Every week, there are a handful of plays that define the league’s action.
On Sunday, there were a litany of blowouts, headlined by the Dolphins’ 70–20 win over the Broncos. While the game was a teaching tape in how not to play defense, one play stood out as a foreshadowing of what was to come.
Meanwhile, the Chargers survived the Vikings in a battle of winless teams, with Justin Herbert going for more than 400 passing yards. We’ll look at arguably his best throw of the season.
Finally, Geno Smith had a rough first week, but after rebounding against the Lions, Smith showed he’s back in his Pro Bowl form during a Week 3 win over the Panthers.
All screenshots and videos are courtesy of NFL+’s All-22.
Justin Herbert throws a frozen rope to Keenan Allen
Herbert was on fire Sunday against the Vikings in the Chargers’ 28–24 win, going 40-of-47 for 405 yards and three touchdowns.
Arguably his best throw came on Los Angeles’s second offensive drive, facing third-and-7 on the Vikings’ 28-yard line in a scoreless tie with 3:27 remaining in the first quarter.
On the play, the Chargers showed a 3x1 look with receiver Mike Williams isolated on the back side. However, Herbert was looking for wideout Keenan Allen, lined up wide to the right.
As for Minnesota, no team blitzed more than the Vikings the first two weeks, and they showed six at the line. Upon the snap, Minnesota dropped out and rushed four, playing a game up front with a stunt.
You can see Los Angeles was pushing vertical, and it put rookie corner Mekhi Blackmon (No. 5) in a bind. Minnesota was playing a two-deep zone, with Blackmon responsible for getting depth along the boundary until the safety picked up the deep route.
However, with two deep routes running at corner Byron Murphy Jr. (No. 7; aligned as a safety), he got caught in a bad position. And once Herbert saw him flip his hips toward the middle of the field, he unloaded for Allen in a tight window.
Look at Murphy at the 8-yard line. Then look at Herbert. It’s a throw that needed to clear Blackmon, but be thrown hard enough to beat Murphy when he broke back toward the sideline.
It was a perfect throw on a long third down, and it led to the Chargers’ scoring seven on the next play. Phenomenal job by Herbert.
This throw by Justin Herbert on Sunday was bonkers. Third down and he slings a perfect strike to Keenan Allen, setting up a touchdown pic.twitter.com/8i8qF8cIeg— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) September 26, 2023
Broncos have first monumental breakdown before allowing 70 points
This is not going to be an enjoyable few paragraphs for the Mile High City.
On Sunday, the Dolphins became the third team in NFL history to score 70 points. It happened with 10 touchdowns, and we’re going to look at the first one. It came on Miami’s first possession, facing first-and-10 at the team’s own 46-yard line.
The play started with 12-personnel (TE, two RBs, two WRs), and the Broncos’ matching with a base 3–4 look. On the snap, fullback Alec Ingold (No. 30) leaked out to the right flat. Raheem Mostert (No. 31) took the play-fake and ran a short curl route in the middle. The routes occupied a pair of linebackers, who were in zone coverage with a quarters look behind them.
Finally, Tyreek Hill (No. 10) was aligned up top with Robbie Chosen (No. 3) on the bottom. Both ran deep crossing routes.
Looking at this picture, you can see the problem developing. Safeties Kareem Jackson (No. 22) and Delarrin Turner-Yell (No. 32) were supposed to be getting depth. However, Jackson was bailing frantically, anticipating a deep route from Hill. He literally ran himself out of the screen.
Meanwhile, star corner Patrick Surtain II (No. 2) should have passed Chosen to the safety and protected his fourth of the field. Instead, he kept running on the route. It resulted in this:
Surtain and Turner-Yell were both blanketing Chosen. Unfortunately for Denver, Hill was then running toward an open space the size of Canada. Additionally, Jackson was now not pictured.
This is a frame of Hill catching the ball. Denver was then on its way to allowing 70 points due to multiple coverage breakdowns on what was essentially a two-man route.
The Dolphins scored 70 points against the Broncos, and it's because of two things:— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) September 26, 2023
- Miami has a spectacular offense
- Denver played some of the worst defense ever witnessed
Just look at the Broncos' secondary on Miami's first score: pic.twitter.com/AuGP2vD3yn
Geno Smith gets the Seahawks back on track
Leading 15–12 over the Panthers in the third quarter, the game remained in doubt. Then, midway through the third quarter, on first-and-21 from the Seattle 48-yard line, Geno Smith took control.
The Seahawks came out in an empty formation, with Carolina giving a shell look with zone principles.
On the snap, the Panthers dropped outside linebacker Brian Burns (No. 0) into coverage while blitzing from the opposite slot. Meanwhile, watch the bottom of the screen. Seattle was running a two-man sail concept, with tight end Colby Parkinson (No. 84) running a quick out, while running back Kenneth Walker III (No. 9) ran a go-route.
The key is getting corner Donte Jackson (No. 27) to bite for a split second. As it turns out, Jackson did exactly that, sitting on Parkinson, and allowing Walker to get free down the sideline.
Once Jackson committed to the underneath route, it was over. Smith launched it, and, while safety Vonn Bell ranged over, it was too late. The Seahawks converted first-and-forever with a 36-yard play, leading to an avalanche of 21 points over a four-drive span, helping Seattle win 37–27.
The Seahawks were struggling some through the first half against Carolina.— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) September 26, 2023
Then, on 1st and 21, Geno Smith made this play and Seattle took off pic.twitter.com/P2ESeEbcEx