Every week, blogger Matt Vensel breaks down a critical play, sometimes with the help of Ravens players, from that week’s game. Today, he looks at cornerback Corey Graham's interception on a trick play ran by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Before Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jonathan Dwyer rumbled into the end zone and before quarterback Charlie Batch took a spin in a hot tub time machine and played like it was 1999, the Steelers were desperately looking for a spark on offense Sunday. The Ravens defense had smothered the Steelers up until that point, prompting Steelers coach Mike Tomlin to call for a trick play with five and a half minutes left in the first half.
The Ravens were ready, and cornerback Corey Graham showed great awareness and discipline to break it up.
Two plays after Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw an ill-advised interception, the Steelers tried to catch the Ravens off guard by having wide receiver Antonio Brown take a handoff from Batch on an end-around and then attempt to throw the ball down the field over the heads of unsuspecting Ravens defenders.
The Steelers had the ball on 2nd-and-12 at their 47-yard line when Tomlin gave the green light for the trick play.
“[I was] trying to search for a significant play,” Tomlin explained.
The Steelers lined up with Dwyer deep in the backfield and a pair of tight ends along the line of scrimmage. Brown was in the right slot and fellow wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was in the left slot. The Ravens countered with their base 3-4 personnel. Before the snap, Steelers tight end Heath Miller shifted into the backfield.
After the snap, Batch faked the handoff to Dwyer, who then slipped through the line and up the right sideline, and he instead handed it to Brown, who was running from right to left. Steelers left guard Maurkice Pouncey pulled to the right to seal off the backside, where outside linebacker Terrell Suggs was rushing from. And Miller ran left to provide protection for Brown as he threw the ball.
The Steelers only had two receivers running routes as Brown hit the brakes at the left hash to plant for a throw, and Brown immediately looked to Dwyer on the backside of the play and not Sanders, who took two Ravens deep down the left half of the field. The left-handed wide receiver launched the ball back across the grain to Dwyer, who would have been wide open on the right sideline if Graham hadn’t stayed home.
Brown carried the ball seven times in 2011 and five times in 2012 with most, if not all, of them coming on end-arounds. He also attempted a pass earlier this year against the Cincinnati Bengals, but it fell incomplete.
But Graham blew up the play by sticking with his assignment and running with Dwyer up the field. Brown should have pulled the ball down and tried to get back to the line of scrimmage, but he threw it up for grabs. Graham out-leaped the 5-foot-11 back, picked off the pass and stepped out of bounds at the 31-yard line.
“We all know that [Brown] can throw the ball,” Graham said. “Watching him on film, he made a lot of passes over his career, so we know he throws the ball. So, when they do the reverse, we’ve seen the reverse pass several times, so it’s just my responsibility to be back there and not bite up on that, and when the ball comes up you’ve just got to make a play.”
The Ravens quickly scored a touchdown on the ensuing drive to go up, 13-3, but as we know, Batch, Dwyer and the Steelers were able to move the ball on the Ravens in the second half and come back to win, 23-20.
But even in a loss, Graham, a starter for the first time in three years, deserves credit for that savvy play.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times