Film Review: Blaine Gabbert's Touchdown Run

Another excellent Sunday of football has come and gone. The game between San Francisco and Chicago provided plenty of late intrigue, as overtime was forced when both teams scored in the final few minutes. A four-yard run from Ka'Deem Carey put the Bears ahead with 3:32 left in the game. The 49ers quickly responded on Blaine Gabbert's 44-yard run with 1:42 left. Chicago had plenty of time to answer, and Deonte Thompson's 76-yard kickoff return set up the Bears' offense for what seemed like the win. However, Robbie Gould missed a 36-yard field goal, sending the game to overtime. After the teams traded three-and-outs, San Francisco got the ball back and ended the game on one play, hitting Torrey Smith deep for a 71-yard reception. This was a game that seemed to be in the control of Chicago, but San Francisco was able to pull off the victory. Using the coaching film available on NFL.com, let's look at how Gabbert was able to break free for the touchdown run that tied the game. (All screenshots taken from the coaching film by myself.) Gabbert's touchdown run came on a third and three from the Bears' 44-yard line. The 49ers are in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end and three wide receivers) and line up in shotgun with two receivers on each side of the field, with the tight end in the near slot. Chicago goes with a sub package and rolls down a safety to line up over the tight end, giving a single-high safety look. At the snap, Gabbert gives a quick play-action fake, but the Bears's linebackers don't bite. Gabbert then looks to his left where he has Smith running a deep route on the outside, and Anquan Boldin in the slot running a quick route and sitting down just past the first down marker. Both options are well covered, and, feeling pressure from Willie Young who beat left tackle Joe Staley, Gabbert steps up in the pocket and sees an opening in the Bears' defense, which allows him to take off for the first down. Chicago was in man coverage with a safety and linebacker in zone coverage, commonly known as cover 1 robber. (The safety is in the deep middle of the field and the linebacker is in the shallow middle.) A scrambling quarterback can find success against man coverage, as the defenders will vacate certain areas of the field based on the routes of the receivers. Here, the middle of the field opens up as the linebackers split in coverage, one in man against the running back on a swing route, and the robber linebacker moves over to the quick route that Gabbert was initially targeting. Once Gabbert gets into the open field, the Bears' defense should be able to bring him down. Despite the fact that he ran a 4.62 forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine, he is by no means known as a running quarterback. Poor tackling and pursuit angles from the Bears' defense led to Gabbert breaking through for a touchdown. Looking at the picture below, Gabbert shouldn't have been able to get out of that situation. Rookie linebacker Jonathan Anderson (No. 58) took too shallow of an angle and was never able to make the play. Another rookie, safety Adrian Amos (No. 38), was the last line of defense and failed to bring Gabbert down. Amos comes up from his deep position a bit too fast. This comes into play when he fails to properly break down in order to make the tackle, and it looks like he slips a little. Still, he was never in great position to make the play. After the game, he explained that he was expecting Gabbert to slide. The last Chicago defender in the picture is cornerback Kyle Fuller (No. 23). Fuller forces Gabbert to cut to his left, and then Fuller is blocked from making the tackle by 49ers' wide receiver Quinton Patton, who walls Fuller off. Once Gabbert gets away from Amos, there is no defender to stop him reaching the end zone. Anderson continues his pursuit, but is never able to make the play due to his poor angle from earlier. Ultimately, multiple factors caused Gabbert to break free, and score the game-tying touchdown. Based on Amos' postgame comments, how much of the Bears defenses' failures on the play come from the fact that they are expecting Gabbert to slide? Another thing to note is that if Young doesn't get pressure, forcing Gabbert to scramble, he probably throws to tight end Blake Bell, who created separation at the top of his route and had room in the middle of the field. Giving up this rushing touchdown wasn't the end of the Bears by any means. Despite allowing this late touchdown, they were in a position to win, but missed the field goal and then weren't able to score in overtime. Matt Pearce is a graduate of National Football Post’s Introduction to Scouting and Scouting Boot Camp and is a journalism student at the University of Nebraska. Follow him on Twitter@Matt_Pearce13

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