The NFL season started a week ago and it did not disappoint: 12 of the 16 games were decided by a touchdown or less. We at BallsDeepSportsBlog studied the Full 22 tape to decipher why certain plays were successful and brokedown two plays to show how all the preparation can turn into touchdowns come Sunday.
Exploiting Coverages with Decoys
To kickoff the NFL season, we were treated to a rematch of last years classic AFC Divisional Playoff game between the Ravens and the Broncos. This meant the pleasure of watching Peyton Manning, aka the ‘Sheriff’, and the ridiculously loaded Broncos receiving corps put up record numbers against a gutted Ravens defense. While they turned the game into rout in the second half, the Broncos struggled early until a Flacco interception gave them great field position. This gave the Broncos the ball at the Baltimore 24 yard line and they went for the jugular.
Game Situation: 2nd Quarter, 11:40, 1st and 10 at the BAL 24, Broncos 0 Ravens 7
Pre-snap: The Broncos line up in their standard 11 personnel with RB Moreno and TE Thomas. WR Welker (slot) and RWR Decker (wide) are both positioned on the strong (near) side of the field. The Ravens respond with 2 Man coverage in their base nickel package. ILB Smith, SCB Jimmy Smith and LCB LaDarius Webb are marking Thomas, Welker and Decker, respectively, with SS Ihedigbo covering the deep half behind them. Chris Colinsworth mentioned during the broadcast that Manning may have been calling false audibles at the line in order to mislead defenders who may have recently learned his signals from ex-Bronco and current Raven, WR Brandon Stokely.
Post-snap: Decker darts inside for a bubble screen and WR Welker moves outside feigning to block for the screen. All three actions are designed to draw the defense in towards the line of scrimmage and both SCB Smith and LCB Webb crash down to cover Decker. WR Welker then turns up field toward the pylon, drawing the SS Ihedigbo out wide and leaving nothing but grass in the deep middle of the defense. After TE Thomas blows past ILB Daryl Smith with a beautiful out-and-up, he is wide open and Manning hits him for an easy touchdown. FS Huff is assigned to the opposite deep half and is also too preoccupied with WR Thomas to effectively challenge the catch .
Summary: The play is extremely well designed and executed to near perfection. The combined movements of WR Welker and WR Decker serve to clear space for TE Thomas. Once corners bite hard on the bubble screen (potentially a result of Manning’s fake audibles), it’s all but over for the defense. If SS Ihedigbo had stayed more central to cover TE Thomas, WR Welker would have been wide open near the pylon for an easy score.
It’s plays like these, 11 players executing a well designed play as one, that make breaking down the Full 22 footage so fun. If a smile doesn’t creep onto your face after watching this I don’t know what will.
Chip Kelly’s Blur Offense
Whoever said the revolution will not be televised clearly missed the debut of Chip Kelly’s Blur offense on Monday Night Football this week. Based upon the principal of running simple plays at high speed to get his playmakers into space, the Blur shredded the Redskins for 322 yards on 53 plays in the first half alone.
Luckily for Chip, and the fans, he inherited a team with 3 of the most electric players at their position, QB Vick, RB McCoy and WR Jackson, which allows for his offense to be so explosive. During their obliteration of the Washington Redskins in the first half, package plays (will be explained fully in the Post-Snap Section) exposed the Redskins defense and resulted in gaping holes for McCoy to run through. Just look at this play.
Game Situation: 1st Quarter, 11:27, 1st and 10 at the PHI 46, Redskins 7 Eagles 0
Pre-Snap: The Eagles sprinted to the line of scrimmage (they even teach getting the football to the correct official after the end of a play to push the pace even more) in the normal 11 personnel with the aforementioned QB Vick, RB McCoy and WR Jackson with TE Ertz and WRs Cooper and Avant. The Redskins respond with their nickel and 6 in the box with FS Rambo in a high safety position. In reality, whatever personnel they begin the drive with they are stuck with, due to the Eagles’ pace.
Post-Snap: As the ball is snapped back to QB Vick, three distinctly different plays begin simultaneously (the package play): the zone read between Vick and McCoy (1a), a bubble screen by WR Jackson (1b) and a stick route (quick seam) by TE Ertz (1c). In contrast to the Broncos’ action that was strictly a decoy, these are legitimate plays which allow Vick to decide which part of the defense to attack depending how they are aligned. For example, if they don’t have two corners up on the wide receivers, throw the bubble screen, if the linebackers bite up on the zone read, throw the stick. If both of those options are covered, there will likely not be enough defenders in the box to stop the zone read. By the time QB Vick and RB McCoy are at the mesh point of the zone read, the clear option is the outside run to RB McCoy due to the SCB Wilson and SS Biggers taking away the QB keeper off the right end.
As RB McCoy receives the ball, both linebackers are in the middle of making critical errors, ILB Fletcher is dropping to cover the TE stick route and the other ILB, Perry Riley, is drifting too far play side. These actions create a huge cutback hole through which RB McCoy quickly cuts upfield and there isn’t a single defender in a position to make a play within 15 yards. Given how much space was open and how devastating RB McCoy can be in the open field, the Redskins are lucky to only give up a 10 yard run.
Summary: While the actual play is quite simple, or at least the components are, the multitude of options puts the defense in a no-win situation. Combine this with the hyperspeed tempo and mistakes are bound to happen. Even a single step in the wrong direction against against one of the Eagles’ playmakers can be costly. Just look at the numbers in front of RB McCoy once he receives the ball, only 3 defenders within 10 yards and an offensive linemen for each one.
This certainly looks like a revolutionary offensive scheme/identity, but it is probably prudent to pump the breaks as it has only been tested once against a shaky Redskins defense. That said, I’m sure the Eagles won over some fans with their up tempo offense that gets QB Vick, RB McCoy and WR Jackson into open space where they are lethal.
Well that does it for the first part of Week 1′s Deep in the Game. What a week it was. Here at BallsDeepSportsBlog we will be breaking down a handful of the most intriguing, innovative and important plays of the weekend every week. Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Week 1′s Deep in the Game and also give Deep In the Game: Full 22 Footage of the 49ers 34-28 Win Over the Packers a read. It breaks down how QB Kaepernick’s performance illustrated that he is an elite passer and the Packers stuffed the 49ers read option after giving up 181 yards to QBKaepernick in last year playoffs.