In the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday the defense did a good job of defending the Chargers rushing attack in the first half as they held running backs Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle to just 29 yards on 14 carries, with the longest run being the 9 yard run by Mathews on the first play of the Chargers first possession.
The second half was a different story, however, as they allowed 47 yards on the Chargers 17 play drive to start the second half. The biggest play perhaps on that drive was the 14th one where the Chargers were faced with a 3rd down and 13 from the Steelers 29 yard-line. If the Steelers would have gotten a stop here they would have forced a field goal.
3rd and 13 is an obvious passing down, but the Chargers showed some guts and ran a 34 trap out of the shotgun using 11 personnel which really caught the Steelers defense by surprise.
In the animated gif below you will see that the Steelers are in their nickel personnel and they are about to run a simple cross stunt with James Harrison and Larry Foote in order to give Foote a free shot around the end on the running back should he stay in to protect.
Brett Keisel and Ziggy Hood are running a simple “Tom Game” in order to get Keisel free on a loop around. Lawrence Timmons has mirror duty on Chargers tight end Randy McMichael on this play and at the same time must provide B-gap control as Hood is vacating it by slanting inside the A-gap.
At the snap, Chargers center Nick Hardwick explodes out to get his hands in the chest of Keisel just enough to delay his loop around and give right tackle Reggie Wells a running start at Keisel, who\’s not square to him. Keisel has lost this battle before it has even started, as not only does Wells have the forward momentum, but the angle as well.
Timmons is the only one that has a shot now to blow up this play but he fails miserably at taking on the pulling left guard Rex Hadnot. He gives Hadnot exactly what he wants, and that is his inside shoulder. If he takes Hadnot on head to head, he will clog up the hole enough that hopefully the safeties have time to come up and make the play.
Brown makes it through the hole and that leaves safety Ryan Clark as the last player that can stop Brown short of the sticks, but his failed attempt at a shoulder tackle on Brown allows the Chargers running back to get the few extra yards needed for the first down before safety Troy Polamalu finally makes the tackle.
This was excellent film study by the Chargers coaching staff and a great play call against the Steelers cover-2 defense. The play is really designed with hopes of gaining 5 or 6 more yards for their kicker as it is really a low percentage chance they pick up the first down.
It\’s hard to blame Keisel for what happened here, but both Timmons, who played a great game outside of this play, and Clark have to do a better job at defending this.
The Chargers wound up scoring just a few plays later.