Grantland Blog: The 49ers and the ‘Wham’ Play

It’s now up:

On Gore’s first big run, with just a few seconds left in the first quarter, the 49ers lined up in a “trey” set with a wide receiver to each side and a tight end and wing or “H-back,” Delanie Walker, each lined up to the right. The goal of the “wham” blocked run play was to leave Suh unblocked. As shown below, Walker’s job was to perform the “wham” block on Suh as he crashed upfield — a surprisingly simple block because Suh would be so focused on getting in the backfield that he wouldn’t see it coming. This freed up the other linemen to block Detroit’s linebackers, which they did.

Read the whole thing.

Combining quick passes, run plays and screens in the same play

Given that humans lack clairvoyance, there is no such thing as the perfect play-caller and thus much of the development in football strategy has centered on how to get into (or out of) a given play because the defense is well suited to defend the one that was called. Indeed, quarterbacks have called audibles at the line of scrimmage for decades, and a few years ago the hot idea was calling multiple plays in the huddle.

Let's not make this too complicated

Most famously, Peyton Manning was supposedly given three plays to choose from on every down, though this was likely a bit of hyperbole. Calling two plays in the huddle remains very common, however. The method for this is simple: Two plays are called in the huddle, and then at the line the quarterback either confirms the first play (usually by saying a color) or “killing” the first play which indicates that the second will be run (by saying “kill” at the line). For example, the quarterback might call “Red Right [formation] 24 Wham [run to the right] and 70 curl [pass play].” At the line he’ll either say the confirming word (i.e. “Black! Black!”) or will kill that play so they can run the pass play (i.e. “Kill! Kill!”).

That’s all well and good, but is still cumbersome and, most importantly, the defense can still make the offense wrong after the quarterback has made his decision at the line. Moreover, with the rise of no-huddle offenses, there aren’t as many opportunities to call multiple plays at the line and have the quarterback check into one or another. The name of the game for defenses is confusion and movement, and even at the lower levels you never know how a kid might react. Increasingly, the answer to this has been to package concepts together, such that the quarterback has different options depending on what the defense does after the snap. I previously discussed packaging quick passes with five-step or dropback passes together. This is a great concept, but is quarterback intensive: the quarterback has to look for the quick pass and then reset his feet with depth and then go through another progression — not something every quarterback can do.

The answer has been to combine plays but to simplify the reads for the quarterback. There are three main forms this concept can take: (1) a base run play with a simple pre-snap backside pass concept built in; (2) quick passes combined with a draw play; and (3) quick passes combined with a screen pass. I’ll discuss each in turn.

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Quadruple option: Zone read with multiple pass options

Awhile back I talked about the potential for a “quadruple option,” where a zone-read or other spread option run was married with a two man pass concept. The idea was essentially an extension of the traditional base run packaged with a bootleg pass, just combined into one play.

quad

There are obviously issues with keeping linemen behind the line of scrimmage, but it’s an intriguing concept though not a simple one for the quarter. Indeed, I’d seen it, but only rarely.

Well, I just stumbled across a recent example of something similar (though technically it doesn’t look like there were actually two pass options on the play). Watch the first play that Pittsburgh scores on in the video below:

Although this was successful, it’s not something I expect to see too prevalently, as the feedback I’ve heard from most coaches is that it’s a lot to put on a player; that the bubble read for the triple option in the spread is usually all the quarterback can handle. Nevertheless, for those bold enough to try it, the above video shows that success is possible.

The Gods of Probability Laugh

Via the Mathlete:

In this week’s slate of games, there were 93 punts from opponent territory. Of these 12 came with the game within two scores and 3 or less yards to go. The ultimate chicken of the week goes to Frank Solich at Ohio (NTO). Facing a 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 36, Solich decides to “trust his defense” and punt the ball away. The gutless decision of the week is based on situation and not result, but man does the result really make this one good. Ohio punter Paul Hershey boots the ball 11 yards and Buffalo proceeds to march 75 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Ohio lost by 1.

Amazing. Also, Buffalo has the 91st ranked rushing defense in the country.

Funky name, good site: FishDuck.com’s breakdowns of Oregon’s schemes

This is a fan created site that does a good job breaking down Oregon’s schemes. What a huge advantage it is to be a fan of a team like Chip Kelly’s — very fertile material, and this site does nice work in analyzing all of it. Check it out.

Smart Links – 10/13/2011

Why have NFL passing yards gone up so much this season?

Bill Belichick breaks down plays from the Patriots’ win over the Jets.

Calvin McGee on the spread offense.

Buck and strong safety fire zone, against both the run and the pass.

Peyton Manning, dealing with his injury.

Bruce Feldman joins Ty and Dan on the Solid Verbal.

Plays (I think) I saw West Virginia run against UConn

In the spirit of Paul Johnson, below are the scans of what I saw Dana Holgorsen’s offense do against UConn. Keep in mind that, despite the gaudy stats, UConn’s defensive line largely controlled if not dominated West Virginia’s front, so that may have affected the tactics.

Take the doodles with a grain of salt, however, as they are merely based on a review of the television broadcast.

Video and more doodles after the jump.

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Keep it simple, stupid – Paul Johnson edition

From the AJC:

Q: Is there a coach out there whose schemes you like to watch for ideas?

A: I don’t know if there’s any one person. We’ve had our system, and we’ve run it for a long time and we don’t change a whole lot. If somebody has some ideas on the staff, I might listen to ’em. They’d probably tell you I’m hard-headed. But we’ve done things a certain way and it’s been successful for the most part, so there’s not much use to changing.

Q: Do you doodle plays on napkins?

A: [Lifts a yellow legal pad with plays drawn on it.] That’s for this week. All these plays. This is my game plan for this week. That’s it right there.

Q: How many plays are there?

A: [Counting] 10. There’ll be base plays with it and I won’t run all that, but that’s just the ideas I’ve scribbled down in the last two days watching tape and [Tuesday], I’ll go in with the offensive staff and I’ll tell ’em, ‘OK, here’s what I got. What do you guys got? You’ve got anything you want to do?’ If they’ve got some ideas that I think will work, we’ll put ’em in, we’ll look at ’em this week and we’ll sort ’em out. That’s the way we do it.

Hat tip one and two.

New Grantland: Al Davis’ strategic legacy — His role in the development of the “vertical pass game”

It’s up over at Grantland:

When Davis left Gillman’s staff he took Sid’s playbook — and, more important, his ideas — with him.But Davis wasn’t content to stretch the field horizontally; he wanted to get vertical. If Gillman could get a trash can open against a zone, Davis tested how good he’d do if he added his favorite ingredient: speed. Gillman, of course, used “vertical stretches” — passing concepts that spaced receivers not left to right, but deep to short — but for Davis they became the centerpiece of his offense. Indeed, this is what Davis meant when he brought the “vertical game” to Oakland. It was not a matter of throwing deep bombs (though it was sometimes), but was instead the science of stretching defenses to their breaking point. With receivers at varying depths, a small defensive error often meant a 15-yard pass play for Davis’ offense, and a serious mistake meant a touchdown.

Read the whole thing.

Draw it up: The Packers’ post/dig off of play-action

It’s up over at Grantland:

But this is only a two-man route; for it to work, those other defenders — particularly the Falcons’ linebackers — have to be convinced it is a run play and take themselves out of pass coverage. And the Packers did just that. As Bill Walsh explained, the play-action pass is probably the best play in all of football, but it only works if the entire team is committed to selling the fake. Obviously a good fake by the quarterback is important, but what you’re doing on a play-action pass is messing up the linebackers’ reads, and they only sometimes (or tangentially) read they quarterback. More often, they are reading the offensive linemen to the running backs, and those are the players that all too often give away that the play is not a true run but is instead a pass play. But the Packers’ do an excellent job: instead of immediately popping their heads up and sinking back on their hips as they would in pass protection, Green Bay’s linemen fire out low and flat, making it impossible to detect the play’s true intent.

Read the whole thing.