CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 13: Matt Hasselbeck #8 of the Tennessee Titans hands the ball off to Chris Johnson #28 during the game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 13, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Titans defeated the Panthers 30-3. (Photo by Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images)
One of the things that has been missing from the run game is the counter. Mike Heimerdinger called a lot of counters last season, and the Titans were very good at executing them. For whatever reason, Chris Palmer has not called many counters this year.
One time that Palmer actually did call a counter was in the 4th quarter against the Panthers. Not only did that play result in a big gain, but it set up another play where the offensive line sold counter but the play was actually an "off-pull" according to Ben Muth of Football Outsiders. He broke down both the counter and the off-pull in his weekly feature, Word of Muth:
Early in the fourth quarter (14:13) Tennessee motioned into the exact same formation and pulled the guard and fullback just like they did on the counter, but this time Chris Johnson didn’t follow them (Figure 2). This is called an off-pull, and it’s designed to take advantage of the defense’s coaching. Linebackers always have "keys" at the snap of the ball. It’s usually a guard, fullback, or tight end. At the snap, the linebackers are keyed onto one of these players, and the get their initial reads from them. If you are reading a guard, for example, you’ll look to see if he pass blocks, tries to reach someone, or pulls. That should give you a much better idea of what the offense is doing than what the tailback does.
Here, the linebackers see the both the fullback and backside guard pull to the right. They naturally assume the counter is coming again, and flow hard to that side. But when Chris Johnson gets the ball, he doesn’t cut it back, like he would on the counter. Instead, he runs straight ahead, right where the Will linebacker was at the snap.
That play call resulted in a 16-yard gain.
Head over there and read the whole column. Muth does a great job of breaking down that play, the counter I talked about, and Matt Hasselbeck's 21-yard gain on the naked bootleg.