Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

10 Jan 2013

Word of Muth: Toss Bunch Crunch

by Ben Muth

Since every team I’ve focused on this year either had a first-round bye (San Francisco and New England) or is officially on the clock (Kansas City), this week seemed like a nice opportunity to simply draw up some very popular NFL concepts that I haven’t had a chance to talk about this year. Both plays happened in the most interesting game of the weekend: the Seattle-Washington game from Sunday night.

The first play I want to talk about is the toss bunch crunch Washington ran in the first quarter. It’s probably the most common pitch play you’ll see in the NFL today. In addition to being widely used, it is impeccably named. The name of the play tells you so much. Toss, because it’s a halfback toss. Bunch, because you run it out of a bunch formation. And crunch, because crunch and bunch rhyme. Like everyone else, football coaches are suckers for rhyming.

The general idea is to crack with the two men on the outside of the bunch trio, then kick out and lead with the inside man of the bunch and the tackle. On this play, tight end Logan Paulsen is the point man of the bunch and he probably has the hardest job, blocking down on Red Bryant and sealing him inside.

Fullback Keiland Williams is lined up as the inside man in the bunch and he has to pull and kick out on the force player so right tackle Tyler Polumbus can lead up into the alley for Alfred Morris.

One last thing worth noting is where Leroy Hill is lined up. He’s the outside linebacker with the red arrow, just outside the hash.

This is from the first quarter, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Seattle’s run defense is horrendous here. The three-technique for Seattle is reached by Chris Chester almost immediately. Chester hooks the guy before Robert Griffin can catch the snap and pitch the ball. That’s an unfathomably bad job by Seattle’s play-side defensive tackle.

Also notice that the defensive end on the side (Bryant) sees Paulsen cracking back on him and is able to avoid getting ear-holed. Bryant is a very good player, and typically doesn't get sealed inside by tight ends.

But if you look at the picture above, that’s exactly what is happening to Bryant. Paulsen is an okay blocker, but he ain’t Rob Gronkowski on the edge either. I have to say, it was really surprising seeing him handle Bryant like that.

The other key part of this play is how wide Hill fills to avoid getting hooked. He started just outside of the hash, and ended just outside of the numbers before he engaged fullback Williams. There’s no excuse for this.

As the force player, he can’t get hooked, but he also can’t just run straight to the sideline to avoid getting hooked either. Every yard that Hill widens to avoid being reached by Williams is an extra yard of space between Hill and Bryant for Polumbus and Morris to rumble through. If Hill had played more downhill and engaged Williams somewhere between the numbers and the hash, Paulsen's seal of Bryant wouldn't have been as devastating to Seattle’s defense.

Look at that picture above. That’s what we call clinic tape. When the play looks exactly like the coaches draw it up, they save it to take it on the coach clinic circuit. That way, they can show their colleagues how awesome their scheme and players are.

Richard Sherman is Seattle’s last hope to hold this play to single-digit yardage, and there’s a 320-pound man between him and the ball carrier. Sherman actually attacks the play with perfect leverage. He comes at the blocker fairly aggressively and looks to be keeping his outside arm free. This should force Morris back inside where Earl Thomas is unblocked and Bobby Wagner is being shielded by a wideout. If Sherman forces Morris inside, it would be a success.

Unfortunately, rather than take on the much bigger Polumbus straight up in an attempt to maintain leverage, Sherman tries to dive at the Skins tackle and create a pile. He succeeds in cutting down Polumbus, but fails to force Morris inside.

Sherman was in a no-win situation here. If he stays up, odds are that Polumbus will destroy him and knock him wide enough so that Morris can still run outside of Wagner. I mean, Polumbus does outweigh Sherman by 100 pounds. But by going low in a hole that big (once again, the reason the hole was so big was Hill and Bryant, not Sherman), he guaranteed that Morris could get outside.

Eventually, Thomas chased down Morris and dragged him down at the 3 after a gain of 18 yards.

The other concept I want to talk about is the inside slice concept. It’s a basic inside zone scheme with what’s called a "slice block" on the backside. The slice block is just when someone who pulls across the formation, behind the line of scrimmage, kicks out to the end man on the line for the defense. In this case, tight end Zach Miller is the puller.

The Seahawks are running it out of shotgun, which is a bit unusual, but the blocking is the exact same as if Russell Wilson was under center. Technically, the play can go front side (the offense’s left side in this case). But it almost always gets cut back behind the center, usually right off the backside double team, whether it’s the guard and tackle or the guard and center doing the double teaming.

The first thing that jumps out is the double team between Max Unger and J.R. Sweezy (which I’m pretty sure is J.R. Smith’s nickname) on Barry Cofield. Cofield appears to be two-gapping, which means he has to fire into Unger, bench press him off, and play both A-gaps. Since Unger is zone blocking to Seattle’s left, Cofield has to move in that direction to avoid being reached. As Cofield is fighting that way, Sweezy gives him a good, two-handed shove and knocks him even further to Unger’s left, then the right guard climbs up to middle linebacker Lorenzo Alexander.

The other thing to notice on the picture above is right tackle Breno Giacomini turning back into Ryan Kerrigan (91) once he sees that Perry Riley (56) is blitzing outside. With Riley blitzing, he becomes the end man on the line, which means Miller will account for him. That means Giacomini must take the slanting Kerrigan.

Once Giacomini feels Kerrigan slanting inside, the right tackle actually takes his own outside hand and clubs Kerrigan with it, essentially collecting the defensive end further down inside with him.

Now comes the highlight portion of the blocking courtesy of Miller: he absolutely decleats Riley on the slice block. It was a great block, but it was made as much by Wilson as it was by Miller. Just kidding, it was at least 80 percent Miller, but I wanted to sound like a color commentator for a sentence. Wilson’s ball fake was a bigger part of this play than his lead "blocking" was later on in the play, and here’s why.

Defensive ends have gotten pretty good at playing slice blocks, so you rarely see the types of blow-up shots that Miller put on Riley. But since Seattle had run so much zone read in this game (and over the past month), Riley never really saw Miller coming. The third-year linebacker had to keep his eyes on Wilson to make sure the quarterback actually handed the ball off. As a result, not only did Riley not see Miller, but he didn’t close down any of the space that Giacomini vacated (as players are taught to do). That meant Miller had a seven-yard head start on meeting him.

The play is blocked perfectly, but Marshawn Lynch runs it as well as the line and Miller blocked it. Look how close he is to Giacomini here as he finally starts to cut back. That’s called "pressing the hole," and what it does is suck Alexander (97) up towards the line of scrimmage and right into Sweezy. So, once Lynch does cut all the way to the backside, there is no one left unblocked. It’s a great example of a running back seeting up his blocks.

I mean, look at the hole. It’s more like a crater. Cortez Kennedy might have scored with a hole that size. Also, notice that Miller is still on his feet. He literally ran right through Riley. I think that about sums it up.

Posted by: Ben Muth on 10 Jan 2013

16 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2013, 5:13pm by guck

Comments

1
by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 11:25am

A question on the first play. You slate the play side defensive tackle for getting reached and hooked almost immediately. However, from the pictures, it seems like presnap he's lined up somewhere closer to the right hashmark, and straight after the snap he's now sort of slightly left of centre between the hash marks. Is this a case of the DT slanting towards the centre, which really helps the offence? And if so, is that something the defender is to blame for, or something that is just a function of whatever defence was called?

In the second play, I love that block by Miller. Between the during and after picture, it looks like he took his guy out without even really breaking his stride!

2
by Ben Muth :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 11:32am

First play is king of an optical allusion from the sideline cam. He isn't slanting and is a step wider in the second the picture, it's just tough to tell alignment of the down guys from the wide angle. The problem is the guard takes three steps laterally before the DT can take one.

5
by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 1:42pm

When both interior d linemen get hooked like fat fish on a summer day, that makes for some ugly, or pretty funny, time in the video room, depending on the coach, and the vantage point of the person listening to the coach. I always liked a coach who could entertain everybody else while mercilessly ridiculing the offenders.

10
by dbostedo :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 5:08pm

I like the thought of a "king of an optical allusion"...

13
by TomC :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 2:17pm

Raiderben.

As for the article: awesome stuff, as always.

14
by Ben Muth :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 4:18pm

Obviously the first pic is very at referencing the human eyeball in subtle ways. Or I have chubby fingers and an iPhone. One of the two.

3
by robbbbbb (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 12:13pm

Field Gulls (Seahawks SB Nation site) has an animated GIF of the second play, where Miller throws that magnificent block. Coupled with Mr. Muth's explanation it really comes to life.

6
by Led :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 1:54pm

That GIF is awesome and really highlights the text book blocking up front and Lynch's juke move on DeAngelo Hall that turned the run from a solid gainer into a TD.

7
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:17pm

On the gif, it looks like Riley was already falling sideways trying to chase Wilson when the block arrives. I think the wind could have knocked him down.

It's a shame Asante Samuel wasn't on the 'skins. The video could have ended with him fleeing ahead of Lynch into the end zone.

11
by Occ :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 6:00pm

Good work as usual, Mr. Muth. It would be great if we could get some FO gifs for pieces like this. Really helps to see the pic by pic breakdown, then the gif at the end tying it all together.

4
by Zach (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 12:22pm

Quick note on the second play: it was John Moffit (not JR Sweezy) playing RG on that play. The Seahawks have been rotating both of them in and out of that position the last two weeks.

8
by sourcreamus (not verified) :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:29pm

Looking at the Seahawks play, it seems the real issue was that all of the Redskins thought the play was going left and were trying their hardest to get to the left of the center where they thought the running back was going. Riley is the only one on the offensive left and he is too far upfield to make a play. Lynch sees the DE going into the hole and cuts back to where Riley should have been if he had not blitzed. Lynch then blows by Hall is off to the races. It was a great call for the defense called and a great run by Lynch.

9
by Kal :: Thu, 01/10/2013 - 4:53pm

They likely thought that because the lineup looks like an OZR option which would either be going to the left (if Wilson hands off) or straight up the middle with Wilson. This is also why the DE likely makes a cut in so hard; he's assuming he's backside at this point. And why Miller's subject gets obliterated: he's expecting to be outside contain in case Wilson bounces it out, and is staying put watching him and not expecting anyone to be there since the play direction is left.

This is a textbook example of using your own tendencies to teach another team what to do and then do something else.

12
by formido :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 1:14pm

I've seen Wilson's block at the end deprecated repeatedly and it's just wrong. Watch the tape from a couple angles. #26 has a line on Marshawn at the 8 yard line. Even though he's small, if he doesn't make the tackle he slows down Shawn at the very least, and there are 2 or 3 Redskins just a step behind. Defensive players aren't dummies, #26 saw Wilson and tried to avoid his block. He does so and is run out of the play precisely because of it. If #26 had kept his line, Wilson would have laid him out and Shawn still scores.

Considering what failing to score on a long run to inside the 5 cost Seattle on an earlier drive, when they fumbled it away subsequently, Wilson's blocking deserves all the commendation the "unsophisticated" heaped on it.

15
by Insancipitory :: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 5:56pm

Just because it hasn't been mentioned. Josh Wilson (the little db brushed off on Lynch's TD) didn't like Seattle, he would do autograph signings and made it clear he wanted to play for the Giants. So the Seahawks traded him to Baltimore for a 5th round pick and drafted, if I'm not mistaken, Richard Sherman. So people in Seattle really got to enjoy that play. I might have even enjoyed that run more than when Shaun Alexander brushed former Seahawks CB Ken Lucas off like he was a piece of lint for a TD in the NFC Championship game in 2005.

16
by guck (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2013 - 5:13pm

Thank-you for this great look at a couple of hot trends in NFL run games. As always you do a great job at getting to the nuts and bolts of both schemes. I'm glad you got to look at part of Seattle's scheme. I think Coaches Bevell/Cable have done a great job all year melding IZ/OZ and the read scheme. Do you think this is a tough block for Giacomini? It seems to me OT's have to be pretty outside heavy when they see these kind of stunts. Thanks again, great job!