Matt McGloin wasn’t supposed to be starting last Sunday. He sure as hell wasn’t supposed to be throwing touchdowns. He was the fourth option for the Raiders this past summer, after Matt Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and Tyler Wilson. But he beat out Wilson and then beat out Flynn for a roster spot. Then Pryor got injured. Now it’s McGloin’s time, and he didn’t disappoint.
He stepped up to the big stage like he does in the pocket: calm and collected. He threw floaters and strikes, completions and touchdowns. All en route to three total touchdowns, zero turnovers, and a win. This was what a backup quarterback was supposed to do: manage the game, keep it within reach late, and pull it out if you can. Just don’t lose it.
Oh, he didn’t. Two of his three touchdowns came on “NFL throws”. The first one that stood out was his 16-yard strike to wide receiver Rod Streater. It came off of a Double Posts concept that the Raiders designed out of a bunch formation.
After a motion by fullback Marcel Reece across the formation and back, McGloin had a Trips Bunch set to his right. It consisted of a tight end, a fullback, and a wide receiver. The two central figures of the formation were Mychal Rivera (tight end) and Rod Streater. Rivera was the man on the line and would be running the inner-most post pattern between he and Streater, who ran a post pattern well outside the hashes.
The concept was designed to attack the Texans’ two-deep safety shell. If it worked, it would put strong safety D.J. Swearinger in a tough spot, forcing him to come up to Rivera or drop back to Streater. Either way it was a win for the Raiders, provided McGloin — the undrafted, unproven rookie — could do his part.
After catching the shotgun snap, McGloin took a quick three-step drop consisting of one big step and two small ones. After the third, his right foot hit the ground, his left leg flexed, and his arm came up.
Swearinger was standing at the strong-side hash when Rivera ran the first of the two posts. He didn’t have a choice; the inside linebacker who was supposedly covering Rivera got lost in coverage and left Swearinger to cover the tight end.
With Swearinger forced to step up to the first post pattern, McGloin released the football from his palm and threw a strike over the inside linebacker’s head and into the hands of Streater, who beat the cornerback inside for the touchdown.
This was a big league throw. A throw that some believed McGloin couldn’t make. Many questioned his arm strength coming out of Penn State, hence why he slid out of the draft completely. They wondered if it would prevent him from ever becoming a starting quarterback in the NFL. For a moment, he made naysayers believers.
Another moment came in the third quarter that was believable. With eight and a half minutes left, McGloin lined up in the shotgun and had four potential targets evenly distributed to each side. This was a Doubles formation, but there would be no Double Post concept to follow. Instead, it would be four Verticals.
Four Verticals puts stress on the safeties like the Double Posts concept. Although at first glance it appears that it would essentially be man coverage across the board once the safeties matched up with the slot receivers, this wasn’t true. Once all threats went vertical, the safeties would have to get in between the slot and perimeter receiver to provide help over the top of the cornerbacks. For anyone who’s watched safeties play this concept in the past, they know it’s a tough job.
It’s also tough for McGloin. He has to look off one of the safeties and then make a bucket throw over the top of a linebacker.
The ball snapped and McGloin caught it, faking it to the running back and then immediately looking downfield. He looked left. There he had Rivera again and another receiver. The receiver ran his route down the sideline, stretching it wide and forcing Swearinger to make a decision.
Swearinger’s responsibility is simple in theory but hard in practice. He needs to keep his shoulders square until McGloin decides where he’s going with the ball. It boils down to keeping a clean backpedal, splitting the gap between the two targets and keeping his shoulders square. But McGloin made that tough.
McGloin hung in the pocket after a quick dropback and looked left where the receiver was. Swearinger, initially splitting the distance between the two threats like he’s taught to do, took a false step by committing to Rivera’s bend route over the middle. McGloin, however, kept looking left and eventually convinced Swearinger to open his hips up toward the sideline. As soon as Swearinger changed direction, McGloin launched the ball to the middle of the field. It went over the linebacker’s head and into Rivera’s hands as he crossed the goal-line.
It was his third and final touchdown of the game. McGloin exceeded expectations in Week 11, overcoming what many thought would be a feast for the Texans defense on an inexperienced and overwhelmed quarterback. Instead it turned out to be the opposite, as McGloin was in command and poised, claiming an American football hat-trick and a potential starting job.
Pretty good for a guy who wasn’t supposed to be on an NFL roster.