• Bret Rumbeck

Anatomy of a Play: Breaking Down the 49ers’ Offense Part 2

Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann

Play: F-Bump to Double Right 24 Y Branch Nod

I chose this play not because it’s another completion to tight end George Kittle, but because I broke it down for a least 45 minutes, trying to diagram the routes and protection accurately.

The terminology may be a bit off, but I am confident in the formation, motion, and routes. What might be off is how it sounded in quarterback C.J. Beathard’s ear when Shanahan radioed it in from the sideline.

Like the West Coast Offense, Shanahan doesn’t explain to each receiver what he’s doing on the play. Therefore, in nearly every play, he has to know what to do every time he’s on the field.

As noted in a West Coast Offense primer I wrote for the Hub last summer, the beauty of a West Coast system is how it sounds, but it is also very much like a Charles Dickens novel. It’s wordy, with tags and keywords within a play that may only give one player a route. It sounds like no other offense, making it a challenging exercise in memorizing every nuance.

The West Coast Offense is always said in the following order:

1. Formation (Far right, Red Right, Near)

2. Adjustments (Tight, Close)

3. Motion or shift (Y-motion, Zeb, F Right)

4. Play number (22, 76, 57)

5. Terms/Tags (Flanker Drive, Z-In, Y-Shake, F-Texas)

6. Snap count (On two, three, snap)

A wordier version of the play above may sound like H-Bump to Right Slot, 24, Z Go, Y Shake, F Bench, Z Arrow. Other offenses may give the route combination at the top of the screenshot a name like ‘D-Slant’ or may even give each route a designated letter or number.

The Blocking

From what I know about Shanahan’s system, he does not use a lot of numbers to identify the protection or plays. I have heard him use Jet in his “Mic’d Up” segments, along with Scat and a few numbers.

Jet protection is a six-man scheme with one back and five offensive linemen. In 2/200 Jet, four offensive linemen slide to the weak side, while the back and tackle protect the strong side. 3/300 Jet protection is the opposite, with four men sliding strong, and the tackle and back protecting weak.

Scat protection allows the back to leave the backfield without any blitz responsibility. It depends on the defensive front, but it could leave the quarterback with only five men protecting him.

The protection in this play is not Jet or Scat. I’m guessing it’s a number, and the closest it resembles is 22/23 protection as the center was uncovered and popped out to help what would be the weak side.

It also resembles the 2004 New England Patriots’ 66/67 protection, which is six-man protection and told the center to pop out and help the linemen out to the call side.

I know I added “24” in the play, but I have not seen or heard Shanahan use 22/23 protection. I do know he uses 24 from time to time, so this is just a best guess.

The blocking was of little consequence since the Cardinals sent only four men against six linemen.

The Result

As we know, the Arizona Cardinals have the first selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. The play above is a visual representation of why the team was so bad.

With no pass rush, quarterback C.J. Beathard had plenty of time to stand stone-footed in the pocket and wait for Kittle to break open.

It appeared as if Arizona was in Cover 1-man since both defenders at the top of the screen stuck with wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and fullback Kyle Juszczyk.

I believe that’s wide receiver Marquise Goodwin the bottom of the screenshot running a go route, but the cornerback gave up on his route once he saw where Beathard was throwing.

What sells the entire play is Kittle’s double move on the “branch-nod,” which is a different way to call a post-corner. Kittle made a hard fake to the corner and immediately came back around to give Beathard a target.

The 49ers gained 11 yards on the play and three plays later, Beathard found Goodwin for a 55-yard touchdown pass.

Please, if you have suggestions on plays you’d like to see broken down from the 2018 season. I’d be delighted to diagram and explain what I see on the screen.

But, you should note that all my notes from Week 1 to Week 12 are currently being held hostage by 49ers Hub editor Scott Young. He’s asking a high ransom of an 18-year-old Highland Park single malt scotch and a case of Budweiser.

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