Brian Flores explains Jason McCourty’s game-changing play
It’s fitting that the play of the game in Super Bowl LIII didn’t involve a touchdown, a turnover, or even the gaining of a single yard. The biggest play came when Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty covered nearly 20 yards in two seconds to break up a pass thrown to an otherwise wide-open Rams receiver Brandin Cooks.
Appearing on Tuesday’s PFT Live, new Dolphins coach (and former Patriots de facto defensive coordinator) Brian Flores explained the play.
“It was a play we saw earlier in the game,” Flores said. “We talked about the play. We actually had it covered a little bit better earlier in the game.”
He’s right about that. Chris Simms found the play in the coaches film. It came with 4:28 left in the first quarter, and it unfolded the same way: Brandin Cooks ran a post from the left, and Robert Woods ran an underneath route from the right.
The first time, cornerback Stephon Gilmore covered Cooks on the post route, but the throw went to Woods. (It was incomplete.) The second time, Gilmore and two others (including safety Devin McCourty) moved toward Woods, allowing Cooks to spring free.
“They went back to it,” Flores said. “We knew that they were going to go back to it. We had a miscommunication. Jason, he made the play of the game. It was an incredible effort play is really what it was. And that’s something we talk about on a day-to-day basis. We had a guy make a mistake. We had a guy cover for him. And then it ended up being the play of the game. I was so happy for Jason because you know he’s had, you know, he was 0-16 a year ago [with the Browns]. He came in here and he worked and this was an up-and-down season, I’m so happy for him to go out and win it.”
Win it he did, and in doing so he helped his twin brother avoid becoming the potential goat (and not in the good way). If that play had connected and the Rams had gone up 7-3, who knows how the remaining 18 minutes of the game would have unfolded? The Rams could have won the game, and the catalyst for it could have been the Cooks touchdown reception.
And let’s not simply praise Jason McCourty for his effort. Rams quarterback Jared Goff deserves criticism for not throwing the ball sooner (or more crisply when he did), since the Rams presumably ran the play in the first quarter as a setup for the second try, in the hopes that the coverage would converge, as it did, on Woods. Goff should have seen it as soon as Cooks threw his hand in the air, and Goff should have hit Cooks not while he was at the back of the end zone but in stride.