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Earl Thomas: Bad Breaks and Better Skills

I do my best to separate skill from outcome. It can be hard.

1. 1st and 10 at OKLA 26 Sam Bradford rush for 4 yards to the Okla 30.

Earl Thomas is playing over the left slot, ten yards deep. Familiar, huh. Bradford boots right. The left slot receiver is running a deep crossing pattern that Thomas picks up perfectly. Apparently, it's the only read, because Bradford looks at the covered receiver, tucks and runs.

2. 2nd and 6 at OKLA 30 Sam Bradford pass complete to Ryan Broyles for 23 yards to the Texas 47 for a 1ST down.

 A lot of moving parts. I'll do my best to explain this, though a graphic might help.

Oklahoma is split three wide receivers left, tight end right, running back right, shotgun. Very unbalanced, especially because the back stays in to block. Texas blitzes five from a 3-3. Thomas is over the middle receiver. He runs a quick hitch and Thomas charges. Bradford pump fakes towards the slot receiver, then looks for Broyles. Broyles is running a corner route towards the area Thomas vacated, but he doesn't flash open right away because Roddrick Muckelroy buzzes underneath towards the left sideline. The pressure arrives. Bradford is hit/throws towards Broyles. It wobbles mightily at first but arrives with precision.

This is a good play by Thomas and a bad play by Bradford. That contradicts the outcome, but I think is nevertheless correct. Let me explain why. The quick hitch is probably the correct read given the Longhorns blitz, and so Thomas was right to close. Muckelroy's buzz further slows the play, and though Bradford delivers an accurate pass, he barely gets it away. Now the hard part: guessing. If the pressure arrives slightly faster, Bradford probably throws a duck and Muckelroy is in position for the interception. If the pressure arrives significantly faster, Bradford either targets Thomas's assignment or takes the sack. Either way, I think Thomas made the right read and Bradford the wrong read -- whatever the outcome.

(Hurry up)

3. 1st and 10 at TEX 47 Sam Bradford pass complete to Ryan Broyles for 4 yards to the Texas 43.

Thomas is over right tackle and closes but the play is over before he arrives.

(Hurry up)

4. 2nd and 6 at TEX 43 Sam Bradford pass complete to Ryan Broyles for 7 yards to the Texas 36 for a 1ST down.

Thomas is over left tackle and assigned Broyles. Broyles runs a speed out and Thomas maintains close coverage before bubbling out and away from Broyles. Broyles flashes free and receives before Thomas closes and tackles. Blown coverage. Minor, but blown.

(Hurry up)

5. 1st and 10 at TEX 36 Sam Bradford pass complete to DeMarco Murray for 11 yards to the Texas 25 for a 1ST down.

Thomas is over left tackle. Oklahoma runs a screen pass to Murray. Bradford boots right and finds Murray with blockers. Thomas does not factor.

6. 1st and 10 at TEX 25 DeMarco Murray rush for a loss of 1 yard to the Texas 26.

Thomas is ten deep over left slot. He does not factor. Sooners set up the run with the pass or attempt to. Bradford fades right, hands to Murray and rolls left to draw attention. Murray starts right and the cuts back hard to the left. Brian Orakpo stays at home and drops Murray for a loss of one.

7. 2nd and 11 at TEX 26 Sam Bradford pass complete to Juaquin Iglesias for 18 yards to the Texas 8 for a 1ST down.

Four wide, two a side; Thomas is playing deep center, shaded left. Iglesias runs a little square in that looks slow and sloppy to start but erupts into run after catch. He cuts across field, receives, cuts up, breaks two tackles, sprints into the third level and then is not so much tackled as caught cutting. Thomas is to left; Muckelroy to the right of Iglesias. Thomas charges forward attempting a tackle but over-pursues and slides to the turf. Iglesias cuts up field but loses his feet and is down.

8. 1st and Goal at TEX 8 Sam Bradford pass complete to Ryan Broyles for 8 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.

And if that wasn't enough...

Oklahoma is split three wide to the left, tight end right, wide receiver right. Texas is in a 4-2 with both linebackers pressing their respective outside edges. Snap. Blitz six. Gresham comes free on a speed out to the right. Thomas is smothering Broyles in the end zone, near the right sideline. Bradford targets Gresham. Gresham bobbles, bobbles, bobbles. Thomas breaks off Broyles, hits Gresham hard and forces the ball free. It flips towards Broyles. He catches just above the turf for the touchdown.

Thomas is beset by bad breaks, but for the first time, I can see why Mike Mayock put him in the same class as Eric Berry. Instinctive nothing, Thomas is whip smart.