Monday, October 5, 2009

How MSU defended Michigan's spread

I wasn't particularly happy with the play calling in Saturday's Michigan/Michigan State match that ended with a flurry of Michigan's offense sending the game into overtime only to lose it on a tipped-pass interception that set up MSU's overtime drive. Specifically, I was upset with the number of two-WR sets that Michigan was running out of. It seemed as though that played directly into MSU's defensive scheme against Michigan. Pictures make words easier:

Here you see Michigan lined up in a two-WR set with two RBs and a TE. Though this play ends up going for 40+ yards and Michigan's first first down of the game, the way it plays into MSU's defense is obvious. As you can see, there are seven men in the box (this is a two-deep shell with man coverage on the wide receivers). On the play, both RBs stay in for blocking and the TE, Koger (lined up at the bottom of the image on the line), goes out for a pass. He'll eventually catch the 40-yard heave.

The ball is snapped and you see Koger go directly out as a receiver. One of the linebackers from the box stays with him. This leaves six in the box (Michigan has seven defenders). You can see that MSU only rushes three men initially, leaving three stand-up linebackers spying Forcier.

The unblocked defensive end (at the top of the screen) gets picked off by one of the running backs. Michigan's left tackle releases to the second level to block one of the linebackers. As you can see here, there are still three stand-up linebackers watching Forcier. One of them eventually gets blocked by the left tackle:

An MSU defender finally gets into the backfield. Forcier has had no where to throw the ball because he's had, essentially, double-covered wide receivers (with the safeties watching them). Koger is the only WR with one-on-one coverage. Forcier begins to scramble in the backfield. As you can see, there are still two MSU linebackers spying Forcier. He has proven to be effective scrambling and MSU's Dantonio took note. These linebackers were spying Forcier all game.

Forcier heaves the ball into what is now double coverage on Koger. He under throws the ball a bit and Koger makes a nice grab going to the ground. More importantly, you can see the MSU linebackers closing in on Forcier, completely taking away any ability to get yards with the ground game. Good defense, better offense. Miracle throw. +1 Michigan.

In a moment, I'm going to put up what happened when Michigan started to spread the field with more receivers.


Emery said...

Is this really good offense, though? A play with no real options other than the bomb to a doubled Koger? I wish we could check the coverage on the other receivers, but a play like this just screams for a dump off to Minor or Brown. Minor does have to make a block, but it's super late. Have him stay home for a few seconds, then spit him out wide for a nice 10-15 yard dump off. With the LBs spying Force, that will take a man off Forcier, or at least cause confusion.

I get frustrated with giving Tate good options, but no dump-off man. It's part of the reason he has trouble with hard pressure. We see how well he makes screen passes (cake), but he flips out when a pocket starts to collapse. Give him an easy option that goes for 3-4 yards, and we'd avoid catching his white boy dance moves in the backfield.

On your other post about the offense, Tate does get more options with the wideouts, and they can act as dumpoff guys. Again, he functions a lot better in these situations, and I don't feel as bad when he takes off, has a ton of room, and has exhausted all his decent options.

Rod needs to make life easier for the poor guy. Gets ugly when we want him to complete plays that are tough for even a seasoned and poised QB. Plus, I'm starting to get scared about Tate's poise in the pocket as is. He is super comfortable throwing the ball when rolling out, and is usually a baller doing so, but, man, I have a hard time recalling many passes where he stands in for a few seconds, and throws a pass across the middle. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I'd like to see him stand in and run if needed. Not run first, pass second.

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