Another day, another play.
First of all, Merry Christmas to you fine folk. I'm truly blessed to be able to share my thoughts with you on football, television, and sometimes deeper subjects. You're a fantastic community that has always treated me well, and I consider myself a lucky guy for being able to enjoy Chiefs fandom with each and every one of you. It's a good life, this life.
Anyway, now that we've got that mushy stuff out of the way, let's talk about Charcandrick West scoring touchdowns, shall we?
We've done a few of these "anatomy of a play" articles recently, and it seems like you all like reading them as much as I like writing them. So we'll try to do a few more as time goes by. And what better way to start than a 38 yard touchdown run?
Here's the scenario; 9:22 left in the first quarter, third and one, ball on the Ravens' 38-yard-line. the Chiefs have kept the drive alive with a few decent plays and one remarkably stupid penalty by the Ravens and are looking to keep things going.
The teams line up in a pretty standard third and short formation for both sides.
The Chiefs aren't doing anything fancy here. They've brought in an extra offensive lineman on the left side (Donald Stephenson), as well as Anthony Sherman in the backfield and 2 tight ends (Travis Kelce and Demetrius Harris, both decent run blockers) on the right side. No wide receivers. Football purists are in a haze of joy just looking at this picture.
The Ravens respond with a similar package featuring multiple defensive linemen and linebackers, with few secondary players to sissify the issue. They've got seven guys on the line of scrimmage and three more within five yards of it.
THIS. IS. FOOTBALL.
Of course, because it's Andy Reid, things aren't QUITE as simple as they appear. While the Chiefs are lined up in a "we're going to run right at you and dare you to stop us" formation, that's not exactly what they do.
Yes, they end up running the ball at the line of scrimmage on the left side. Yes, when you first watch it the play definitely looks like a "we're doing this old school play."
But upon further review there's a LOT more going on here.
Normally, we'd start with a bunch of screenshots and then have the GIF'd play at the end. But we're going to reverse things this time, simply because I fear if we start with the picture I have prepared showing blocking assignments it's going to get way too confusing way too quickly.
So here's the play at the line of scrimmage. Fair warning, if you hate beautiful things, look away now.
Doing an "anatomy of a play" article on the West TD. The blocking here is just phenomenal, West follows it well. pic.twitter.com/62H5EgvHbu— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 25, 2015
Those of you who go gaga over OL play are probably going to be stuck watching that GIF loop for the next hour and a half, so you're welcome. Make sure to blink occasionally and close your mouth to avoid drool.
For the rest of you, I very much understand if all that happened way too fast to follow it. I promised you there was more going on there than a simple "we're gonna run right over you," and indeed there was.
Here's a screenshot showing what happened before it happened, at least with regards to blocking assignments.
I know, it's like a massacre with all that red. But it provides context for the Chiefs offense running over the Ravens defense like a hot knife through an ice cream cake that's been left out for 20 minutes in a warm room (no, that's not the expression. But I like mine better because ice cream cake).
There's just a whole lot of wonderful that happens with this play. We'll go left to right with blocking assignments (finishing off with Sherman in the backfield.
Travis Kelce (far left) is assigned a solo block against a much bigger man. However, the play is going away from him. All he needs to do is prevent penetration into the backfield or the defensive player shedding him while moving laterally to plug any potential holes. So what does he do? What any self-respecting TE does in that situation; execute an exceptional cut block and take the defender off his feet. He's out of the play and no threat at all.
Next up is Demetrius Harris. His assignment is a little more difficult because his man isn't lined up exactly opposite of him. He's got to (as the line indicates) move left quickly enough to get between his defender and the play. It's not an easy job, especially when you're a TE vs. a DL. However, Harris gets over and gets between the defender and the play, walling him off enough to prevent any danger to the play.
Then we go to Jah Reid. I've talked about him already this week, including this play, so I won't spend too long on him. That said, this is arguably the most impressive block of the entire game. He has to get off the line, sprint laterally toward a LB who is moving another direction, and execute a cut block in space against a guy he outweighs by 75 pounds. And he pulls it off. If Reid doesn't stick this block it's a short gain. If he makes an "OK" block it's a little better play. But he takes the LB all the way off his feet, creating the opportunity for a touchdown.
LDT is next in line, and his block is... well, less impressive. He essentially gets steamrolled while trying to execute a cut block. However, he gets in the way enough to prevent his guy from blowing up the play, so it'll do.
Now we're on to Mitch Morse, who I'm just thrilled to see healthy again. Much like Harris, Morse has the tough assignment of getting across the face of a defender then trying to drive him the opposite direction. It's MUCH tougher for Morse because he's much closer to the play. Morse handles it, of course, though it's hardly in dominant fashion. He gets where he needs to be and provides the "barrier" his DL can't pass. For good measure, when his DL gets tripped up he goes ahead and hops on him to make sure he stays down. I love that.
Finally, we're at the meat of the blockers: Zach Fulton, Eric Fisher, and Donald Stephenson (we'll get to Sherman afterward).
These 3 OL, rather than just trying to overpower the guy in front of them, are given very specific assignments to open up a lane. You can see above where each is supposed to go: Fisher powering his man left, Fulton getting to the second level and powering Kendrick Lewis left, then Stephenson moving right to take on the DE and push him to the right.
Ideally, you create a running lane between those 3 blocks. Here's a snapshot right after West gets the handoff:
So far, everything is going exactly according to plan. Stephenson, with the element of surprise the scheme is designed to give him (the DL was expecting a block from Fisher, and wasn't prepared for a push from Stephenson's direction), makes an absolutely GORGEOUS block and pancakes his defender. It's beautiful. Few people are tougher on Stephenson than I am, but that block was on the money.
Eric "Yes I'm A Good Player" Fisher drives his defender back with no trouble whatsoever. It's a pretty boring part of this play. Fisher has been pretty boring lately. I like that.
Fulton, who in my opinion has struggled at guard, does a great job hustling to the second level to engage Lewis and just bullies him out of the running lane. It's a really nice block to get a hat on the smaller, quicker defender and not let him disengage. Fulton drives him completely out of the way.
All the way across the line, everyone has done their job. The left side in particular has opened up a massive lane for West to run through. The only player left with any hope of closing that lane (as Reid is in the process of chopping his linebacker's legs out from under him) is 57, our would-be Ravens hero.
Hero, meet Anthony Sherman. Anthony Sherman, meet hero.
Sherman's block on West's TD run was fantastic. LB had a chance... until he didn't. Him and Reid choppin' down trees pic.twitter.com/IFJ0olkX5f— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) December 25, 2015
Well, so much for being a hero. Sherman is an eraser of dreams. And linebackers. Also, that gif has the bonus of showing Reid's cut block. Those two blocks, combined with the excellent work the rest of the line had done, blew the play wide open.
All that was left was for West to follow his blockers (which he did) and win a footrace to the end zone, which he was able to do without too much trouble. Six points on the board for the good guys.
I've reviewed a lot of good (and bad) plays for the Chiefs, and I have to say this was one of the most fun plays I can remember. So much went right here. Hopefully this time next week I'll have about four more just like it to review.