There aren't a lot of catches in Domenik Hixon's Carolina career – but
he made this one count. His TD catch with 28 seconds left in the
Saints game Sunday propelled Carolina to its first playoff birth in five
From what I can tell, the playcall appears to be shotgun bunch right
(formation), jet right (the protection), 794 F Go. With that said,
that's just my interpretation of the call, and they've simplified the
nomenclature this year to what would be more to the level of "Gun Bunch
Utah". Since that playbook and terminology is obviously not
Carolina came out in a shotgun, trips right formation that had Greg
Olsen split 5 yards, off the line; Brandon LaFell 7 outside him on the
line, and Ted Ginn outside the hash flanking – all to the right.
Hixon was the lone receiver to the left as split end, with Mike Tolbert
the back lined up to Cam Newton's immediate left.
The Saints showed a single high safety, four players in a 3-point
stance, DBs covering each split receiver and the FS in space to Hixon's
side at 8 yards.
At the snap, the Saints showed their intentions. The backside S,
Malcom Jenkins, came on the blitz; when the nickel at Olsen's side came,
the SS, Roman Harper, covered Olsen, so no zone at all. Cover 0.
Once Newton recognized it, it's a matter of looking at whose route is
most likely to get open versus man. Hixon's route was the one. He
ran a corner route – a 7 in Coryell terminology – that broke at the goal
line. Ginn, furthest out, had a clearing route behind Olsen and
LaFell's – both of which pushed into the endzone that don't really break
– assumedly, both zone busters that hope to post-up a smaller DB. The
second best hope would've been Ginn's, who would have an easy catch but
would either mean a broken tackle or a step out of bounds with about 20
seconds to go.
In this case, it was a time when Carolina beat the blitz, and beat
cover zero. Not coincidentally, Carolina's other touchdown, the
Deangelo Williams run, was Carolina beating the blitz as well (cover 1
had it been a pass). The Saints were running a base 3-4, but since
Carolina came out at midfield with 2 TE right (Double in this offense -
Greg Olsen with Ben Hartsock flanking, for a likely playcall of Double
Right 40 Counter), Travelle Wharton pulling right and Hartsock taking
the contain man right, and everyone else blocking down. Blitz or not,
it simply became a wall of players, and essentially only Roman Harper to
beat from 12 yards out. When Williams cut inside Wharton's pull block
and bent it back left, Harper no longer had the angle and no one else
was back there thanks to the blitz.
The Rob Ryan blitz helped the Saints at times, and they mixed it up a
good bit, continuing to run a lot of cover 3 in the game. They had
actually thrown a lot of softer zones, trying to hold the deep play up,
through the Ted Ginn cross and the Greg Olsen play. It wasn't until the
Hixon play that they brought a lot of pressure. It's not that it was a
bad call. It just got read and Newton made the play.