PS Pro – 2020 Land Ho! Divisional Sunday

Posted: January 17, 2021 in All Things Power Spread

Welcome to the 2020s. PS Pro synching up College and Pro Football for the first time in 80 yrs!

Aggressive Flexible Variety. The exploration began with Aggression early last Century. Moved into Variety in the 2nd part of that Century. Now, early in this Century Flexibility will fully be explored.

Change can be tough, but if resistance is released and the “new” embraced, it can be miraculously transformative.

Perfection found not from our limited perceptions, but from our higher selves.

Power dynamically linked to Spread.

2020 – Ushering in the Age of Flexibility

For Playoff Preview - scroll below

I called for Age of Flexibility last year and we got it. Big time. 2020 ushered in THE CHANGE. Adapt and grow or move on. It took the stubborn NFL 20 years to catch up to what was going on in the College Game. Let’s hope our World adapts a little quicker.

Football Evolution – Pro vs College

Last year I spoke of the complete “merging” of NFL and College concepts for the first time since they effectively separated in the 1940s.

At that time, the NFL developed the Modern T, while College gravitated to the burgeoning Option Football Ideal. Timing & Execution vs Repetition & Improvisation. SpaceTimeTeam explored from within the details of knowledge vs knowledgable exploration into the unknown. Truth + Discovery. Power Spread.

The Yin and the Yang – The Power and the Spread

As the 1960s approached, the NFL began to explore the Pro Concepts of Sid Gillman in both the Spread Run Game (Packer Sweep/Zone Blocking) and the Spread Pass Game (The Original West Coast Offense), while Colleges were meshing a simpler version of Pass and Option Run Concepts (Wishbone/Flexbone/Twin Veer/Pro Veer).

By the 80s, Don Coryell’s Gillman Spread Pass Attack gave way to Bill Walsh’s evolved West Coast Spread Pass Scheme, while Joe Gibbs perfected the West Coast Power Run Scheme. Colleges began to perfect their own WC Offense in the form of BYU’s Pass Spread Attack. Again, a simpler WC pass design with more improvisation.

The College Option Game – a game of Improvisation – led to a QB improvised BYU Offense and finally a WR improvised Run & Shoot Passing Spread. Originally created by Tiger Ellison in the 60s – a precursor to Power Spread – Mouse Davis turned it into the first true Spread Pass attack.

In the meantime, Hal Mumme & Mike Leach were morphing the BYU Scheme into a pure Spread attack by marrying ideas from both the WC and R&S pass attacks. This new Air Raid Offense of the 90s led to both the Pro and College Spreads of the 00s.

In the middle of all of this came Rich Rodriquez’s accidental discovery of the Read Option while coaching his R&S Offense in the 90s. Option Run Power seamlessly integrated with Option Pass Spread. Finally after 50 years, Football found a way to match together Power + Spread.

Power Spread – A Dynamic Dichotomy

The Seed of Evolution was planted. The PS Triumvirate in the 00s – Urban Meyer / Gus Malzahn / Art Briles – grew the Tree from all the concepts described above.

Colleges implemented an integrated, improvised, option-oriented version of Spread – Power Spread, while the NFL struggled to find a cohesive balance between their Pro Power Runs and Pro Spread Passing Attacks. A fractured Pro-Multiple or Multiple-Pro Offense.

Finally in the decade that followed, the Pro Multiple WC Spread System was married to PS. First by Jim Harbaugh in a Pro based PS Option system, then cemented by BYU Alum, Andy Reid, in a full RunPassOption(RPO) or Pro PS Offense.

As Defenses reacted accordingly, PS concepts spread fast. By the time we got to 2020, NFL and College Schemes – both on Offense & Defense – looked more similar than they had in 80 years.

College has now added more Pro concepts back to its PS base, while NFL Teams are experimenting with PS as their base as well. PS Pro! – PS

Pro+College Reunited – Pro PS > PS Pro > PS 2020 > Full PS

Almost every Football Team at any level now uses some version of PS Concepts. One thing that keeps the Pro game slightly separated from College is the actual term, “PRO”.

Colleges use Power Spread as its base concept – PS Pro, PSAR, PS 2020 – while most of the NFL still uses Pro concepts as its base- Pro PS, Pro PSAR, Pro PS 2020 or PS Pro 2020. Now, the NFL is also experimenting with PS based concepts in the form of PS Pro and PSAR Pro.

The NFL still loves to work within the details of their knowledge, while Colleges press forward into unchartered territory. Pro PS and PS Pro 2020 differ from PS 2020 in their approach. Reaching back to old concepts and refurbishing them into something new. Gillman+, Pro PS Gillman and PSWC, along with older concepts dating back to the Modern T and Single Wing, have been explored over the last two years.

The NFL has the Time & Talent to experiment with such details, while College has the Space – in terms of leeway – to take chances with new ideas. Over the next decade, these Pro PS 2020, PS Pro 2020 and PS 2020 Schemes will begin to form the Full PS, which will be Aggressive, with Variety and Flexibility, so as to be Executable for any type of Player, yet Deceptive for any type of Opponent.

Simple Brilliance. Aggressive Flexible Variety in Personnel – to suit any style of scheme. Where Timing does not get bogged down in execution, but creates Space Exploration. Where Space does not get bogged down in repetition, but creates Timing Improvisation. The Power of Discovery is allowed to flourish within the Spread of Knowledge. The Full Power Spread.

~DP

Divisional Sunday

As I said in my Wildcard Preview, I would have to take into consideration the off-field disruptions due to Covid as they would definitely impact the games. It was more impactful than I could have imagined.

The Covid Factor

The Seahawks looked as flat as I have ever seen an NFL team at the start of playoff season. They were an older banged up team, but the lack of energy on a team led by one of the most passionate head coaches in Pete Carroll was shocking.

The Steelers were a completely different Covid situation. Unlike Seattle, they were playing a team going through their own covid outbreak. Cleveland was missing coaches, players and dealing with a lot of disruption in the week leading up to their game. Yet it was the Steelers who looked completely out of sorts.

What was evident from the start of the game was that the Steelers were still dealing with the fallout of covid/injuries late in the year when they lost 3 in a row after an undefeated start. They were resting players and not getting in good practices. A must for their Pro Spread Pass Attack, which requires great Timing and Synching of the Offense.

I had thought they were over all of this, based on some of their play at the end of the season, but I assumed too quickly. Digging deeper – after the fact – I found that there was still a lot going on behind the scenes. This was not the same team from earlier in the year.

All the credit to Cleveland and their HC Kevin Stefanski who navigated their own crazy week at an amazing level. It would have been interesting to have been behind the scenes to see exactly how he and his staff managed that week. Possibly a training tape for other teams..?

Youth vs Age

It is interesting to note that arguably the two most fired up teams over the Wildcard Weekend were the Rams and the Browns. Both are younger teams. Especially compared to their opponents.

It sent me on a study of the fallout from Covid 2020. While not conclusive, I did notice that the older players and teams struggled to keep their energy levels and consistency of play. More injuries, lethargic letdowns, and general shitshow play at gametime.

Interestingly, I didn’t notice complete schematic and coaching blunders like I saw in Ohio State in their disruptive shitshow week before the College Football National Championship Game. The Buckeyes showed up with a very disorganized defensive scheme and gameplan – unlike anything I have seen over the last 2 years with the same DC Greg Mattison. Also, Ryan Day’s wasn’t his usual masterful game caller on offense. It was evident that the focus wasn’t solid entering that game.

I think on the Pro Level there is much more organization in place to deal with Covid Outbreaks, Injuries, off the field incidents, etc. In this kind of shitshow, the issue with the NFL may have more to do with Age of the Team than the Organization. Obviously for College, age isn’t the issue.

Impossible to Predict

Really, as I said in my posts last week, predicting off the field effects heading into a game is near impossible without actually being with the Team. So I continue to take notice of what occurs on the field and look at the overall picture to continue to get some sort of understanding as we go forward.

This weekend we have two teams that had a bye week. Sometimes that’s a big advantage. Other times the teams will be flat with the week off. During Covid, I would think some time off and any extra practice time would be an advantage.

We have the young Browns and Rams excited over their big wins, but could this present a letdown vs the two best teams in the NFL, Green Bay and Kansas City, coming off byes..? Especially for the Browns who had one of their greatest wins in franchise history.

The Bills and Ravens didn’t look great in their wins, but they played solid. For me the Saints and Buccaneers looked even more solid, but they are older type teams – especially on Offense. Plus, the Saints are banged up some.

How have practices gone? How banged up are these teams for real? More importantly, what is their levels Mentally and Emotionally. Ask the Browns – Focus and Passion can overcome a lot. These questions I won’t know until I watch them play. So here goes…

Cleveland at Kansas City

Amazingly, I’m not sure the Browns looked so great in their big win versus Pittsburgh last week. Their DLine looked tired and didn’t get much pressure. Their DScheme was ridiculously conservative until they lost their big lead. They’re Offense looked good, but against what?? The Steelers D – save a very few players – had one of the poorest efforts I’ve ever seen from an NFL Playoff Team.

Yet, here they are – banged up and missing players and coaches all over the place. Playing waiver wire type players at CB and G. In fact, their LG was trying to catch on with the XFL last year and making his first ever start. He was injured in the 2nd Half and replaced from a waiver wire pickup during the week! This is in addition to All Pro RT Jack Conklin also going down in the game!!

I am not making any of this up. Do yourself a favor and look at Cleveland’s roster for that game. I even question my own judgement for giving them a shot to make the game close in my Preview. There is one reason I did – Kevin Stefanski.

“I am not throwing away my Shot!”

As I thought, Stefanski had the Browns ready to go. That they let down in the 2nd Half with such a huge lead is totally understandable given the state of their decimated roster and beat up players on the field. It didn’t help that their DC got so conservative for a large part of the game and let Big Ben and the Steelers passing game get in a rhythm and on a roll.

I have written much in the last year about Morale, Trust and Faith and how far that goes in overcoming Talent, Technique and Scheme. The Browns vs the Steelers were a perfect example. The Browns practically “willed” this win. Almost like they gave the Steelers enough rope to hang themselves.

If it sounds like I’m taking this win away from the Browns – saying that the Steelers lost the game, the Browns didn’t win it – I’m not. I am saying that Morale or the c2 is much bigger than the rest or the resting state or m(mass). No judgement. Just fact. Universe.

Morale c2 = ENERGY!

Here is a list I made of the craziness I saw from that playoff game. If the Browns are to beat the defending SB Champs, then they will need to keep this high level of Energy going and create more Chaos.

The Power of Chaos
  1. FIRST PLAY – Top NFL Center, Maurkice Pouncey snaps ball over Big Ben, into the endzone. Touchdown Browns.
    • Representative of this whole game. Pouncey is a banged up vet right now. He skipped last game and some practice time to rest. He was not ready to go- AT ALL.
    • He continued to sleep walk the rest of the first half.
      • Blown up by DT Ogunjobi on a 3rd&1, costing the Steelers a first down.
      • Crushed on a interception return block by DB Joseph, while “floating” around after the Steelers 4th turnover!
      • A ton of Oline penalties in the 1st Half – of which Pouncey is supposed to be the leader.
    • So I’m not taking this play away from the Browns. I’m giving it to them! They had the high Morale. They came in with the ENERGY.
      • Look at the replay of this play. Only 2 Steelers went after the ball! There were 6 Browns and more coming.
      • The Steelers were just standing around. The Browns had the Energy. The Steelers were sleep walking and out of sync. Not only on Offense. Defense as well. The Browns, in the midst of a Covid/Inj outbreak, were fired up for their first playoff game in a long time.
  2. Steelers Defense just as bad
    • Browns playing with a journeyman LG and running simple Zone Power Runs to RB Chubb and the Steelers getting clobbered.
      • DE Heyward rolling around on the ground.
      • DBs Edmunds, Hilton and others wanting no piece of Chubb. “Feigning” effort.
      • Continued into the 2nd Quarter. Edmunds, who is a talented Safety and had a big year, continued to “stay away” from the action.
    • Hunt Touchdown Runs
      • Completely ran through a weak Dline effort then bowled over LB Spillane, pushing him into the endzone.
      • Again, Edmunds and others not even getting after Hunt on his second TD – giving up on the play way too early.
    • Complete confusion on pass defense on Browns 5th TD to end the Half.
      • Steelers D starting to show some energy in 2nd Quarter, then the lethargic DBs laid down again for last Browns TD drive before the Half.
      • On Touchdown pass, there was a coverage mixup, but S Fitzpatrick could have covered for his teammate, instead chose to let Browns TE Hooper just run free for easy TD..??
  3. Defensive Schemes changed the Energy
    • Steelers started blitzing more and their Energy rose.
    • Browns played conservative Deep Zone+4Man Rush and their Energy dipped.
    • Later in game, the Browns started mixing Pressure+Coverage and were able to raise Energy, get one more interception, and hold on for the win.
  4. HC Tomlin won’t go for it on 4th&1 at midfield
    • Tough call, as he didn’t want to ruin the Steelers momentum at the time, but…
    • No Risk = No Reward
      • Momentum was ruined anyway – by Decision rather than Play.
      • The weight of the year – of the game – came down on the Steeler Minds.
      • Continued to blitz – but without Energy.
        • Easy Play-Action for the Browns QB Mayfield.
        • Easy Screen pass TD to Chubb off another “weak” blitz by Steelers.
          • DBs no effort again – especially Hilton..again.
          • A tired team off a long end to a long year.
Defending Super Bowl Champs

I know – I haven’t said a peep about who the Browns are playing. Simply the defending Super Bowl Champs. The reason is because we pretty much already know what the Chiefs will bring. The question is more on the Browns side.

They will need that same Energy they had versus the Steelers. Create the same sort of chaos. After one of their biggest wins in franchise history, that is not a sure thing as a big letdown looms large.

The State of the Chiefs

I have written a lot about the brilliance of Andy Reid’s PS Pro 2020 >> Full Pro PS Offense. I’ve also written about his addition of DC Steve Spagnuolo and the evolving PS Defense he’s creating. Yet another Jim Johnson Protege leading the way in Aggressive Flexible Variety through Pressure/Coverage Mix. Passive Aggressive Subterfuge.

Browns DC Joe Woods needs to keep up the aggressive mix he showed late in the game vs the Steelers for the Browns to have any chance. Stefanski’s Offense isn’t anything that innovative, but he creates nice gameplans and calls a good game. He will need to keep Spags D off balance with a lot of Mis-Direction Play-Action to open up Space for the Power Run game an Pass Spread with Mayfield.

The Browns get their LG Bitonio and CBs Ward & Johnson back as well as their coaching staff – including Stefanski. They will actually be stronger in personnel, with less disruptions in practice, heading into this game. My only concern with them is the letdown factor, but with the Culture Momentum Stefanski has created, the Browns could show up big again.

My big question with the Chiefs is their Covid/Inj situation.

The Covid Factor

In general, the Chiefs were one of the lucky teams this year that didn’t have major disruptions due to Covid. That started to change late in the year.

Their WR Watkins has been dealing with injuries all year and is out for this game. Their top RB Edwards-Helaire and RT Remmers are questionable. Star QB Mahomes was beat up some at the end of the year. Their regular ironman RT Schwartz went down for the first time in his career with a back injury. They already lost their LG Duvernay-Tardif to start the year as he opted out due to Covid. His replacement, Osemele went on Injured Reserve in the middle of the year with both knees hurting.

Their Defense has been banged up all year, but have their starters ready to go for this one. Their depth is good on both sides, though if Mahomes goes down, that would leave Chad Henne, who isn’t the same type of PS QB.

The Chiefs play understandably dipped at the end of the year as injuries continued to mount. If they come in flat off the bye week – or god forbid, completely out of it like the Steelers – then they could definitely have the same problems the Steelers had with the Browns.

Prognostication – Kansas City

I just don’t see the Browns pulling off a miracle two weeks in a row. The Letdown Factor is too big for me.

Because the Browns are healthier and have less disruptions this week, I think they could actually stay with the Chiefs for a lot of the game. But the Schemes and Talent for the Chiefs will finally deflate the Browns and secure a win for yet another home favorite this weekend.

Maybe a little taste of predictability amidst a chaotic year. Or maybe the Browns take their SHOT one more time…

Tampa Bay at New Orleans

Ironically, given the year we are in at the moment, this Divisional Weekend may be a clean sweep for the home favorites. Some predictability amidst the chaos. This is the last of the 4 Divisional Playoff Games and for me the toughest to pick.

Both teams were solid last week, but not great. Each team has a Hall of Fame QB that the the fans are excited to see, but last week it was the Defenses that stepped to the plate.

Tampa Bay looked like they would pull away from Washington all game, but DC Todd Bowles backed off his blitz aggression with the lead and let fiery backup QB Taylor Heinicke get on a roll with both his legs and arm. He brought the blitz back late, almost knocking Heinicke out of the game at one point, to seal the deal.

New Orleans Defense with DC Dennis Allen was all over the Bears. Aggressive versus the run and a great mix of pressure – zone and man blitz – in the pass game to keep the Bears without a touchdown until garbage time at the end.

The Covid Factor

New Orleans had more Covid/Inj issues this year than Tampa Bay and there were times last week that they looked like a tired team to me. Luckily for them the Bears were in worse shape – especially on their beat up Oline. They had little chance to open holes in the run game or keep QB Trubisky protected in the pass game.

The Saints needed to shut the Bears down as their own offense also struggled for much of the game. Chicago showed no fear of the Saints vertical pass game and played short zone defense to start. To start the 2nd Half, Brees was able to hit one deep pass to his banged up top WR Michael Thomas. This opened some space underneath as the Bears went into a more conservative Cover 2. Still, points weren’t plentiful in this game.

Now the Saints may be without 2 big pieces of their Offense – RB Murray and All-Everything QB/RB/TE/WR Taysom Hill. Their Oline is still somewhat banged up and with an older injury prone WR core, this is the last thing the Saints needed. Brees struggles these days to stretch the field vertically. The way in which Payton uses Hill provides the Variety needed to open up space for the Saints Power Runs, which in turn opens up space for Patyon’s WC Spread Pass game.

After a relatively smooth year, the Bucs are now starting to feel the effects of a long year. Their beat up WR crew hung tough as Evans, Godwin, Brown and TE Brate all made big plays last week. Top wideouts Evans and Godwin are still listed on the Injury Report, but should play. Tampa’s starting RB Ronald Jones continues to struggle with a quad injury and may not. Starting G Alex Cappa broke his ankle during the game and definitely will not.

Though both QBs are ancient at this point, the Saints are the overall the older team. If not for the recent injury issues with the Bucs, I would be leaning to this as the one game where the home favorite loses this weekend. Still, if Hill is unable to go for the Saints, that just might happen.

Offense – Bruce Arians vs Sean Payton

Both Head Coaches need to be at their best if their beat up offenses are going to score enough points to win this game. Tampa HC Bruce Arians is very much a Pro Spread guy, rooted in the original West Coast Pro Pass game of Sid Gillman. Payton’s roots are more the remastered West Coast Scheme of Bill Walsh, though he’s had a variety of influence.

Arians stretches the field vertically as well as horizontally, thus needs a QB that can go deep effectively. Payton uses the pass as an extension of the run game – short accurate passes matriculating down the field. Both coaches, more and more, are tending to mix in heavy power packages and like Sean McVay of the Rams, will bring in an extra Olineman to further this idea.

Arians use to be all Gillman or Mike Martz – a vertical/horizontal Pass Spread with the run game used for variety and to set up more passing. This year I am noticing Brady’s old New England influences. Shorter Route designs (Josh McDaniels West Coast Spread) with more heavy run packages (Charlie Weiss Erhardt/Perkins Power Spread) added later in the year. Arians also has added more WR Jet Sweep Action and Screens – Air Raid Style – again like McVay.

Payton also uses more WR Jet Sweeps, Mis-Direction Power, and Play-Action Spread than he has in the past. He’s also completely switched to a PS base with his use of Hill in different personnel packages, playing different positions. RB Alvin Kamara is a big part of this as well, both running and receiving. He will need to come up big if Hill doesn’t play.

This would be music to Tampa DC Bowles ears.

Defense – Todd Bowles vs Dennis Allen

If Bowles defense doesn’t have to account for Hill as an X-Factor, then he will scheme more aggressively. He can go with more Blitz pressure in both the run and pass, making the Saints one dimensional. Having to pass to win, combined with Bowles tricky coverage mix, could spell disaster for Brees and company. Either in the form of interceptions and/or another injury to Brees himself.

The good news for the Saints is that their DC is pretty good as well and they also will have a chance vs Tampa’s own banged up Oline and WR corps. RB Fournette has played well for Jones, so that is not so serious. What is serious is all the mixed coverage and blitz pressure Allen brings with his speedy Saints Defense.

Their DBackfield is strong at both CB and S in both Zone and Man Coverage and blitzing from deep or off the edge. The Saints are also strong up front with Cam Jordan and Trey Hendrickson. They can also stuff the run with Malcom Brown. Their LBs are athletic and create havoc as well.

Allen’s D held the Bucs Offense in check twice in two blowout wins this year. Two of Brady’s worse games. And now Tampa’s O is banged up some.

Fans are expecting a QB Duel, and while both Offenses were much better during the regular season, I think the Defenses could be the deciding factor again, like they were last week.

Prognostication – New Orleans if Hill plays. Toss Up otherwise.

I still like New Orleans. I think this older veteran team is starting to wear down from this crazy year, but has one more big game left in them.

If Hill plays, then I think they can grab the lead and mix the Power and Spread effectively throughout, while their tough D holds the Brady Bunch of Tampa at bay. If Tampa has more injuries during the game at WR and on their Oline, then it may not even be that close.

On the other hand, if Hill doesn’t play, then Bowles will make it tough on the Saints Offense, forcing Brees’ hand. Payton is an offensive mastermind and may come up with a scheme adjustment neither Bowles or I expect. If he doesn’t, and the Bucs don’t have more injuries on Offense, then they may just be the one upset of this “favorites” weekend.

Again, it is impossible to predict the Energy in this kind of year. I think both Teams are a bit beat up and worn out. Maybe the older Saints a little more. I’m betting Hill plays and the Saints win a tough one, keeping pace and holding onto a small lead throughout the game.

If he doesn’t, then who knows. Maybe another whacky game in a whacky covid year.

~PS

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