clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

As the Crow Flies

New, comments

Isaiah Crowell rushed for 88 yards and two touchdowns versus the Falcons. Here's your chance to fly with the Crow on this walkthrough of one of his Week 12 runs.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Crow26TD_1 - Copy - Copy - Copy - Copy (2)

Pictured above is one of Isaiah Crowell's runs versus Atlanta. The green arrow indicates the playside of the play. This is a Split Zone play. Split Zone is an Inside Zone run where the playside H-back (circle on the far right with the long blue arrow coming off of it) pulls completely across the formation immediately after the snap and makes a block outside the tackle on the backside of the play. As with other zone runs, the running back has several options on the play and needs to read the defense and the success of his blockers to determine where to go.

In this formation and against this defensive front, most of the blockers will slant slightly to the right (the playside) but still block the men right in front of them. This means that the left tackle will block the backside 3-4 defensive end, the right guard will block the playside defensive end, and the right tackle will block the playside outside linebacker. The H-back will pull as described above. The other tight end on the far left of the formation will block the 3-4 outside linebacker on the backside edge.

A noteworthy thing here is that center Nick McDonald (yellow square) and left guard Joel Bitonio will have a brief double team on the nose tackle. Once Bitonio gets his block on the NT, McDonald will release and seek a linebacker to block.

FYI, this play starts off with a pitch in order to try to fool the defense into thinking it's an outside zone run to the playside.


In the following picture, I have six choices of where the running back can take this play. What would be your preferred choice(s) and what would influence your decision during the play?

Crow26TD_2 - Copy







1. Off Tackle to the Right

1. Crow26TD_1 - Copy - Right

(The white number shows where the run is going if you chose this option. The orange dotted lines show where the linebackers would likely flow in response to this decision.)

Positives:

- Center should be able to cut off backside inside linebacker.

Negatives:

- If outside linebacker on the end of the line of scrimmage sets the edge well then this run is contained.

- Playside inside linebacker is unblocked and can attack the ballcarrier through the B-gap or beat him out to the edge.

Decision:

The unblocked playside ILB spells trouble here. Don't go this way unless the right tackle is really kicking butt on the edge and driving the end man well off the line. This isn't really a consideration on a Split Zone play, but it is on a normal Inside Zone run. On a normal Inside Zone run, the H-back would stay and block the outside linebacker rather than pulling to the opposite side of the formation. The right tackle would block down on the 3-4 defensive end until the right guard caught up and took over. Then he'd go after the playside inside linebacker. None of that is happening on this play.

Likely Result:

A stop for a loss or no gain.


2. B-gap to the Right

(between RG and RT)

2. Crow26TD_1 - Copy - Right More

Positives:

- Center should be able to cut off backside inside linebacker.

- It's okay if the OLB on the end of the line gets good edge contain.

Negatives:

- The playside ILB is unblocked and should be able to meet the back in the B-gap.

Decision:

This is essentially just running right into the playside inside linebacker. This isn't a horrible option if the center fails on his block and gets beaten right off the snap by the nose tackle or if there's an A-gap run blitzer that gets immediate penetration. In that case, you're just trying to get what you can and avoid a loss on the play. Otherwise, there are better options available.

Likely Result:

1-yard gain to 1-yard loss


3. A-gap to the Right

(between C and RG)

3. Crow26TD_1 - Right Mid

Positives:

- Center should be able to cut off either the backside inside linebacker or possibly the playside one.

- It's okay if the OLB on the end of the line sets the edge.

Negatives:

- One of the inside linebackers may be unblocked.

Decision:

This is a run right up the gut. Center Nick McDonald is going to block the nose tackle and then wait for left guard Joel Bitonio to pick him up. Then McDonald will release to the second level and attack one of the linebackers.

This is the first and best choice IF the playside inside linebacker is expecting an outside zone run and makes the mistake of flowing to the perimeter (the ball was pitched to the running back to further try to sell this). If the ILB isn't fooled this is not the choice, but it's important for the running back to make this read on this play.

Likely Result:

If Bitonio and McDonald can execute this smoothly and quickly this should be a positive gain. However, one of the inside linebackers should be unblocked and able to make the play. Likely a 3 to 5 yard gain if blocked correctly. Could be as bad as a 1-yard loss if the center fails to reach the ILB.


4. B-gap to the Left

(between LG and LT)

4. Crow26TD_1 - Copy - Left Mid

Positives:

- Center might be able to cut off the playside inside linebacker.

- It's okay if the OLB on the end of the line gets good edge contain.

Negatives:

- The backside ILB will likely be unblocked.

- Kyle Shanahan and Gary Barnidge will not be happy with you.

Decision:

Similar to a B-gap run to the right, this is running directly into an unblocked inside linebacker. The biggest problem here is that if you're already running to the left, why not use Gary Barnidge's block? Barnidge is lined up at H-back on this play and will pull across the formation right after the snap. By the time the RB has the ball, Barnidge will be past the left tackle and seeking to block a defender either between the LT and the other tight end or even further out on the perimeter.

The reason to take this option is if you were intending on going further left but then the tight end and/or H-back lost their block and allowed C-gap penetration before you got there.

Likely Result:

1-yard gain or worse. If #5 or #6 were clear when you made this decision, the coaches might want to have a discussion with you about it on the sideline.


5 & 6. Off Tackle to the Left

6. Crow26TD_1 - Copy - Left

Positives:

- Center might be able to cut off the playside inside linebacker.

- Gary Barnidge is happy. You're using his block.

Negatives:

- The tight end on the edge (Jim Dray) needs to get a decent block. You can't afford him getting flat-out beaten.

Decision:

If the playside inside linebacker stays at home and has a clear path to the playside A-gap, then you want to take the run to the backside. At that point, you read the tight end's and H-back's blocks on the edge. If the H-back has a good block on the ILB and the tight end has his man blocked to the outside then cut inside the TE. If the outside linebacker is downfield or inside of the tight end then continue outside. More or less, pick the better block between the tight end and H-back and follow it.

Likely Result:

This could be a big play.



So, What Actually Happened???

- The playside inside linebacker stayed inside, so Crowell didn't take the playside A-gap (option #3).

- Crowell made a sharp cut to the left (options #5 and #6).

- When he got out there, H-back Gary Barnidge whiffed on his block on the backside ILB in the C-gap. Crowell made him miss and then took it outside the tight end (option #6).

- Tight end Jim Dray had a good block on the end of the line, so Crowell was able to turn the corner and get into the secondary.

- The rest was beyond words:

As the Crow Flies