Tommy Rees has been clutch in his role as the Irish backup quarterback this season. On Saturday, he led the Irish on a game-tying drive at the end of regulation and a game-winning drive in overtime. He finished 4-for-4 passing with a touchdown. The once-maligned signal caller is now a big reason why Notre Dame is undefeated and off to its best start since 2002.
A look at the game-winning touchdown against Stanford
Although Rees' physical limitations are well-documented, his ability to read defenses and make proper checks at the line have improved since last season. Against the Cardinal, he identified and exploited one-on-one match-ups that Everett Golson missed for most of the day. Indeed, his touchdown pass to T.J. Jones is a good example of how he can beat a defense with his intellect rather than his arm. Let's take a look.
On 1st and goal from the 7, the Irish line up with Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and Cierre Wood to the boundary, while T.J. Jones and Robby Toma line up to the field side. The Irish have put the strength of the formation to the boundary. Because most defenses are field-strength based, lining up with the offensive strength to the boundary forces the defense to play out of its comfort zone. As a result, the Cardinal shift an inside linebacker to the boundary and roll a safety over to bracket Eifert.
Rees recognizes the potential overload blitz from the boundary and checks his protection to keep Niklas and Wood in to block. Stanford's defensive alignment should allow Jones and Toma to run double slants against single coverage. As Coach Hoover explains, double slants is an excellent route concept against Cover 2 and man coverages.
Stanford plays man coverage against Jones and Toma. Rees' read is from inside out. He should look for Toma first before looking for Jones. Here, the safety has inside leverage on Toma, and Jones has undercut the corner. Meanwhile, Stanford's five-man rush is nuetralized by seven Irish blockers.
Rees makes the proper read but throws the ball behind Jones. Fortunately, the ball is away from the defender, and Jones makes a difficult sliding catch for the score.
While Everett Golson is the future of the Notre Dame offense, Tommy Rees has found his niche as the "closer" while Golson learns on the job. Rees' command of the offense and improved decision making should give Irish fans confidence that he will get the offense into the right plays and find the right match-ups. It will be interesting to see if his role expands as the season progresses or if Golson takes full command of the offense and limits his turnovers.
Go Irish! Beat Cougars!
One thing I didn't point out in the post was that Stanford actually switched the corner and outside linebacker before the snap to jam Eifert and have a 6-6 defender against the fade. He may see more match-ups like this in the red zone moving forward.
I apologize for maligning tommy in the offseason. Yes, he is still atrocious when receivers cannot get open and when defenses force him out of the pocket, but he is still truly a master of the game at this point. Almost always makes the correct read, even if he doesn't always execute it the best. My only fear is that at some point, our defense lets us down or puts us in a hole and Tommy is needed to take control and win the game. So far this season, he's proven he can do that on one drive, but I still worry about if we are down by 14 or 17 late in a game and we need MULTIPLE great drives
@clearwall You're assessment is spot on. Rees appears to be at the point that his failures will be due to execution rather than decision making. Perhaps Rees has made the leap that many QBs take from their sophomore to junior years. I do think, however, that Rees is most effective in these limited spurts.
@BlogDavie @clearwall I think what we all were talking about Rees wrt the "decision making" thing was that all he had over the other QBs (who have arm strength, mobility, etc. as strengths) and the lapses were significant in big games last year eliminating that as a strength in the QB derby. If he is in fact back as the guy who makes the right decisions, then it definitely puts him back in the mix.
@SteveinIowa1 @BlogDavie totally agree with you, and that is exactly what I'm saying. BK is putting tommy in situations he CAN succeed in. My only fear is if EG is out of the game and the defense is no longer holding it's end up and tommy is forced to 'make plays' which we've seen in years past, he does not have the ability to do