To begin, I just want to give a quick background to where the idea for this column came from and its intended purpose.
Fair warning, I’m going to sound like a salesman for the NFL. In this past week’s MMQB, Peter King mentioned the benefits of Game Rewind, which is a service that NFL.com offers that allows you to watch every game from this season (and previous seasons). You can watch the regular old broadcast version, a condensed version of every game (I HIGHLY RECOMMED SPLURGING THE $70 FOR THIS FUNCTION) and the coaches film – also known as the All-22 camera angle – which is literally the film the coaches’ use.
After purchasing the service I put it to good use by watching the condensed versions of a couple games that I missed during Sunday. First up on the list was Carolina-Seattle and during the viewing of the game the idea for this column was conceived.
The play that I will focus on in this column and every column like this moving forward, is one that either got passed over during the highlight package of the game, or one that is lost in the bowels of the film storage room where Jaws sleeps.
So without further ado, here is The Best Play That You Didn’t See From Week 1
The situation: Carolina is down 3-0 to Seattle with 3:25 to go in the second quarter. The Panthers had driven 77 yards and kept the drive alive after Steve Smith made a great play to convert a third and seven into a first down, which set up a first and goal situation from Seattle’s three-yard line.
The Panthers lineup in an I-formation with TE Richie Brockel (acting as a FB, 47) and RB Mike Tolbert (35) in the backfield. TE Greg Olsen (88) has already shifted over to the end of the line on the left and WR Brandon LaFell (11) is in the process of shifting from the left wide spot, into the back of a stack and release formation with WR Steve Smith (89).
Newton fakes the handoff to Tolbert, Olsen runs a slant to the back left corner of the endzone, which draws the attention of LB K.J. Wright (50) and Brandon Browner’s replacement CB Byron Maxwell (41). FS Earl Thomas engages with Brockel, but the focus of the play revolves around LaFell and Smith.
When LaFell shifted across to the line and stopped behind Smith, CB Richard Sherman (25) dropped back and to the right. LaFell’s motion seemed to confused LB Malcom Smith as he waved his hands in the air and reacted to LaFell’s route by dropping back to cover him. SS Cam Chancelor (player closest to the score graphic, 31) also locks in on LaFell.
All of these actions leave the middle of the field open for Smith to make a play. The only player who could have stopped a touchdown from occurring (unless Smith dropped the ball of course) is LB Bobby Wagner (54).
As Smith crosses the goal line to ensure that he scores a touchdown, he wisely uses umpire Butch Hannah as a screener. You could say that Smith ran a pick and roll with Hannah. By doing so, Smith creates a window for Newton to hit him for the only touchdown of the first half for either team.
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