Play 1: In which Marcus Trufant unwittingly puts on a clinic in deep-flat zone coverage.
The "--" approximates the player's shoulders. The ">" indicates the direction they are facing/looking. And "- - -" indicates the direction they are moving, should they be moving. Each symbol is important, because though I've up until now used simple circle or oval zones, a player's actual zone is relative to their speed, the position of their body and their motion. A zone actually looks bit like a mushroom:
For obvious reasons: A person can run in a straight line faster that a diagonal line. A person can run forward faster than backward. Ergo, back and to the left or right is the weak spot of a zone even at relatively close distances. From there, the shape changes based on a player's acceleration and agility. The above is for a player that's pretty quick, but only adequately agile--like a linebacker.These are not rendered perfectly, but if an enterprising front office out there is interested in...
Play 1: The INT Cometh
1st and 10, Arizona 42.
56 seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter.
Seattle 27 - Arizona 14
Arizona has just recovered an onside kick.
The pocket is collapsing around Kurt Warner. His eye is squarely on Larry Fitzgerald, who is running a deep curl route. Warner makes a smart read, but ruins it by A) Staring down Fitzgerald and B) Ignoring Trufant. Let's explain each.
Why it's a smart read: As you can see, Fitzgerald is in the soft spot between Brian Russell and Leroy Hill. Russell is barreling down on Fitzgerald, so if Fitzgerald can make the reception and run diagonally towards the goal and sideline, he'll have beat Hill and, minimum, have Russell on a bad angle.
How he ruins it: With the pocket in shambles, Warner's only open throwing lane is towards the rightmost, say, quarter of the field. Still, a smart quarterback must always do his best to hide his intended target. An opposing DB is much more likely to see where the quarterback is staring and adjust to that than quickly diagnose available throwing lanes, scan every receiver within that lane, and determine the perfect zone to fit the two.
Trufant, initially running alongside Fitzgerald, breaks off into a deep-flat zone just under the receiver. The rushed Warner suffers tunnel vision, seeing only Fitzgerald, and we can guess, Russell and Hill. Warner passes, Trufant breaks on the ball and grabs the pick.
This isn't a Pro Bowl play in of itself. The pass rush deserves the lion's share of credit for harassing Warner, but Tru quietly plays his assignment perfectly, almost vanishing into the turf, and when opportunity arises, combines quicks, agility and awareness to create a game changing interception.