here is the other interception worth highlighting:
Rypien comes out of this play-action fake and wants to throw to the tight end in the flat. But he pulls the football down, perhaps due to the coverage, or perhaps due to the fact his tight end was not looking for the football. He brings his eyes to the middle of the field and the dig route from the backside tight end, but since the throw is late and over the middle, the linebacker is in position for the interception.
So here is the recipe: First, take away that first read. If Rypien is confident in that first read, he can make throws to beat you. Look at his second touchdown of the night:
TOUCHDOWN BRONCOS! Rypien to Patrick to extend the lead pic.twitter.com/RNfNCczB2v— Broncos Country (@BroncoCountryCP) October 2, 2020
This is a red zone four verticals concept out of a 3x1 formation against a single-high coverage. Rypien knows he just has to freeze or influence the safety to one of the two inside verticals and then throw to the other one. On this play, he peeks to his left first, influencing the safety that way, and then throws a dart.
Contrast that with these interceptions, particularly the second one. When the first read is not there he comes a bit late to the second read, and the defense is in position for the interception.
Then on the first interception highlighted here, if he thinks that he has that initial read, he is going to throw it.
So the Patriots can do two things. First, bait him into that first read with trap coverages, or designs like 1 Cross, where you jump routes that the quarterback things are going to be there. Second, you make sure that man coverage is used at times to take away where he might go initially, forcing him to work through reads and perhaps make mistakes.
If Rypien gets the start on Sunday, there will be opportunities to force turnovers, provided the Patriots defense does not allow that initial read to be open for him to target.