Monday, February 05, 2007

OK, the Super Bowl is over and we’re guaranteed seeing even more Peyton Manning commercials, whoring out to whichever advertisers have a checkbook. Eventually, we’ll have a Peyton Manning network showing nothing but Colts highlights and Peyton commercials. Oh, we already have that, it’s called ESPN.

Anyway, it played out pretty much as expected, with Grossman self-destructing, and the Colts eventually picking apart the Bear defense. The Colts did a great job of adjusting their offense after the 1st quarter. The Bears seemed intent on stopping the slants and seam patterns that Manning loves to throw, dropping Urlacher into the passing lanes. And the Colts actually adjusted on the fly and began running the 49er West Coast Offense with swing passes and dump-offs to the running backs. The linebackers would be backpedaling into the seams, the cornerbacks would be dogging the slant routes, and the running back (Roger Craig in the 80’s, Ricky Watters in the 90’s, Joseph Addai yesterday) swings into the flat unimpeded for an almost gimme eight to ten yards a pop.

My buddy and I noticed how familiar the offense looked almost immediately, including the almost eerie ability to gain six yards on 3rd and 4, ten yards on 3rd and 8, always keeping the chains moving, dominating the time of possession. We had seen it before, 20+ years ago. The swing pass (aka “the long handoff”) was put into the West Coast offense to counter the Bears 46 defense in the mid-80’s. In the early 80’s, the 49ers would run sight-adjustment routes against zones with Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon sitting down in dead spots for 10-12 completions. When teams went to man-to-man, Clark would run slants all the way across the field (remember Harrison yesterday?), while Solomon would go deep to pull the safety. Defenses eventually learned that blitzing would disrupt the timing of the slant plays, so the 49ers adjusted by swinging a running back out of the backfield, essentially running around the blitzers into the open field.

And the Colts ran that exact offense last night. The stretch plays weren’t working against the hard charging defensive line (Addai fumble), so they went to straight plunge plays with straight up man blocking and letting the runners pick their holes. And Ron Rivera didn’t adjust his defensive scheme, falling into the “it worked all year” trap. Well, yeah, it worked against Detroit and Minnesota, but they didn’t have the weapons that Indy had. I wonder if Jerry Jones was paying attention. Hopefully, he wasn’t, because I want Dallas to take Ron Rivera, if only because it will keep Norv Turner in SF, working with Alex Smith and Frank Gore for another season.

So, who do you like in the Pro Bowl?


At 8:23 AM, Blogger Meek said...

Good analysis! I don't feel so bad for not paying attention now.


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