1. 8 examples of why players should always run to the football
Because … good things happen!
I couldn’t believe how many interceptions and fumble recoveries were the result of hustle. In a league where it’s increasingly difficult to play defense, creating turnovers off tips and fumbles are some of the best ways to remain relevant on that side of the ball.
And by the way, the turnover/recovery collage in the video above was the tip of the iceberg. That could’ve easily been made into a 12-play highlight.
2. When the Steelers block
There’s something cool about seeing the Pittsburgh Steelers block the snot out of people. I’m sure it has something to do with their historic uniforms and legacy of winning; many a tough, hard-nosed man has blocked his butt off in those uniforms, and that is the essence of the Steelers Way as much as anything.
Watch left guard Ramon Foster generate movement on the goal line:
Watch fullback Roosevelt Nix (No. 45) execute a gorgeous cut block, then get up and block someone else to spring running back James Conner for 11 yards:
Watch center Maurkice Pouncey (No. 53) get out in space and spring Conner for a 25-yard gain that set up a score (this is a really difficult block for a center to make in space on a little guy, by the way):
God, I love football.
3. Matt Nagy channeling his inner Andy Reid
Prior to his hiring as the Chicago Bears’ head coach in January, I got to interact with Matt Nagy a pretty decent amount. He’d spent the 2017 season as the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, earning more responsibility as the year went on, and as such, he was required to speak to the media once a week. That gave us the opportunity to talk deep football on plenty of occasions, and I learned a lot from those discussions, or at least enough to know that Nagy was going to hijack some football concepts from his mentor, Chiefs coach Andy Reid, in Chicago.
And lo and behold, what do you know, the 40-year-old has done just that as the Bears are off to a 3-2 start, good for first in the competitive NFC North.
The Bears, picked by many to finish last in the division in August, may not be a fluke. The defense, buoyed by Khalil Mack, has been spectacular. Chicago boasts the best point differential (+43) in the division by a country mile, with the Packers coming in second at +4.
One of the reasons for the Bears’ success has been the improvement of second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, who seems to be thriving in the shotgun-heavy, spread attack. There were moments in the Bears’ 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday where Trubisky was downright slinging it, as he finished the game completing 71 percent of his passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
At least two of those TD passes came via passing concepts I saw Reid employ regularly in Kansas City. The first came via a nifty shovel pass:
By the way, here’s a play from the Chiefs’ win over the Eagles last year. Does it look familiar?
Reid has regularly employed shovel passes to keep defenses on their heels. And while Nagy’s included less action in the backfield — there was no zone-read fake — the result was similar.
Let’s take a look at one more touchdown from the Bears’ loss on Sunday, a 29-yard strike to Anthony Miller:
One of the things Reid likes to do to keep defenses honest is run lots of “four verts,” which simply sends four receiving targets on vertical routes downfield. This concept either creates room underneath or an open man downfield; the trick to it is getting the protection needed up front to let it develop. The Bears ran only three verts here, but since the Dolphins sent seven — thus dropping only four into coverage — the concept still applies.
Shoutout to the Bears’ offensive line for getting this blocked, and shoutout to Trubisky and Miller for making it happen.
I’m here for Gunslinger Mitchell, going up top with abandon.
4. The Cowboys’ pin and pull stuff is still beautiful
This Cowboys offensive line is nothing close to the 2016 group that consistently sprung Ezekiel Elliott for big gains and mauled people while doing it. That doesn’t mean they still don’t have it in them to block some concepts up gorgeously.
Take this 20-yard run off the “pin and pull” run concept in their surprisingly dominant 40-7 win over the Jaguars on Sunday, for instance:
5. It stinks getting caught up in the wash
Wild stuff can happen on any given play. But in the NFL, it’s never — I repeat, NEVER — OK for a defensive lineman to get blocked by a tight end, let alone pancaked.
I’ll give McKinley the benefit of the doubt here. From the all-22 end zone view, he got his feet caught up in the interior wash (which happens), and Auclair took advantage.
Auclair also added insult to injury by standing, then sitting on McKinley afterward. Again, maybe Auclair tripped. But as far as visuals go, this one was as good a visual proof as any that the NFL is a tough league.
THINGS I ENJOYED ARCHIVE
WEEK 5: A Tale of two Cams (Newton and Erving)
WEEK 4: The juice of Patriots RB Sony Michel and lineman who slowed down Von Miller
WEEK 3: Mahomes magic and Lane Johnson’s acting chops
WEEK 2: Dallas’ deep ball, and the ridiculousness of Mahomes and Saquon
WEEK 1: Andy Reid’s goal-line circus and more
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