In the NFL today, many defenses rely more on speed than size – especially along the defensive line.
Linemen use their quickness and speed to constantly put pressure on the opposing offense. In passing situations, smaller defensive ends like the Colts’ Dwight Freeney use their speed to fly around the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. Even interior defensive linemen are getting smaller, especially on teams that run a Cover 2 base defense. Cover 2 defensive tackles, like the Bears’ Tommie Harris, have to get up the field quickly and put pressure in the quarterback’s face if the defense is to be successful. This constant pressure by fast defensive linemen can wreak havoc on an opposing team’s carefully crafted offensive game plan.
One way that offensive coordinators counteract the speed and aggressiveness of today’s smaller defensive linemen is to run what is called a "draw" play. The draw play is one of many offensive plays designed to trick the defense. On a draw play, the offense tries to make the defense think it is a pass play when what they are really doing is setting up a run.
In the beginning stages of a draw, the entire offense mimics the actions of a pass play. The quarterback drops back while his tight end and wide receivers run deep down the field, forcing the secondary away from the line of scrimmage. All five offensive linemen use a pass-blocking technique where they push defenders towards the outside while "drawing" them upfield toward the quarterback. These actions by the linemen create a crease in the middle of the field. The running back feigns as if he is going to pass block but then quickly turns to the quarterback and receives the handoff.
If the play is executed properly, the running back will have most of the defensive linemen behind him and the secondary 15 yards away. All that is left are the linebackers, who have already dropped back in coverage and are out of position to stop the run. The running back then follows his blockers into the open field for a potential big gain.
The draw play is best used in passing situations. With the defense thinking pass, the offense can catch them off guard and rack up massive yards on the ground.
To better understand the effectiveness of the draw play, we will take a look at a first-half run by the Bears’ Thomas Jones in last season’s Week 10 matchup against the New York Giants.
With 1:30 left in the first half, the Bears faced a 3rd-and-22 at their own 28-yard line. The offense had looked awful up to that point, especially the running game. Jones had rushed for only 11 yards, had coughed up a fumble, and committed a holding penalty that negated a crucial first down. Down 13-3, the Bears' chances of winning were looking bleak.
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Chicago lined up with four wide receivers and Jones all alone in the backfield. At the snap of the ball, all four receivers released straight down the field on fly patterns, eventually locking up with their respective defenders. The Giants' defense, expecting a deep pass, rushed only three down linemen. Their defensive ends pushed hard off the edges. Chicago’s offensive tackles, John Tait and Fred Miller, put up little resistance, only doing enough to ensure the D-ends took a wide route to the QB. Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz blocked the nose tackle, as guards Roberto Garza and Ruben Brown moved upfield to pick off the linebackers.
Quarterback Rex Grossman took a five-step drop before pulling the ball down and handing it off Jones. T.J. exploded into the wide-open area recently vacated by the defensive linemen and quickly cut through a seam to his left. Garza sealed off the backside linebacker as the wideouts blocked the corners and safeties. Jones made another jump-cut as he cleared the linebackers and followed Brown all the way to the sideline before being tackled out of bounds. The play went for 26 yards and gave the Bears a first down in Giants territory.
Chicago’s offense, which had been anemic until then, suddenly seemed inspired. They drove the length of the field and capped the drive with a 29-yard touchdown catch by receiver Mark Bradley. The drive gave the offense renewed energy, and they went on to dominate in the second half.
The Bears won the game 38-20, improved their record to 8-1, and ultimately played in Super Bowl XLI. New York’s loss dropped them to 6-3 and facilitated a catastrophic freefall in the second half of the season.
After the game, all anyone could talk about was Devin Hester’s record-setting field goal return in the second half. His 108-yard scamper sealed Chicago's victory and ultimately gave the Bears the top seed in the NFC.
But what everyone forgot was the beautiful second-quarter draw play that offensive coordinator Ron Turner called on 3rd-and-22. If the Bears would have punted on that drive and the Giants had scored at the end of the half, Chicago would have walked into the locker room with a 20-3 deficit to overcome. As it was, the 26-yard draw play woke up a previously dormant offense that eventually rode that momentum to an NFC championship.
Amazing how one well-timed call can turn a whole season around.
|Jeremy Stoltz is a graduate of the Columbia College Story Workshop program in Chicago. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.
Jeremy Stoltz's Chalk Talk Archive
05/03/2007 - West Coast Offense (Part II)
04/26/2007 - West Coast Offense (Part I)
04/19/2007 - Zone Blitz
04/12/2007 - I-Formation
04/05/2007 - Zone Blocking
03/29/2007 - Cover 2
03/22/2007 - Counter Trey