Terence Newman versus the Raiders – 2 interceptions and 3 pass deflections

The NFL’s best cornerback last week was 37-year-old Terence Newman, whose performance last week earned him the honor of NFC Defensive Player of the Week.  Newman was targeted ten times last week; on those ten targets, he allowed three receptions for 21 yards and no touchdowns, with three pass breakups and two interceptions.  Derek Carr had a passer rating of zero when targeting Newman.  In fact, Newman played so well that even if you take away the second interception, Carr still would have had a passer rating of zero when targeting Newman.

37-year-olds aren’t supposed to play this well.  37-year-old cornerbacks definitely aren’t supposed to play this well.  In fact, it was only a few months ago that the oldest rostered NFL cornerback was 31.  This post breaks down the best game of his long, long career.

The Situation: Vikings up 7-0 with four minutes remaining the first quarter; first-and-ten at Oakland’s 35 yard line.

Raiders’ Playcall: Play action pass designed for either Crabtree running an In route or Cooper running a hook.  Tight end and slot receiver stay back to block.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-2 man.

The Result: Carr pass short right intended for A.Cooper INTERCEPTED by T.Newman at OAK 45. T.Newman to OAK 41 for 4 yards.

On Newman’s first interception, Carr runs his seven-step play-action dropback and looks left at Crabtree, who is bracketed by the linebacker and corner, then over to Cooper, who appears to have beaten Newman on his curl.

However, Newman was playing slightly off the receiver, likely to bait a pass from Carr in an attempt to pick off the throw (Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer stated that they would try to create more turnovers on defense against the Raiders).

Carr throws the ball to Cooper, but the ball arrives just a split-second after Cooper finishes his route, enabling Newman just enough time to jump the route for the interception.

The bait works.  Newman shows great agility and awareness getting back to the ball and jumping in front of Cooper to secure the pick.

The Situation: Vikings up 23-14 right before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Raiders are in hurry up on first-and-ten on the Vikings’ 11.

Raiders’ Playcall: Two receivers left and right, outside receivers run fades towards the endzone; inside receivers run slants.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-1 robber.

The Result: Carr pass deep right intended for A.Holmes INTERCEPTED by T.Newman at MIN -8. Touchback.

On the play that sealed the Vikings’ win, Carr only drops back three steps and only makes one read because there’s only one throw to make here—Newman is 5’10” and is matched up against 6’4” Andrew Holmes, so the quick endzone fade is the obvious throw.

Newman plays high and turns his hips out to play the end zone sideline, knowing a deep fade is coming.  He’s in good position throughout the route, and Carr places the ball high and outside where (hopefully) only Holmes could catch it.

Newman, however, does a great job anticipating that ball placement, as he abandons his over position to jump in front of Holmes.  But he still has six inches to make up for.  He makes up for a few inches with a higher vertical and makes up for the other few inches by fully extending his left arm, hand and fingers (Holmes cannot extend because he has to use both hands to catch the ball), getting his hand perfectly between Holmes’ hands to break up the pass.

This is great positioning and awareness—not only of the ball placement, but also of the deflected pass, which Newman quickly secures.  Showing additional awareness, he quickly decides to take the touchback, seeing the offensive line coming to stop a return.

The Situation: Vikings up 20-14 with 75 seconds left in the first half. 2nd-and-16 for the Raiders on their own 16.

Raiders’ Playcall: Carr in the shotgun, two receivers left and right, inside receivers run quick outs;   outside receivers run deep curls.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-2, in man on the left side of the field and in zone on the right.

The Result: Carr pass incomplete short right to M.Rivera (T.Newman).

The Vikings have their #1 corner and slot corner covering the left side of the field, leaving Newman (the #2 corner) and Anthony Barr to cover the two receivers right.  It’s a basic hi/lo read, so as soon as Newman turns inside and up to cover Crabtree’s deep route, Carr knows his lo read will be open and tosses it to Rivera in the flat.

The only problem with this read is Newman, as a 37-year-old vet, has seen it hundreds of times before and knows to key in on Carr once he runs past Rivera to track Crabtree.  Sure enough, Newman predicts the throw right as Carr slings it, and Newman shows incredible stop-and-go speed as he pulls off Crabtree to slam back into Rivera.

The ball placement from Carr is a little awkward, with a wobbly ball slightly behind and below Rivera, forcing an awkward catch.  Newman reacts immediately, lowering his shoulder and right hand into the ball to sell out on breaking up the pass instead of wrapping up the receiver.  The result is the first of Newman’s three pass breakups on the day.

The Situation: Vikings up 20-14 with 11:13 to go in the third quarter. 1st-and-10 for the Raiders on their own 43.

Raiders’ Playcall: Carr in shotgun with five-wide.  Four of the five receivers run curls, the right slot receiver runs out.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-2 nickel zone.

The Result: Carr pass incomplete short right to M.Reece (T.Newman).

Pre-snap, Carr notes both outside corners are playing high off their receiver, which should leave one of these guys open on the curl.  Carr looks right and throws to Reece as soon as he sees Newman turn his hips in, again baiting a throw to Reece.

Newman sees Reece starting to curl and immediately cuts back, again showing amazing stop-and-go agility for a 37-year-old.  Newman cuts so quickly that he gets to the ball before Reece does, nearly notching what would have been a third interception, except Reece pulls Newman’s left hand, turning a would-be interception into Newman’s second pass deflection on the day:

The Situation: Very next play—2nd-and-10 for the Raiders on their own 43.

Raiders’ Playcall: Singleback playaction, two WRs and a TE left, one WR right.  Left receivers run out up the seam and out into the flat, respectively, while the TE crosses; the split end runs a deep curl.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-1 robber.

The Result: Carr pass incomplete short right to A.Cooper (T.Newman).

This is my favorite play from the game, thanks to the subtle back-and-forth between Newman and Cooper.  Here, the veteran manages to out-execute the rookie.

Coming out of the play action Carr runs his progressions only to see everyone is covered fairly well.  Carr sees Newman running with Cooper step-for-step and throws to Cooper, anticipating Cooper to get open on the curl—presumably the 21-year-old will be more agile to cut back to the ball than Newman.

Cooper does a lot of subtle things to throw Newman off, but Newman runs this route perfectly:

  • Cooper starts out of his break cutting outside.
  • In response, Newman swings his hips outside to keep leverage.
  • Cooper reacts by cutting slightly inside, forcing Newman to run upfield, which will presumably get Cooper open once he cuts back.
  • But Newman appears to know and run the route just as well as Cooper does, and cuts back to the ball as soon as he sees Cooper slowing down.

Newman’s actually faster back to the ball, allowing him to get his hands between Cooper’s to play the ball and break up the play:

To top off Newman’s performance, he’s actually playing at a bit of a disadvantage, as Cooper gets away with some slight offensive pass interference as he pushes Newman’s face mask away to get separation.   That doesn’t stop Newman from playing perfect coverage the whole route through, and Newman gets his fists in front of Cooper to break up his third pass on the day.

The Situation: Vikings up 20-14 on the first play of the second half. 1st-and-10 for the Raiders on their own 20.

Raiders’ Playcall: Power run.  Two receivers left, two tight-ends lined up next to the line right.  The right tackle pulls left outside and the outside TE pulls to block up the middle.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-2 man.

The Result: L.Murray left guard to OAK 22 for 2 yards (L.Joseph; T.Newman).

Newman played very well against the run, as well, and this play is one example of him covering his lane and making the tackle to stop the run.

This power run is designed to give Murray the option of following the pulling tight end up the middle or following the pulling right tackle to the outside.  RDE Everson Griffen beats LT Donald Penn to close off the outside run and forcing Murray inside, where the interior blocking has opened up a hole up the middle.

That hole quickly closes, however, as Linval Joseph gets off his block and Terence Newman flies up the hold to cover his gap.

Newman tackles Murray by the ankles while Joseph pulls his upper body back and to the ground for a gain of only two on first down.

The Situation: Vikings up 20-14 with 90 seconds left in the first half. 1st-and-15 for the Raiders on their own 16.

Raiders’ Playcall: Carr in the shotgun, two receivers left, one right, pre-snap Carr motions the fullback into the slot.  Outside receivers run skinny posts; inside receivers wheel out.  Play is designed to lure the man coverage deep, opening up space for the running back in the flat.

Vikings’ Playcall: Cover-2, in man on the left side of the field and in zone on the right.

The Result: Carr pass short left to M.Rivera to OAK 15 for -1 yards (T.Newman).

Pre-snap, Carr motions the fullback into the slot, taking the linebackers with him and signaling cover-2 man.  The pre-snap read for Carr is that with both safeties playing high and all receivers running deep routes, the running back should have miles of space underneath in the flat.

Problem is, the right side of the field isn’t in man coverage, and both Newman and Barr sniff this play out before Carr even throws the ball.  Newman in particular plays the outside zone for both the split end and the fullback, but cuts hard back to the sideline as soon as he sees Carr’s arm pull back towards Rivera.

Because of that playcall, and because of Newman’s awareness and immediate reaction, the end-result is that instead of having the whole flat to run, Rivera doesn’t even have room to run back to the line.  Newman lowers his shoulder and wraps up Rivera’s knees for a great tackle for loss, snuffing out the pass before it even starts.

Newman’s defensive performance was one of the best ProFootballFocus has seen all year.  It was a career game, and when you’ve been in the league for well over a decade, that means a lot.