Between Patrick Mahomes flourishing, Vontae Davis retiring mid-game, and Blake Bortles outplaying Tom Brady, Week 2 of the NFL season was filled with surprises. Meanwhile, here are four impressive plays we saw on the field, along with our second Game Ball of the season.
Passing Design of the Week: Fitzpatrick strikes early
Anyone around the NFL – from owners to players to fans – has to be blown away by the start from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. After leading the Bucs to 48 points in a season-opening win over the New Orleans Saints, Fitzpatrick followed that up by going 27 of 33 for 402 yards and four touchdowns in Sunday’s 27-21 victory over the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Fitzpatrick wasted no time getting on the board, striking on this deep ball to DeSean Jackson on the game’s very first play from scrimmage:
On the play, the Buccaneers break with 21 offensive personnel (two running backs, one tight end, two wide receivers) and have Fitzpatrick under center with an I-formation behind him. This is a simple two-receiver, max-protection play with Mike Evans (No. 13) running a shallow route from left to right while Jackson (No. 11) runs a deep post route starting from the right.
What makes this play work is the shallow cross from Evans coupled with a slight roll from Fitzpatrick. After Fitzpatrick carries out the run fake, he starts to roll to his right, showing a play-action boot concept. That often sees the quarterback throw to a crossing route – which Evans is running – so free safety Malcolm Jenkins cheats a few steps down. That allows Jackson to get behind him, and inside of the cornerback. From there, Fitzpatrick delivers an on-target throw and Jackson wins the footrace to the end zone.
Running Design of the Week: Blockers lead Breida to the house
The San Francisco 49ers got back to .500 with a hard-fought 30-27 victory over the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium. Niners running back Matt Breida rushed for 138 yards on just 11 carries, including this 66-yard touchdown that was San Francisco’s longest TD run in four seasons.
On the play, San Fran is holding a seven-point lead while facing a first-and-10 late in the third quarter. The offense has 21 personnel in the game, with Breida (No. 22) as the deep back in an offset I-formation. Meanwhile, the Lions have their base 3-4 personnel in the game. San Francisco runs a basic lead-zone play, with fullback Kyle Juszczyk (No. 44) leading Breida to the right side:
One scintillating run later, the 49ers have extended their lead. Breida is almost untouched as he breaks through the line – which we’ll get to – and then cuts back to the left, picking up great downfield blocking from Pierre Garcon (No. 15) on his way to the score. But let’s back up for a second and look at this from the end-zone angle:
If Breida wins any awards this week, he’d be smart to show some love to the guys up front, including right guard Mike Person (No. 68, highlighted above). Person has defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois (No. 97) on his right shoulder, but his assignment on this play is to get outside of Jean-Francois and hook him, as Breida is aiming to run to the right of Person. Known as a reach block, this is a tough play, but Person executes it to perfection. That enables right tackle Mike McGlinchey (No. 69) to reach the second level and take on the linebacker, while tight end Garrett Celek (No. 88) handles the outside LB. Juszczyk then leads Breida and takes on the play-side safety:
This is lead-zone blocking executed to perfection, and it starts with the excellent reach block by Person.
Pressure Design of the Week: Minnesota’s D gets to Rodgers in OT
For the first time since 1971, an NFL season produced a tie in both Week 1 and Week 2. First, the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers played to a draw; this week, it was the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers ending in a stalemate.
Late in the extra frame on Sunday, the Packers found themselves on the cusp of field-goal range, but the Vikings’ defense – using a creative blitz design from head coach Mike Zimmer – made a critical play to force a punt.
On the play, Green Bay faces a third-and-4 on the Minnesota 40-yard line. As you can see, Minnesota shows pressure pre-snap, putting eight defenders in the box:
Looking at this angle, you might expect the pressure to come from the right side of the offense with three off-ball defenders lurking. But instead it comes from the other side, led by defensive back Mackensie Alexander (No. 20) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (No. 54):
Edge defender Everson Griffen (No. 97) attacks from the outside and occupies left tackle David Bakhtiari (No. 69) while Kendricks slams into left guard Lane Taylor (No. 65). Alexander splits the now-open gap and has a free shot at Rodgers:
The sack pushes Green Bay out of viable field-goal range and forces the punt. It was one of the many big plays in a game that ended without a victor.
Coverage Design of the Week: Marcus Williams, reading eyes
A critical component of an effective Cover 1 defensive scheme is the presence of a free safety who’s adept at reading and reacting to the eyes of the quarterback. Late in New Orleans’ 21-18 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Marcus Williams of the Saints flashed his expertise.
On the play, with just over five minutes remaining, the Browns face a second-and-4 on their own 30-yard line. They break the huddle using 13 offensive personnel and put quarterback Tyrod Taylor (No. 5) under center with two tight ends to the right. Expecting a running play, the Saints keep their base 4-3 defense on the field:
However, the Browns are looking to throw using play-action. They use a max-protection concept with just two receivers running routes, while Taylor is looking to throw a skinny post route to tight end David Njoku (No. 85). But the Saints do a good job of forcing Taylor off his spot and making him reset in the pocket. From there, it’s all Williams:
The second-year safety does a great job of reading Taylor’s eyes and breaking under the route. From the replay, you get a good view of how the safety tracks the QB’s field of vision and makes the play:
Before Sunday, Williams was best known for missing the tackle on Stefon Diggs in last year’s playoffs, which became the Minneapolis Miracle. After that loss, Williams vowed that one play would not define his career. Sunday showed he’s well on his way toward keeping that promise.
Game Ball: Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
How does a new starting quarterback follow up a season-opening four-touchdown performance?
Throwing six more touchdown passes in Week 2 was a pretty great encore.
Mahomes, making just his third NFL start, threw for six scores in Kansas City’s 42-37 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 326 yards, averaging an astounding 11.64 yards per attempt. He continues to spread the football around, and this week incorporated tight end Travis Kelce, hitting him for two touchdowns. With this offense firing on all cylinders, and with Mahomes making incredible throws left and right, the Chiefs are off to a blistering start.
Mark Schofield writes NFL feature content for theScore. After nearly a decade of practicing law in the Washington, D.C., area Mark changed careers and started writing about football. Drawing upon more than a decade of playing quarterback, including at the collegiate level, Mark focuses his work on quarterback evaluation and offensive scheme analysis. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter @MarkSchofield.