The Atlanta Falcons are headed to Super Bowl 51 in large part due to their resurgence of the offense. Atlanta is 1st in points (33.8 ppg) and 2nd in yards (415.8 ypg). In Kyle Shanahan’s second season as the Offensive Coordinator this offense has come into its own. In preparation for the Super Bowl I decided to take a look at the offense.
Double Wing Split-Zone
On the second drive of the game Atlanta went into a Double Wing formation out of 12 personnel ( 1 RB and 2 TE’s) with the two tight ends aligned as wings. In this formation the wide receivers to each side were aligned in a “Nasty” alignment, 5-6 yards from the offensive tackle. Oakland responded to this with a “Bear” front.
From this look Atlanta ran a Split-Zone concept with the ‘Y’ or ‘U’ kicking out the backside linebacker with the other one running an arrow route to the flat. With Atlanta in this 12 personnel tight formation, Oakland was showing a lot of man coverage. The TE running an arrow route to the flat consistently pulled a player out of the box, leaving Atlanta with huge running lanes on the cutback. Below is the first play from the video diagrammed;
Kyle Shanahan is great at showing you different looks with different personnel yet running the same core plays. Atlanta lined up in 21 personnel as well in a I-Far Y-Off formation. This is essentially the exact same formation with a fullback lined up offset in the backfield instead of a tight end.
When Oakland started to overplay the Split-Zone play, Kyle Shanahan dialed up their play-action off the Split-Zone action. Instead of the TE kicking out the backside OLB, he slips by and runs and arrow route into the flat. This plays look identical to the Split-Zone play in essence of the ‘X’ appears he is blocking down on the Mike and the ‘Y’ looks like he is coming to kick out the Jack. Once again, Atlanta ran this play out of Double Wing, I-Formation as well as I-Far formation.
Twice on short-yardage situations Atlanta motioned to a Bunch set and ran ‘Z-Follow’ or ‘Z-Post’ however you define it. This play is designed to get Sanu the ball as he trails the under route by the #3 receiver in the bunch. Oakland is playing a “Traffic and Triangle” defense on this bunch meaning the Sam linebacker will take all of the point man in man-to-man coverage while the SS and C play a ‘Banjo’ on the ‘Z’ and ‘W’ receivers. The toughest part about defending a bunch set is when two receivers release in the same direction. The SS takes the under route from the ‘W’ while the S has the ‘Y’. When the ‘Z’ releases outside initially the C is picked from defending him due to the point mans seam route. With two minutes left in the game up by 7, on 3rd & 3 this is the play Atlanta went to for a first down. This play was a staple in the early St. Louis Ram’s offense led by Kurt Warner.
Every team only carries a handful of 2-Point conversion plays in their gameplan going into a game. In the first half Atlanta had a 3rd & Goal from the 3 yard line. Atlanta lines up in Pro Bunch Right and motions out the tailback to the bunch. Atlanta runs a quick screen to the tailback trying to pick up a touchdown. Atlanta missed a block at the POA and ended up not scoring on the play. This play was important due to how Oakland defended it. Oakland left the box completely empty from linebackers.
Later in the game when Atlanta scored to go up by 5, they decided to go for 2. Remembering how Oakland defended the Empty Quads Bunch formation earlier in the game with leaving the box open, Atlanta came back to this play except this time they attached a QB Draw to it. With no linebackers in the box, this was as easy as 2 points come.
Empty Tailback Rub
Another great use of 13 personnel by Kyle Shanahan occurred when he went Atlanta motioned to Empty. When Atlanta went to 13 personnel they were getting exclusively all Cover 1. A tailback, specifically Tevin Coleman, matched up with a linebacker is a mismatch. On this play when Atlanta motioned Coleman out left, Ryan saw a linebacker run with him assuring man coverage. Pre-snap Ryan knows the ball is going to Coleman when he saw this. The double verticals from the two tight ends lined up left picked the linebacker covering Coleman leaving him wide open.
The play design and execution by Kyle Shanahan and this offense is a huge reason why they are heading to Super Bowl 51. Atlanta can attack you from many different personnel groupings while having a very efficient quarterback in Matt Ryan, but as always, Atlanta wins in the trenches first.