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Football 101: DeAndre Hopkins' tunnel screen


With the Texans trailing the Seahawks 34-31 with five minutes left in the game, the Texans called a play that they had called earlier in the game.

The first time they ran this play to the left side to DeAndre Hopkins for a six-yard gain and a first down. Nothing special, a decent gain. The second time they ran this play, the snap hit Ryan Griffin as he crossed the formation in motion, which threw off the timing of the throw from Deshaun Watson to Will Fuller. That resulted in little-to-no gain and seemingly that was it for the screen game.

Yet, on 2nd-and-7 and the Texans 72 yards away from the end zone, the Texans dialed up the tunnel screen to Hopkins one more time. When the Texans came to the line of scrimmage, running back Lamar Miller aligned to the top of the formation, all the way out by the Texans sideline.


This ultimately was what set this play in motion. Seahawks safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas, plus linebacker Bobby Wagner, did not account for Miller initially and he stood all by himself out by the sideline. As Wagner and K.J. Wright discussed who should go out to cover Miller, Thomas moved out to make sure that Miller was eventually covered by someone.


So, the entire focus of the linebackers and secondary was on Miller and who had the responsibility of covering him. Eventually, Wagner made his way out to cover Miller one-on-one. But, in attempting to correct the situation, Thomas was stuck all the way out by the numbers near the Texans sideline.


Here's where the Seahawks were in trouble and I saw it standing on the sideline. Furthermore, look at Chancellor. He motioned for Thomas to get back over to the other side. Here's the end zone shot that gives you a better view.


Even though Thomas was on the move, the two safeties were still on the far side of the field, leaving true zero (man to man with no help) coverage on the other side where DeAndre Hopkins and Bruce Ellington were aligned. Then, the ball was snapped and the Texans had the perfect play - the tunnel screen to Hopkins - dialed up.

By the time that the ball was snapped, Thomas wasn't even close to the left hash and Hopkins was due to catch the ball beyond the numbers on the right side. Keep that in mind.

Ellington blocked Seahawks cornerback Justin Coleman, while right tackle Breno Giacomini invited Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett up field so Giacomini could block Pro Bowl cornerback Richard Sherman. If those two Texan blockers could just keep them occupied, there was a chance for a big play. A big, BIG play. Why? Thomas still was nowhere near being in proper position to make a tackle on Hopkins.


Here's the shot from the end zone at the instant Hopkins caught the rock to show the tunnel that was created by the two Texans' blocks for Hopkins to exploit.


Then, the final piece to the puzzle was center Nick Martin's block on Thomas. Had Thomas been in proper position, perhaps Martin doesn't get out to block Thomas on time or in the right spot. But, because Thomas was late getting back to that side of the field, Martin was in a good location to get a hat on him and keep him from making the tackle on Hopkins.

Hop, then, took care of the rest, bursting up field, avoiding any potential Seahawk landmines. He cut back on Chancellor, leaving the Seahawks star safety grasping for air, sprinting into the open for the end zone. Seventy-two yards later the Texans had taken the lead. Suffice to say, Hop was FLYING for six!

The Texans screen game has been much improved in 2017, that's for sure, but they did get a little bit of an assist from the Seahawks defense along the way.

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