Saturday, January 10, 2009

Random Football Post

Look, I don't consider myself that much of a jock.  True, I ran cross-country and track in high school and college - but I attended a Division III school and went on an academic scholarship.  (And, as Backbencher likes to point out, I do have a school record - in the 2000-meter steeplechase, which is no longer run because now the collegiate authorities have determined that we womenfolk can handle the rigor of a 3000.)  

However, I enjoy watching sports, particularly baseball and football.  I like to think I have more than average knowledge about the games, but this season in football I've learned two things that, frankly, I'm surprised I never knew about before.  I think this may be due to both the sheer volume of football I've watched this season, and to the fact that I'm paying more attention to what's going on the field in a bigger-picture sort of way.  I find I'm no longer just watching where the ball goes, but also how the offensive and defensive lines work (or don't).  I think I'm figuring out "plays," in other words.  (Though, God help me, I could never memorize the volume of plays most NFL players have to know.)

Here's my learnings from the 2009 season:

1. Play Action - this is when the quarterback (QB) pretends to hand off the ball to a nearby player, thus buying himself a few more seconds to throw the ball down the field.  I mean, I've seen this play for years (and I'm always surprised when it works, and when it doesn't), but it's only this season that I've heard announcers refer to it as such.  I guess I didn't pay that much of attention to the announcers previously....because this is clearly not a new move.

2. "Offsides, defense, unabated to the QB" - this is a foul called when a member of the defense crosses the line of scrimmage before the snap and has a clear path to the QB.  Apparently, defensive players can cross the line of scrimmage before the snap, as long as they get back on their before the snap AND they don't touch anyone on the offense; however, if that defensive player has an "unabated path" to the QB, it's a foul.  I just heard this foul called today for the first time, and I've heard it called at least 3 times this afternoon.  What is up with that?

And, can I just express my displeasure with the common play of handing off the ball to a running back who goes straight down the middle, right into a big mob of defensive players?  This is a silly move, IMO, and it seems like it isn't very effective.  True, sometimes all you need is a few yards, and this play can get you where you need to go.  (It is also very popular near the end zone, where, okay, it makes some sense.)  And, of course, sometimes you go straight up the middle, find a fantastic opening, and are twenty yards down the field before anyone else knows what's happening.  

But that second scenario is not that common.  Mostly, the running back ends up at the bottom of a huge dog pile, and has gained his team at most 2 or 3 yards.  Yes 2.5 yards x 4 downs = first down (usually), but it seems to be a very rough and ineffective way to get the job done, particularly if you are mid-field.  Plus, I've seen it fail so much, and teams actually lose yardage in the process.  It's not a bad play, but I'm just annoyed at how often it's used.  (As a side note, I think - and Backbencher agrees - that there is a good possibility that I prefer passing plays to the diving plays because of my love for the Joe Montana and Steve Young years of the 49ers.)

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