After Further Review: Five takes from the Fiesta Bowl tape of LSU QB Joe Burrow

After Further Review: Five takes from the Fiesta Bowl tape of LSU QB Joe Burrow
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow will be senior in 2019. (Source: Photo by: Josh Auzenne/WAFB)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Take one: In 2019, LSU belongs to Burrow

When was the last time the starting quarterback was truly the face of LSU’s program. That’ll happen in 2019. It’s Burrow’s team. His bowl performance sealed the deal. Not only was it his best overall game statistically, he also won everyone over by his response to that harsh blindside, crack-block he took on his interception.

That toughness combined with his maturity and timely sense of trash talk has ascended him to the most respected player in that locker room. If 2019 is as special as everyone hopes it will be, Burrow will be front and center leading the charge.

Joe Burrow breaks down winning the Fiesta Bowl, throwing 4 TD's

Take Two: Bucket throws and Intermediate passes

Now to the tape, Burrow has good, not elite, arm strength. Thus, he’s more of a ‘detailed’ passer instead of power thrower. This shows up best when he’s working between the hashes in the intermediate parts of the field and the ‘drop it in the bucket’ throws beyond twenty yards.

Both were on full display in the Fiesta Bowl:

  • (5:42 first quarter) Right after his pick six, Burrow connected with Stephen Sullivan (more on this play below) on a dig (deep cross) for 15 yards.
  • (1:27 1st quarter) Later in the same drive he tear-dropped a beauty to Justin Jefferson,who was running a fade/go route in the end zone for the score.
  • (12:59 2nd quarter) His second touchdown toss went to Derek Dillon on another dig. Burrow sliced through the defense with an accurate throw.  Dillon did the rest by breaking a tackle and outrunning everyone to the end zone.
  • (13:25 3rd quarter) Burrow connected with Foster Moreau on a square in for 16 yards. Again, Burrow was accurate with his pass.
  • (12:38 3rd quarter) Two plays later, while under center in a base set, Burrow dropped it another beauty to Ja’Marr Chase on a double move, stop-n-go for a touchdown down the sideline.
  • (6:16 4th quarter) His best pass came when he connected with Sullivan late in the fourth quarter on a slot fade/seam route for 42 yards. Sullivan was on the backside of a stack formation. Burrow pinpointed the coverage and delivered the ball.
  • Burrow just missed Sullivan on a slot fade earlier in the game but on the opposite side of the field. The pass was slightly overthrown; Burrow’s frustration with himself was evident after the play.

Obviously, these are only six of Burrow’s 21 completions, but his best passes came on these type of throws.

Take Three: Tigers borrowing from Saints offense

The Tigers have certainly borrowed from the Saints playbook. Three plays jumped out after watching the Fiesta Bowl.

The Saints run a play where Drew Brees lines up under center, takes the snap doesn’t even really drop back, looks downward, then raises his head to connect with Michael Thomas on slant right off the line.

Burrow did this twice Tuesday. Both were for first downs, and both went to Chase. The first came late in the second quarter for 14 yards; the second came in the fourth quarter for ten yards.

The other example was the play described above. Remember 3rd & 20 against the Steelers a few weeks ago? On that play Brees hit Ted Ginn, Jr. for 25 yards and a crucial first down.

Well, the Tigers ran that play early in the game. It’s called ‘all go special’ where four receivers run down field go routes. One receiver will then bend inside to overload a zone. In LSU’s case, the ‘bender’ was Sullivan who ran a dig just past the sticks underneath the go routes.

Take Four: Where Burrow can improve

This can’t be a complete love fest for Burrow. He did have a few mistakes. His biggest may be his tendency to hold on to the ball too long. He did this three times against Central Florida. On all three, he had ample protection. It nearly cost them early in the game on third down on the drive following his pick-six. On the play, Burrow held onto the ball too long and missed Terrance Marshall, who was matched up on a linebacker on a shallow cross. Burrow was sacked, but fortunately Central Florida was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after the defender spiked the ball.

Burrow’s also a little inconsistent on the intermediate sideline throws where his passes tend to sail on him. He’s not terrible in this regard, but it may be the weakest part of his arm talent. His pick-six was the perfect example. The ball was put on the opposite side of where Dillon turned on his curl. Later, he threw a comeback route to Chase, who had to climb way too high to snag the ball. He missed on a comeback early the game as well.

To be fair, he also connected on three intermediate out routes to the sideline, including a third and long throw to Jefferson where he really drove the ball to move the sticks.

Take Five: Other Observations

  • Burrow made a great read in the second half when he saw the blitzing linebacker coming through the ‘b’ gap. He stood in the pocket and effortlessly hit Sullivan on the shallow cross right where the space was vacated. The connection went for 20 yards.
  • LSU ran 51 snaps out of 11 personnel of three wide receivers, one back and one tight end. They ran 26 plays out of their base 21 personnel of two receiver, one tight end and two backs.  They ran three plays out of their 01 personnel, four wide receiver set and five plays out of their 12 personnel of two receivers, two tight ends and one back. They scored two touchdowns out of 12 personnel. LSU ran one play out of their 22 personnel set of two tight ends, two backs and one receiver. 
  • They were in shotgun/pistol on 64 snaps or 74% of the time. 
  • ‘RPO’ is everyone’s new favorite term despite the fact it’s the most misused here in the game. LSU had one against Central Florida. Burrow hit Chase for 14 yards.
  • I know LSU fans are tired of seeing the power run game, but the truth is LSU is smart to have an element of that in their offense. It can wear down an opponent that’s not physically built for it and can set up shots with the play action game. Burrow’s touchdown pass to Chase was a good example.
  • Speaking of Chase, where was he all season? He might be the best overall receiver on the team. 
  • Jefferson should have had three touchdowns in the game. Burrow placed a slot fade perfectly in the end zone that Jefferson dropped. 
  • Steve Ensminger did a masterful job of blending tempo while also wearing down Central Florida. This game should have been over by the end of the third quarter. 
  • The red zone issues came down to ill-timed, foolish mistakes.
  • Burrow had ten touchdowns, one interception and completed 65% of his passes in his last four games. 

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