TD toss puts spotlight on defending long passes
By all accounts, Glover Quin did the right thing.
NFL coaches tell players defending deep, desperation passes to knock them down instead of trying to catch them, and that's exactly what the Houston Texans cornerback tried to do on the final play of last Sunday's game in Jacksonville.
But Quin swatted David Garrard's 50-yard pass straight backward and into the hands of Mike Thomas, who stepped into the end zone for the winning score.
Quin, in his second season, wishes he could've just ignored the instructions coaches always gave him and just snatched the ball out of the air to force overtime. It would've been Quin's first career interception.
''I hate that it happened,'' he said. ''I can't go back and change it. Just have to be better and prevent it from happening again.''
Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio watched the play and he is rethinking how he wants his players to defend similar plays.
Del Rio was Baltimore's linebackers coach from 1999-2001, when Rod Woodson was a Ravens' defensive back. Woodson was always looking for the interception, even on last-ditch, desperation throws, Del Rio said.
''Sometimes those coaching rules that you have are re-examined,'' he said. ''So I think when you have guys with good hands you typically say, 'Hey, go catch that thing.' That'll cause some people around the league to re-evaluate that, I would think. We'll talk about it.''
The probability of completing such passes is extremely low, even if the defense breaks down. Garrard's pass was only the third since 1983 covering at least 50 yards for the winning touchdown on the final play of regulation.
The last one before Sunday occurred on the same field in 2002, and the Jaguars were on the losing end. Cleveland's Tim Couch threw a 50-yard pass to Quincy Morgan on the last snap, and the Browns won 21-20. Couch also threw one in 1999, completing a 56-yarder to Kevin Johnson as time expired for a 21-16 win over New Orleans.
The Texans don't want it to ever happen to them again.
Defensive coordinator Frank Bush said the coaches ''have got to change something'' in their defensive scheme for long, last-second pass plays, but he wouldn't offer specifics. Despite Sunday's result, Bush still believes that batting the ball to the ground is the prudent approach.
''The basic principle remains the same - you go up and try to spike the ball,'' Bush said. ''Maybe you catch it and throw it down. You don't change that basic principle. But of course, you've got to look at it and say, 'Why weren't we successful?' And then you've got to fix it.''
Bush said the Texans work on them once a week, going over each player's specific role. Quin is Houston's designated ''jumper,'' the player assigned to go after the ball - and coach Gary Kubiak said he did what he was supposed to do on Sunday.
''If the throw is perfect and right in the middle of the pile, all you can do is knock it down,'' Kubiak said. ''He went over two people. He knocked it down. The fact that it went straight to one of their guys, that's beyond his control. He's just doing what he was told to do.''
Kubiak said Quin's teammates bear more responsibility, failing to keep Thomas and tight end Marcedes Lewis from getting chances to catch a deflection.
''We have people that have to be in position to basically block them out,'' Kubiak said. ''We were in position at about the 10-yard line. We then lost position on them and both of them are standing right there in front of us, where we should be in front of them.
''We have to get that situation handled,'' he said. ''You can't lose a game in that situation, but we did.''
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher say they'll continue to tell their players to knock the ball down in similar scenarios. Ryan said Quin was victimized by an ''unfortunate'' bounce, and the play might've turned out the same if he had tried to make the catch.
''Those things happen,'' Ryan said. ''If he'd have tried to go up and intercept the ball, and would've bobbled it, somebody would've caught it. You're darned if you do, darned if you don't. I don't think I've ever seen that, though.
''I've seen guys go for interceptions, miss it, guys catch it or offenses get a lucky bounce or something. Clearly, the young man (Quin) did exactly what he was taught to do. He probably wanted to spike it a little more. I feel bad for the young man.''
Fisher said the Titans don't regularly practice desperation-pass defense, but they rehearse them in training camp and discuss them every week.
''Bat it down, bat it forward,'' Fisher said. ''Over the years, those guys who go up and try and make that catch, typically that ball bounces around. Bat the ball down straight down is what most people are coached to do, and wall off and screen off the receivers.''
The Texans have pored over the agonizing video replay of Sunday's finish and are trying their best to forget about it. But cornerback Brice McCain, who was covering Thomas on the play, is still in disbelief.
''It was a dream, I don't know,'' he said. ''I can't explain it. It just happened.''
AP Sports Writers Teresa Walker in Nashville and Mark Long in Jacksonville contributed.