One of the key plays that went in favor of the Baltimore Ravens in their 23-20 loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers was the fourth quarter interception by safety Ed Reed of the pass from Charlie Batch that was intended for Heath Miller in the end zone.
There has been a lot of talk about the play since Phil Simms said that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders should have kept going on his route as this might have resulted in a touchdown.
I have two animated gifs of this play below so you can see what happened here. The Steelers have 21 personnel on the field here with fullback Will Johnson split out wide to the right and Miller and Sanders both slotted inside the numbers. Running back Jonathan Dwyer is sidecar to Batch on the weak-side. The Ravens are in their cover-3 defense with zone underneath.
At the snap, Johnson runs a simple 8-10 yard pivot route. Miller is running a post and Sanders is believed to be running the 10-12 yard option route, the route that Hines Ward made a career out of. The thing that we do not know here is if Sanders was instructed to just run a sit down two way option route or if he had a full blown option at his disposal depending on how the free safety plays him. We may never know unless the media ask him.
Simms does has a point here, though. This play is obviously designed to go Miller all the way and if Sanders merely runs a post here, he will take Reed, who is cheating his third of the field – the middle – to the loaded side, with him.
Once Sanders drops his hips and sits, Reed is able to stop as well and play the ball, which he does like not many others can. There is not a lot of spacing to be had here as a result. Batch might not be totally off the hook here. If the pass is perhaps two or three inches higher, Reed likely can\’t make the pick. That being said, this is a very tough throw to make and a tight window. Miller has the outside corner beat, so only Reed has a shot at this.
When you watch this play 100 times like have, you have to really chalk it up to Reed making one hell of a read and play here until we hear differently. Sanders is staring Reed down before breaking his route and obviously thinks he has Reed biting enough to give Miller enough spacing.
I will add one other thing here about Sanders. I can\’t fully knock him with conviction for his route, but I can knock him for what happens after the interception. Watch him turn his back and start walking to towards the sideline after Reed makes the catch in the end zone.
Needless to say, this was not one of the best games that Sanders has had in his short career. As for Reed, this is what he has done his entire career and why he will end up with a bust in Canton.