26 September 2010

Unorthodox Football Tactics

I was watching the Colts v Broncos. Commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms made a very interesting point. The Broncos committed a 15-yard penalty that was enforced on the kickoff after a field goal. Thus, the Colts kicked off from their 45-yard line. Nantz and Simms wondered why teams never "make the other team pay" for the penalty. They just kick it deep, out the back of the end zone.

Unorthodox Tactic #1: Onside kick from the 45-yard line. The worst case scenario is that the other team would get the ball at their own 45. Analysis from Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats indicates that only 20 percent of expected onside kicks succeed, but 60 percent of surprise onside kicks succeed. Burke goes on to argue that since the 'break-even success rate' is 42 percent, surprise onside kicks are well worth the risk under normal circumstances. Considering that my scenario involves an extra 15 yards in the kicking team's favor, they almost certainly should attempt a surprise onside kick. When other teams start to catch on, they could switch to the squibbing, difficult-to-handle kickoff and race to the ball.

Unorthodox Tactic #2: Risking offsides on goal-line stands. An automatic first down cannot be awarded for an offsides penalty. When the ball is on the one-yard line, especially on third or fourth down, why would a defense not continuously attempt to perfectly time the snap until they succeed in doing so? The referee will blow the play dead if the defense is unabated to the quarterback or commits encroachment.

Unorthodox Tactic #3: Risking offsides on game-winning field goals. This tactic is the same as the erstwhile one except that it occurs on game-winning field goal attempts. Why not send the whole team rushing in with running starts? Two guys take the outside edges, and two guys run at the outside blockers, and the other seven guys run up the middle. Since it is potentially the last play of the game (or of regulation, if tied), giving up a first down does not matter.

Unorthodox Tactic #4: Lateral the football. See my previous articles about rugby and Ed Reed.

Unorthodox Tactic #5: Line of scrimmage abuse. Pretend to run the ball. Lateral the ball. Run an option. Run the Wildcat. Whatever. But stay behind the line of scrimmage until the safeties and corners come up to make the tackle. Then throw the ball to the open receiver.

Unorthodox Tactic #6: Run out the clock with constant holding. In so many games, we see a team attempt to run out the clock at the end of the game in order to prevent the other team from getting one last drive. Why not instruct every blocker to hold the defenders? The advantage is that the offense will keep repeating downs while time keeps running off the clock. The defense might want to decline these penalties. But, theoretically, the running back should get plenty of yardage if everyone is holding. The defense would have to accept the penalties and replay the downs. Note that intentionally attempting to utilize 10-second runoff penalties can be declined by the defense.

Unorthodox Tactic #7: Fake punts. On punts, there are four defenders on the outside and only seven in the middle of the field, including the returner. A good athlete as a punter could run the ball or throw it to someone in the middle and likely pick up the first down. The element of surprise is key here. No one expects fake punts in the NFL.

Unorthodox Tactic #8: Fake extra points. Again, they are extremely rare in the NFL. Have a TE near the sideline, pretending to come in or go out. Throw it to him. Two points.

Unorthodox Tactic #9: Let the other team score. 27 September 2010, Packers v Bears. The score was tied. The Bears had the ball near the goal line with about one minute remaining. Matt Forté rushed three times, but the Packers stopped him all three times. With four seconds remaining, the Bears kicked the game-winning field goal. The Packers should have allowed the Bears a touchdown so that Aaron Rodgers would have time to drive for an equalizing touchdown. Conversely, the Bears should not have been attempting to score a touchdown. They should have ran down the clock.

Unorthodox Tactic #10: Don't spike the ball in order to stop the clock. See my brief article on Tarvaris Jackson.