Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford said after Sunday night's win over the Patriots that Marvin Jones Jr. wasn't his first read on his 33-yard touchdown pass to Jones late in the third quarter, which answered a Patriots touchdown and extended the Lions' lead to 20-10.
"Not really my No. 1," Stafford said of the play after the game. "I just came around the corner and he flashed to me, and man, he ran away from a really good player and I'm just glad I put it out there."
The play, similar to last week's 30-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to Kenny Golladay, was set up by play action.
The Lions were up 13-10 at the time and facing a 1st and 10 at the New England 33-yard line. The Lions came out in their 12 personnel package, which is one back, two tight ends and two receivers. Jones is the only receiver to the left of the formation. New England's top cornerback, Stephon Gilmore, has man coverage on Jones.
Up to this point in the game, the Lions had run 22 first down plays and had run the ball on 12 of those for 64 yards and an average of more than five yards per rush.
All of that success on previous first-down runs, plus the fact the Lions were in 12 personnel, helped sell the run fake.
At the snap, Stafford and the offensive line do a good job selling the run fake to the left to running back LeGarrette Blount. Another key is the free release Gilmore gives Jones off the line of scrimmage.
The key person to watch in all of this is Patriots safety Duron Harmon, who is the single-high safety in the Patriots' defensive formation. Typically, when a receiver goes across the formation, like Jones does on his route from just inside the left numbers to all the way through to the far right sideline, that single safety will see it and run with him.
But if you watch Harmon, he hesitates for just a moment on the play fake left. As soon as Jones realizes there's no safety help and he has two steps on Gilmore, he raises his hand to flash to Stafford he's open.
We should also note the clean pocket provided here to Stafford to make this throw thanks to terrific blocks by right tackle Rick Wagner, tight end Levine Toilolo and right guard T.J. Lang.
The last element is the perfect throw by Stafford right into the hands of Jones in stride. The pair had missed on a couple of these type of throws in the first two weeks. They didn't miss this time.
"You saw I threw a little hand up just so (Stafford) could see, because you know he has to deal with a lot of things in that pocket," Jones said after the game. "It was just a good play. Great play by him. Great throw by him. Mine was just the easy part."