There's no team on the Texans schedule that won't put a focus on Pro Bowl star receiver DeAndre Hopkins, and for good reason. Out in Los Angeles, there were times when the Rams put a corner right up on him - Trumaine Johnson - and a safety - LaMarcus Joyner - directly over the top. It's the ultimate show of respect, without question, but there have been times where a lockdown star cornerback wants to prove he can cover Hopkins on his own. All by himself. Alone.
Patrick Peterson is one of those players.
The Cardinals star corner is one of the few true lockdown cornerbacks that typically travels with a number one wide receiver. When the Cardinals came to Houston last Sunday, Peterson's target was clear - DeAndre Hopkins. Peterson took his responsibility a step further. One week after watching Rams defensive backs gang up on Hopkins like a pair of bullies on an unsuspecting youth on the schoolyard, I saw Peterson wave off help to tangle with Hopkins one-on-one.
Ironically, it was a play where Peterson assumed that he had some help (and didn't) that led to a Texans score to start the second half. It wasn't just any Texans score either, but one in which Hopkins beat Peterson man-to-man for a 28-yard touchdown on a straight go-route. Consequently, it was the play prior that Peterson and the Cardinals yielded a 34-yard catch on third down to Hopkins that set up the subsequent touchdown.
It was 3rd-and-8 and the Texans had 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) in the game. Lamar Miller aligned next to Tom Savage in the shotgun, while three receivers were aligned out to the field. Hopkins was one-on-one with Peterson to the top of the formation into the boundary.
The Cardinals appeared to be in cover one - man coverage with a post safety deep. The other safety, Tyrann Mathieu, was then responsible for jumping/robbing/thieving anything in the intermediate area of the field. C.J. Fiedorowicz and Braxton Miller cleared out on the left side, while Bruce Ellington and DeAndre Hopkins ran a mesh route across the middle of the field.
A few things to note... one was that Hopkins immediately beat Peterson to the inside. Another was Mathieu in the middle of the field (in the circle). He had his eyes on Savage waiting for him to make a throwing decision. The thing was, though, that because of the route concept, Savage could look in one spot (the mesh point) and make a decision. So, Mathieu never got a read off of Savage. But, now take a look at Peterson in the next picture.
He pointed at someone like a basketball player that needed help down the court. Now, he may have recognized the route concept and been signaling to his fellow defensive back to switch on the coverage. He might have been trying to let Mathieu know that Hopkins was free across the middle. Either way, the Cardinals did the unthinkable...
...they lost Hopkins.
Mathieu kept his eyes on Ellington across the middle and the slot cornerback covering Ellington stayed on Bruce too. Peterson didn't get anyone's attention, trailed Hopkins by yards and watched as Hopkins broke wide open.
The timing of Savage's throw and the location of Hopkins' catch were perfect because Hopkins caught the ball just as Fiedorowicz cleared the area, running in the other direction. Therefore, his defender couldn't "fall off" into the throwing lane or tackle Hopkins short of the first down. Hopkins cleared those two and sprinted down the field.
Thirty-four yards later, Hopkins matriculated the ball down to the 28-yard line. On the very next snap, he beat Peterson down the left sideline for a go-ahead touchdown.