Greg Cosell’s Look Ahead; 49ers’ passing concepts led to 64-yard touchdown by Vernon Davis

Greg Cosell
Shutdown Corner

Last week the 49ers got back to doing a lot of good things with their passing concepts, even though the statistics didn't show it.

A 64-yard touchdown to tight end Vernon Davis against the Texans showed how the 49ers can create some problems for a defense with motion and formations.

On third and 6, the 49ers motioned Anquan Boldin in the backfield, something they hadn't done all game. Then they snapped it quickly, not allowing the Texans to adjust.

There was a bunch look to the same side Boldin motioned to, with Kyle Williams and Davis. If you're playing man-to-man coverage (and slot cornerback Brice McCain shadowed Boldin in motion, indicating that's what it was), you have to determine if you're playing pure man, or if you'll switch coverage based on how the receivers release after the snap.

Before the snap, Williams lined up furthest outside (No. 1), Davis was inside of him (No. 2) and Boldin was inside of them (No. 3). But when the ball was snapped, Williams went inside and became No. 3, and Boldin became No. 1 because he went to the flat.

The problem was that McCain played pure man and stayed with Boldin, and because outside cornerback Kareem Jackson played the releases he also took Boldin. Safety Danieal Manning also played releases, so he jumped on Williams.

That left Davis running wide open on his deep corner route.

This looks like a busted coverage, and theoretically it is, but the concept dictated the bust. The Texans didn’t have enough time to walk through the adjustment before the snap. You have to adjust in a second-and-a-half, and it’s hard.

That’s what the 49ers are hoping to do. You don’t run that play assuming the defense is going to screw up, but that can be the result. Pre-snap adjustments in a short period of time puts stress on the defense. Expect to see more of that when the 49ers play Arizona on Sunday.

Eagles changes with Foles

When Nick Foles replaced injured Michael Vick at quarterback for the Eagles during last week's game, we saw some things from the Philadelphia offense we hadn't seen this season. It appeared they had one game plan for Vick, and another for Foles.

One change was that the Eagles used running back LeSean McCoy more as a receiver out of the backfield. On Foles' first play, McCoy ran an angle route out of the backfield for the first time this season.

The Eagles didn't use any bubble screen action with Foles, although it was a big part of the offense with Vick. They did use some bunch formations with their receivers, which helps because the Eagles' receivers struggle to win against man coverage.

Vick and Foles are obviously different players. Foles has a very good arm, and can make every throw with velocity and accuracy. Foles has a naturally stronger arm than Atlanta's Matt Ryan. Vick is late on throws and is not a timing passer; there's a random feel to the way he plays. Foles is more of a pocket passer who gets the ball out to the right receiver at the right time, more often than Vick does. But Foles doesn't give you a running threat, so the read option is removed from the offense. The only time the Eagles would run it with Foles is as a pure surprise.

Berry starring

Kansas City's Dontari Poe is playing as well as any defensive tackle I've seen through five weeks. But I think safety Eric Berry is even more important to the Chiefs' defense.

Berry can blitz, he can play man-to-man coverage on a tight end, play the run ... there’s a physicality to him. Players like Berry allow your defense to do a lot of different things. The Chiefs play as much dime defense as anyone, with Berry as a hybrid linebacker/safety. That has great value in today’s NFL when you have more spread offenses and "move" tight ends. Berry gives you versatility and flexibility. That will help against the Raiders this week.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

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