After Sunday's 49ers-Packers game, NaVorro Bowman had this to say about his key 4th quarter interception of Aaron Rodgers:
"He didn't expect me to be there so he didn't throw it too hard. It was an easy ball to catch. I baited him into it," Bowman said. "When a quarterback sees you biting on the run, they'll think that's open over the top. I was able to bite and get back in that window when I snagged it."
At first blush that seems like a rather cocky thing for a player to say about one of the best QBs in the league. However it helps that NaVorro Bowman is one of the best inside linebackers in the league. Seeing that quote from yesterday's Golden Nuggets made me curious, so I went back to the play to see if I could spot how he managed to bait Rodgers into throwing that ball.
Pre-snap we've got Bowman and Willis lined up ab out 5 yards back of the line of scrimmage. Bowman is slightly ahead of Willis and looks like he's going to be dropping back to play pass.
More after the break . . .
Prior to the snap Bowman starts moving forward, as if to transition into either a blitz or to play the run.
At this point Bowman is about 3 1/2 yards off the line of scrimmage and seems fixated on the FB and RB.
Snap happens, Rodgers does a fake handoff, and Bowman starts backpedalling, making it appear he's going to follow #30 across the field.
A second or so later Bowman's body language continues to suggest that he's going to continue to follow the player across the field. Rodgers is already looking towards Jennings, because he thinks that either Jennings has beaten Aldon Smith, or the 49ers are playing zone in the middle of the field and Jennings can get behind the zone and get a nice gain.
There's a rather large amount of green space between Jennings and Bowman. Rodgers saw Bowman creep up earlier and bite on the running back coming out, so he thinks Bowman will continue to follow the RB, putting him in a position where Bowman can't make the play on the ball. However Rodgers fails to notice that Bowman's eyes are glued to him. He's not going to go across the field at all because he sees exactly where Rodgers is going to throw it.
Rodgers throws and Bowman is watching it the entire time.
And then he comes down with the interception.
Would Jennings have caught it? I don't know. Seemed like it might have ended up a little short, but had he caught it that would have been 13-15 yards and a first down for the Packers. Not a huge gain, but one that would have moved the chains and given them another first down. Bowman faked Rogers into throwing into an area that was not clear and thus secured an INT for himself.
This is an incredibly smart play for a young linebacker to make. Factor in his physical gifts and it's easy to see why he's one of the best linebackers in the league.