Dallas Cowboy Brandon Carr: Did He Bait Rivers or was He Beat?


Brandon Carr is the biggest free agent acquisition the Dallas Cowboys have signed in years, perhaps even a decade. In March 2012, Carr signed a five-year, $50.1 million contract. The deal contains $25.5 million guaranteed (a $10 million signing bonus and all of Carr’s 2012 and 2013 base salaries). His salary for each year: 2012: $1.2 million, 2013: $14.3 million, 2014: $7.5 million, 2015: $8 million, 2016: $9.1 million, 2017: $10 million (Voidable Year), 2018: Free Agent

The Cowboy Nation was treated to a preview of what to expect from the new CB when the Cowboys played the San Diego Chargers last Saturday.   Carr looked like he was worth money: he picked off two passes despite playing much less than a full game.  Perhaps more importantly, the San Diego offense, even with Phillip Rivers and the starting WR’s, were not able to complete any passes on Carr for any significant gains.

Brandon Carr’s interception of Phillip Rivers has led to considerable debate.  At full speed, it looked like an excellent play by Carr; it was the exact kind of play that fans expect from him after signing such a huge contract: he located the ball quickly once it was thrown, adjusted to it in stride, leaped into the air, showed soft hands in reeling it in, and made a decent return after securing the ball.

Shortly after the game, Clarence Hill Jr. (beat writer for Dallas Sports since 1997 @clarencehilljr) tweeted that he spoke to Carr:

"Asked Brandon Carr if he baited Rivers on first pick, he said yea I got that from Deion (Sanders). #baller"

I didn’t give much consideration whether it was true, or whether it was simply opportunistic bravado by Carr.

A few days after the game, this was posted on Twitter:

"“Carr got a little lucky. He did let Meachem run by him. If that ball is out in front it’s 6 for SD.”"

Given the limited video footage of the play, it is not a simple issue to determine whether Carr baited or got beat. There are only 3 camera angles available from the live broadcast, and the NFL is not releasing the All-22 film for pre-season games.  None of the video shows both Carr and Meachem for the entire play.  The earliest we get any footage of them is when they are already 20 yards downfield from the line of scrimmage.

You can watch it here for yourself.


Those who claim that Carr was beat by Meachem rely on two basic arguments: first, the ball was underthrown by Rivers; second, it would have been a TD if Rivers had thrown a better pass farther down field.

The announcer states that River’s “underthrew” the ball, and it certainly appears that he did, but that doesn’t necessarily proves that a deeper pass would have resulted in a TD.  It’s possible that on a pass that deep, Carr could have recovered and made a play on the ball (even if we assume that he was ‘beat’ at some point on the play).

Moreover, the video footage makes it possible to determine whether Carr was beat at any point in the play.

The second view of the interception, which showed both Carr and Meachem for the longest, only picked up the play when both players were already 20 yards down field.  Because the replay doesn’t show the time-clock, it is hard to determine whether the ball is already in the air, or still in Phillip’s hand, when the camera picks them up near the Dallas 40 yard line. Carr is still fairly close to being in stride with Meachem as they cross the Dallas 40, Meachem starts to pull away from Carr in his first couple steps after the 40, but it’s possible that Carr was playing the ball at that point, rather than worrying about whether Meachem was running by him.

None of the replays make it clear where Carr and Meachem were when the ball was thrown, so it is impossible to determine whether Carr was playing Meachem or the ball when we see Meachem start to pull away from Carr after they pass the Dallas 40.  Without knowing that, there is not enough evidence to prove that Carr was beat.

Let’s take a close look at the what can be gleaned from the video:

#1 Live. Chargers are lined up at their own 40 yard line, Rivers is in the shotgun.  Carr is playing about 8 yards off the line of scrimmage. The ball is snapped with 12:07 remaining in the 2nd quarter (a nanosecond before switching to 12:06).

Rivers released the ball with 12:03/4 on the clock. Rivers was standing on the Charger 30 yard line when he threw it.  Carr catches the ball around the Cowboys 17 yardline with 12:01 on the clock.

From those basic observations, we can deduce the following: the entire play lasted approximately 6 second to 6.5 seconds. The football was in the air for  3 to 3.5 seconds, and it traveled a distance of 52 yards. That means the ball traveled at a speed of about 15 -17 yards per second.

We also know that Meachem (albeit not precisely) ran approximately 42 yards in the 6 to  6.5 seconds the play lasted.  So, he (leaving out the slow start and other factors) if running at a steady pace for the entire play, would cover about 6.5 to 7 yards per second.

Meachem had 3 to 3.5  seconds to run his route before Phillips released the ball.

1st replay: This angle shows Carr and Meachem running fairly close in stride as they come across the Dallas 4o yardline.  By the time Meachem gets to the 35, he is pulling away from Carr, but it is possible that Carr was playing the ball already.  If the ball is already in the air when they cross the 40, then Carr was not beat, he was playing the ball.  Whether he actually baited Rivers is far more difficult to ascertain than whether he was beat.

If Meacham  only had a maximum of 3.5 seconds to run his route before Phillips released the ball, it seems unlikely that he could have covered the 20 yards of territory necessary to be at the Dallas 40 before Phillips put the ball up.  At best he would cover about 7 yards a second, (24.5 yards in 3.5 seconds), but that needs to be adjusted for the delay between the snap and when Meachem actually started running and the fact that it would take a second or so to even reach top speed.

If you look closely at the replay that picks them up as they cross the 40, Carr appears to looking back at the ball. It is plausable that he saw the ball and adjusted to it, and that Meachem either didn’t spot the ball until much later or misjudged the ball and failed to adjust to it.

This replay also shows that Meachem did not put on the brakes and try to come back to the ball until very late in the play. In fact, Carr is getting ready to leap before Meachem slams on the brakes to slow down.

Carr took a straight path to the ball that did not require breaking stride.  He obviously saw the ball a lot earlier and had a much more accurate read on it that Meachem, who tried to make a drastic adjustment at the last second.


It doesn’t look to me like Carr was beat by Meachem. It is more likely that he had decent coverage at they approached the Dallas 40, he then spotted the ball and went right to it; Meachem did not. If the pass was perfectly thrown by Rivers, it is probable that Carr, since he spotted the ball in the air before Meachem and/or reacted to it more accurately, would have been able to make a play on that ball as well.

The question of whether Carr was beat or he baited is impossible to answer given the inadequate footage.  There is insufficient evidence to proclaim that Carr was beat on the play and got lucky because the pass was underthrown. In fact, if you consider all the factors, there is overwhelming evidence that Carr wasn’t beat at all.

This analysis doesn’t seek to prove that Carr was baiting Rivers, or even that he definitely wasn’t beat, rather it should demonstrate that insisting that he was absolutely beat on the play and therefore lucky is erroneous.

What do you think?

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