HomecolumnInside the Top 10 Plays of 2014: Joe Haden-to-Donte Whitner Tip Drill...

Inside the Top 10 Plays of 2014: Joe Haden-to-Donte Whitner Tip Drill Interception

Excellent Awareness, Teamwork by Browns Defenders Leads to Rare Coordinated Tip Drill

‘Tis the time of year for many football rankings, yet FBF has set out to provide a perspective that delves more deeply than the customary top-ten debates.

While the spectacular outcomes often seize our focus, it’s essential to recognize the underlying factors that paved the way for such extraordinary moments.

In this article, the countdown unfolds, spotlighting the ten most remarkable plays from the previous season.

Here, the primary emphasis is not on their ultimate ranking but on those subtle nuances that played an integral role in shaping the memorable highlights.


Arriving at the #6 spot in our compilation of the finest NFL football plays from the 2014 season, it’s worth noting that the preceding selections have predominantly celebrated awe-inspiring displays of athleticism.

However, in a team sport like football, transcending to the realm of “best” entails more than just explosive physical prowess.

Sometimes, an athletic feat may be deemed quite impressive, but the genuine brilliance lies in the synergy and awareness displayed by the collective.

A striking illustration of this synergy unfolded when Browns cornerback Joe Haden, during a match against the Buccaneers last November, executed a perfectly timed deflection that sent the football directly into the path of his teammate, safety Donte Whitner.

The result was a splendid tip drill interception that underscored the significance of teamwork and situational awareness in the game.

Tipped interceptions are no rarity in the NFL, given the league’s elite talent level.

However, what truly sets this play apart is the intentionality behind the tip and the remarkable timing and coordination it demands, particularly in a high-pressure scenario.

Joe Haden doesn’t attempt such a tip in every pass breakup situation with a wide receiver; it’s a strategic choice, and in many instances, it would be considered ill-advised due to the risk of tipping the ball to the opposing team.

In this case, Haden displayed an extraordinary ability to track the football as it soared on a deep post pattern while regaining a position in sync with the wide receiver.

Simultaneously, he assessed that there were no additional threats from Buccaneers players to seize his deflection.

This level of multitasking might appear ordinary until you attempt to cover a tall and swift wide receiver like Mike Evans.

The ability to divert your focus from the receiver’s catch attempt to a calculated tip is a skill only a few defenders possess. Haden’s performance would merit a perfect Awareness rating if we liken this to a Madden football game.

Furthermore, apart from Haden’s exceptional awareness and timing, the coverage scheme played a pivotal role in this scenario.

The Browns were employing Cover 4, which assigns the four defensive backs (two cornerbacks and two safeties) to lock down vertical routes from eligible receivers #1 or #2 on either side.

Since the eligible receiver #2 to Donte Whitner’s side was engaged in blocking, Whitner assumed the role of a free player, ready to assist wherever it was most needed, particularly in the deep part of the field.

It’s worth noting that had Whitner been responsible for covering a vertical route, like a seam route, he wouldn’t have been in the ideal position to receive the pass from Haden, underscoring the unique confluence of factors that made this play a standout moment in the NFL season.

Joe Haden’s ability to grasp the entire landscape of route developments in the deep field, rather than just fixating on his assigned receiver, is a rarity in the NFL.

What sets Haden apart is his capacity to sense when his teammate is in retreat, ready to offer assistance and execute the perfect tip.

While such attempts are common in NFL practices (and have been tried by the author), they usually do not yield favorable results. The complexity of factors involved often stands in the way of success.

The timing of Haden’s jump is nothing short of impeccable, and his tip execution is flawless.

However, his exceptional understanding of the situation is paramount. Haden’s read on the situation is perfect in a scenario where a prudent choice would have been to merely break up the pass against the substantially taller Mike Evans.

This is particularly significant because this is not a low or intermediate route where pursuit tacklers could potentially compensate for errors.

In the deep field, the margin for error is extremely slim, and a slight misstep often leads to a surefire long touchdown for the opposing team.

Joe Haden undeniably possesses top-tier athleticism and elite body control. Still, it’s imperative to acknowledge that this extraordinary highlight transcends beyond physical attributes.

It hinges on uncommon instinct, heightened awareness, and seamless teamwork, which are as vital in football as the more quantifiable aspects of the game.

A dedicated individual currently in fourth year of pursuing a BBA degree. Love to spend my free time painting, drawing, and reading books.


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