Intro: Each week, Colts.com will take a look at a significant play from the previous week’s contest. This week’s installment examines safety Matthias Farley’s interception against the Buffalo Bills late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Week 14 game at New Era Field.
INDIANAPOLIS — This week’s film breakdown looks at Indianapolis Colts safety Matthias Farley’s big interception late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s eventual 13-7 overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills in a driving snowstorm at New Era Field.
Here’s the All-22 of the play:
After Adam Vinatieri connected on perhaps one of the more improbable extra-point kicks in recent NFL memory to tie the game at 7 apiece — a 43-yarder, assessed after a offensive pass interference call on a two-point try that would’ve given the Indianapolis Colts the late lead, in the driving snow with crazy, swirling winds — the Buffalo Bills took the field for one final drive with just 1:16 remaining, hoping for one more last-ditch effort to get down the field and put some points up before overtime. The Colts offense had just finished up an astounding 19-play, 77-yard drive that took an incredible 9:53 off the game clock, so it had been quite a while — the 11:18 mark of the fourth quarter — since the Bills’ offense had been on the field. Buffalo was already without both its starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor (who was inactive with a knee injury), and its backup, rookie Nathan Peterman, who suffered a concussion midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s game and would not return. So tasked with leading the offense the rest of the way was third-stringer Joe Webb, who came into the game with one passing yard to his credit in the NFL since 2011.
So on 1st and 10 from their own 25 of the ensuing drive, Webb attempted to find his big target, Kelvin Benjamin — who had caught a couple big passes, including the team’s lone touchdown, in the first half — 20 yards down the field at the 45, but rookie cornerback Quincy Wilson, who simply locked Benjamin down in the second half, was there to break it up near the sideline. So here we are: it’s 2nd and 10 from the Buffalo 25-yard line; 1:01 remains in the fourth quarter of this crazy game.
The Bills come out in the shotgun formation with a three-receiver set, with twins to the left and a single receiver to the right, while they set up a tight end, Charles Clay, in a three-point stance next to left tackle Dion Dawkins. With just one time out remaining and a whole lot of field ahead of the Buffalo offense, the Colts probably aren’t expecting a run play here, despite the conditions as well as the success to that point by running back LeSean McCoy. who is lined up to the right of Webb. The Indy defense comes out in its nickel package featuring five defensive backs; one safety, Matthias Farley, is playing up alongside the inside linebackers to cover the tight end, Clay, while the Colts utilize a single-high safety, T.J. Green, to ensure nothing gets by over the top.
On the snap, the Colts rush just four and depend on the man coverage on the back end to hold up, with inside linebacker Antonio Morrison acting as a spy on Webb to ensure he can’t escape and get a big chunk of yardage. The Bills run vertical routes on the left side to clear out some space, with double-crossing routes across the middle, as wide receiver Andre Holmes cuts across to the left five-yards away and Clay breaks out of his stance to cut across to the right at the first-down marker.
As it turned out, the Colts’ pass rush is on the money this play. First, outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard initially steps to his right, but then jets to his left and wins a quick hands battle to easily get by right tackle Jordan Mills. Nose tackle Al Woods, meanwhile, bullrushes his way into Webb’s face, putting his hand up to obscure the quarterback’s vision to his right. Defensive end Margus Hunt, meanwhile, gets a solid rush against Dawkins. All of these factors force Webb to slide up into the pocket, where he sees what he believes is a wide open Clay to the right side of the field 10 yards away.
One of the more fascinating aspects of this play when you get a chance to look at it from the high sideline angle is the fact Farley is actually able to use the cleared spot on the field from Vinatieri’s improbable extra-point attempt to gain a little better traction to get a jump in his coverage on Clay. Had he not had a clearing, Farley very well could’ve slipped and allowed Webb to get the ball to his tight end with a ton of room to go before he would’ve been met by Green at the 45 or 50. Also, Clay is momentarily open on the play, but because Woods put his hand in Webb’s face and he was forced to move up in the pocket to evade the rush, Farley was given enough time to catch up in coverage.
Moving forward with some not-so-great footing, Webb short-arms a wobbly pass attempt towards his tight end, and Farley is right in his tracks. All he has to do is work his way around Cobb and make a relatively easy catch, even considering the conditions — and now the fun part really begins. With the ball in his possession, Farley begins trekking through inches of snow looking for an opening, and is eventually pushed out of bounds at the Buffalo 28-yard line.
The play allowed the Colts to set up a game-winning field goal attempt, again from 43 yards out, but it would go wide left to send the game into overtime, where the Bills would get a late McCoy touchdown to escape with a 13-7 win.