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Football 101: Watson's big throw against Alabama


During draft week, I realized that I hadn't done a Prospect of the Day write-up on Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson. I had written and updated three versions of the Harris 100, written five different versions of mock drafts for the Washington Post and numerous other articles. But, 72 hours away from draft night, I had an epiphany that I hadn't completed my POTD on Watson.

I thought I'd have to scramble to put it together, but I had seen so many of his games and throws during his time at Clemson. I had a handle on things. To get me in the mood, so to speak, I found this season's national championship game against Alabama. I had in my mind that I wanted to highlight Watson's clutch nature and wanted to study (again) his final, game-winning drive against Alabama.

As Watson and the Clemson offense moved the ball right down the field, the game winning throw to Hunter Renfrow stood out like a beacon in the far off distance. On my way, though, I saw the exact play that would help me prove my point.

When the game's on the line, in this draft class, there's one guy I want with the ball in his hands - Deshaun Watson. Clemson had the ball 2nd and 10on the Alabama 26-yard line. The Tigers were well within their field goal kicker's range and a field goal would've tied the game. But, Watson seemed to want to end it on that drive. He couldn't have done that without this throw.

Clemson aligned 2x2, ball in the middle of the field.

At this point in the game, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was throwing the kitchen sink at Watson with hopes that his exhausted defense could stop Watson just one more time. With dime (six defensive backs) personnel on the field, Pruitt sent inside linebacker Reuben Foster (he was drafted in the first round last night) on an A gap blitz. Outside linebacker Tim Williams looped back inside behind Foster. The thought being that one of the two would come free as the Clemson offensive line would only pick up one of them.

Outside linebacker Ryan Anderson peeled off the line of scrimmage to cover running back Wayne Gallman out of the backfield and the Tide played man under zone in the back. The underneath defenders played man and two safeties were designated to play over the top to help. This coverage allows for aggressive man coverage with help over the top to give the rushers time to get to the quarterback.

The stunt was nearly perfect for Alabama. Foster blew through his blocker. Williams came scot free and defensive end Da'Shawn Hand beat the tackle at the same time. All three bore down on Watson.

Watson figured his best matchup was his tight end Jordan Leggett on safety Ronnie Harrison. Leggett ran a short corner or sail route as outside receiver Mike Williams ran hard up the seam. Essentially, the two swapped or switched areas of the field but Leggett had the more advantageous matchup.

With all three front seven stars bearing down on him, he knew he was going to take a huge hit. Keep in mind that at this point in the game, Watson had accounted for a combined 74 throws runs. Furthermore, Alabama had hit the ever loving you know what out of him. But, what did he do?

He stood tall and threw a laser to the one spot where only his receiver (Leggett) could make the catch.

Here's another look from the end zone of Leggett making the excellent diving catch.

I'm sure if I had asked Deshaun about this throw, he would've said that it could've been a bit more accurate. However, every other quarterback would've scrambled, taken a sack or thrown the ball away. All Watson did was make the throw of the season...up to that point.

Two plays later, Watson hit Renfrow for the touchdown that made each of them legends. Yet, without that dime to Leggett, the Tigers wouldn't have been in position to make history. Deshaun Watson made that happen, flashing his toughness and clutchness for the world to see.

Check out some of the best shots from Texans QB Deshaun Watson's introductory press conference.

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