The 2017 NFL Divisional Round ended with one of the craziest finishes in recent memory, and had plenty of X’s & O’s to breakdown. Let’s review a bit from each of the four games this weekend:
Eagles v. Falcons
The play call on Atlanta’s do or die 4th and Goal from Philly’s 2-yard line is understandably what everyone is talking about. After motioning Tight End (#80) Levine Toilolo across the formation, the Falcons ran sprint right with two short outs:
Let’s take a further look at the X’s & O’s of a concept that caught my eye from Week 2: the Kansas City Chiefs shovel pass touchdown, which also features jet motion and power read concepts.
Shovel, Jet, Power Read, and More
Andy Reid utilized his fastest players in (#10) Tyreek Hill and (#13) DeAnthony Thomas as decoys to beautifully set up (#87) Travis Kelce for a touchdown. On 2nd & 5 from the 15 with six minutes remaining in the game, the Chiefs aligned Thomas in the backfield and sent Hill in motion. The Eagles came out in a 4-3 alignment with one high safety:
Super Bowl 51 is a matchup of juggernaut offenses and underrated defenses. Here’s what to expect from both teams from an X’s and O’s perspective:
When the Patriots have the ball
Expect the Patriots to spend their first couple drives combining fast paced tempo with information gathering. The Patriots use motion and non-traditional sets early to analyze the defense. For example, the Patriots line up fullback James Develin or a running back out wide to see who goes out to cover him. If a linebacker goes with the back, it’s man coverage. If a corner stays with the back, it’s zone coverage. From there, Brady picks the best matchup.
This will help diagnose the Falcons relatively simple defensive scheme. The Falcons primarily play Cover 1 or Cover 3, and don’t blitz often. Although the Falcons have blitzed more frequently during the playoffs, I don’t expect them to blitz Brady a ton in Super Bowl 51. Nor do I expect the Falcons to sit back in Cover 3 and let Brady pick apart zone coverage. Instead, the only consistent strategy for beating the Patriots in the playoffs has been pressure with 4, preferably up the middle.
Clemson did it–they scored 35 points against what some previously considered to be the best college defense of all time. Just how did Clemson beat Bama? I charted Clemson’s offense throughout the game and found they had consistent success with a few concepts; in the pass game, Clemson beat Bama with tosser and empty smash divide. In the run game, Clemson gained significant yardage with several buck sweep and jet action runs.
The Tosser pass game concept is a double slant combo from the same side of the field. The inside slant usually runs “fat,” or at a lower angle, while the outside runs “skinny,” or at a higher angle. Clemson struggled early, but was able to move the ball with tosser. On 2nd & 11 from their own 29, Clemson gets its first completion of the game on empty left tosser right early in the middle of the first quarter:
With Clemson and Alabama set for a rematch in the National Championship game, I’ll be looking for two specific plays Clemson had success with in their win over Ohio State: the QB counter pitch and a unique jet sweep pitch. Let’s take a further look at each scheme.
QB Counter Pitch
The QB counter pitch is a natural evolution of the QB counter trey read, depicted below:
Instead of riding the QB/RB mesh point and reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, Clemson creates fast flow and misdirection with the QB’s first step and a fake pitch. As for the blocking, there are two pullers like counter trey read, but the Center and H-back pull instead of the Guard and Tackle. This makes the blocking scheme more like Counter OF, and is a better fit for the backfield action. Below, Clemson gets the middle Linebacker and play side Defensive End blocked without ever touching them because of the pitch action:
Ezekiel Elliot all but sealed a Cowboys victory with a 60 yard touchdown run to put Dallas up 28-0 in a Week 5 matchup against the Bengals. The play was a traditional under center split zone scheme, but included one wrinkle that made all the difference, Jason Witten’s flat route:
The Cowboys offensive line executed textbook combination blocks in the split zone scheme, with left tackle (#77) Tyron Smith blocking out, left guard (#65) Ronald Leary and center (#72) Travis Frederick combining to block the defensive tackle up to the left outside linebacker, and right guard (#70) Zack Martin combo blocking with right tackle (#68) Doug Free to take care of 3-technique (#97) Geno Atkins and middle linebacker (#58) Rey Maualuga. Tight End (#87) Geoff Swaim blocks across the formation to pick up “EMLOS”, or the end man on the line of scrimmage, (#96) Carlos Dunlap.
Week 1 Film Study–An X’s & O’s look at a big play from the past week in the NFL, Darrelle Revis and A.J. Green:
Bengals Play Action Yankee Concept TD vs. Jets Cover 3
Week 1 resulted in quite a bit of buzz around Darrelle Revis and his subpar performance against the Bengals. One particular play was a 54-yard touchdown to A.J. Green. Let’s take a further look and break down exactly what happened.
Below, the Bengals are running a play action Yankee Concept with a wide receiver running orbit motion behind the quarterback and running back. A.J. Green is at the top of the screen running a deep over, while Brandon LaFell is at the bottom of the screen running a deep crosser. Revis is lined up outside of the motion man and Green:
With Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of the season, all eyes are on Jimmy Garoppolo. In the preseason, demonstrating traits of a successful QB is far more important than wins, losses, or statistics. This article analyzes Garoppolo’s second preseason game. My breakdown from the first preseason game on his accuracy, progression, pocket presence, and decision making can be found here.
Garoppolo was once again up and down with accuracy. On a 3rd and 2 on the first drive of the game, Aaron Dobson is open for a first down on a quick out route, but Garoppolo misses behind him.
The Panthers made it to Super Bowl 50 with one of the most dangerous running attacks in the NFL, having racked up at least 100 yards rushing in 29 straight games. Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula has utilized the strengths of Cam Newton to create a versatile and unique running attack that is very difficult to prepare for because of its mixed flow and deception. This article breaks down 6 key concepts from the Panthers running game that Denver will have to prepare for:
QB Buck Sweep (RPO)
QB G/T Counter Read or “Flash”
Jet Sweep Split Zone
QB Buck Sweep (RPO)
Carolina is not the only NFL team that runs Buck Sweep, but Cam Newton allows the Panthers to run QB Buck Sweep, opening up other possibilities for the offense. Like the traditional version, the Panthers Buck Sweep involves 2 pulling lineman leading the way for Cam to run around the edge:
Arizona finished off their 26-20 overtime victory against Green Bay on a shovel pass from Carson Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald. Shovel pass is a common play used around the goal line in the NFL. Let’s analyze how Bruce Arians designed a shovel concept with no option element or QB run threat, along with other variations of the Shovel Option Concept.
Shovel option is a combination of Power blocking along with option principles. In traditional shovel option, and as seen here, the backside Guard pulls through the hole up to the second level, while the Center and playside Guard down block. The playside Tackle leaves #96 Outside Linebacker Mike Neal and also goes up to the second level. Mike Neal is the “read” man. If Neal widens with QB Carson Palmer’s half roll, Palmer will flip the shovel pass underneath to a scraping Larry Fitzgerald.