Zo huddle
Photo Credit: Heraldnet.com


FSM Presents: Zo Huddle – The 2 Plays That Unraveled The Raiders Upset Bid

Franchise Sports Media

The Las Vegas Raiders were in a great position to stay in the AFC wildcard playoff race, but along came two disastrous passing plays that has the Silver and Black now thinking about 2021. This week’s Zo Huddle not only looks back at those plays but draws this conclusion: The next defensive coordinator must repair the DB unit. 


If you’re a defensive backs coach or former DB, you most likely sounded off on the no-look pass executed by Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter.

It’s the kind of play that wowed the inventor of the no-look NFL pass Patrick Mahomes but got Raider fans and those who either coaches the secondary or played in the secondary to go ballistic. Truth is, it wasn’t just that no-looker that exposed the Raiders pass defense.

This week’s Zo Huddle discovered bad technique in two crucial moments of the game.

Time to dive in:


Gaskin gashes 


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: The Athletic

Down 22-16 with 3:07 left in the fourth, the running back Gaskin is the furthest wideout to Fitzpatrick’s right. Miami is in an empty look (no running backs in the backfield).

And before the snap, it’s an all-Washington Huskies battle with Gaskin paired with former UW linebacker Cory Littleton. Tall cornerback Trayvon Mullen is lined up inside next to Littleton.

Littleton has a five-yard cushion on Gaskin pre-snap, meaning he’s giving the Dolphins offense a loose man look in coverage. Mullen, who was responsible for covering Mack Hollins in the slot, is caught lunging at Hollins after the 6-foot-4 wide receiver gets out of his break. This causes Mullen to briefly lose his footing and readjust.

Gaskin cuts inside at his own 45-yard line and has space in front of him after the catch. The rest is all a bad example of angle pursuits and tackling.

After Gaskin catches, inside linebacker Raekwon McMillan breaks from his coverage in the middle of the field and is in position to tussle down the Dolphins running back. Except, McMillan resorts to diving toward Gaskin instead of running through him. The elusive Gaskin breaks free from the diving attempt.

The rest of the way sees this: Littleton both out of position and slowing up at the Raiders 46-yard line while still in pursuit of Gaskin, Jonathan Abram coming down but getting blocked twice (Hollins sealed off his pursuit attempt), and lastly, Mullen playing catch-up the rest of the way…ending in a 59-yard touchdown.

Angle breakdowns and poor tackling technique leads to Gaskin putting Miami ahead. No matter what level of football it is, defensive coordinators and defensive purists cringe at seeing dive tackles. They’ll also scoff at poor angle pursuits, reaching for receivers, and hesitation shown during the play.

All that eventually became a prelude to this next disaster…


“Fitzmagic” blindfolded


Raiders vs Dolphins
Photo Credit: The Phinsider

The Raiders rush four defensive linemen, get penetration, and collapses the pocket around Fitzpatrick with less than 25 seconds left. This means sack, right?

Nope. It’s a personal foul facemask…accompanied by the pass that helped keep the Dolphins in wildcard position.

With his eyes covered by his face shield, the veteran quarterback heaves a prayer toward the left side hash marks. If you watched the game on Saturday, you already know what happened next.

But time to find out why it happened.

I don’t mind Cover Two being ran (which was what the Raiders threw at the Dolphins on this play). But C2 must be executed with no WR’s getting an outside release and the safety playing his half of the field.

Both were non-existent.

Hollins, a former fourth-round draft selection from North Carolina, gains separation from Damon Arnette, one of the Raiders’ first-round picks in the 2020 draft from Ohio State; also known as “DBU” by purists and pundits. It also helps the Dolphins that Isaiah Johnson – who played the deep safety on the play – takes the wrong angle and treks to the inside rather than pick up Hollins.

Hollins had a four-inch advantage on Arnette. But this play has nothing to do with whoever had the size advantage. It has more to do with who showed the most discipline.

The Raiders’ undisciplined nature culminates in a play that started at Miami’s 25, then covers 49 yards with the penalty tacked on. Arnette, a rookie, was clearly educated on that play. Johnson, who is naturally a cornerback, also got a crash course on playing deep safety on Cover Two.


Post huddle


Zo Huddle
Photo Credit: Las Vegas Raiders

Execution errors by the Raiders pass defense helped put the Silver and Black out of their misery against Miami. Now, Las Vegas is thinking about 2021.

Along with hunting down a new defensive coordinator, the Raiders need to rethink how they go about their pass defense play.

Mullen is still growing as a bona fide consistent starter, but the last month of the season has seen him get penalized multiple times or chasing plays from behind. He’ll also need to build from his two-interception season he’s had this year.

Abram plays with aggression, but he too often goes for the highlight reel hit and gets exposed too much in coverage. Like Mullen, the two-INT season needs to improve if he wants to stay in Sin City and be the next great Raiders DB to don the No. 24, famously worn by Super Bowl champion Willie Brown and Hall of Famer Charles Woodson. Arnette and safety Jeff Heath (the clubhouse leader in picks with three) were often injured throughout the season.


Whoever runs the Silver and Black defense will have to preach playing your techniques and becoming a ball-hawking machine. It’s the reason why I believe either Wade Phillips or Raheem Morris are the guys to lead the defense moving forward, the former producing defenses that forced takeaways and the latter having his area of expertise in secondary play.

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Lorenzo J. Reyna – Franchise Sports Media

Twitter: @LJ_Reyna


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