This is the Week 2 installment of newsday.com's "Film Room" series, a breakdown of a key moment or storyline in last week's NFL games using NFL Game Rewind's Coaches Film.
Dee Milliner's 2014 debut couldn't have been a bigger test. The second-year cornerback, who had been out since early August with a high ankle sprain, returned to game action on Sunday. His opponent? Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Milliner rotated in with starting corners Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls and didn't take the field until there was 10:31 left in the second quarter. He played 40 of 71 snaps on defense, while Allen was on the field for 56 snaps. Walls also played 40.
Overall, Milliner had an up-and-down season debut, though he later admitted that his ankle "tightened up on me a little bit" at the end. Milliner was targeted eight times, allowing five catches for 137 yards and a touchdown. Here's a breakdown of each of those targets.
2ND QUARTER: 1st & Goal, 6:33 left, ball on NYJ 5
Here, the Packers line up with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb to the left side. Milliner lines up across from Nelson on the outside, while safety Dawan Landry comes up to cover Cobb in the slot.
The play calls for Rodgers to take the snap and immediately fire to Nelson on a slant route while Cobb sets a pick of sorts (circled in red) against Landry and Milliner. In theory, it’s a quick strike for the touchdown since Milliner wouldn’t be able to get to Nelson without avoiding Cobb’s pick.
However, instead of the Packers putting six on the board, the pass is incomplete due to a miscommunication between Rodgers and Nelson. Rodgers fills his end of the bargain, immediately throwing to Nelson as soon as he gets the snap. Nelson doesn’t appear to expect the pass, though, and doesn’t turn around until well after the ball sails past him.
2ND QUARTER: 2nd & 10, 3:51 left, ball on NYJ 42
Milliner gives up his first completion on this play. Here, he lines up about 5 yards off the line of scrimmage and about 8 yards off of Davante Adams (circled in white).
Rodgers sees that Milliner is playing deep and quickly gets it out to Adams, who has turned around on a designed hitch route (highlighted in red). Milliner is 6 yards away from Adams, giving the rookie the easy catch.
Milliner quickly closes in and forces Adams out of bounds 5 yards short of a first down. It’s a 5-yard gain for Adams, but the Packers’ next pass falls incomplete and the Jets force a punt.
2ND QUARTER: 1st & 10, 1:52 left, ball on GB 3
After a Geno Smith interception, the Packers start at their 3-yard-line. Milliner lines up across from Adams once again, but this time it’s more of a press coverage look.
Once again, Adams runs a curl route, though this one goes farther out than the earlier hitch route. Milliner is caught out of position once Adams makes the turn, and Rodgers takes advantage and gets the pass out to an open Adams.
Milliner is able to recover, though, and stops Adams 2 yards short of the first-down marker. Adams comes away with an 8-yard gain on the play.
2ND QUARTER: 1st & 10, 0:32 left, ball on NYJ 30
This is the first time Rodgers tests Milliner on a deep route. Here, Milliner lines up in a press coverage look against Nelson on the outside, with Cobb and Kyle Wilson lined up in the slot.
Nelson and Cobb both run a go route down the field. Landry (circled in yellow) helps Wilson over the top with Cobb, leaving Milliner in single man coverage on Nelson.
Rodgers (circled in yellow) uncorks it to Nelson as he gets hit, but the pass is overthrown.
2ND QUARTER: 1st & 6, 0:15 left, ball on NYJ 6
The Jets go with an interesting look along the left side of the field on this play, with Dawan Landry (circled in yellow) playing press coverage against Nelson and Milliner (circled in white) lined up deeper behind Landry. Usually, this kind of alignment means one of the two defensive backs is either staying short or blitzing. Nelson (circled in red) notices this and alerts Rodgers before the snap.
Sure enough, Landry (circled in white) stays short while Milliner (circled in yellow) picks up Nelson on the dig route. Rodgers has a window to throw the ball and leads Nelson toward the middle of the end zone with the pass, but . . .
. . . Milliner dives in front of Nelson right before the pass gets there. While Milliner doesn’t tip the pass, he does manage to make Nelson lose track of the ball, which causes the incompletion.
3RD QUARTER: 1st & 10, 9:25 left, ball on GB 33
Here, Milliner starts playing deep, but comes up to the line of scrimmage right before snap against Nelson.
Nelson runs a comeback route, and Milliner is caught out of position. Rodgers throws the ball to Nelson’s left and away from Milliner -- perfect positioning where only Nelson can get it. Nelson makes the diving catch for the first down and an 11-yard gain.
3RD QUARTER: 2nd & 10, 7:00 left, ball on NYJ 43
On this play, Milliner is lined up about 3 yards in front of Nelson out wide near the Jets’ sideline.
Nelson runs a go route, gets outside Milliner and beats him. Rodgers is able to hold rookie safety Calvin Pryor (circled in white) off using his eyes until Nelson gets a step on Milliner, at which point he lets it fly. Pryor comes in over the top to help, but it’s too late.
The result: Nelson makes the catch and gets pushed out of bounds for a 33-yard gain to get the Packers into the red zone.
3RD QUARTER: 1st & 10, 2:21 left, ball on GB 20
This is the play that had everyone talking: Nelson’s long touchdown catch. Milliner lines up the same distance from Nelson as he did on the above 33-yard play. Note that Pryor (circled in yellow) is the single-high safety. The Packers are showing a two-tight end, two-running back formation, which isn’t exactly a passing look.
Rodgers fakes the handoff to Lacy, which gets everybody but Milliner and Pryor to bite. Nelson streaks down the field and cuts to the right on what first looks like an out route. Milliner (circled in yellow) gets caught out of position when Nelson makes his cut.
By the time Milliner recovers, Nelson has already made his break back up the field on the “go” part of his “out and go” and has beaten Milliner deep. Once again, Pryor (circled in white) has yet to come in to provide help over the top, and Rodgers hits the wide-open Nelson in stride.
Pryor takes a bad angle to Nelson and whiffs on the tackle attempt. From there, it’s a foot race between Nelson and Milliner, and Nelson strolls in for the 80-yard touchdown to give the Packers the 31-24 lead.
Milliner didn’t play a snap on defense again after that play, presumably because his ankle “tightened up” as he said. Whether or not the injury affected him the whole game is unclear, but this game certainly is one he’d like to have back.