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Retro Film Breakdown: Wild Card Game 2017 (Chiefs) – Negative Running Plays

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Welcome to another series of retro film breakdowns, as we look at the Wild Card game from last year between the Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs.  The running game wasn’t as much of an issue in this game (wait until the Patriots one, that should be published early next week) but they did have some negative plays.  I wrote this article a couple of days after the game, but the site wasn’t up then.

Negative Running Plays:



I put this play in the article mainly to showcase a lack of aggression from the offense, because this is the call on a 2nd and 20 early in the first quarter when they are down a touchdown.  The play is an RPO option and you can see it with the routes that are being run.  The left side of the formation has receivers that immediately go into a blocking mode, because the run is designed to go towards the area.  The receivers to the right side of the formation run routes expecting a pass, thus the decision really comes down to Mariota.  At this point, it might be sacrilegious to criticize Mariota to the fanbase, but this is just a conservative read by the QB.  The defense has six defenders geared towards the run, with five offensive linemen, so the numbers are against the offense.  Mariota is reading the linebacker, but the numbers are against the running back option.  In this case, Mariota has to keep the ball, get outside and see if he can hit a receiver to the right side of the formation.  All he needs to do is beat the defensive end to the outside, because the outside cornerbacks are matched one on one, and therefore can’t come up to tackle without leaving the receivers open.  This is one of those situations where the QB has to read the whole field, and recognize he has a better shot at positive yards with a QB keeper with the option to pass, rather than just giving the impression of a QB keeper.  Henry takes the ball and cuts back into the line, but he doesn’t really have a shot.  And if you are upset with me for criticizing Mariota, please read the positive passing plays article to feel better.



It’s pains me to put this play in this article, because the execution from Henry is decent, but ends in disaster.  If you haven’t read my earlier articles (…be honest!), I’ll tell you that I like Derrick Henry much more than DeMarco Murray.  I think Murray is a one cut runner that routinely runs into the middle of the line.  Henry has much more burst to the outside, and sets up his cuts extremely well.  On this play, Henry has the option to take this play to the inside, but he cuts it outside, which allows him to have a one on one match-up with Marcus Peters.  The beauty of this play is how he sets up Peters, because you can notice how he cuts to the inside, because he wants the corner-back to be flatfooted.  Peters is running towards the outside to cut off Henry, so this little move sets up the stiff arm as Henry attempts to get around the corner-back.  If you stop this play here, we can appreciate the effort here and move on.  However, Murray keeps the stiff arm for too long, he doesn’t protect the ball and gets tackled at the wrong moment.  The tackle is timed perfectly to Henry exposing the ball just a bit, and it pops right out.  He’s extremely lucky the defender didn’t grow up on a farm and learn how to catch a chicken, and knocks the ball out of bounds.



On this play, Henry makes a bad read and runs into the line with enough vigor to impress Murray.  The read on this run is pretty simple, Henry has the option to go to the outside, or run up the middle.  However, watch Henry hesitate a bit because he sees a possible hole open up in the middle, but Quinton Spain can’t hold his block long enough and it’s blown up.  I’m not sure I can blame Henry quite as much here because at the point of decision, he has to expect Spain to keep the block, but is left disappointed.  This is like going to an average Mexican restaurant based on Yelp reviews, only for them to unexpectedly run out of guacamole.  Yeah, it didn’t work out, but who gets the blame?



If you look at this play before it’s snapped, you might surmise a guess that the Titans are kneeling here.  They are facing 11 men in the box, so they may as well be kneeling.  On this play, Marcus Peters runs free from the outside, and goes right after Henry, because there is no fear whatsoever of a creative call here with the QB keeper.  The defensive back knows the call is going to be safe, and he attacks the running back and tackles him for a loss.  While Henry has been tackled on the ground, the referees are too busy looking for the bat signal to blow the whistle, which allows Peters to rip the ball out, and it’s returned for a touchdown.  I cut the play short because everyone knows that it was reversed under review since Henry was clearly down on this play.  There is absolutely no reason for this play-call because there is minimal upside to this play, while the risk is higher for fumbles since all the defenders are going to be in the same general area.  The coaching staff should just kneel on the ball rather than call one of these plays, instead of mixing it up.   They obviously change this plan later, but this is a horrible call from the coaching staff.


The running game system for the Titans was probably one of the biggest schematic weaknesses last year.  The team could have used the threat of Mariota running far more often, but went far too conservative at times.  The new zone blocking scheme should really fit Derrick Henry.

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