Friday, 15 February 2013

Know your Options: Zone Bluff

Read our opening article on the read plays starting to permeate through the NFL

Last season it was all about Tim Tebow and the Zone Read and QB Power plays, where St Timothy would bludgeon his way through a couple of DB's before rumbling out of bounds or over the goal line.

We looked at the Zone Read last week, but it is not a play without it's issues. First of all, as shown in the Denver game vs the Patriots, the Zone Read scheme when run alone can be manipulated using the "scrape exchange."

Scrape exchange

This strategy forces the Quarterback to keep the football, as the read player is diving inside to stop the "give" part of the play. When the Quarterback keeps the ball he is met by a linebacker who has held his ground and "scraped" over the top of the defensive end.

How do you answer this change up that stumped Denver last year? The 49ers answer this year was the Zone Bluff (also called Zone Slice or Zone Samurai).

Zone Bluff ala Kaepernick
Video of the Play here

This is the play that has caught the most attention in the NFL and is taken verbatim from Chris Ault's Pistol playbook at the University of Nevada, where Colin Kaepernick attended college. It covers the scrape exchange by using a fullback to seal the scraping linebacker and gives the Quarterback a lane to run the ball if he keeps it.

In the game on the video the Atlanta Falcons had been playing to force Kaepernick to give the ball, with outside linebacker #55 John Abraham often left in space alone for play after play.

The Zone bluff also differs because of the path of the back. Instead of an outside/inside zone path like the zone read (aiming for the playside B or C gaps), Gore is taking a tight zone path, aiming for the play side A gap. When he sees the gap close he bounces outside and follows the fullback to pay dirt.

What causes even more havoc is the arc release by Vernon Davis. The safety still has to respect Davies as a pass catcher and ends up running with him, even when he is staring at Frank Gore running the football!

The beauty of this play is that it is very easy to change the read. One play you could be reading the end man on the line of scrimmage, the next you could read the linebacker and have the fullback kick out the end instead. In terms of basic plays you can even run the base Zone run with the fullback blocking the backside end and play action is very simple to execute in comparison with the shotgun based run game.
Same play, flipped for more win
Also, because of the Pistol formation, with the back aligned behind the QB instead of set to one side as in Shotgun, it is very difficult for the defence to key on the play and maintain discipline on both sides of the formation. The fullback could just as easily arc release to the same side he lines up on and the other end man on the line of scrimmage is now read.

The pistol formation is likely to be the key that brings the plays we've been seeing in College for years into the NFL. It racked up over 200 yards, with an average of 8 yards per play, in the Superbowl vs the Ravens and with speedy Quarterbacks like Kaepernick, RG3, Newton, Vick and even to a lesser extent Alex Smith (the original Spread QB dontcha know) and Russell Wilson the personnel are there to run it.

Next week we look at the Inverted Veer play.

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