Play 5. McCaffrey Run Middle For 5 Yards

Having now run a few jet motions, the Panthers now went back to a straightforward downhill run, and while this did pick up a decent gain, it’s not clear exactly what the intention of this play was, aside from “establishing the run”:

 

It’s really no less unclear when you look at the blocking assignments – there are two different gaps being created, but yet Wagner is left completely unblocked:

One possible explanation for this is that the Panthers wanted to present Wagner with two different looks and tried to make him decide between them while allowing McCaffrey to react to this. The first of these is a simple gap outside the left tackle, with Daley crashing down on the defender and the tight end kicking out the edge rusher. The other gap appears to be the one between right guard and right tackle, with Moton and the tight end looking to work inside their defenders to seal off the outside, Turner doubling the nose tackle with Paradis and Williams pulling across the kick-out the 3-tech. The issue is is that Moton and Thomas are really able to prevent the edge from squeezing the gap making it hard for Williams to really kick-out the 3-tech and so while the blocking scheme on the front side did work on paper, the resulting gap really isn’t big enough. This forces McCaffrey to run outside the left tackle, and while he’s ultimately able to make a success of this because he’s one of the best running backs in the world, the unblocked Wagner was going to make it very hard for this play to ever be hugely successful.

One lesson that Scott Turner should learn from this is that just because something works on paper, doesn’t mean when you put it into practice that it actually goes to play. This play looks to be a good example of that.

Play 6. McCaffrey Run Right For 4 Yards

The next play, however, is a great example of the opposite – everything worked and the play was a success, but the ultimate yardage gain was smaller.

 

This, again, goes back to the issues with outside runs, as the play took long enough to develop that by the time McCaffrey actually put his foot in the ground and started gaining yardage, the defense was already starting to recover. The play design, however, is comparatively simple.

Here, the Panthers once again look to try and trap the majority of the defense inside, with Moton and Thomas pulling around to trap the LB and kicking out the end defender. They also leave the backside edge defender unblocked, like because this is a toss play and not a conventional handoff. Ultimately, this play gets chased down by the backside tackle, which is made possible by Williams’ failure to slow him down enough for Daley to secure the reach block. However, this was overall a well executed and well-designed play, even if it didn’t gain huge yardage.

Play 7. Moore Run Left For 10 Yards

The Panthers now decided to go back to the jet motion, having had success with a couple of conventional rushing plays:

 

This was probably the simplest play yet, with the line mostly just down-blocking while the tight end kicks out the edge defender and the Panthers trusting Moore to get the ball outside before the outside linebacker can get to the ball.

This play is not something you could run a lot of, as this play largely works because the defense doesn’t know that it’s coming – if the outside linebacker is closer to the line it might struggle, but when you have a receiver who is as good with ball-in-hand as Moore, you are likely going to have some success just handing him the ball.

Play 8. McCaffrey Run Right For 3 Yards

This next play was very similar to one the Panthers ran earlier, with one major difference:

 

The jet motion to freeze the backside defender is common to the previous play, but where as the previous play looked to run McCaffrey back outside the left tackle, the blocking on this play suggests a much more conventional outside zone.

Having seen the earlier play, the Panthers might have been hoping that the defense waits inside somewhat, thereby allowing McCaffrey to get outside, but this didn’t appear to work. The Panthers do get a decent push on this play, but the defense stays in their gaps and there is no clear rushing lane for McCaffrey to exploit. This wasn’t helped by the edge defender not biting on the jet motion, and so there was no cutback lane available for McCaffrey. As mentioned earlier, this play relies on force the backside edge to make 50/50 decisions on who to go with, and if the downside of that is a three yard gain then the Panthers will take that.

Play 9. Samuel Run Left For 7 Yards

So this is the fun play:

 

Based on the surprise shown by Allen post-snap and the routes the receivers were running, it is far from clear whether this is what was meant to happen or not. Either way, it worked.

The Panthers didn’t really do anything here from a blocking point of view to make this play work, in fact their blocking really emphasized the fact that this was probably meant to be a pass play, but when you have players with the kind of speed that Samuel does and you give them the ball with some space to run into, it can sometimes work regardless. This play was probably helped by the fact that the ball went straight to Samuel, and if this was all an elaborate fake and this is how the play was meant to go, hats off to Scott Turner – even if not, a large part of the NFL is that sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it isn’t.

 

Up Next: Goalline Success – A Scott Turner Story

 

Vincent Richardson on Twitter
Vincent Richardson
Analyst at Riot Report
Astrochemist, bartender and jazz drummer; I also watch a lot of football. Areas of interest include play design, player evaluation and data-driven analytics. Twitter: @vrichardson444
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