I'm not going to spend a whole lot more time this week talking about the Pistol formation specifically, following Seattle's awesome SNF win over the Niners, but one play in particular was worth a quick breakdown. I had an inkling that the Pistol would be slowly phased into the gameplan over the next few weeks after it was used twice against the Bills in the Seahawks' win in Toronto (much like the read-option was brought in slowly), so I wrote about it here as a sort of preview of the schematics behind it, but was surprised just how quickly it was assimilated into full usage by the Hawks. I don't have an official count of the number of times the Seahawks went out of a pistol look in their 65 offensive snaps, but I'd ballpark it around 15 or 20.
That's pretty signifiant, considering I've never seen the Seahawks use it before, and considering how difficult it really is to pick up that quickly. With the change in timing from snap-to-handoff versus a normal I-formation look, the mesh points between offensive linemen have different timing, players must set their blocks more quickly, footwork changes, --- the list goes on. It's not easy, in other words, to just pick up a new schematically-abnormal offensive formation.
On Seattle's 2nd play from scrimmage, out of the newly incorporated Pistol formation, Marshawn Lynch rumbled 24 yards for the game's first score. Now, before I break that play down, I want to point out another Marshawn Lynch touchdown run from earlier in this season that really reminded me of this particular play -- Lynch's 77-yard touchdown run on a crack-toss sweep. Several of the key blocks in the play -- the major reason Lynch was able to get past the 2nd level of the defense, were three away-from-the-playside cut-blocks that took away backside pursuit. It's tough to notice it live, but both Breno Giacomini and J.R. Sweezy executed great backside cut blocks that took away some of the pursuit at the 2nd level that could have turned Lynch's 24-yard TD run into a five-yard gain on 1st down.
1-10-SF 24 (13:53) (Shotgun) M.Lynch left tackle for 24 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Below, you can see Wilson in the Pistol, with Lynch set back several yards behind him. I've outline the blocking assignments along the line -- you can see that three Seahawks on the line will move into the 2nd level on the snap to take away backside pursuit or to lead block.
Left to right: McCoy will kickout on Aldon Smith and push him towards the sideline. As is the fundamental technique in the Zone Blocking Scheme, Zach Miller will briefly help McCoy to make sure he gets a good seal with leverage, and then move downhill to take on the safety to the strongside. Russell Okung has the hardest job, but he executes it excellently, as you'd expect. He reaches and pulls on the D-tackle to the strongside, creating a lane for Marshawn Lynch to run through.
Like McCoy/Miller, Paul McQuistan quickly helps out with Okung and then moves downfield to take on Novarro Bowman, the middle linebacker. Unger works on the nose tackle, Isaac Sopoaga, and on the backside, Rookie J.R. Sweezy pulls to cut Patrick Willis, and Breno Cuts the DE to his side. The OLB away from the play goes unblocked.
Breno and Sweezy's cut blocks are executed perfectly, and Sweezy's in particular is extremely impressive, considering it's coming against probably the best linebacker in the NFL right now in Willis. Not bad, rook.
Back to the playside though -- because ultimately, for the play to even get past the line of scrimmage, playside blocks will need to be executed. The away-side (backside) cuts take away pursuit, should Lynch break through the line, but first things first:
Anthony McCoy kicks Aldon Smith out to create a lane, and gets away with what looks like a brief hold at the point of attack. McCoy lets go of Smith in time to get away with it, and Okung and McQuistan seal off the lane. McQuistan in particular lays a block on Bowman that will turn out to be key to the play.
Lynch=sprung. Below, you can see Willis recover to his feet, but by now, he's too late to grab Lynch as he makes his way into the 2nd level. Backside safety Dashon Goldson tries to take an angle at Lynch for the tackle, and Zach Miller ties up Whitner. Have I mentioned that I like Zach Miller lately? Because he's good.
Lynch baits Goldson with a cut toward the inside before putting his foot in the ground to cut outside of Miller. This rocker-step move by Lynch gets Goldson to take a terrible angle right toward Miller/Whitner, and then when Lynch goes outside, he's way out of position (and trips and falls).
Lynch is home free.
Lynch bowls through Doug Baldwin and Niners' CB Terell Brown as Baldwin blocks downfield. 7-0 Seahawks.
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