Senior NFL Columnist

Pete's Pics: Trust between Freeman, Jackson leads to success

In this week's After Further Review, I wrote about the rapport that Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman has with receiver Vincent Jackson.

Now I want to show some pictures to illustrate it. That relationship is a big reason why the Bucs have become a legitimate playoff contender, and Freeman has elevated his game to a new high.

Their bond is impressive. Their trust is the key.

Here's a look at a touchdown throw from their victory last week over Carolina. It was a 24-yard strike that tied the game before the Bucs won it in overtime. It was a tough throw and a great catch.

Jackson (yellow circle) was lined up in the slot to the left of Freeman. The Panthers were in Cover-2 zone coverage with middle linebacker Luke Kuechly dropping into the deep middle. As you can see by the second shot, Jackson was well-covered and Freeman was being thrown to the ground just after he released the ball. The third shot shows Jackson grabbed the football as the three Panthers defenders converged on him. The pass was perfect, and Freeman trusted his receiver to make the play.





Here is another look at a Freeman-to-Jackson throw. On this play, Jackson was lined up wide left -- just outside receiver Tiquan Underwood. At the snap, Underwood ran a go route -- red line -- down the seam, which pulled the defense with him. Jackson ran a cross underneath, and Freeman waited patiently to hit him for a 22-yard gain. It took time on the part of Freeman to wait for Jackson to come open. Freeman has matured in a big way as a passer, and Jackson is a big reason why.






Packers get creative on offense

I love great offensive design on some play-calls. One that really caught my eye was a Green Bay touchdown against the Lions last week. The Packers faced a third-and-7 at the Detroit 20. They called what looked to be a screen to the right to receiver James Starks. All of the action went that way, with the offensive line getting out like it was a screen that way. You can see that from the first picture below.

The Lions were in a two-deep zone, and all the defenders on that side went that way to defend the screen. With two receivers on the other side, the defenders on that side went that way. That left a huge void in the middle of the field. Tight end Jermichael Finley (red circle) snuck into the middle of the field and was wide open. Aaron Rodgers, who looked to the right first, came back to Finley for an easy pitch-and-catch and a touchdown. I loved that play.







Wallace fails to stay in bounds

Catching the football and getting two feet down is an art form for some receivers. But Steelers receiver Mike Wallace did a poor job of it last week against the Ravens, costing the Steelers a touchdown. Here's a look at the throw and non-catch.

As you can see by the first picture, Wallace had a real chance to catch the ball and get his feet down. But as you can see by the second, he did not. That's inexcusable. Would it have been a tough play? You bet. But he has to make that play.




 
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