My plan was to do a little advanced scouting for the upcoming NFC Championship Game. But, as often happens, I ran short of time. So instead of a full write-up, I give you my favorite play from the Falcons/Seahawks Divisional Round Game. It’s a beautiful play and I’m in love with it, but I’m also a little scared of it. I have complicated feelings.

Welcome to a very special One Big Play.

With 0:59 left in the first half, the Falcons are up by a score of 12-10. They face 1st and 10 at the Seahawks 14. As the score indicates, it was a close game for the first half, but a touchdown here is huge for the Falcons. They get the ball to start the second half, so getting into the end zone would put them up by 9 heading into the half, with a chance to tack on more points at the start of the 3rd quarter.

The Seahawks are in Cover 3, as they often are. The Falcons use this to their advantage. Tevin Coleman [26] is in the backfield with Matt Ryan [2]. On the left side of the line, Austin Hooper [81] is in the slot while Taylor Gabriel [18] is on the outside. Hooper motions from outside to the slot before the snap. No Seahawks go with him, indicating zone coverage.

On the right side of the line, Julio Jones [11] is in the slot while Mohamed Sanu [12] is on the outside.

The route combinations are designed to get Coleman open against this Cover 3 defense, so let’s look at those.

Gabriel is running a post from the left outside. This will pull DeShawn Shead [35] with him into the middle of the field. Since the Seahawks are in Cover 3, the assumption is that it won’t remove Shead from his deep corner zone entirely, but it will open a window.

Hooper is running into the flat from the left slot. That pulls K.J. Wright [50] to the edge of the field, allowing an open lane to Coleman.

For good measure, Jones is running a drag from the right slot. With the middle of the defense in zone, this is an attempt to get Kam Chancellor [31] closer to the line so he can’t fall back into a zone underneath the route. Coleman would likely be able to beat Chancellor to the corner anyway, but this just helps to open the window a little wider.

It all works better than expected. The route of Gabriel pulls Shead further to the middle than he should have gone, giving Coleman a ton of room to run into.

Just keep an eye on Coleman out of the backfield as he runs between the zones. With Wright close to the line, Shead to the inside and Chancellor held in the middle by Jones, it’s wide open.

I made this (terrible) drawing to show where the zones are and how the zones were affected by the routes. It’s a perfectly designed play by the Falcons.

Let’s look at it from another angle.

Ryan is looking to that side of the line the entire time. He scans between Coleman and Hooper. Once he sees Shead following Gabriel to the middle, Ryan’s main concern is making sure Wright stays with Hooper. He slides outside the pocket to give himself a clear lane and throws a nice pass to Coleman. Beautiful play design.

The Falcons have a lot of great skill positions and they know how to exploit weaknesses in the defense. You don’t score 33.9 points per game on accident. They’re going to put up points against this Packers defense. Let’s just hope the Packers are able to put up at least 1 more than the Falcons can.


Album listened to: Manchester Orchestra – Cope

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