Thursday, December 13, 2012

How The Patriots Will Attack The Pistol

The 49ers have slowly begun to add more of the "Pistol" scheme to their offense.  Last week against Miami they ran 17 of their 51 offensive plays from this set, or 33% of their snaps.  Defending this scheme is nothing new for the Patriots.  They faced it twice last year in matchups against the Tim Tebow led Broncos.  To get an idea of how they will defend the Pistol that would be a good place to start.  Let's take a look at how they did it last year.

The above play is an example of the triple option from the Pistol formation.  The Patriots will stop the dive with the right side of their defense, Dline and LB.  The outside linebacker (Red) has responsibility for the quarterback, and the safety (Yellow) has responsibility for the pitch (RB) with help from the corner who needs to play pass first.

The outside linebacker has attacked the quarterback so he gives the dive, and as you can see the safety is going to the pitch back, and the other safety is also coming up to assist in support on the quarterback and pitch.  Notice the Bronco offensive line has done a very good job of sealing off the Patriots up front.  Although the Patriots are in a good position to stop Tebow and the Pitch back, the Broncos have created a big play for the dive back.

Due to the blocking up front, and the slight crease opened up due to the outside linebacker having to cover the quarterback, the dive back is able to slip out the right side of the line for a big gain.

As you can see above, the Patriots are able to key into the direction of the run based on the Broncos formation.  This is eliminated when you move the Pistol into the Diamond formation that the 49ers have started running over the last few weeks.  Now the defense needs to defend the option on both sides of the center and that split second it takes for them to read the direction of the play is an advantage to the offense.

Now let's take a look at a Read Option play.  The difference is that the quarterback now does not have the extra pitch man, thus eliminating one thing the defense needs to account for.  Unfortunately the Broncos don't run it from the Pistol, but it will still give you an idea of how New England will defend this play.

On this play the quarterback is going to read the movement of the DE (Red).  If he crashes down the QB keeps, if he stays outside he gives.  The Patriots are going to stop the quarterback by having the DE attack the QB, with the outside linebacker (Yellow) maintaining outside leverage to force the QB back inside where the playside linebacker (51) is also following the QB.

Wilfork has attacked Tebow so he gives to the RB for a short gain.  Later in the same quarter the Broncos try running this play again.  On the next attempt Tebow recognizes his speed advantage over Wilfork and decides to keep.  He is able to get around Wilfork, but the outside linebacker does his job of forcing Tebow back inside where the linebacker and safety stop him for a short 3 yard gain.

In both games last year the Broncos did a good job of running the ball against New England.  Their undoing was the weakness of Tebow in the passing game to support the run and not take advantage of the coverages New England was forced to run.  This is a possible advantage for the 49ers on Sunday.  Colin Kaepernick has proven to be a much better passer than Tebow, and if they can get the run game going early and force the Patriots to balance up their defense and go cover 3 as the Broncos did last season, it could lead to some explosive plays for the 49ers offense.

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