Category Archives: Football

5 Big Plays & Why They Worked (Ravens Week 4)

Chris Schisler

Ravens beat the Carolina Panthers with big plays this past Sunday. Here is a look at 5 of these big plays from last Sunday.

1.) Ravens Get Steve Smith Sr. Going Early:

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This was the Ravens first play. Fullback, Kyle Juszczyk, was lined up as a wide receiver. The Panthers were playing off in man. Juszczyk motioned inside of Smith Sr. The Panthers switched coverage responsibilities. The cornerback went with Juszczyk on the deep corner route. The strong safety was now responsible for Smith Sr., a huge mismatch. Great route running by Smith Sr. made this all to easy.

2.) Nothing But Green Grass:
The next play is a very well designed screen pass to Justin Forsett. The Ravens cleared the middle of the field with deep routes. The offensive line blocks it like a normal pass play (which really sells it) but center, Jeremy Zuttah, becomes the lead blocker.

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3.) 13 Yard Run

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The Panthers defensive line slants to the play side making it easier for the zone run to work. The following picture shows the hole beginning to open for Lorenzo Taliaferro.

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4.) Great Design Cam Newton:

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This is a bit of an exotic look. Haloti Ngata lined up in the left A gap. Pernell McPhee lined up standing over the other A gap. The formation allowed the chain of events that would bring Newton to the ground. The center struggled to block Ngata. McPhee screeched through the A gap almost untouched. Daryl Smith was picked up by the running back but Elvis Dumervil got past the tackle with ease.
5.) Ravens Sack Cam Again:

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In a similar look, the Raves got to Cam Newton again. McPhee crashes the A gap, Suggs cuts under the tackle. Daryl Smith pretends to blitz, occupying the guard. Dumervil beats the tackle off the edge.

NFL In England?

By Tracy Cole, American Football fan in the UK

NFL AND ITS FANS IN THE UK.
Once upon a time NFL fans in the UK were but a few, fast forward to the 21st Century and the game we call ‘American Football’ has grown enormously.
The UK is mostly known for its love of Soccer, Tennis, Rugby etc…but don’t be suprised when the NFL comes to London you see thousands of fans in their favourite team’s jersey’s. Over the 3-4 days that the NFL is in London different activities are taking place from pre-game parties to seeing the teams cheerleaders do their thing.
On game day Wembley Stadium is full of fanatics just wanting to see the game that most will only ever see on tv on a Sunday evening. Wembley Stadium seats up to 90,000 people and so far the NFL has had no difficulty selling out all these games.
I am a HUGE Ravens fan and would go to one of these London games if i could get tickets even though it’s not MY team playing, the atmosphere is supposed to be electric and the love and support for this game in the UK has been overwhelming. I get the impression from other NFL fans that the more games that are played over here the bigger the fan base becomes.
Maybe its because they are sick of seeing overpaid soccer players take dives every minute of the game or the poor refereeing decisions? Who knows….What I do know is that the hard hitting fast paced games of the NFL are definately becoming more and more popular.
The American Football bug has spread throught England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland not only do we have a love of the game but a love for our favourite teams. I know of around two thousand Ravens fans in this Country alone !!.
FRANCHISE POTENTIAL IN THE UK
In 2013 the 2 games at Wembley Stadium sold out, the 3 games we have in 2014 are going the same way. It seems us Brits just can’t get enough of this American game.
So would a Franchise in the UK be viable. I’m no expert on ‘What makes good business sense’ but what i do know however, is that American Football in the Uk has been re-born, fans from all across the UK flock to London to watch the games and spend their wages on merchandise that the nfl bring over, I also know tickets that are sold for all the games (block) sell very fast indeed and are more popular than single game tickets, as ive said before these games do sell out!. I get the impression that the nfl experiment has been a roaring success, we have gone from having two games in 2013 to having three games in 2014. I also know in some instances it is cheaper to see an nfl game than to go and watch a soccer match and in my opinion nfl is definatley more entertaining and value for money than soccer is especially when an hours nfl game can last for four.
It does seem to be a good idea to have our own franchise, but only time will tell i suppose, would fans of teams in the states switch their allegance to their local team ?? thats a question only they can answer.
As for me would I ever switch teams, HELL NO!!! I am now, and forever will be a Baltimore Ravens Fanatic!!!!
Tracy Cole.

Football 101: West Coast Offense

By Chris Schisler

Gary Kubiak was just announced as the Ravens offensive coordinator. He comes from a west coast school of thinking. Over the air waves of sports radio it became quite clear that people don’t really understand what this term means. I heard wrong perceptions that are alarming considering the west coast philosophy is so prevalent in modern football. Even teams who don’t fully commit to the west coast offensive strategy use west coast concepts. I wanted to give our readers a simplistic guide to the world of the west coast passing attack. We could go on and on about the intricacies of west coast offenses and I could scare you with gobs of information and verbiage. I’m not going to do that. This is a general guide to the basics of the west coast offense.

The west coast offense utilizes the short and intermediate passing game to stretch the field laterally. Many people mistake this as a “dink and dunk” offense. The west coast scheme is based on shorter throws but a true west coast offense is as aggressive as any offensive strategy. The idea is with short and intermediate routes run with precision the offense can open up the deep passing play. The term “dink and dunk” are not in the vocabulary of the west coast offense. The offense is strategic and methodical, every part of the play has a purpose. The west coast organized offense adapts itself to it’s opponent. The idea of scripting the first 15 plays of the game for example is a west coast principle. In the beginning of the game your play calls are loosely scripted- you do not need to go in exact order but those are the first 15 plays. The goal is to get many different looks and plays to see how the defense is going to react to them. This will set up the play-calling for the rest of the game. This is also a great way to get your offense into a rhythmic fast start.

There are two pillars to the west coast offense. The first is timing and the second is precision. This offense depends on the footwork of the quarterback because the ball most come out in time. Say the quarterback’s first read is a short out. The quarterback must take 3 quick steps and throw the ball on time. The ball should be thrown to the receiver as he breaks so he can catch it and continue to run with it. Now lets say the first read is a slant. The quarterback is throwing to the inside and will take a more normal 3 step drop. The quarterback must trust the receiver to be in his spot and throw the ball to this location. The routes are very connected to the quarterbacks feet. Timing and chemistry are everything in the west coast offense.

Progressions are also very important in this offense. The quarterback is throwing the ball to a location. To prevent negative plays where the receiver is not there quarterback has progressions. On every play the quarterback has a first read, second, third and so on. As the quarterback does his drop-back he reads his progressions.

The west coast offense should probably be called the Cincinnati offense. That is because it was developed by Bill Walsh while he was the Bengals offensive coordinator. Walsh originally designed the offense as a necessity as his QB Virgil Carter had lackluster arm talent. Walsh was not the only one to come up with a variation of the west coast offense. There were several other coaches who contributed to the offense largely credited to Walsh.

Walsh eventually took his offense to the San Francisco 49ers. The rest as we know is history. Before the success the 49ers were mocked as a finesse team. Joe Montana won 4 Super Bowls in this offense. After Walsh had retired Steve Young led the 49ers to another Super Bowl championship with the west coast offense.

There were other offensive minds that worked on similar offenses. Don Coryell, better known as “Air Coryell” designed prolific passing attacks with the Chargers and Cardinals. This offense was very much built on timing and progressions however it was a more vertically oriented passing game.

It is very hard to blitz the west coast offense. The back side slant became the bane of the 46 bear defense. The ball comes out of the quarterbacks hands very quickly. Blitzing defenders create wholes in the defense. This is to the offenses advantage because the west coast attack makes you defend the width of the field. It is also very likely that corners will jump on short routes making the defense vulnerable to the deep pass with a double move route. The offense takes what the defense gives them. The offense knows there is no perfect defense and there is no defense to a perfect throw.

Since timing is so important in the west coast offense the goal of the defense is to disrupt the timing. The defensive line must get good push up. Remember defensive linemen can rush because they were rushing any way; the defense is not wasting defenders. Even if they don’t get to the quarterback it is important to get in the passing lanes. J.J. Watt of the Texans is the master of getting his hands up and disrupting the timing of a throw. Defensive backs must reroute receivers at the line.

There is so much that can be learned about this style of offensive football. No matter your level of interest this is an important thing to understand. The west coast offense is a big part of modern football.

Football 101: Screen Passes

Common Sense Football is starting a new segment of articles called Football 101. These articles will be articles that look at the basics in football. The goal of these articles is to help the casual or new football fan begin their football education.

One of the most simple but effective plays in football is the screen pass. There are many variations of screen passes and they can be thrown to running backs, tight ends and receivers. Many plays also build off screen plays. Let’s take a look at the screen game.

A screen is a pass to a player behind the line of scrimmage, allowing offensive linemen to legally run into the second level of the defense to block. On a typical screen the offense allows the defensive line rush the passer. The quarterback pops a pass over the rush to the running back who has blockers in front of him setting up a path downfield. It is very important that the quarterback keeps his head straight when dropping back, to not give away that it is a screen.

Screens can also be thrown to wide receivers. Often the tackle and guard on the play side will pull out to block for a wide receiver. A bubble screen is when the slot receiver swings out for a quick reception with the wide receiver blocking the corner for him.

Screens are effective against a blitz or over aggressive defensive linemen. The entire premise of a screen is to invite pass rush. This takes defenders out of the play. The goal is to fool the defensive line into pass rushing so the offensive linemen can block linebackers in the second level of the defense.

Screens are often used in 3rd & long situations. It is a way offenses can try to pick up a cheap first down, or at least try to get some yards on the play that could help your punt team change field position.

As a defensive linemen back in my high school days, I was very good at reading screens. I was one of the slowest and most unimpressive athletes on the field. If I had a clear path to the quarterback, I was either dreaming or it was a screen pass. When I read screen I would yell it out to alert the rest of the defense. I would then locate the running back and try to make it difficult to pass it to him. The truth is that a screen pass is both simple to fall for and simple to defend. That is why the timing of a screen is so important.

Many plays are built off the screen game. One play that has become popular is when the quarterback performs a pump fake at a receiver to hand the ball off to the running back on a draw. Quick screens to your wide receivers can set up wide open receivers for deep passes. After a couple of quick screens to the wide receiver the corner will likely bite on a fake screen.

The screen game is a fundamental part of offensive football. A well timed and executed screen can be a thing of absolute beauty.

Simple Ways to Beat Man Coverage

One of the most frustrating things about the Ravens season was the inability of their receivers to beat man coverage. When a defense can blanket your receivers and no one gets open this allows them to be more creative in rushing the passer. Pass protection was a real problem for Baltimore. The Ravens need to work on more consistently beating man coverage.

1.) Identify coverage before the snap.

It seems like common sense but it is something that offenses can struggle with. You need to be able to have an educated guess of what coverage the defense is in.

First the quarterback should check the depth and alignment of the safeties. This often leads you to what shell the defense is playing. It is also important to count how many people are in the box. If you see 8 or more people in the box, the offense should typically be in a pass play, for example.

Next the quarterback and receivers should notice the positioning of the corners. Generally speaking if the corner’s butt is to the sideline and he is turned to the QB he is playing zone. If he is facing the receiver he is likely in man.

The defense knows this is easy to read and they wisely try to trick the offense at the line with movement and alignment.

Pre Snap motions are a great way to determine if a team is in man to man or zone. If a receiver or tight end motions and a defender moves with him across the field this indicates man coverage. The defender could stay and it could still be man if the defense switched who was covering the receiver after the motion.

2.) Crossing routes

Crossing routes make corners chase receivers across the field. It is often easier for receivers to stretch man coverage with crossing routes than it is to beat a man deep. This also creates traffic for the corner. Quarterbacks who are patient enough for one of the crossing routes to become open can really make defenses pay for man coverage.

3.) Bunch formations/ Stacking WR’s

Stacked receivers create trouble for man coverage. They have to give the receiver cushion off the line. It is hard to align in tight man coverage. If the routes cross defenders have to know what to do; this often involves switching who has who.

This is where savvy route concepts come into play. One if the receivers can set a pick or rub (whatever you want to call it) to give another receiver time to get open. This is technically illegal but is never called on the offense.

4.) Clear Out Routes/ QB Run

If defenders are in man coverage you can clear them out of the play. In man defensive backs move with the wide receivers. If all the receivers go down the field so do the defenders playing them in man coverage. This can often open up a running back or a tight end underneath.

If the secondary defenders backs are turned to the QB while running with receivers down the field; this sets up opportunities for quarterbacks to make plays with their legs. When a quarterback can pick up an easy ten yards with his legs it beats man coverage.

5.) Sluggos, Out and Up Routes, Double Move Routes.

Defense is very big on the read and react concept. Corners try to jump in front of routes they expect to see. A sluggo (Slant & Go) is my favorite route. The corner reacts to the slant, once he bites the receiver flys down the field for the Go portion of the route. Double moves are a good way to beat anticipating defensive backs.

These are just some simple strategies to employ about man coverage. There is much more that can be discussed. This is just an overview of what can be done from from a strategic standpoint to beat man coverage.

3 Knocks Of Common Sense

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3 Knocks Of Common Sense | Chris Schisler

1.)    There is nobody more deserving of a knock of common sense more than Jim Irsay. Like his father, Jim is not afraid to make a fool of himself. We get that Peyton Manning is coming back to Indianapolis, believe us NBC won’t let us forget it. Nobody needs to hear you bash the Peyton, Irsay. He was the franchise, the only reason you were relevant was Peyton Manning. Yes Jim, he only won 1 Super Bowl and was eliminated from the first round of the playoffs almost every year. But do you honestly expect me, or anybody else to respect you saying ANYTHING at all about the most important athlete Indianapolis ever had? Stop tweeting, shut up. Owners should be seen not heard. Hire the right people; let your franchise do the talking, not you. I’d like to thank Jim Irsay. Everyone knows a Baltimore boy loves bashing an Irsay, and Jim Irsay made that pathetically easy.

 

2.)    The football fans who boo after every injury need to be muzzled, or at least given a knock of common sense. Was there any bigger sign of stupidity then the Sunday Night Football a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta? They booed Vince Wilfork thinking he was faking an injury to slow the Falcons offense down. Yeah, guess what he is out for the season. The fans don’t even grasp the concept of ignorant booing. They booed a Patriots offensive lineman for being hurt. Was he trying to slow his own offense down? This needs to stop, football is better than this. Also I have a hard time thinking that there are 70,000 doctors in the stand.

 

3.)    Any moron who thinks John Harbaugh is not a good coach needs a big knock of common sense. Fans are calling into the local sports radio stations and spewing hate on the guy who has taken you to 5 straight playoff seasons and a Super Bowl championship. The funny thing is they are not even attacking him correctly. 1 fan called 105.7 The Fan cited that John Harbaugh does not carry any charts during the game, and he does nothing. HE DOES NOT CALL PLAYS! This is just the stupidest argument in the history of sports talk, and that is saying something. Harbs is a great coach with a resume that speaks for itself.

A Rock And A Hard Place: Defensive Football

It has never been a harder time to be a defensive football mind. The game is so focused on offense so much so the rules almost exclusively favor the offense. Great quarterbacks rule the game and gone are the days when teams could win it all because of dominant defenses like the 2000 Ravens and 2002 Buccaneers. Defenses will always have a weakness and there will never be an answer to a perfect throw. Defenders are in between a rock and a hard place. In football’s continuous strategic arms race offenses are dramatically ahead of defense. There are more great quarterbacks than ever before. There was a time when there was a very specific archetype for a great NFL quarterback. Today’s NFL has found great variation in types of quarterbacks. From Brady to RG3 and everything in between offenses are scoring more than ever. The question is what is the next answer from the great defensive minds of our time.

A defender cannot touch a wide receiver after the first 5 yards of a route. Defensive pass interference is called almost automatically in every entanglement between receiver and defender. Even if the offensive player interfered with the defender 8 times out of 10 pass interference is called on the defense. Both the defender and receiver have equal rights in terms of getting their hands on the football; but this is just the letter of the law not the actual effect of the rule. Just look at the 4th & 2 conversion where Boldin got away with PI this Sunday! Its absolutely unfair. Now defenders have to understand what constitutes a defenseless player which just adds hesitation. The defender can’t hit high, can’t hit low and in full speed on a moving target what can they possibly do that does not break the rules. The ironic thing is the defenseless players rule creates defenseless defenders. These rules allow officials to have too much subjective power against the defense. Half the time when you hit a quarterback whether he is a runner or not a yellow penalty flag is launched and my sanity is tested.

Quarterbacks are now the ultimate students of the game. The top passers are not only supremely talented by intellectually driven. Peyton Manning knows how to beat you with a mere glance at your defense. Cerebral quarterbacks get the ball out of their hand so quickly sending pressure is often wishful thinking. A blitz that does not get there is defeatist math, a wasted player on the play. Creating pressure with a 4-5 man rush opens up so many other doors in coverage. Often the key is rerouting the receivers and affecting the timing of the play. This is especially effective against west coast offenses where the routes are strictly connected to the footwork of the quarterback. The problem with this is twofold. Playing aggressive man coverage can allow receivers to slip past the defenders. Secondly this can lead to penalties if the ref has a stick where the sun does not shine (Again the subjective control the official has is troubling to defensive football). The defense has the daunting task of taking control of the game from the quarterback. They must be as cerebral as the quarterback is.

The number 1 mistake a defense can make is transparency. The quarterback should not be able to easily kill you before he receives the snap. There should always be disguise and communication.

Remember football is a numbers game. The quarterback counts how many people you have in the box, how many people you have in coverage, and who’s coming at him. Its a numbers game and you better make the QB solve for X.

There will always be things the defense can not achieve. Match ups dictate so much. The defense knows where they’re weak. This is critical information. If you know your safety or linebacker is a liability in man coverage of a TE you want to avoid these circumstances. Denver’s abuse of the Ravens’ Josh Bynes coverage weaknesses on Thursday are a perfect example of this.

I am a zone blitz guy. I have a hard time relying on man coverage when receivers are among the craftiest athletes on the field and I turn my back to an often mobile quarterback. With the zone blitz you cover the field that you can cover and pressure for what you can’t. I’m a zone blitz guy but again the defense must be dynamic with multiple looks mixed up.

There has to be a sense of realistic expectation. There is no perfect defense and there is no perfect answer to everything. The zone blitz gives you the best of both worlds, blitzing and covering. It has its flaws just ask the 49ers, who have feasted on the Packers zone blitz defense.

Defensive football is about making the numbers game work to your advantage and taking away control from the QB. There is no defense to a perfect throw. The quarterback has so much power I’m the game of football. It is not an impossible mission but defensive minds in many ways are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

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