Anatomy Of A Game Saving Blocked Kick
By FirstDown PlayBook on Sep 12, 2017

A few hours ago while most of us on the east coast were sleeping, the Denver Broncos and the Los Angeles Chargers were playing the last five seconds of their season opening ESPN Monday night game. The Chargers lined up to kick a 44-yard, game tying field goal and this morning the NFL.com headlines read “Broncos hold back Bolts comeback by a fingertip.”

The headline is so spot on not only because of it’s accuracy but also because if you slow down to see everything it took to get that fingertip on the ball, it is a great example of why it is so hard to win a game in the National Football League. The Broncos did a lot of little things right on this special teams play and the play leading up to it. First, let’s take a look at a drawing of the block itself. Substitute defensive lineman #96 Shelby Harris gets his finger on the kick after penetrating his A gap.

 

 

Now lets look at some of the things that lead up to this game wining play:

  1. New Broncos Special Teams coordinator Brock Olivo had an excellent scheme in place for this huge play. #96 Shelby Harris executed a swim move into the A gap but also had a lot of help from #95 Derek Wolfe and #50 Zaire Anderson who executed a powerful “knock” techniques on the Charger’s Guard and Tackle to that side.
  2. The scheme initially looks like the Broncos are going to knock the Chargers Tight End and try to spring #34 but the last second shift by #50 Zaire changes that before the Chargers can adjust.
  3. #99 Adam Gotsis also does a good job of making the Snapper think that there is going to be an A gap rush on the other side of the formation. This prevented the Snapper from giving any help to the Guard to block #96. Gotsis ends up swimming in the B gap late.
  4. Finally, hats off to Olivo and veteran defensive line coach Bill Kollar who we are certain both had a hand in teaching the techniques executed by #95 and #96 Harris on the block.

 

As you can see from the screenshot above Harris has kept his pads down long enough to get penetration in the small A gap crease and just as importantly got his pads thin as he penetrated. His shoulders are turned to the sideline as he gives the protectors less surface area to block. Finally Harris elevates AFTER getting penetration and gets his NEAR hand up. These are all things that are coached and taught as you can see from one of our FirstDown PlayBook technique slides below. If Harris or any of his teammates do any of these things incorrectly there is no blocked kick.

 

Some might say that we are making too much of the coaching aspect of this football play and it was just a great effort play in a crucial moment. We won’t deny the effort part or even that there are some things that the Chargers could have done better to prevent the block but when it comes to competing in the NFL, sometimes it takes every small detail to be executed right to win the game by a “fingertip”.

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