Falcons Fall – A Questionable Decision Goes Awry!
The decision Mike Smith made to “go for it” in overtime of the Atlanta – New Orleans game on 4th and inches from Atlanta’s own 29 has created a lot of buzz. Atlanta lined up and ran the ball – and failed, and now everyone has an opinion about whether this was the right call or not. Most people are of the opinion that it was a bad decision, but you know these are the same people who would be saying “great call” if it had worked. It was a very difficult call to make and a good argument could be made for both sides which is probably one of the reasons it is generating so much discussion. I don’t want to discuss the decision, but I do want to rip the play call, and I’m not quite sure why no one else is.
Atlanta lined up with every man in tight to the formation and no wide outs. A fullback and running back were in the backfield. At the snap, the play design was a ‘power run left’, and it called for the right guard to pull to lead through the hole. Falcons RB Michael Turner got the ball at the snap but by the time he hit the hole New Orleans had already penetrated through the gap and he was dead in the hole. There is so much wrong with this play I am going to have to break it down in stages.
First off, in this situation you QB sneak! Spread it out, and QB sneak. When does this play not work? Never, it always works. Fourth and inches you QB sneak – it’s that easy. Atlanta needs to watch a little more of the Patriots to see what a real team does when they need to gain 6 inches.
Secondly, Atlanta lined up with everyone in-tight to the formation to show power run. There were six linemen flanked by a TE and WR on the end of the line. This allowed New Orleans to stack all 11 defenders in the box. Aside from the formation I thought the Atlanta line itself lined up in peculiar fashion. Each of the linemen was behind the center, and the center lined up behind the ball too instead of over top of the ball. This made it so Atlanta had to gain a yard on the play instead of just a few inches. On the play Turner actually gained ground from where the O-line originally was lined up. They weren’t pushed back by New Orleans, they just gave them that yard. I will have to watch short yardage plays more closely in the future but it seems like Atlanta put themselves at a disadvantage before the play even started here.
Third, the power run with no misdirection is never the best play in a short yardage situation. The defense is amped up to drive forward and smash into the O-line. The Linebackers are set to get downhill and penetrate as soon as they see where the play is going. When you call a power run with no trickery you are running right into the teeth of the defense. When you fake the run the defense is almost always caught off guard in this situation.
Lastly, if you are choosing to run straight ahead then why do you pick a slow developing play with a guard pulling? This is like phoning the defense before the play and telling them what your call is.
I liked Mike Smith’s aggressive decisions all day long. It was a division game and he was pulling out all the stops to try to get a victory, something that is disturbingly absent from many coaches. But nothing about this play really makes sense. Atlanta is a good team but they often win in spite of their play calling and more so their offensive design. To see these problems show up at such a crucial moment is sad. Atlanta needs to go back to the drawing board.
…and that is the last word.