Alright fellas, haven't done this since Packers game week 1. TL;DR version will be at the bottom, and I originally commented most of this on Ben's article about this from the game.
For those interested here is Ben's cutup of week one's dropbacks and, in the comments, my rundown of the plays.
A line featuring Solomon Thomas and DeForest Buckner is possibly the best aspect of this 49ers team right now. #94 and #99 showed up a few times, but not like Mike Daniels and Nick Perry did in week 1. Also of note are #54 Cassius Marsh and 5x Pro Bowler #58 Elvis Dumervil, who I am happy to say barely showed up at all. Without further ado, for anyone who cares:
Here is Ben's video. I'm having some video embedding issues, but I figured it might be nice to have the play descriptions next to the video anyway so you don't have to scroll up and down constantly.
1. Play-action drop back on the pick to Graham. Not really a bootleg but Wilson runs over to defender, speeding up when he has to make throw. For the line, 5 on 4 with Lacy drawing defenders away, not much to take note of or see. Like the early use of this to test out defense, could've been a great play if Wilson dumps this off.
2. Quick screen with cut blocks. Joeckel is lucky he doesn't roll up on his guy, could've been a penalty and the guy could've gotten hurt. Not pretty from anyone but reach cut blocks are very difficult to execute perfectly, reach meaning blocking a guy on the playside to your outside by getting in front of him as opposed to just forcing him down the line. Had Ifedi succeeded this might've worked but he has to lunge way too far laterally to reach his guy.
3. First real dropback! Standard 5 on 4 look, but with one DT dropping into zone coverage after snap. Plays like this have given them issues before at times, but Joeckel latches on to prevent outside rush knowing Britt is helping to inside. Pocic looks good and alert standing by himself, at least he tries to do something. Compare Brown and Ifedi right at the deepest point of Wilson's dropback; Brown has given him a ton of space to work with, while Ifedi has started to lean and already gave up some ground. This is more a compliment to Brown than criticism of Ifedi, as they both do a fine job of handling this speed rush, though Ifedi does get pushed back during the throw.
4. Possibly run-pass option here. O linemen look to run block, but Wilson never really cares to do a play fake. Ends up another screen pass.
5. 5 on 4 here. Two parts to look at: Joeckel being aware of possible stunt and fully engaging when Brown helps, while Britt pinches from other side. 3 on 2 should always be a win when they are coordinated like this. Other side, Ifedi does a better job using his length to engage blocker and doesn't give up as much ground as the first standard dropback. Pocic does a nice job engaging and getting leverage to at least push his guy upfield. In a one on one scenario this is a decent job, but if those two linemen had stunted this could've been trouble right up the middle. Still very good protection.
6. A lot to go through here. First and foremost, the defense was not lined up correctly at all. Baldwin was left completely uncovered with only one defender on that side of the field. You can see a guy yelling over at the last second, which draws him out of coverage of Graham. Several people noted that Graham ended up being wide open, but it was a last second shift that led to it. You also see one of the LBs run over to Baldwin on the snap. Lots of confusion, and I'm not sure if this was meant to go to Baldwin or Richardson. Either way weird set up that wasn't clear in terms of man vs zone coverage since they seemed screwed up. You'd like to see Russ capitalize here but missing Graham was just unlucky, not an obvious mistake in my opinion, since he looks over at the 2 on 1 situation to the right immediately. For the line, it was lined up to be 6 on 4 with Lacy in to help with potential blitz, which came from the left side. The right side edge man unexpectedly peels back into zone as well, further obstructing a potential throw to Baldwin. A pair of LBs blitz from the left but never get there due to this coverage mix up. Overall disjointed, hard to judge anything here other than there was no pressure.
7. 5 on 4, but with a little bit of flair from SF. One LB creeping up to Britt with the only interior d-linemen to threaten an interior overload, a stand-up rusher from the left who is really no threat to drop into coverage since there would be nobody to rush that side at all; if the guy covering Vannett blitzed instead it wouldn't really change the assignment, and would put the zone defender in a much worse spot. If they both came Vannett would have very easy completion. Two guys very wide right, forcing solo blocks from the young right side is a smart move. You also see a safety run down to the line at the last second but that would've left a TON of open space so there was no real danger there either. Other QBs might panic here but Russ is either A) confident in the situation to know he isn't getting blitzed or B) prepared for a blitz and will get ball out quick, which doesn't happen. Anyway, Brown gets pushed back but recovers very nicely to hold the edge, and the interior d-lineman slants around Britt to Joeckel who handles him with ease. When you can see the linemen's number so clearly as with Jockel's #78 they're doing a good job of maintaining leverage on the defender and keeping his hips and feet sqaure to the line to stifle the defender, very well done. Ifedi is in a tough spot with those two wide rushers, he has to be ready for a stunt with no help to the outside, and while he does get bull rushed he doesn't allow the guy to disengage or get to Russ.
There's actually a Niners Nation article about what Pocic and Britt do here, asa Thomas tries to swim to the inside of Pocic to take advantage of the interior lineman similarly slanting, but Joeckel handles him so well and Britt keeps his cool to help out Pocic. They both get an arm on Thomas here and pinch him between them. I could've seen this be called holding, but he's really just getting double hugged and Pocic does recover as he continues the slant to stay in front of him. Overall, Russ does scramble and does almost throw a pick, but the line handled this well.
8. 5 on 4. Brown is my favorite part here: he waits to watch for a stunt from an interior lineman, and even with Marsh charging full speed to the edge has the athletic ability and awareness to make it back outside to engage him once Joeckel takes control of DT rushing to his inside. Other DT slants across Pocic again, but he handles it better and Britt helps out so no holding in question. Ifedi doesn't have to hesitate as much as Brown inside since his side's DT was much quicker to rush inside, and again doesn't look perfect but he handles his guy.
9. 5 on 4 with blitz initially threatened to left side, but he bails out. Botched snap here, but left side does marvelous job. Notice if you can that Brown isn't set as deep with a RB to that side and that blitz threatening, and the defender he ends up engaging is to his inside shoulder, so he gets to engage him much sooner than usual, and had the snap not been botched he would've formed a massive pocket to that side. He displays comfort in both alignments, and I'll compare the two for Ifedi later on.
On right side Pocic fails to recognize stunt and outside rusher gets by him to inside. Very fortunate Russ was already running that way and that this got a completion.
10. Begins at :40. 6 on 4 for Rawls' snap. Play-action with Joeckel pulling to right side and promptly holding despite being in a good position to block the guy. RB stays in to help block for real for the first time, which is fairly amazing if you look back at the week 1 cutup. Everyone else fine except Joeckel, though Rawls could've helped out here.
11. 5 on 4 look, but similar to play #3 DT drops into coverage for 3 man rush. Other DT by Pocic slants AGAIN and Britt pops him since he doesn't get upfield. Due to how long Russ holds ball Ifedi eventually loses his balance and allows pressure, though this is really a coverage pressure. The guy who gets a hand on Wilson is due to the scramble. Can't see downfield to see if a throw to the corner to Graham would've worked, but in general even though Baldwin looks open against zone coverage this would've been a tough throw on the run.
12. 5 on 4, Lacy slips through the middle but isn't helping. Quick throw but everyone looks solid, no real rushes develop as the interior DTs recognize quick throw.
13. 5 on 4 with first chip block of game from Lacy. Vannett also checks/releases super wide rusher, so with help on both edges and only 4 man rush there's no reason to have pressure here, and that's exactly what happens. Joeckel and Brown stay engaged and though Pocic's man slants hard inside again Britt helps and they handle it the best yet. Ifedi doesn't have to do anything really until the moment of the throw. Russ is given a solid three and a half seconds to throw, which is an eternity in the NFL.
2nd quarter (directions will be backward- ie "left side" refers to offense's left, in this case right side of screen)
14. 5 on 4, McKissic checks/releases on left with rusher very wide to start. Ifedi gets moved and appears to slip, allowing his man around the edge. Russ then moves to his left, right into that rusher before Brown even engages him. Interior does great, just a slip made this look bad.
15. 5 on 5 here, with the 6th man the rusher on the left side who drops into coverage. 2 blitzers from right side, but appears that line wasn't ready for this, which might be on Russ. Britt stays to help Joeckel surprisingly, leaving Pocic and Ifedi in a 2 on 3. Ifedi recovers nicely to set the edge and is fine, while Pocic gets bull rushed a bit despite the quick throw. Unblocked blitzer never gets there, also due to quick throw. Russ subtly moves to his left to give him more relaxed throw.
16. 5 on 4. Again see Brown not as deeply set with rusher to inside and with first move totally neutralizes him. Britt/Joeckel win double team easy, Pocic gets attacked to the inside once again but does nice job staying in front long enough to keep Russ clean. Ifedi with a great rep against Thomas, giving up no ground and locking in. Very nice by him.
17. 5 on 3 down linemen, with big looping stunt by stand up LB from left side B gap (between LG and LT) to right side B gap (between RG and RT) with DE and DT on right side slanting inside. Long developing stunt on a quick throw wouldn't have worked anyway, but it is handled beautifully by LG/C/RG/RT. Note Joeckel staying home and meeting DT slanter that Britt transfers to him, as Pocic handles slanting DE and Britt picks him up. As looping LB arrives at this point Pocic is ready to disengage and help Ifedi, but the ball is already out. Brown once again eliminates his rusher.
Here's the progression for reference:
The first transfer...
And preparing for a second transfer.
18. Similar to play #2 with all cut blocks except Ifedi away from the play. Not a ton to take note of, but still has a few nuggets. For one, Brown's cut block made the play and is glorious; the little hesitation and stutter forward to eat up cushion followed by a forward lunge stalls defender and means he doesn't just throw his body laterally like the others do. Also, designing this to look like play #2 sucks everyone to that side and leaves plenty of room for McKissic. Nicely done here.
19. First time passing from under center (Wilson is on Britt's butt to get the ball as opposed to a few yards back) since the first two passes of the game. Play-action again, but this time you have a TE that stays in to block FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE GAME, as well as McKissic. Play design screws them over here; since Wilson looks to roll back to the right side with the fake going to the left, you want the linemen to take on the guy to their left to get leverage on them.
Totally ignore this part for short version three paragraphs down if you'd like, as this is mostly about run blocking. A little side discussion about a VERY basic run blocking principle is needed here, and I am not suggesting that this is absolutely what these guys are supposed to do, just my impression, knowledge and experience with offensive line stuff; the general assignment for linemen in zone blocking is their gap first (block the person on your shoulder to the playside or in the gap between you and the next lineman to the play-side), then "down" the line (guy lined up on the near shoulder of that next lineman to the play side or lined up directly across from him), then the closet linebacker next in your vacant gap (the last bit is moot for play action since they can't go downfield on a pass, but if the closest defender to the play side is past the head of the next lineman then blocking a LB is priority).
Again, this is a very general rule of thumb, and most plays have specific conditions anyway making these guidelines secondary at best, and it is even different for inside zone vs outside zone type plays. Outside zone there is a distinct playside, so the linemen generally apply these rules to that side and the RB has options to go to best blocked gap to the outside on that playside. In inside zone the "playside" is up the middle, but to one side of the center, so to the linemen on either side of the target will treat playside as being towards the middle and apply the rules that way. This is a gross simplification of zone blocking, and for those curious about reading up on it our own Mike Chan once wrote an excellent article about it from several years ago. Making zone blocking schemes tricky and sophisticated is determining where double teams will take place to eschew one of those priorities temporarily; this means basically double teaming the selected DT/DE to force them off their spot, with one of the linemen eventually peeling off to then block a LB. This is the aspect the team has seemingly had trouble with for a while; not getting enough push of DTs off the line and consequently allowing LBs to penetrate.
Because of this, zone blocking depends on the defense's alignment whereas power/gap plays generally require pulling linemen and each man is required to block a specific person to open holes. Not so for zone blocking, where instead of pulling linemen you sometime have very difficult reach blocks, which I mentioned earlier, to make that can allow for penetration into the backfield if not pulled off. That is what Ifedi should've tried to do on #96 I believe, and though this is a pass play you see how miscommunication in a zone scenario can leave unblocked defenders. If there is an obvious reason to change the blocking it needs to be communicated by those linemen, or the QB needs to make sure they are on the same page in play action situations.
ANYWAY... for the short version now. It would make sense in retrospect for Pocic to block #96 here, but its also possible Ifedi was supposed to take him, or they were supposed to double team him, especially if this was an actual run play. Having Vannett outside really makes it look worse for Ifedi, since he was there to help block the edge anyway for Wilson rolling back that way. I tend to blame Ifedi for this, though it would be nice for Pocic to be aware and alter his course. Either way that needs to be better, and is likely to be something they look at and try to clean up. After all this was Pocic/Ifedi's first time playing together. Issues like this can take many forms but, as Cable and Pete love to say, cohesion and experience actually do help quite a bit.
This is the setup:
And the result:
Obviously this doesn't look so good, but should be cleaned up. If there's a positive to take from this it is that this wasn't a true pass protection issue.
20. Begins at 1:34. The first sack of the... oh wait never mind. 5 on 4 with McKissic leaking through, though it appears he was set to go on a route and not actually pick anyone up. 5 on 4, and one of the few times the left side faced a stunt. Edge rusher loops around Joeckel, who was already having a bit of trouble with Buckner getting upfield, and misses the stunt. This is why I focused on McKissic; he runs right by the stunter as he gets past Joeckel. I'd prefer to believe that the 190 pound converted WR missed at helping out when Joeckel was expecting it, but this looks like a slip up by Joeckel/Brown.
With Pocic's man slanting inside ONCE AGAIN (this time against Thomas) Britt had to help and Wilson gets solidly hit for the first time. Of course he escapes because why not, and luckily he escapes because Marsh has actually beaten Ifedi around the edge, though Ifedi forces him way upfield past Russ. First major slip up so far, but was mental far more than physical; nobody got embarrassed, which is an improvement over the major slip ups from earlier in the year.
I mean look at this nonsense here. I promise this was not a sack.
21. 5 on 4. Ifedi handles Thomas easily even with quick throw. Dumervil gets the best of Brown barely, bull rushing him a bit, but again quick throw so no danger or pressure. Pocic FINALLY doesn't have his man slanting/rushing inside right away, and handles Buckner with ease even before Britt helps. Joeckel does fine but loses control and lunges as his guy disengages, but only because his man had already given up to look to deflect the pass. Doesn't look pretty but he won off the snap so he at least slowed his man enough to deter him from rushing on a quick throw.
22. Man if you pause this at the exact second Russ throws this it makes my arm hurt. Even though we know he is a pocket passer, it is hard not to appreciate what he can do within structure when conditions aren't ideal. The subtle slide, awareness of the rush and contortion of his torso without his feet set is just ridiculous, and even though it doesn't look like a ton, this is the type of play he used to look to scramble right away with all that space to his left and the rush coming around the edge to the right. Sum all of that up, and not a ton of NFL QBs can make that throw at that velocity given his body position and feet.
Anyway, similar to plays #3 and #11, 5 on 4 but DT drops into coverage. Brown gets bull rushed but not beat, while Ifedi does lose leverage on Thomas and eventually gets around him. Buckner forces Pocic a bit further upfield than you'd like, especially considering he had help with Britt, and Wilson doesn't have an ideal pocket with most of the receivers to his right. Overall fine, not good considering it was just a 3 man rush.
23. 5 on 4, with McKissic checking and Graham forcing edge rusher to go very wide left. Watch that rusher when he meets Brown; for some reason he runs right at Brown, and gets absolutely stonewalled. Beautiful stuff. Joeckel/Britt handle their DT, Britt gets a little wonky but he goes off screen so we can't see if he held or got beat. Ifedi and Pocic do MUCH better job handling a stunt from Dumervil and Thomas this time, had Wilson stepped up he would've had a very nice pocket. He scrambles as he gets to his own end zone, which is always scary, but they just miss out on a big play. We don't get to see how Pocic and Ifedi do with the scramble, but they look solid.
24. 5 on 4, stunt on left side by Buckner/Dumervil. Joeckel is a tad late taking on Dumervil but throw is already out, while Brown appears to stumble and let Buckner get to outside but, again, quick throw and already far upfield so not costly. Everyone else holds up.
3rd quarter (back to normal directions)
25. 4th under center pass, 3rd play-action on such plays, 1st with extra lineman in Tobin. #35 Reid bites on run which throws Vannett out of position and puts Tobin in a rough spot and probably almost holds. Tough to judge individuals on these plays, but Britt/Pocic both end up one on one and hold up, Pocic gets dangerously close to a hold, not sure if it was called.
26. 3 down linemen, one standing edge rusher and two linebackers threatening each A gap (either side of C between the LG/RG). Both A gappers back out, and right side DT drops, creating a 3 man rush. Russ had no extra help despite having the option to slide Jimmy in, so he must've been prepared with either hot route or knew it wasn't a blitz. 5 on 3 with Britt ending up one on one with Buckner and does a great job, nobody gets close.
27. 5th under center pass, 4th play-action on such plays. Notice this time that Brown, Britt and Ifedi all have to execute difficult reach blocks to get in front of their guys, and all do a fantastic job. Not as difficult as actual run blocks would be, but difficult nonetheless. Tons of room in the pocket, that right there is what play action with good blocking looks like.
28. Brock Huard looked at this Vannett TD on his Chalk Talk vid, check that out here. Essentially 5 on 4, Lacy has option to check but leaks through. 3 notes; Joeckel doesn't let the handfighting nonsense deter him, look at all the room Brown gives Russ, and watch Ifedi recover wonderfully after initally stumbling from a bull rush.
29. Left edge rusher peels off into zone with 2 late blitzers coming off right side. Becomes 5 on 5 situation. Left side handles standard rush fine. Pocic pulls off DT with Britt to handle one blitzer, leaving Britt in a holding position, not sure if it was called. Pocic holds up well, as he generally did whenever they attacked him to the outside. Ifedi met 2nd blitzer and merely forced him upfield, but pass was already out. No real issue, but compared to similar plays from Brown wasn't great.
30. Begins at 2:30. 5 on 4. Britt/Pocic, the rare occassion they faced a DT lined up in the A gap between them that didn't stunt or slant away, and they bullied the poor man. Ifedi not nearly as smooth as Brown here, mainly noticable in these plays when they don't line up with outside foot set deep for their kick step.
At time of throw Brown has handled his man while Ifedi merely redirects him upfield. Again, not a loss here, but not a great win either. Stalemate is a win for the offense overall though. Joeckel loses his balance, right at the time when he engages DT his right foot steps inside and he has a very narrow base. Rare such mistake for Joeckel in this game, he gets tossed down but at least slows his man down. Against better DTs this would've been worse.
31. Compare Ifedi's stance here pre-snap to previous play to see what I'm talking about.
Beyond that, fun little side note this play was highlighted in Mookie's Enemy Reaction which, if you haven't read it yet, you totally should read here, and it was the first time I got a comment in an Enemy Reaction! I highlighted Graham's chip block there, and not only was it a great block on its own it also maybe kept this play from being a disaster even if Lacy hadn't missed here. As it was, it didn't end up being a disaster, but it could've been a lot worse if Graham hadn't chipped, and SO much cleaner if Lacy had blocked the blitzer. SF ran a play similar to this before, with 3 down linemen and a LB creeping up, only this time the LB fakes like he is dropping and loops around to the left side B gap, where Lacy should've picked him up. Now I'm usually pretty flexible when it comes to assigning blame for RB/TE blocking, and give the benefit of the doubt often, but this was pretty blatant miss.
Even if he thought he was supposed to get the corner blitzing, priority should almost always be to the inside, and almost always be LB over CB. Lacy not only did the opposite of both, but also because the corner got redirected by Graham's chip and went to Brown instead he ends up looking to block the only person on the field that is on the ground, which is actually more accidental but still looks bad for his pass pro/football in general instincts. What I gather from this is that Lacy picked a spot and was sticking to it based on what he thought before the snap, and he didn't adapt. If Graham doesn't chip here we likely get the free rusher anyway, but when Wilson scrambles to his left he likely would have to do so right into the guy Graham ended up chipping. Ifedi/Pocic/Britt are fine, and Brown keeps his cool to adapt well to chip while Joeckel does enough inside. Overall I tend to think this was Lacy's fault, though without knowing his assignment I can't say for sure, or know what would've happened if Graham hadn't chipped.
32. Hard to tell at first glance, but this was designed to go to McKissic from the start. Pocic is the key here, as he pulls off his guy to block downfield as McKissic gets the ball. Usually on screens you see 2-3 linemen doing this, and McKissic overran the block anyway if I recall, but this is still the basic format of a screen; just not a very good one. You can also see Vannett at the beginning and Baldwin at the end setting up blocks on the edges of the frame.
For the line, Ifedi faces inside move for one of the first times all afternoon and appears to get somewhat beat, but not abused, and allows Russ to get the throw off. Since they knew where the play was meant to go Ifedi knew he should ideally redirect his man inside, which is what he does even if it looked precarious. Rest is fine, Brown especially rock solid again.
33. Right side DE drops to zone, two late blitzers up the middle to form 5 on 5, all solo blocks after Britt drops off double team. Positively, none of that resulted in any pressure or apparent miscommunication which is great! Negatively, we see Brown get beat pretty solidly when he is aggressive off the snap and fails to latch on to the defender when he loses the hand fight. Brown forces him upfield Ifedi style, but because he was beat and not just slow he gets the corner turned on him and Russ once again should be sacked. While the ideal is 0 times, I personally am fine with him only getting to do this scramble magic 2-3 times per game as opposed to 8-9 times per game like he was earlier in the year. Just a bad rep for Brown.
34. 4 linemen with a LB in the A gap that loops all the way around to the left. Would be 5 on 5 but McKissic gives a chip as well. Solid chip really helps to clog up rushing lanes, but due to the odd nature of the stunt Brown doesn't see the looper coming around and lets him get by. Thomas is basically spying Wilson here while Dumervil is forced really deep upfield; this looks like a classic Ifedi play at first glance, but you can see when Wilson throws the ball just how deep Ifedi has forced his man without Wilson even needing to step up.
4th quarter (back to reverse directions)
35. 5 on 4, first standard rush in a few plays is surprising here coming off quarter break, though it makes sense given the location on the field; no need wasting time with stunts when pass is likely to be quick, and if you blitz you leave a lot of field open. Anyway, Joeckel is ready to help Britt but doesn't need to, 4 one on ones here. Pocic gets bull rushed but never gets out of control, for this quick play totally fine. Same for Ifedi but it looks like he is about to take control just in time as the throw goes out, so a good sign there but again hard to say with the quick throw.
Side note, I mentioned in the game thread that Russ motioned Lockett away from an isolated Graham, and they ran a slant underneath with the defender clearly expecting a fade/out rout type play that most of his TDs have come on, and this was a nice change of pace. Somewhat similar to the jump ball type TD he caught against Arizona, but that was more angled as a post route (generally 45 degrees upfield whereas slant is flatter and breaks shallower), and this appeared to be the type where Graham/Wilson had the option of either fade or a slant. This is a type of play Graham ran a lot in New Orleans, this isolated wide in man coverage with an option route, and had a lot of success.
36. 6 men on the line, far right side rusher knocks Graham away but also delays his rush. Neither A gap LB threatening actually blitzes, leaving essentially a 5 on 3. Ifedi/Pocic and Britt/Joeckel double teams are fine, not dominant since they let themselves get split a bit, but in the only one on one Brown oversets his kick step and Marsh gets inside him, not an issue he's had yet, and also after the throw so not impactful. Had Wilson hesitated he could've scrambled to his left, tried to outrun Marsh to the right, or scurried up the middle, so Brown getting beat probably wasn't that bad.
37. 6th under center pass, 5th play-action on such plays. Shocker. Vannett stays in to block a guy who goes into coverage and Lacy goes to the flat, so rush ends up being 5 on 4 with a Graham check on the right, but the action worked so well that by the time the linemen read that its a pass Wilson is already at the top of his drop back. Added wrinkle is Pocic pulling back to the right sided outside of Ifedi. He and Britt, and Brown/Joeckel do great and, despite Ifedi not reacting to the DT and the chipped DE outnumbering Pocic outside the ball is already out and nobody gets close to Russ, nice play design and good fake. I'd really like to see them do a standard dropback to pass from under center more often, though that does take longer than shotgun passes so it isn't likely.
38. 7th under center pass, 6th play-action on such plays. I would say "See! Told ya so!" but this is more of a classic Russ bootleg, with a bootleg being a play-action pass that involves QB rolling away from the fake and the remaining blocking linemen. Often you'll see a lineman pull like Pocic the previous play to help block the edge, but with an athlete like Russ at QB it isn't as critical and makes the fake more convincing. Because QB doesn't have that edge protection this is referred to, depending on design, as a "naked bootleg." Again as I've said, not much to note individually on these plays, and they go off screen anyway.
39. 5 on 4, very wide rushers. Important to note that some teams (like Washington) did this alignment a lot to the team earlier in the year to neutralize Britt from the play and force both LG/RG to have one on one matchups. Buckner/Marsh run a stunt on the left side that Britt does a nice job going over to help Joeckel pick up. Ifedi does a better than usual job holding his stance and absorbing the rusher, nice to see Russ trusting him here, though would like to see him step up to try to get a pass for a first down instead of a check down. On that note of stepping up though, this is one of my favorite Pocic plays. I harped a LOT on d-linemen looping, stunting and slanting inside against Pocic, and he didn't handle it that great early so Britt usually needed to help. This is also against Thomas who has had some decent moments and I think can be a really good player, but Pocic shows his prowess that the coaching staff loves and doesn't let himself get beat inside, and totally shuts Thomas down. Thomas played a lot in this game and it was at this point that they probably started to get tired, but it is still very encouraging to see this rep from Pocic without Britt's help.
40. Begins at 3:35. 6 on 5 with a run fake to Lacy who stays in to block against the blitz. Left side DE follows Graham in man coverage which was obvious mismatch against a blitz and good decision by Russ for a big play. Both inside LBs blitz to bring rushers back up to 5. FIRST OF ALL, check out Ifedi who appears to be venting his frustrations by driving #95 to San Diego to the point where he is literally off screen when Russ throws.
Amazing job by him, not a standard pass set and puts him at risk of being beat inside, but still a demonstration of Ifedi's great potential. Pocic shows what I talked about with the tackles earlier and the complaint about Lacy, making sure inside is covered on a blitz before forcing his man outside. Pinches the pocket that Ifedi made, but does his job. Britt gets singled up but Joeckel helps out a bit, though he doesn't really do much. Blitz is picked up nicely overall.
41. 5 on 4, Lacy slips through but doesn't help. Pocic forces his man upfield but still lets the pocket get pinched. This was a common problem Glowinski had earlier in the year, but he stays engaged and in control. Brown and Ifedi almost let their guys get around the edge but remain in control. Not great reps but they form a nice pocket for Russ because nobody whiffs. Good to see plays like this when in the past one guy would slip up and make these other guys look much worse than their play warranted.
42. 5 on 4, another instance with Pocic facing Thomas one on one inside. Not as good as as first instance in play #39, and he gets pushed back a bit. Joeckel, with a little bit of help from Britt, handles DT, and Ifedi eventually eliminates his guy, but not before Russ feels the pressure coming a bit and scrambles needlessly. Tough to blame him after all these years of running, but this was one of very few times when he abandoned a clean pocket. You might argue that Marsh had gotten around Brown but he was so deep already that he would've had no impact on Russ at all. I think its hilarious when people bring up how Russ will sometimes leave clean pockets when he feels phantom pressure and leave plays on the field in favor of short runs, but its such an incredibly small portion of his plays relative to the number of plays where he turns sacks into throwaways, scrambles and completions no other QB in the league could get. I'll take the occasional play like this to have Russell freakin Wilson instead of... I dunno, a non awesome quarterback.
TL;DR version and some notes: All in all very good performance from the o-line. First half saw some communication issues on a few stunts, and teams loved to attack Pocic with stunts and looping blitzers, especially to his inside gap. He held up well enough after the first few, and appeared to get better as the game went on. After that they appeared to give up and only face him one on one, where he held up well. Britt solid as always, Joeckel looks very solid but had some issues with Brown picking up some stunts, though that also got better as the game went on and looks like one of the best players we've had at that spot in a while just in pure ability. Brown started to allow some bend around the edge as the game went on, but still looks like a massive improvement at LT.
No major, embarrassing blunders in this game of guys just completely whiffing on blocks. Blitzes handled generally very well, and it is also important to note that there were far fewer instances of keeping in a RB or TE to block or chip to help out the o-linemen. Might not seem like a lot, but those types of things can remove two of the five eligible receivers from a play or at least delay them from their routes significantly. Having a line that can somewhat consistently handle the majority of plays without help is a big deal, even aside from the obvious benefits of better pass protection. Lots of really positive things to take from this game in that regard.
In case you were wondering I don't really like counting pressures, but for what its worth our own John Gilbert wrote up this article about the game which includes the note that PFF charged the linemen with just 3 pressures; 2 by Brown and 1 by Ifedi, and the rest of the 6 pressures were non-linemen blockers (Lacy blitz pickup fail) or miscommunications that resulted in the rare unblocked guys. No sacks either. Overall, statistically at least, one of the best pass protecting games they've had in a long time.
What do ya guys think? Anything you disagree with or have questions that I'm sure somebody here can answer? Again I'm not pretending to be an expert here, just trying to do what I can to help out. I'd like to do these types of reviews more often but often don't have the time, so please be sure to let me know what you think!