Splash plays. Every team wants them but how do they happen? This article is going to look at the defense of the upcoming opponent, focusing on the three big plays they allowed the previous or recent weeks. It’ll take a look at the whole play including details such as personnel, formations, blocking schemes and route combinations. As a follow up to each play, there will be the Steelers Scenario identifying the player or players who could benefit by running similar plays.
Week 9 Opponent — Chicago Bears
Game reviewed — vs. San Francisco 49’ers
Q4 9:32 – 1st and 10 from the SF25
San Francisco – 11 personnel
Chicago – Nickel, Cover 2 Robber
San Francisco starts with two receivers to the left, the tight end in-line to the right and one receiver to the right. The running back is to the left of the quarterback who is in shotgun. The Bears are in their nickel defense with four defensive linemen and two linebackers.
Brandon Aiyuk (11) is split wide to the left with Deebo Samuel (19) in the slot. Samuel is going to motion into the backfield to the right of the quarterback. This brings nickel back Duke Shelley (20) across the formation into the linebacker spot. Before the snap Samuel will go into a swing motion to the left, taking linebacker Roquan Smith (58) with him.
At the snap, the offensive line will slide left and pull the left guard to the right. Quarterback Jimmy Garappolo (10) will fake the hand off to running back Elijah Mitchell (25). This fake will bring Shelley up to fill the gap. Tight end Charlie Woerner (89) will run a drive route across the formation, drawing the attention of linebacker Alec Ogletree (44) and safety DeAndre Houston Carson (36).
From the right side, Mohammed Sanu (6) will release to the inside to avoid the jam of the cornerback Kindle Vildor (22) before turning up field to run right at the safety. He will then break to the inside about 15 yards downfield. Because safety Tashaun Gipson has deep coverage and Shelley bit on the run fake, there is a big hole in the middle of the field for a 19-yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – The key routes are on the right side. Pat Freiermuth runs the drive route across the field, and I want to use Chase Claypool in the Sanu role. He can handle the jam if Vildor makes contact and being the main deep threat he can run off the safety.
Q4 7:22– 2nd and 9 at the CHI28
San Francisco – 21 personnel
Chicago – Nickel, Cover 6 Matchup Zone
The 49ers have two receivers to the left with a tight end in-line to the left, as well. The running back is to the left of the quarterback in shotgun and there is a receiver wide to the right. Chicago has their nickel defense on the field this time with three defensive linemen and three linebackers.
Prior to the snap running back Jamycal Hasty (23) is going to motion to the right slot. To the left, Samuel is going to run a go route. From the slot full back Kyle Juszczyk (44) is going to run to the flat and Woerner is going to run an out and up in the seam. Aiyuk is to the right and is going to sell a go route with two safeties over the top.
The motion by Hasty causes outside linebacker Trevis Gipson to move out with him. This is a mismatch any quarterback wants to see. Hasty is going to release and use a hesitation and give a nod to the outside losing Gipson and is wide open on a slant. The Woerner routes clear out the middle linebacker, leaving the middle of the field wide open.
Steelers Scenario – The Steelers could run this out of 21 or 12 personnel, but you want Freiermuth in-line as he is the bigger threat at tight end to draw the attention of Smith. You put Najee Harris one on one with just about any linebacker and he’ll win that matchup.
Q4 4:24– 1st and 10 at the SF37
San Francisco – 21 personnel
Chicago – Base, 3-4 Tite/Bear front
San Francisco has a receiver in the tight slot to each side and the tight end split wide to the right. The fullback in on the right wing and the running back is seven yards behind the quarterback, who is under center. The Bears are in their base defense with the defense in a tite/bear front, with a nose tackle over the center and the defensive ends shading to the inside of the tackle in the 4i technique.
I don’t often highlight running plays on here. But Mitchell had three runs of at least 27 yards in this game, and they were all to the left side.
Before the snap Woerner is going to go in motion to the left and settle on the right wing. With him exiting that side of the field the safety rotates up. Next, Juszczyk will go in motion to the left and be moving at the snap. At the snap, Woerner engages with the outside linebacker Robert Quinn (94), but Juszczyk is going to help clear him out.
The offensive line will slide to the left, getting a double team from the center and right guard to block the nose guard and the safety that had crept up to the line of scrimmage. Left guard Laken Tomlinson (75) will get a reach block on the right defensive end Angelo Blackson (90). Left tackle Trent Williams (71) moves to the second level and controls Ogletree scraping to his right. From the left slot, Samuel will block down inside on the linebacker Smith.
Mitchell takes the ball a little wide, but another block by Juszczyk on the corner and Aiyuk hustling across the field to block the safety gives him some space, and with good vision and nifty running, he has a 39-yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – With the success the Niners had, the Steelers need to try running off-tackle to the left. Zach Gentry should be in the tight end role, and you can use Freiermuth or Derek Watt to execute the kick out block. Harris would have a field day with these blocks.