Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Can The 49ers Stop The Colts Offense?

When the Colts visit Candlestick Park to face the 49ers on Sunday it will be like an extended Harbaugh family reunion.  On the offensive side of the ball alone there are 3 former players of Harbaugh from his days at Stanford in Andrew Luck, Coby Fleener, and Griff Whalen.  It runs even deeper than the players as Pep Hamilton has joined the Colts this season as offensive coordinator after holding that same position at Stanford.

Hamilton was brought to Stanford in 2010 by Jim Harbaugh to coach the Wide Receivers after spending 7 seasons coaching in the NFL, including working for the 49ers in 2006.  When Harbaugh and Greg Roman left Stanford for the 49ers, new Stanford Head Coach David Shaw promoted Hamilton to the coordinator position.

Given his recent experience, it should come as no surprise that much of Hamilton's philosophy and playbook is very similar to what Stanford has run in recent years under Harbaugh and Shaw.  In many ways when watching the two teams play you see the same things, the extra linemen, unbalanced offensive line sets, etc.  In the link below, veteran NFL writer Peter King does a good job of breaking down the offensive schemes through and interview with Shaw last week that sheds far more light on the offense than anything you will hear from Harbaugh or Roman.

For today's breakdown of the Colts offense I have decided to go in a little bit of a different direction, and hopefully you like it and find it useful when watching the game on Sunday.  As you know, the 49ers defensive coaches base their personnel on a variety of things, starting with the opposing personnel groupings and down, distance, location on the field.  With that in mind, I have broken down the Colts offense over the first two games by their run/pass ratio out of various offensive personnel packages.

The Colts offense primarily uses 4 personnel groupings, 11 (1RB, 1TE), 22 (2RB, 2TE),
21 (2RB, 1TE) and 12 (1TE, 2RB).  They also have utilized 20 personnel (2RB, 0TE) on only 2 plays this season.

Let's start first with the Colts 11 package.  Through their first 2 games the Colts have run 62 of their 126 plays out of this grouping.  On those 62 plays the Colts have thrown the ball 54 times while running it only 8.  Needless to say, when the Colts come out with this group they are probably throwing.  This could be key on Sunday for a 49ers defense that has struggled this season stopping the run with their Nickle defense on the field, giving up just under 6 yards per carry.  Indianapolis did have some success in the 4th quarter running the ball out of this formation last week against Miami, and it will be interesting to see if they try to carry that into the game on Sunday.

The Colts next favorite personnel group is their 22 package.  So far they have run 26 plays with this grouping, and it is the opposite of their 11 group with 17 runs to 9 passes.  This is followed closely by their 21 grouping in which they have run 18 plays so far with 7 runs to 11 passes, and their 12 grouping which they have been the most balanced in with 9 runs to 8 passes on their 17 plays.

As Coach Shaw points out in the link above, the Colts like to do a lot of exotic formations and motions, but all of that is little more than window dressing.  When watching the Colts offense on Sunday I challenge you to focus your eyes on the offensive line, specifically the guards, and the FB/Motion TE, especially when the Colts are in the above 3 packages.  At the snap of the ball the guards are going to tell you right away if it is run or pass, and the FB/TE is going to give you the direction of the play if it is a run.

Having watched both Colts games so far this season my take away is that the 49ers defense should have a very strong outing on Sunday afternoon.  The 49ers defense is set up well to handle the Colts from their base 3-4, and the Colts thus far have been very predictable with their groupings.  If I can pick up on it, you can rest assured that Vic Fangio, who also worked with Hamilton on that 2010 Stanford staff has picked up on it and will have his charges ready to go Sunday afternoon.

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