This game was one of the best playoff games I have ever seen. The 4 TD’s in 4 minutes was amazing. As a defensive coach I can also appreciate the surgical precision both offenses played with... A call like this can either make or break a coach. If the Saints stop the play and the Niners have to settle for a field goal then the Saints with over 2 minutes on the clock would have had more than enough time to score their own field goal for the win. Let's take a look at this play, but first we'll talk about game planning.
Game Planning For Sunday
Every play called in the NFL is predicated on hours and hours of film study.
Much is taken into consideration: down and distance, field position, personnel groupings, formations, fronts, stunts and coverages. Every little bit of information is analysed. A game plan is formulated after the analysis and is then translated into a game day call sheet. The call sheet is a list of plays that the team has been working on during the week. NFL Football is all about set plays so the call sheet consists of plays grouped by D&D and area on the field. Countless hours go into creating this call sheet so coaches don’t have to think too much during the game![caption id="attachment_14858" align="aligncenter" width="468" caption="A small sample of a call sheet."][/caption]
With this in mind we have to think, what was the process that added this fantastic play to the 49ers call sheet for their matchup with the 49ers? Whoever it was, clearly their hard work paid off. If only for this one play.
49ers have the ball on the 27 yard line, right hash, 3rd and 7, 4th quarter, 2 minute 18 seconds on the clock. They trail the Saints by 1 point 24-23 and have their Ace personnel package on the field. 3 WR, 1 TE and 1 RB. Before the ball is snapped #11 Alex Smith motions #21 Frank Gore out of the backfield to the right side of the formation.
The Saints have their Penny package on the field, 3 DL, 2 LB and 6 DB. The Saints rush their 3 DL and blitz their 2 LB from the Strong Side (where the TE lines up) and play man coverage with a Free Safety deep.
This is where the cat and mouse game starts! I have no doubt that the Niners call the QB keep to their left side based on their film study. We know that the Saints like to play an aggressive, blitz the QB style of Defense but the film study must have showed that they like to bring their blitzes from the TE side vs an 'Empty' formation.
#11 Smith empties the back field by moving #21 Frank Gore out of the back field to the right side of the formation, then he motions in #15 Michael Crabtree who crack blocks the defensive end. At the snap of the ball the left OT and the right OG both pull. Smith takes the ball and starts following his blockers, they have created a nice lane for him to run in.
In this specific situation the man to man coverage is what kills the play on defense! In man coverage all the cover people have their eyes on the man they have to cover, this is in opposite to zone coverage where the eyes generally are directed to the QB. On top of this, the Saints bring the pressure from the back side of the play and therefore are chasing the play instead of pursuing!
There is a whole lot going on with this play.
Take a close look at OLT #74, Joe Staley. He is one of the most athletic OL in the NFL. Seeing this big man pull and run, 6’-5” 315 pounds is something special. Joe started his football career as a Tight End.
Joe Staley isn’t the only athletic OL on the team, #77 Mike Lupati (6’5” 331 pounds) is also 15 yards down field
How about WR #10 Kyle Williams? (5’10” 186 pounds) He block on DE #91 Will Smith (6’3” 282 pounds) This guy is 96 pound lighter then the player he is blocking! As you can see it isn’t a knock out block but Will Smith is out of the play.
#15 Michael Crabtree puts a really good move on #22 Tracey Porter, he fakes going inside of #22 and then brings it back outside and walls him off to create a nice path for Smith to run.
In man coverage the defender has so keep his eyes on his man. Take a closer look at #21 Patrick Robinson, because he is man to man on Crabtree he has to “loosen up” his coverage when Crabtree goes in motion but he has lost his way after the “crack” block.
Finally Alex Smith’s run, coming out of college we knew he had some wheels but he isn’t really known for a great runner in the NFL. He gets it done.
What a great play. Great call, great execution.
WHAT PLAY NEXT? IT’S UP TO YOU!
Have a play from last season you’d like diagnosed by our resident Coach? Let us know in the comments including a clip from youtube for reference. If Coach likes it you’ll see it in the very next edition, published every Sunday afternoon.
This week's play was suggested by GreatIrishPotatoFamine (probably not the real thing). Thanks mate!
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