It was a warm summer night in downtown Detroit. Well, it happened indoors but it was probably warm outside too. The New York Giants had the ball on the Detroit Lions’ 10-yard line only two plays after Lions receiver TJ Jones decided he wanted to tip a noodle-armed pass into the hands of a defender for an interception rather than catching it. Giants rookie quarterback, and noodle arm in his own right, Kyle Lauletta took his place under center on second-and-8 and proceeded to do this.
Lauletta, who averaged less than one yard per rushing attempt in his four year college career and totaled -28 (I didn’t hit a key on accident there, it is negative) rushing yards in his junior season, weaved his way through the entire Detroit defense for a 10-yard touchdown run.
What the hell happened?
New York was lined up in 12 personnel with two receivers split wide. Lauletta takes the snap and fakes the hand off on a play action. The two tight ends that were initially lined up to his right come across the field on in routes to be high-low options for the quarterback as he rolls out of the pocket to his left. The two receivers split wide for the Giants carry both cornerbacks out of the play and take the safety with them.
This clearly was not a designed run for the quarterback as, first, he was looking towards his tight ends while rolling out. If it was a designed run, then the tight ends were just running more defenders into his area. Also there is absolutely no way any offensive coordinator in his right mind would think running Lauletta on a bootleg is a good idea.
We know what the Giants were doing on the play, but this is a Lions blog and we are here to see what the Lions were doing. Let’s rewind back to the beginning.
The Lions lined up with 8 in the box in a 4-4 over defense. They only had three defensive backs on the field, one being a deep safety. The duo of corners were in man coverage with the safety playing center field behind them. Both Giants tight ends are picked up by defenders in man coverage. The other linebacker in the box for the Lions and a box safety step up to occupy gaps in run defense.
When Lauletta fakes the hand off to the right the Lions defensive end on the opposite side, Anthony Zettel, falls for the fake and bites hard. He finds himself wandering all the way into the tackle box before he realizes he is chasing a ghost.
Zettel loses all outside contain, as he usually does, and by the time he gets himself turned around, he is way behind the play.
In an interesting twist, Zettel being so far behind the play puts him in perfect position to block off Lauletta’s throwing lanes to his tight ends. Both of Detroit’s defenders were beaten in man coverage, as they usually are, and if not for the defensive end trailing the play they both would have been wide open. Why New York’s tight ends didn’t space their routes at all I have no idea.
Lauletta decides to tuck the ball and scramble at this point. As he crosses the line of scrimmage Zettel is once again the defender who has the best chance to bring him down. The defensive end takes a bad approach angle, running horizontally towards the sideline, and Lauletta makes a stiff cutback putting Zettel behind the play once again.
The cornerback comes back into the play here, but his only realistic angle of approach takes him to the sideline. The two coverage linebackers reenter the play and one overruns and gets blocked by a tight end while the other also gets juked.
Lauletta parts the entire Detroit defense like it’s the red sea and dives into the end zone to cap off a ridiculous touchdown run.