Many things need to go right for a team to successful execute a goal-line stand. The coaches must correctly diagnose the offense's intentions and call a suitable play. Defenders must avoid getting blocked out or failing to secure their position. And, of course, the quarterback cannot receive enough time to locate a window and deliver the ball on a passing play.
Backed up against their goal line this past Sunday, the Green Bay Packers met every requirement, duping Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers in the process.
After a 1-yard gain on first down, the Chargers decide to line up three wide to the left with tight end Antonio Gates next to the right tackle and Danny Woodhead off Rivers' right hip in the shotgun. The Packers respond by placing linebacker Clay Matthews in his face with defensive back Micah Hyde over the top. Rookie corner Damarious Randall positions himself on the edge.
On the play, Gates runs up and towards the corner of the end zone with Woodhead trailing in the flat. Hyde shadows Gates throughout the play, with Randall setting up in a zone to protect underneath. Rivers reads this and attempts to hit his tight end over the top.
Once Randall sees Rivers begin his deliver, he breaks off his zone to double Gates, effectively closing the passing window. Consequently, the throw falls harmlessly incomplete.
While the adjustment shuts down the play, it also reveals an important detail. Woodhead is left alone in the flat with an easy path to the end zone. After the play, Matthews indicates the vulnerability to his teammates. The Chargers recognize this as well, and when they fail to convert on third down, they return to the play hoping to exploit Green Bay's coverage.
The Chargers align exactly as they did on second down. The receivers run the same routes, with Gates serving as a decoy this time to clear out the flat for Woodhead. The Green Bay defense shows the same look as well. If they defend the play as they did on second down, San Diego has six easy points.
Except that doesn't happen.
Randall knows that Rivers plans to target Woodhead in the flat and times his break just as the quarterback begins his delivery.
With Julius Peppers in Rivers' face, he has no time to pull back the ball and find a new target. Randall jumps the route to knock down the pass.
And that's the ballgame. As well as Rivers performed throughout the afternoon, he played right into the Packers' hands on the final series. That proved enough to secure a Green Bay victory.