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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

4th and 26: Free Safety Frame by Frame

By Dave in Texas

I pulled the play back up on my DVR. This is the 1st I've looked at this pathetic defensive effort in almost 2 months....and the 1st time I'm going to really focus on our FS and highest paid defensive player Mr. Sharpier. As I search for an answer to why MS just paid him $2M upfront $$$ and another $3.2M in salary this fall. Sharpier is also in line to make $6M in 2005 and another $6M in 2006.

There are several things about Sharpier's play that blow me away. Keep these in mind as you read my transcript of what I saw on the screen.

1...previously I had excused Sharpier because I figured he was watching Pinkston going deep on the outside. I thought Sharpier had drifted back too deep with him then was looping back when he saw the ball going to the middle. But, this replay clearly shows Sharpier locked on Mitchell as he backs up. Why the heck didn't break the back peddle and move sideways to cover the guy?

2...Why the heck is he playing 8+ yards off a guy 20+ yards down field? He's side stepping back with Mitchell stride for stride. What the heck...that's what you do when you're lined up off the WR in man...but not what I'd expect from a FS in a zone over the top who sees a WR breaking free over the middle.

3...Why does he not set down and cut to the WR?

4...question #2 makes me think ...Was Sharpier possibly playing for an INT on an overthrow? If that piece of (fudge) FS of ours was playing for an INT on a deep 4th down play I'm going to fricken explode. I've looked at the play again...that ball was rather high to Mitchell. Kind of the Randy Moss high. Was Sharpier going for an INT on an overthrow instead of just cutting to the WR and beating him to the ball? I'm thinking he may have been. But it’s not clear.

Background....Sharpier was on the 41 yard line just a yard outside the hash marks when the ball was snapped. Mitchell catches the ball between the hash marks at the 49 and comes down across midfield at the 49. The 1st down marker is at the 48. IOW...Sharpier started the play roughly 8-9 yards, as the crow flies, from where Mitchell catches the ball.

(*) signifies each time I stop and describe the frame I've frozen
(((btw...I'm only stopping this thing about every 5 frames...and can see clearly everything happening in between my *'s)))....

beginning of sequence....

* #42 backed up from the 41...I have this clear as day on the screen as I type....Sharpier is in full side straddle at the 48 as Mitchell traces Sharpier's very own steps at the 41 (right where Sharpier was standing at the start of the play near the hash).

Get this...Sharpier is looking right at him and at this point he is exactly 8 yards from Mitchell and 3 yards from where Mitchell catches the ball. Mitchell is 9 yards from that spot.

I can't see and say for certain the ball has been released at this point...BUT>...Jue is back at the 42 on the other side and has flattened out his drop and appears to be looking back at the ball and attempting to adjust his angle to the ball.

* OK...I just played it back to watch Jue...and you can clearly see that Jue sees the ball in the air and stops his drop at the 41 as Mitchell crosses the 40. Then at about the 41-42 Mitchell does a chop step to get his timing and footing ready. So...yes...the ball must have been put in the air...about when this whole sequence I'm describing starts. Basically with Mitchell at the 41 and Sharpier at the 48. Note...at the 48 Sharpier is only a couple yards to the side of the spot where Mitchell catches the ball.

This is the most disgusting thing to watch. (Unfrickin believable sh+t)

* OK...at this point Mitchell has taken 2 more strides...he's at the 43....Sharpier is still side stepping with his feet straddling the 50 and looking back right at Mitchell.

If anyone was watching what I am watching...there is no way you'd have paid Sharpier that $2M RB last week.

at this point Jue (watching the ball) is also at the 43 but 2 yards outside the hash...Mitchell is 1 yard inside the hash coming from Sharpier's side as Sharpier just watches and continues backing up. Mitchell is looking back for the ball.

* 2 more Mitchell strides and he's at the 46 and locked on the ball...btw...he's been looking back for the ball for a while at this point.

at this point Jue is at the 46 just outside the hash and clearly locked on the ball

Sharpier has just applied the brakes 1 yard out side the hash marks...only 10 yards up field from the point where he started. Problem is he's already 1 yard past the 1st down marker, and 8 yards deeper than Mitchell.

* Mitchell now takes 2 short steps as he stops and prepares to go up for the ball at the 47.

Jue is just 3 yards away from him and playing the ball.

Sharpier's momentum has carried him back another yard as he starts to loop back. He's 7 yards deeper than Mitchell and in a horrible position as he's about to cross the hash marks.

* Mitchell now leaves the ground at the 48.5 and you can see the ball crossing the 40.

Jue is 1 yard away and has turned towards Mitchell to make the play on him rather than go for the INT in front of him.

Incredibly...Sharpier is still looping deeper at this point. What a F@cked up angle. He's now got his right heel on the 46 yard hash over 3 yards deeper than the 1st down red line. And he's 5.5 yards or so deeper than Mitchell.

* Mitchell is now stretching for the ball at his finger tips. At the 49

Jue did not get off the ground with him...and IMO...miss-read the ball...because he's way low reaching for the ball. His left hand is on Mitchell's belly as Mitchell catches the ball. And Jue's right hand is behind himself and low.

at this point our highest paid defender is leaning towards the ball with his feet on the ground a full 5 yards from Mitchell and still at the 46.

* at this point Mitchell has the ball Mitchell has turned up field with the ball while in the air.

Jue is now past him having missed the ball.

Sharpier...I mean this would make any Packer fan sick....has actually taken a step back as he sets himself again. 3rd time I've seen him level himself while the ball was in the air. And he's yet to actually make any move towards Mitchell.

At this point Sharpier has his back (right) foot about 6 inches from the 45...that's 3 yards past the red line.

* Mitchell's left foot now on the ground about a yard from the red line.

Sharpier is lowering his helmet a yard past it with his feet 2 yards past it.

* Mitchell's right foot comes down about 6 inches across the red line

Sharpier is in full spear position with his back straight...and head down...helmet about 20 inches from Mitchell's helmet.

*advancing 3 frames...the ball is crossing the red line...while Sharpier buries the crown of his helmet into Mitchell's ear hole.

* Major hit...Mitchell body is twisted 180 degrees after Sharpier's vicious blow to the head. While Anderson jumps on his back

* all 3 players hit the ground a yard or 2 in front of the red line

The only thing Sharpier did well was hit the guy as hard as he could hoping to knock Mitchell out and the ball drop away. Not

please note...Sharpier started the play at the 41 and is at most 10 yards from the spot between the hash marks where Mitchell catches the ball. He passes only 2 yards from the exact spot Mitchell catches the ball while the ball was in the air...and incredibly...Sharpier was looking back right at Mitchell as he passed that spot. And Mitchell was starting to break inside the Hash marks to the ball as Sharpier continues to sidestep up the field outside the hash marks.

Yes sir...that's the free safety I want on my team...I sure am glad MS just paid him a $2M RB to return this fall.

Sharpier is great close the LOS...but...when he's deep he takes bad angles and reacts slowly. Always has.

Anyhow...that's as close as I can describe the replay. If you have the game on tape...what I described is the 1st of the replay angles they showed us after the next play (where the Pack was off sides).

*Please read the follow-up article "Further Dissection of 4th and 26" for my less emotionally charged thoughts after having more time to think about what the replays showed me.

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