Today I want to talk about “running Ryan Finley” and the impact that the quarterback had rushing the ball on Monday Night Football.
He ran quarterback draws, but he also ran a number of zone read plays, where he had the option to keep the ball or hand it off to the running back. To start off let’s talk about zone runs in general.
There are a lot of different ways to run the zone play and a lot of the variation relates to how you block the backside. The first one we’ll talk about is the Split Zone. Here they take the h-back, or tight end who is off the line of scrimmage, and bring him across the formation to block the end man on the line of scrimmage.
If the h-back is already lined up on the backside, you have another option. You can block out on the defensive line with the offensive tackle and offensive guard and insert the h-back for the linebacker.
Or you can look to influence backside defenders with the movement of other players like they did on this play with the jet motion and like they attempted to do on this play with the boot action by the quarterback.
Or you can read the backside and that’s the adjustment the Bengals made in this game, not just on zone plays, but we’ll specifically about the Zone Read.
With a Zone Read you are going to read the end man on the line of scrimmage on the backside, in this case, that’s No. 90 T.J. Watt, so they won’t block him. Drew Sample will come out wide and there will be some contact, but they aren’t really blocking Watt. Because Watt stays wide and can’t make a play on the running back, Finley hands the ball off.
This look is a little different. The h-back comes across the formation to be a lead blocker for the quarterback in case he keeps the ball. They also get a different read on this play. The end man on the line of scrimmage comes crashing down the line, looking to tackle the running back, so Finley pulls the ball and runs with it himself.
Finley said after the game that they didn’t actually practice these reads during the week. It was an adjustment that Zac Taylor and the offensive staff made during the game. Obviously, it worked out very well for them. Finley running the ball ended up being a big part of this win as is demonstrated by this 23-yard touchdown run by Finley in the 4th quarter.
That wasn’t the only 4th quarter run by Finley that played a major role in this game. He converted a 3rd and 5 on that drive by running a quarterback draw. It was a good run by Finley, but a great play call by Taylor. The Steelers were running Cover 2 Man. That means that they had 2 deep safeties and were playing man underneath with 5 defenders. There was only one linebacker in the box, and he was responsible for covering Samaje Perine man-to-man, so when the Bengals motioned Perine out of the backfield, there was nobody left on the second level of the defense. This is a perfect situation to run a quarterback draw. It was wide open for the first down.
Coming into this game, most Bengals fans were none too excited to see Finley matchup against this Steelers defense, but Taylor and his staff found a way to put Finley in a position to succeed and give the team a chance to win the game.
This was a phenomenal job both game-planning and making in-game adjustments to get the win.