From Saints Sandwich to Touchdown!

No Huddle asked me to analyze a nice touchdown thrown by Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins to Ryan Grant.  Unfortunately for the Redskins, the New Orleans Saints had a monster 4th-quarter comeback and won the game in overtime.

The play I analyzed took place late in the 3rd quarter with the shot clock winding down.  The Redskins faced a 3rd and 7 from the Saints 40-yard line.  Cousins (#8) was in the shotgun and just prior to the snap, the Saints sent both safeties in for a blitz into the middle of the Redskins’ line.  Washington had seven blockers, including running back Samaje Perine (#32).  But the Saints had eight rushing the quarterback and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that 8 is greater than 7.  Kirk Cousins was about to get smashed!

The Saints’ safeties had a running start on the blitz.  Cousins received the ball 0.43 s after it was snapped and the hungry Saints defenders were rushing for the sack.  Ryan Grant (#14) was on the right side of the Washington formation.  Check out the start of the play below from the screen capture I took (click on image for a larger view).

Grant sprinted to the right sideline as Cousins held the ball long enough for Grant to get open.  The left side of the Redskins’ line broke down and Cousins was going to be blindsided by defensive end Alex Okafor (#57).  Cousins had taken four big steps back and threw the ball a full 2 s after he received the snap.  Just as he threw, he became the meat in a Saints sandwich as he got crushed by Okafor and safety Vonn Bell (#48).  Safety Rafael Bush (#25) piled on after the initial hit for added damage.  Check out the carnage below (click on image for a larger view).

Not much fun for Cousins, was it?  But he got the ball where it needed to be!  Cousins released a great spiral into low-Earth orbit at the speed of 46 mph at 30.7 degrees above the horizontal.  The ball traveled just over 38 yards in total horizontal distance, reaching a maximum height of about 8 yards above the turf, and took 2.1 s to reach Grant.  It landed in his hands at about 41.6 mph.  An air resistance force of about 15% of the ball’s weight was acting on the ball while in flight.  Check out the graph below of the ball’s trajectory (click on image for a larger view).

Grant had run past two unsuspecting Saints defenders and was wide open for the catch.  Check out just how open he was (click on image for a larger view).

Where was the defense?!?  All that was left for Grant was a stroll into the end zone with perhaps a little taunting thrown in.  After scoring, he tossed the ball into yet another low-Earth orbit.

For the audio on TuneIn Radio, click here.  Gary O’Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on the show and did a wonderful job setting up the play.  During my analysis of the play, I was interviewed by Alissa Smith of the Lynchburg News & Advance.  Gary O’Reilly was kind enough to give Alissa a few comments for her story.  Click here for the story that appeared in the Monday, 20 November 2017 edition of the paper.

I am Professor of Physics at Lynchburg College and author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports.

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