Friday, April 18, 2014 · 9:43 a.m.

Film room: Tennessee vs. Alabama

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KNOXVILLE – Blown coverages and missed opportunities are the themes of the film breakdown of Tennessee’s 44-13 loss to Alabama on Saturday. Mistakes are killing the Tennessee defense, especially the secondary. The offense made a few nice plays, but one big play got away from it.

Here’s Nooga.com’s weekly analysis of some of the Vols’ defining plays:

(First quarter, 8:30): Alabama QB AJ McCarron throws a 23-yard touchdown pass to WR Amari Cooper

UT Formation: Nickel (4-2-5)

Analysis: This one looked bad. Cooper ended up in the corner of the end zone without a Vol defender within 10 yards of him. The coverage is so bad it’s hard to even tell what it was supposed to be. It looks like a man-to-man scheme based on the alignment, but corner Prentiss Waggner, who lines up opposite of Cooper, leaves him to go cover a deep zone in the middle. Nickelback Eric Gordon is the next closet defender, but he stops like he’s defending the flat. By the time Gordon looks behind him, Cooper has him beat for the easy score. A busted coverage is the only explanation.

(First quarter, 5:22) Quarterback Tyler Bray hits receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a 25-yard gain

UT Formation: Shotgun, 4 WRs (2 to each side), RB

Analysis: I chose this play because it was one of the few good reads Bray made all night. Alabama brings a zone blitz here. Bray sees that Alabama has safety Robert Lester manned up against Patterson. Safeties, even Alabama safeties, usually don’t have the same man-to-man cover skills cornerbacks do. Bray throws a nice, quick lob to Patterson, who has no problem jumping over Lester to make the play. That play should work almost every time there’s a safety on Patterson.

(Second quarter, 6:13): Bray throws a 43-yard pass to tight end Mychal Rivera

UT Formation: Shotgun, 3 WR, TE, RB

Analysis: This play is why I think Mychal Rivera will play in the NFL. It’s a great read, a good catch and a very impressive run. Alabama runs a zone blitz – both linebackers come and the left defensive end drops into coverage. Bray and Rivera see it instantly, and Bray’s quick release gets the ball to Rivera before the end can get back into coverage. That gets about 10 yards, but Rivera then runs right past Lester, who is a future NFL defensive back, to stretch it into a big play.

(Second quarter, :20): Receiver Justin Hunter drops what would’ve been a long completion from Bray

UT Formation: Shotgun, 4 WRs (2 to each side), RB

Analysis: This is the one that will hurt the Vols the most in their film study. They had a chance to cut their deficit to one score at the end of the first half, but Hunter makes a crucial mistake. Nick Saban doesn’t make too many bad calls, but this defensive call is questionable. There are 20 seconds left in the half, the Vols are still at least 40 yards from being in field-goal range, yet the Alabama cornerbacks are playing tight coverage. There are two safeties, but the one on Hunter’s side gets occupied watching the slot receiver, Zach Rogers. Hunter simply runs by Alabama cornerback Deion Belue and Bray puts the ball right on the 6-foot-4 receiver, but he can't hang on. The drop costs the Vols at least three points, and potentially a touchdown.

(Fourth quarter, 12:57): McCarron throws a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kenny Bell

UT Formation: Nickel (4-2-5)

Analysis: Now back to another blown coverage in the Tennessee secondary. Cornerback Justin Coleman looks to be the culprit here. Alabama runs a play-action fake and Coleman comes sprinting up from his cornerback position. It’s not clear if he was supposed to be on a delayed corner blitz or if he just bit so hard on the fake that he came completely out of position. There’s nobody to cover Bell, and Coleman tries to redirect, so the best guess is that he fell for the play action. McCarron makes the simple toss to Bell, who outruns safety Byron Moore into the end zone. Undisciplined plays like this are killing Tennessee’s defense. 

Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.

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