Play Rewind: Tarvaris Jackson 55-Yard Bomb To Ben Obomanu

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Tarvaris Jackson threw for a career-high in yardage in less than three quarters of work on Sunday. He made a number of great deep throws, but none was more impressive than his 55-yard strike to Ben Obomanu. It was a great example of smart quarterbacking combined with great arm strength and accuracy. Usually, the receiver deserves a lot of praise for getting open for the quarterback, but this was a case where Jackson threw Obomanu open. As you will see, he was not open when the ball was released. Let’s get to it. Oh, and I highly recommend reviewing the Play Rewind of Charlie Whitehurst’s missed corner route to Obomanu a week earlier for comparison.

NOTE: The quality of the shots is a little grainy. This is coaches film, which is not HD quality, but is required to show why this play was special.

PRE-SNAP: The Bengals roll up their corners in press coverage with two safeties over the top. The Seahawks have two tight ends, two wide receivers and one running back. 

PLAY FAKE: The Bengals rush four men. Jackson makes a play fake to Lynch. For all you fans of Landry Jones and Nick Fowles, this is a major difference between a “pro-style” offense and a spread offense where the QB is in the shotgun all the time. It is very difficult to turn your back to the defense on passing plays, and then turn and find the right read. Players like Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck do this as part of the college offenses.

FIRST READ: Jackson’s first read is to his favorite receiver, Sidney Rice. Rice did not get a clean release off the line, and the Bengals safety clearly is giving help over the top. This should be a red flag to Jackson, screaming “don’t throw it here!” Note the massive pocket formed by the offensive line. That is why you keep hearing the line is progressing.

SECOND READ: Jackson has come off of Rice, who you can see is not getting open. The protection was good enough that Jackson could move to his second progression. He made this decision quickly when you watch the film, so a plus for that. Jackson does not see an open receiver at this point. What he does see is a Bengals safety with responsibility in the seam to cover the tight end, leaving Obomanu in 1:1 coverage up the sideline with no help over the top.

THE THROW: Notice that the blur in the top yellow circle is Obomanu and the CB shoulder-to-shoulder. If anything, the CB has a step on Obomanu at this point. Jackson either needs to throw this to Obomanu’s back shoulder to come back or to throw deep, hoping his receiver would run under it. There is a saying in football about receivers, “if he’s even, he’s leavin'” Jackson applies that logic here, judging that Obomanu is gaining on the CB, and will pass him by the time the ball arrives. Also worth noting two Bengals lineman are barreling toward Jackson by this point.

ZOOM 1: Let’s get a closer look to better appreciate how this play succeeded. Here’s a zoomed in look just as Jackson is about to throw the ball. It takes over where the previous shot from coaches film left off. Note, the CB is not looking.

ZOOM 2: The ball is now in the air. Obomanu has now passed the defender, but not my much. We’ll ignore the arm bar by the CB because that’s only called against Seahawks DBs (cynicism runs deep). If this ball is under-thrown, it very well may be intercepted. Obomanu needs to be able to continue running past his defender to make a play.

SUCCESS: Jackson leads Obomanu perfectly, letting him continue his run past the defender into open field. Obomanu is now “open” by almost two yards. That’s how a quarterback can throw his receiver open. Jackson made a semi-risky decision throwing to a player who was covered, but this is the NFL. It was a worthwhile risk to take given his other choices since there was no safety help over the top. This was either going to be caught by his player or incomplete.