Breakdown of the NFL's Sneakiest Trick Plays of 2011
What makes a trick play so fascinating to watch? Is it the simple fact of being taken by surprise, or is it the creative element that gets us excited? Whatever the answer may be, the NFL was full of trickery in 2011.
There wasn't a team last year that ran as many "non-NFL plays" as the Carolina Panthers. By "non-NFL plays" I'm referring to plays that one wouldn't normally see at the NFL level. Some of the plays they ran were taken from the college ranks, but if the plays help pick up first downs or even better yet, helps score touchdowns, who cares.
"The Annexation of Puerto Rico"
One of the most memorable plays the Panthers ran was "The Annexation of Puerto Rico," which many may remember from the Little Giants movie.
An interesting look from the offensive line on this play pre-snap. Both tight ends, both tackles and both guards are standing straight up and down. The only lineman not standing is center Ryan Kalil.
After Kalil quick snaps the ball to quarterback Cam Newton, Newton then spins off the back of Richie Brockel. As Newton spins to Brockel's outside shoulder, he drops the ball into his hands; Brockel makes sure to keep his hands low, so the ball remains hidden.
"The Annexation of Puerto Rico" is a play that is solely based on misdirection. As Brockel starts to head for the pylon, Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith head right to act as if that is the direction of the play. It's easy to see that a couple of Texans defenders still think Newton has the ball. That slight hesitation is what helps Brockel get out ahead, so he can score a couple of key blocks.
Greg Olsen provided a nice seal block on No. 38 Danieal Manning at the top of the screen while Jordan Gross, Ryan Kalil and Geoff Hangartner mowed over the rest as Brockel walked into the end zone untouched.
There are two things that make this play hard to defend. First, I can't remember the last time, if ever, I've seen this play ran in the NFL. Secondly, the misdirection and the way the ball stays hidden keeps the defense guessing. Halfway through this play there were Texans defenders standing around because they still didn't know who had the ball.
Don't expect the Panthers to use this play every week, and it's highly possible they may not ever use it again, but plays of this nature keep the opposing team on their toes.
The Double-Reverse Pass
The Cleveland Browns were also ones to sport one of the better trick plays of the 2011 season. Even though the Browns double-reverse pass was deemed illegal after the game because of two forward passes, it stood during the game and was ruled legal at the time making it eligible for review in this article.
Pre-snap the Browns have Joshua Cribbs at quarterback; Colt McCoy is playing left wide receiver, and Seneca Wallace is playing right wide receiver. The offensive line is unbalanced on the left side as Tony Pashos is playing tight end left with Benjamin Watson playing right tackle.
Wallace is sent in motion before the ball is even snapped. Once Cribbs secures the snap, he hands the ball off to Wallace. While the ball is exchanging hands, the offensive line is blocking down to the left since the momentum of the play is moving that way. The Browns are trying to gain an advantage on the left side of the formation since the play is moving that direction.
Now it becomes clear as to why they went unbalanced in the first place.
The double-reverse pass is a very long developing play because the ball exchanges hands so many times. When there is a long developing play that hasn't been blown up in the backfield, there is only one group to praise, and that is the offensive line. They are keeping the play alive by not allowing defenders to leak through.
After Wallace tosses the ball back to McCoy, he releases on a wheel route. The Rams are in zone coverage, which allows McCoy to step up in the pocket and deliver a strike to Seneca Wallace down the sideline.
This play is actually quite hard to defend for a number of reasons. Josh Cribbs demands respect whenever he is on the field because of his playmaking ability. Out of this formation he has the ability to run the ball himself or turn the play into a single reverse by handing the ball off to Wallace who is more than capable of finding the open man.
The package deploys a couple of diverse players who can exploit a defense in more than one way.
Fake Field Goal
Since the Raiders have a good amount of money wrapped up in both their punter and kicker, I guess there is nothing wrong with trying to squeeze as much talent out of them as they can.
It's safe to say Shane Lechler won't be taking over for Carson Palmer anytime soon, but kudos to him and the rest of the special teams unit for a well designed and executed fake field goal.
Before the ball is even snapped, there are a couple of things to keep an eye out for. The Browns are overloading the Raiders' right side, which usually means they are coming hard from that overloaded side. Seven players were lined up over the Raiders' right side with just four lined up over the Raiders' left.
As the two rush ends come hard for Cleveland, Kevin Boss splits them and leaks into no man's land where it's just him and a straight shot to the end zone.
The likelihood of the Raiders running this play again is high because of their track record with fake field goals. Some teams don't even attempt one a season, while the Raiders attempted more than one fake field goal in 2011. A fake field goal can be hard to defend especially if they've picked up on your habits like the Raiders did in their matchup against the Browns.
Trick plays serve a purpose just like anything else does as long as they are not overused while still adding entertainment and excitement to the game.
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