Full film review will be back this week, but for now, let's take a look at the touchdown pass to Kendall Wright on the first drive of the game.
We'll start here with the presnap look. We're in 21 personnel. Fasano is split out wide to the top of the screen. Wright is in the slot. Douglas is at the bottom of the screen. McCluster is to Mariota's right, and Sankey to his left.
When considering run advantages, it's always about matching box numbers. For this reason, stats about "8 men boxes" are irrelevant in the absence of context. So, count the box number here. 4 DL and 3 LBs. SLB is just outside the box, but we'll include him here. So, call it 7 defenders against our 6 blockers, assuming one of the backs blocks, right?
Typically, yes, if you run a play that's not adaptive post snap. Marcus Mariota changes all that. He's essentially like adding another blocker.
He does this by running what's called a packaged play. It's essentially two plays in one depending on what the defense does post snap. In this case, we have an isolation run to the left with Sankey leading the way through the B gap, and we also have a quick slant coming on the backside (top) of the play.
So, the ball is snapped. Marcus puts the football into McCluster's gut at what's called the "mesh point". This is most commonly seen in read option scenarios where the QB can give it or keep it. But, the utility is different here.
Remember, box numbers, right? Well, Mariota has his eyes on the strongside linebacker the entire time. If that backer sits back into a zone, the team has a numbers advantage in the run play. 6 on 6. However, if he sits flat footed, or cheats on the run, he's left a void behind him to throw the slant. In a split second, Mariota must diagnose this distinction, which may seem simple, but it's a lot more ambiguous in real time.
The LB doesn't get adequate depth on his drop. Mariota also benefits from the other two LBs biting hard on the play fake. And, then Marcus delivers a pass quicker than nearly anyone else I've seen even at the pro level, and with an almost uncanny precision given the speed of the mechanics.
It's this speed and precision that puts the ball on Wright in stride and in space. A second later and the backside safety has an opportunity to make a play.
Instead, this goes for 6.
There were more than a handful of intriguing plays like this during the course of the first half, and my guess is that they've kept quite a bit more in their bag of tricks for the rest of the season.
I'll look forward to digging into some more later this week. Until then, enjoy the win. Looks like we got a good one in Marcus Mariota.