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Re-Opening Old Wounds, Revisiting 2009 Cal @ Oregon Part V: Passing to Dickson Again

In case you missed the previous posts in this series, you may find them here: Part I: The DL Zone Read.  Part II: A Defensive StopPart III: Baited & BustedPart IV: Passing to Dickson.


In part IV of this series, I demonstrated how Oregon TE, Dickson, got open on a few of his catches.  In fact, more specifically, I showed how Oregon called the very same play twice and completed passes to him (a play I shall herein refer to as the "sprint out pass to Dickson in the flat"). 

Well, I'm not done.  Dickson had 11 catches on the day; a few of those are interesting enough to look at again, so we're back again examining how the heck he had such a great day. 

Join me, please, as we slog our way through these horrible memories...

Dickson's 7th Catch:


Above is the pre-snap picture of the play.  Oregon has 12 personnel out on the field (2 WRs, 2 TEs, 1 RB).  They have placed two TEs to the right side of the offense, and twin WRs to the left side of the offense.  The RB is towards the side of the WRs, and the open side of the field. 


Oregon motions the TE off the line of scrimmage (LOS) across the formation.



Oh, and who is that TE?  It's none other than #83 Ed Dickson.  I've shown him above with his numbers.  

And does anything else look familiar about this play?  I SURE HOPE SO.  If you read my previous post (part IV) [link needed], then something should seem oddly familiar. 

Doesn't this formation look familiar?  Doesn't this pre-snap motion look familiar? 




Answer: Yes.  It's the play from the previous part of my series. It's the "sprint out pass to Dickson in the flat" play.

Above is the post-snap picture of the play.  Again, the play is a sprint out.  The offensive line slides its protection over to the left, towards the open side of the field, the WRs, and Dickson.  The Oregon QB, Masoli, rolls out to this left too. 

It's the same play!



Nothing changes!  The WRs push deep.  The outside WR runs a "go."  The slot WR runs a skinny post.  (see below footnote) The outside WR runs a deep comeback, and the slot WR runs a deep out.  These routes push the defensive zones back.  And Dickson, runs his little easy flat route underneath the WRs.

[footnote: Upon further review of more game film, it has come to my attention that the routes run by the outside and slot wide receivers are a "deep comeback" and a "deep out," respectively.  When I originally watched the film of these earlier plays, I could not see the WRs because they were off the screen, and made a guess as to their routes.  However, the offense ran the same play in the 3rd quarter and the ABC video feed offered a better view of the play where the receivers seemed to be running a deep comeback, and a deep out.  And actually, these routes make more sense as since they are in the direction of the QB's rollout and are more conducive to the offensive play than a "go"  or "post" route.]



Masoli spots the wide open Dickson (green vision cone), and makes an easy completion (I've spared us all the horror and omitted that picture).



So what was the defense doing on this play?  Was it doing anything different, new, or interesting?  Well, let's see.  They do rush three four pass rushers. 



What's the coverage?  From the looks of things, they drop four into deep coverage (2 Ss, and 2 CBs), and have three underneath zones (3 LBs). 



What do we have here?  It looks we have the defense playing a quarters defense with three under zones.  A quarters defense has four deep defenders each playing 1/4th of the deep zone. 



What's the weakness of such a defense?  Quite easily, it's the areas underneath the quarters coverage, and to the sidelines just outside of the outer underneath zones -- in other words, exactly where Dickson is catching the ball. 

In the picture above, you can see the huge void where Dickson is making an easy catch along the sideline for an uncontested three to four yard gain.  The nearest Cal defender, linebacker #30 Kendricks, is still a good five yards from Dickson as he makes the catch. 

What is Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich thinking?  This is easy.  It's like stealing from a baby. 

Indeed it is. 


When I first started off this series, in Part I [link needed], I mentioned how you might so plays being run again and again:

This is actually a theme that you'll see in the remaining posts of this series: Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich running the same play again ... and again.

And without a doubt, we're seeing it here.  Some offensive coordinators will call a play, and cross it off their list to never use it again.  Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helrich clearly isn't doing that here.  And why would he? The play is working.  He's not getting huge yardage every play.  But so what?  He's getting an easy three to ten yards per catch with this play.  And so far, the defense hasn't done anything extraordinarily different which has stopped this play.

Dickson's 10th Catch:

Continuing on, let's look at another Dickson catch.


Above is the pre-snap picture.  Oregon has 12 personnel out on the field (2 WRs, 2 TEs, 1 RB).  To the offense's right, and on the LOS is one of the TEs.  To the offense's left is a trips formation consisting of 2 WRs, and 1 TE.  Dickson, #83, is in the near slot of the trips formation.  Oregon's RB is towards the trips and to the open side of the field. 

Hey!  Look at that!  Finally!  A new formation!  This formation is different from the prior three formations that we've seen where Dickson had a catch.  Perhaps the play will be different too?  Let's look at the post-snap picture...



Above is the post-snap picture. The offense is sliding its protection to the left again, towards the WRs and open side of the field.  The Oregon QB is rolling out in that direction too. 

Hey, this look strangely familiar... 



Let's look at the routes being run by the Oregon receivers.  The outside WR runs a "go."  The slot WR runs his skinny post.  (see above footnote in italics) The outside WR runs a deep comeback, and the slot WR runs a deep out. 

DO I SOUND LIKE A BROKEN RECORD?  Does something seem REALLY familiar? 



It's "sprint out pass to Dickson in the flat" again!




Did you see what Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich did? 

Let's go back to the pre-snap picture seen above.  At first glance, this might seem like a new formation.  But it's really not!  IT'S BASICALLY THE SAME FORMATION AS THE FIRST PLAY.  Oregon just omitted the pre-snap motion of moving Dickson across the formation, and just put Dickson across the formation as if the motion already happened!!!


A mild disguise, at the most. 

Does the Cal defense stop the play?



Nope.  Like usual, Masoli sees the wide open Dickson (green vision cone).



Masoli passes the ball to Dickson, who makes an easy catch along the sidelines for an uncontested four yard gain or so. 



So what was the defense doing on this play?  There was a three four five man rush, with two deep defenders (both safeties), and four underneath defenders (2 LBs, 2 CBs).  The defense is playing a two-deep, four under zone defense (not to be confused with a Cover 2, which is different).



So, in Part IV of this series, you saw Oregon run the same play  and complete passes to the TE Dickson for easy gains.  In this part of the series (Part V), I've shown you that Oregon was ran the same play twice more with easy completion completions to Dickson.  In other words, four of Dickson's eleven catches came from this exact same play.

Why didn't Gregory catch on?  Why didn't he do something else?  Was he doing something else?  Surely, by now he must have realized what was going on, right?

Right.  He did know what was going on. The players knew what was going on.  Gregory was trying something else. 

When did the first play of this post (Dickson's 7th catch) occur?  If you look at the pictures above, you'll see it occurred in the 2nd quarter.

When did the second play of this post (Dickson's 10th catch) occur?  If you look at the pictures above, you'll see it occurred in the 3rd quarter. 

Most defensive coordinators make adjustments at halftime.  Did Gregory make adjustments at half time?  Yes, he did.  And these adjustments will be the topic of another post in this series.

Are these adjustments reflected in the second play of this post (Dickson's 10th catch) which occurred in the 3rd quarter, and after halftime, and after Gregory made adjustments? 


Why not?  Just bad luck.  Gregory did make adjustments at halftime (and I will show you these adjustments in another subsequent post), and was using them here and there throughout the second half of the game when he thought appropriate; however, on the play where Dickson caught his 10th pass (the second play above), Gregory just so happened to not call a play that utilized the adjustments. Gregory was trying to mix things up.  The offense had been moving the ball well.  That play was the 11th play in the offense's drive.  They had been moving the ball, even against Gregory's adjustments, and Gregory tried to throw a curve ball at the defense with a different play.  And unfortunately for Gregory, the timing was just bad as since the offense had called "sprint out pass to Dickson in the flat" play that feasts on the defense that Gregory had called.

It's just bad luck.


Stay tuned, there are still a few more posts in this series, including the one where I will reveal what halftime adjustments Gregory installed.