Some pretty stunning quotes came from Chip Kelly during an interview with John Canzano during the week before the UCLA game. The title above was actually not said, but the intent was there in different words. What Chip actually said was, while similar to above, much longer than what I could put into a title. I taped the quotes and that took awhile because of how fast he talks and how he gets so much into thirty seconds. The question dealt with changing our offense as teams catch up to what we’re doing. He did say that, “I don’t understand the thought of where people are going to catch up to us. There is not a magic formula where people are going to catch up to us.” There are a couple of key elements to the success of the Oregon Spread Offense, and while we all know a couple of them—there are three components that have escaped the understanding of the mainstream media and the USC game gave us examples of them.
When journalists/opposing fans refer to the “gimmicks” of the Oregon Offense, it is usually centered around the Zone Read, partly because they haven’t seen it much, and partly because they don’t understand it. A pattern in our games is when our running game, in particular the Inside Zone Read play, is pounded at the defense in the second half as they wear down. At the 11:00 minute mark in the 4th quarter we see an example of it exploding although it doesn’t look as though the defense is reacting quite so slowly. The real reason for its success at all times of the game comes from the extra blocker we pick up on the side of the LOS that the play is run to. What other offense gets one more blocker on the play-side? It is a HUGE reason for our success, and the media to date has NEVER mentioned it; our running game took off when we began to implement the Inside Zone Read, (IZR) and Outside Zone Read (OZR) play and learned the unique way of Zone Blocking for the Zone Read Spread Offense. Whoever we are Zone Reading on the LOS—the DE or DT is not being blocked, thus the blocking responsibilities slide over and we get an extra blocker on the plays-side. It is so simple, yet so brilliant; get a hat-on-a-hat and we run the ball much better. Consider all that has been written and diagrammed by the media about the Oregon Offense and NONE have examined this vital reason for our success.
If two teams are equal, but one team negates a defensive lineman on the other team AND picks up an extra play-side blocker—you think that might make a difference? Could it help explain how we overcome teams with greater talent?
Chip Kelly said in that interview that, “we’re not fooling anybody with what we do.” It is true that he lines up the same way every time in the backfield and tells the defense: 1) the play we’re running, and 2) where we’re running it to! Have you ever heard of a coach doing that? (Beyond Green Bay in the 1960s?) It is amazing, and yet it is part of his design of the overall game plan. When he lines the RB behind the QB, then it is an IZR to the opposite side of the center, every time. Teams know that and as we saw in the UCLA game will move their defense right into the hole we plan to attack. Our first touchdown against USC came from LMJ threatening to run the OZR from right-to-left and the Trojan defense knew it, and pursued hard on outside contain of our left sideline. Yet this announcement helped our play as we ran a play-action pass for a TD to Maehl. The Free Safety has to come over and stop the run first, and in one second we have the WR whoosh past him? Chip announces the play and direction with the formation, and if you don’t adjust your defense, then he WILL run the play right at you. If you do over-compensate your defense to the hole, then he runs his series of off-shoot plays from the same backfield formation to exploit the over-commitment of your defense. Announcing the play and the location in advance is a fundamental aspect of the Chip Kelly Spread Offense that many teams do NOT implement, and the media has not breathed a word of this crucial tenet for Oregon’s success.
Chip gave us a juicy quote that summarized the dilemma for defenses when he said, “you have to make the decision of what you’re going to do. Are you going to put more people in the box to stop us running? If you do, then you have to worry about us throwing the football.” The TD to Tuinea at 1:21 in the 2nd quarter was the perfect example of that as we ran an IZR the play before and the Trojan defense was determined and set when we came out in another IZR play formation. DT did a superb job of actually putting the ball in the belly of James to carry out the play-action fake. Watch the replay and see EIGHT defenders in the box and the LBs coming up as Darron was beginning the mesh. Again the concept of announcing the play in advance hardens the defense as they use this information to frequently stuff the play; these play announcements also becomes the defense’s downfall as we run other plays from the same backfield formation, and no, the media has not understood this key element of the Chip Kelly Spread Offense.
I wrote after the Stanford game that we would see more downfield passing plays introduced, but I had no idea that we would get this pleasant barrage of the last two games. I indicated that the last area for the passing game was the long-ball, and boy, Maehl gave us that exciting touchdown in the second quarter. The unfolding of the passing offense has been entertaining as we went from Bubble Screens to long ball offshoot passes from that play, to mid-range, and then longer-range passes from the play action series. Chip Kelly said in his interview, “That’s what being a Spread team is. You have to defend the WHOLE field.” This brings up another component that has made this team so potent this year and that is the concept of OFFENSIVE BALANCE. We didn’t have it in recent years as Coach Kelly adjusted to the talents of his QBs of that time, but the last two games had 50.80% passing yards, and 49.20% running yards. The amount of yards in each game was stunning as we gained nearly 600 yards in each game against a weaker team in the Bruins, and a stronger team in the Trojans. Holy Crap!
If I’d told you at the beginning of the season that Thomas would only run for 48 and 42 yards in successive games and yet we would have over a 56 point average in those games—would you have believed it? Darron Thomas is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, but he doesn’t have to run it like Masoli for offensive fireworks when he throws the ball as skillfully as he does. Perfect balance baby! You know—300 yards running and 300 yards passing in a game! It sounds incredible, yet 1,181 yards is what we accomplished in the last two games with a nearly ideal balance of passing/running yards. Last year we were good, but the downfield passing that so many of us lusted for at this season’s beginning has wonderfully come to fruition. We can beat elite teams that have better talent due to our offensive balance and the other aforementioned elements of the Chip Kelly Spread Offense.
The Inside Zone Read play at 12:49 in the second quarter was notable because an O-lineman got beat and LaMike did a spin move to get a tough four yards. On the next play we line in an Outside Zone Read play going left to right and we see USC over-pursue to the outside to stop it. (Because we announced the play in advance) Our O-Line does a wonderful job of sealing the defenders to the outside and LMJ cuts inside for huge lane to the 42 yard TD. It was great to see Nick Cody in the game make an influence block on the D-lineman, and then go out and make enough contact with the USC LB to slow him up enough to miss James zipping by in the open hole.
However, the announcing of the play and superb blocking were NOT the only contributing aspects to the success of the play!
Go back to the end of the play before, when LMJ is pounced upon for the four yard gain. Watch him get up and hand the ball to the official. From that very instant—COUNT out loud, one-thousand, two-thousand, etc. You will see the ball snapped between only five and six seconds! The Trojan defense was still getting down into their stance, and only had time to recognize the OZR backfield and run to their assignments. The No-Huddle impact goes beyond the usual effect when it’s done that fast. They can’t get lined up and adjust to the formation and offensive player positioning in 5-6 seconds. As I watched the play over again in slow-motion I noticed that DT did NOT look to the sideline for the play! Then it occurred to me that you can’t possibly run to your positions, look to the sideline and get the play and snap it in 5-6 seconds after the end of the last play—unless you have a PLAY PACKAGE called in advance! I was wondering if we were going to do that, to call a couple of plays in advance and then run them at Warp Speed? Yep—it looks like that has begun! Wow! (Another miss by the media)
When Chip says that, “there is not a magic formula where people are going to catch up to us,” it rings as puzzling because other teams CAN go through the thousands of Zone Read repetitions to build muscle memory, or operate practices at break-neck speed to build endurance over a two year period. But will they? Will defenses apply the same level of commitment to stopping our offense as we put into mastering it? Hmmmmm.
Geez we love our Ducks!