Breakdown: Sal Capra, Jordan Webb key in successful tunnel screen


Welcome back to "Breakdown," where we'll look at a KU play each week and try to go a little more in-depth into why it did or didn't work.

This is the first time in the history of this segment that we'll be breaking down a positive play for KU, as the Jayhawks defeated No. 15 Georgia Tech, 28-25, on Saturday. For this blog, I have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach."

Here is the replay of KU quarterback Jordan Webb's screen pass to Daymond Patterson on a late third down. You can click back to this video as you read later in the blog if you need to.

On third and four late in the game, KU offensive coordinator Chuck Long was probably expecting some sort of pressure from the Georgia Tech defense.

When Georgia Tech does blitz on this play, KU has the perfect call to attack it.

Before we get too far, let's diagnose Georgia Tech's coverage.

What we have here, Coach says, is Man-Free coverage.

What does that mean? Well, if you follow the arrows, Georgia Tech's defenders are all matched up man-to-man against KU's eligible receivers (Man).

The "Free" part is easier to see on the second replay.

Georgia Tech's No. 37 will serve as the free safety on this play, helping out in case any of his cover guys get beat deep.

There's also something interesting about the cornerbacks in our first slide.

Notice how they play close to the receivers (press coverage) and are playing on the inside of the receivers (inside coverage)?

"Obviously, they don’t want the receivers to get the inside of the field," Coach says. "When you play Man-Free, you’re trying not to give up the slant route, the easier routes. You’d rather have them try and throw it deep, where you’ll have a better chance of making a play on the ball."

In other words, Tech's coaches want to make the rookie Webb earn his first down by completing a more difficult throw.

We'll get back to the Man-Free coverage in a minute.

Though you probably didn't see it the first time, the play called was actually a double screen, meaning Webb had the option of going two different places with the football.

On the left side of the screen, KU's offensive linemen break out to block for a potential flare screen to James Sims, who is highlighted.

Meanwhile, on the right side of the screen, KU's offensive linemen break out to a block for a potential screen to Daymond Patterson.

Because it is a screen pass, KU's offensive linemen provide little resistance for Georgia Tech's defensive linemen, trying to get them up the field so they run themselves out of the play.

"Defensive linemen are taught it’s never going to be this easy to get through to get to the quarterback," Coach says. "A lot of times those defensive linemen are taught if you feel like you’re being let go — a free release — try and stick your toe in the ground and re-direct to the side that you’re nearest to or the side they have the most wide receivers."

Two of Tech's defenders appear to realize that a screen is coming.

As you can see, the two highlighted start to break down and re-direct.

Though we can't be certain what Webb is seeing, the Georgia Tech defensive lineman on the top of the screen appears to be somewhat close to Sims, making this a tougher throw.

This might be the reason Webb looks off Sims and instead opts to throw to Patterson.

"(Webb) does a nice job with his feet," Coach says. "It’s probably one-two with his feet and throw it to the running back, or one-two with his feet and then three-four with his feet and come back and throw it to the wide receiver."

As you can see in the replay, Webb also waits until the last instant before throwing the pass to Patterson.

This helps bring the defensive linemen further up the field so they can't make a play.

"He’s probably going to take a shot," Coach says, "but sometimes you have to take one for the team and sit in there and do your job."

That extra half-second makes all the difference for KU, as it allows left guard Sal Capra to get to the outside.

Notice he starts the play here ...

before sprinting down to make the key block of the play here ...

"That was an excellent job by (Capra)," Coach says. "He covered a lot of ground."

Remember our bottom defender who tried to re-direct when he saw screen pass?

Here he is later in the play.

If he'd have read the play a half-second faster, he might have been in position to bring down Patterson. Instead, he goes for an ankle tackle and can't quite get him.

Speaking of Patterson, let's take a look at him on this play.

By taking two steps forward before cutting back, Patterson freezes the cornerback, who has to respect that he might run a route down the field. If Patterson had simply gone straight toward Webb for the tunnel screen*, his defender could have triggered immediately to make the tackle.

* — Coach says this is a tunnel screen because the outside receiver comes inside to catch a screen. A bubble screen is when an inside receiver goes outside to catch a screen.

These two steps forward also allow Patterson's teammate, Johnathan Wilson, the time to go up and block the cornerback.

Coach says this play is especially effective against Man-Free coverage.

The advantage of playing zone defense is that defenders can see the ball thrown in front of them, whereas the advantage of playing man defense is oftentimes having tighter coverage on receivers.

Had Georgia Tech been playing zone, the cornerback in front of Patterson would have been playing the ball and not Patterson. Therefore, he would have immediately broken toward Patterson, giving him a better chance to make the play.

As it was, the cornerback had to respect that Patterson could go anywhere with his route, and because he wasn't watching the quarterback, he wasn't able to diagnose the play in time.

And, of course, the top cornerback had no idea he was about to be blindsided by a 295-pound offensive lineman.

Add it all up and you have a well-timed screen executed to near-perfection.

"A really good play call," Coach says. "As an offensive coordinator, you know you’re probably going to get some form of pressure from the defense on third and short.

"You just try to call your best play that’s going to give your offense the opportunity to get the ball to a playmaker and get a first down."


psychoanalyst 7 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for vindcating me Jesse and Coach. During the game I told my family that we just ran a double screen and how I was glad to see Long was being creative. They looked at me silly and said, "I don't think so. You can't run two screens at once." Guess who is getting this article emailed to them! :-)

jaydee909 7 years, 8 months ago

Thank you again, Jesse, for providing the analysis of another play. Really look forward to them each week.

panalytic 7 years, 8 months ago

This is a great segment of your sports coverage. I definitely enjoyed your choice of a positive play for the analysis too. Thanks for the fun and interesting article.

panalytic 7 years, 8 months ago

All the players involved seemed to have executed very well. Without this article I would not have noticed what a nice job all the players did on this play. Patterson was great and that was easy to see, but Webb and Capra executed great too.

Bring on Favre's alma mater!

swunruh 7 years, 8 months ago

Hey, good stuff...really enjoyed this and last week's break down.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 8 months ago

It is good that you are positive in analyzing a play from this game.

To be complete tho, Hatch's matador block down field really needs to be pointed out, and Capra's block really wasn't completely effective.

Hatch reaches out and tries to arm block (the O equivalent of arm tackling?) the S who redirected Daymond back to his left where he was tackled by the CB that Capra sort of blocked.

If Hatch had trucked a S (Pick one anyone, it might even be right, but if you hit no one it is definitely wrong.) Daymond could still be running. Additionally, if Capra had completed the block instead of just momentarily redirecting the CB away from Daymond, 1 wouldn't have caught him from behind when he tried breaking outside. I like DP's chances of getting to the corner and going down the sideline.

The difference between a really good play and another highlight. How many more top plays will DP have this season?

Eric Williams 7 years, 8 months ago

dagger, did they get the first down?

The answer is yes. That was the intention on this particular play, so how can you sit there and say Capra's block was ineffective. He freed Patterson, who then got the first down.

I think you're definition of an "effective" play is one that results in a touchdown. This isn't Madden. And this WAS an effective play with effective blocking.

Rivethead 7 years, 8 months ago

Capra's block was ineffective because his man was the one who made the tackle. You don't ever want the man you're responsible for neutralizing to be the one to make the tackle. When that happens you hear about it from the coaches and your teammates (especially when you're 295lbs and responsible for blocking someone 95lbs lighter than you!). Capra should have pancaked the CB and laid on top of him for a few seconds just to let it sink in. He does that and DP may be in the endzone by the time the Capra rolls off.

Also, I think Coach Gill himself will tell you.....the intention of every play is to get as many yards as possible. Not just get the first down. If the intention was just to get the first down then Patterson would have taken a knee the moment he gained the first down. He didn't.

As such, while this play was successfully executed, I don't think dagger is out of place for pointing out that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the execution.

Eric Williams 7 years, 8 months ago

I just watched the video again and it was the guy he blocked that tackled him. But Patterson was tackled 15 yards down the field after the catch. The only reason that particular defender got him was because Patterson and to turn sideways to avoid the defenders downfield, thus allowing the other defenders to gain ground.

In my book 15 yards-after-catch is a well-executed, effective, efficient, any other word, play.

Rivethead 7 years, 8 months ago

Do what happens if Capra does what he's supposed to do on that play and pancakes a guy 95lbs lighter than him?

Rivethead 7 years, 8 months ago

That should say "So" and not "Do"


Eric Williams 7 years, 8 months ago

Re-watch the video. There were 3 other Ga Tech defenders there when the guy caught up and made the tackle.

Maybe he gets anywhere from 2-5 more yards.

It's not like he got chased down in the open field.

I don't get why you're being picky on a 15-yard First Down completion. That play was never going to be a touchdown based on the video. So since the TD was out of the picture I will gladly take a 15-yard first down and call it effective and efficient.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 8 months ago

"Completely" is crucial to "effective".

Capra's blocking effectiveness is also a mute point if Hatch trucks someone. The point was made in the article (headline) concerning Capra's blocking, so I was originally going to cite it as the example. When I went back to it was when I realized that the man he "blocked" was the man who made the tackle.

I tried to indicate the difference in level of success. Apparently not successfully enough, tho thanks for the backing Rivet.

Ron Prichard 7 years, 8 months ago

Our high school coach (sadly, I was never athletic enough to play in college) would tell us that the intent of every single play was to score a touchdown. If everyone blocks their assignment perfectly, the backs and receivers execute perfectly, etc., then the end result should be a touchdown. This is true for a fade pattern all the way to a simple iso.

However, there are 11 guys whose collective intention is to stop the offensive play from being effective. Shoot a gap, create an overload, play bump-n-run coverage, etc. Whatever it takes, stop the play. Even if only a few of the defensive players are successful, most likely, a play will not go for a touchdown.

I agree that if Capra had held his block or Hatch had been more successful, the play could have gone for more yards. However, I think you could say that as a team, KU executed this play very well. You could also say Capra executed very well. He moved quickly and made a block on a more athletic and quicker player sufficient to spring Patterson for a 15 yard gain on a critical third and four when we absolutely needed the first down.

Was the play executed beautifully, from the call by the coach all the way to the last block? Yes. Could the play have been even better if a couple of players had executed even better? Yes. Still, all in all, a great play call and great execution for KU at the perfect time of the game.

jayhawkboogeyman 7 years, 8 months ago

agreed. Especially nursing a lead midway through the 4th quarter, just getting the first down and keeping the clock going is the #1 focus. An insurance TD would be nice, but keeping the ball away from GT is the first thing, and they got it done.

Dirk Medema 7 years, 8 months ago

Agreed with respect to Capra, but definitely disagree wrt Hatch. He didn't block anyone. In Hatch's case, you can hardly be less successful. That is where the comment began.

Definitely agreee with the big picture you present.

dmudd 7 years, 8 months ago

Enjoyed the breakdown but next time you might consider using megenta or another color besides black for your arrows because I can't see them.

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