This is another look into Bill Walsh’s Finding the Winning Edge.

Chapter 10 of the book is entitled “Designing a Winning Game Plan.” Within this chapter, all the elements of what needs to be considered in building the game plan are discussed. A lengthy section of the chapter deals with Situation Offense. It is noted that there are at least nine different categories of situational offense: Normal down and distance in the open field, Backed-up, Third down, Fourth down, Red zone, First and goal, Goal line, 2-point play and Blitz.

The Patriots do a lot of situational offense work, and it has been specifically mentioned here and in the newspapers. I thought we’d look at one of those situations, and see what Walsh advises when the offense is backed up inside its own ten or five yard line. There are 13 priorities mentioned here that should be considered:

  • Moving the ball past at least the five yard line.
  • Selecting core plays which are low-risk.
  • Reducing the chances of fumbling by limiting ball-handling to key players.
  • Selecting plays from the short-yardage selection of your game-plan.
  • Cutting off defensive penetration with a double tight-end formation.
  • Utilizing a close flanker to block the blitzing strong safety.
  • Selecting passes which emphasize ball control.
  • Selecting ball-control passes which are thrown to the outside (i.e., passes thrown over the middle are more likely to result in either an interception or a fumble caused by a forceful hit on a relatively exposed receiver by a defender).
  • Throwing the ball deep to change the momentum and keep the defense off the field.
  • Throwing passes only to the strong-hand side of the quarterback (i.e., a right handed quarterback should pass to his right).
  • Avoiding plays in which both guards pull.
  • Attacking the defense between the ends.
  • Deciding if taking the safety is an acceptable option.

We can see that some things are obvious – using low risk plays, giving the ball to your sure-handed players, but the interesting one to me was the last one…taking the safety. We know that Bill Belichick and the Patriots did this memorably in a Monday night game in Denver a few years back…a play that was thought to be unorthodox, but was really one of the clear options for that particular situation.