Imagine the following scenario. Third down and ten, left hash, ball on the thirty-five yard line heading out. Fourth quarter and the visiting team is behind by two points with less than a minute to go, no timeouts. The offense employs a four receiver set with “Trips” right and a split receiver to the left. Three of the four wideouts on the field are veterans with over three years to their credit, and the fourth is a rookie working off his 5th round contract signed earlier during the offseason.
Split second decisions
The quarterback aligns from “shotgun”, takes the snap and rolls right to the “Trips” side. The outside receiver takes off on a “GO” route versus man coverage and the defensive corner is in close tow on his inside hip. The first slot receiver split out right pushes his coverage upfield in a full sprint, then sinks his hips, bends his knees, and throttles down at twelve yards. He plants his inside foot, quickly throws his outside arm behind him and flips his hips around inside/out to separate from the defender. It’s textbook technique as he quickly catches sight of the first down marker and bursts off his plant foot towards the sideline.
On a full sprint to his right (with the defensive end in hot pursuit) the quarterback senses a smidgen of distance split between his receiver and the defender as both races towards the orange yardstick. Knowing he has to place the ball far enough away from the defender but within radius of the receiver, the QB throws high and away from both players running to the point.
The receiver feels the ball sailing high and explodes off his last step leaping almost three feet above the field. He reaches high over head and extends his 34 ½ inch arms towards the spiraling ball. The defender has anticipated the break & without hesitation planted his inside foot and exploded out of his pedal, back towards the receiver breaking to the sideline. He lacks the body length to get to the ball but knows if he times his own leap just right that he might be able rattle the receiver at the point and breakup the would be first down reception.
The wideout times his jump perfectly and reaches out to grasp the backend of the ball as it whizzes overhead. He makes the catch then instinctively drops his center of gravity downward to drag his feet along the ground. One toe immediately hits inbounds, black rubber pellets popping up underneath from the field turf. The second foot is going to be questionable as he tries to shift his weight in mid-flight to square his body to the sideline. The second toe barely drags down but just enough to catch green before the white indication of the boundary.
Simultaneously the defender jumps but isn’t cognizant of getting two feet inbounds, rather to extend as far as possible into the path of the ball and or the receiver. His body lays out flat and falls squarely on the back of his opponent’s locked out legs. In a split second the receiver catches ball, comes down with two feet inbounds, converts the first down, and the defender crashes down on the back of his right leg….instantly snapping both his tibia & fibula.
The offense converts off a spectacular catch and kicks the game winning field goal with no time left. The hero lies on a stretcher off of the sideline, paramedics applying the inflatable cast to stabilize his leg injury, as his teammates both rush the field and rush to console their fallen comrade.
Veteran or rookie receiver? Does it really matter? After this sensational season saving catch, should it really matter?
Give me your answer via Twitter @Ted_Sundquist. Perhaps it will.