The Carolina Panthers may have ended the San Francisco 49ers drive for the playoffs in defeating them by the high baseball score of 10-9. While the Panthers Offense was beating itself, the Panthers Defense 4-3 defense was beating the stuffing out of the 49ers Offense, and in the process put together a textbook on how to stop any Read-Option attack.
The Read-Option, and all of its variations, have one thing in common: they all are based on the actions of the defensive end. If the defensive end, or “DE”, (generally the outside rusher on the defense) takes an inside move, the quarterback goes outside, but if the DE goes ouside, the quarterback hands off to the running back.
But what if the defensive end’s move is predesigned to go after the quarterback, regardless of what he does? That’s what the Panthers did with their defensive ends Greg Hardy on the right and Charles Johnson on the left.
Hardy and Johnson were not reading the moves of San Francisco 49rs QB Colin Kaepernick, they went into the 49ers backfield on a search-and-destroy mission. The Panthers “stacked” their linebackers and occasionally brought up the strong safety to do the reading in the run game – that left the linemen to pursue. And in so doing, they forced Colin Kaepernick to make a quick read or get stuffed. When he handed off, the runners, particular Frank Gore gained little yardage. But when Colin kept the ball, he was stuffed, repeatedly.
This aggressive approach also had its advantage in the passing game because the Panthers were able to mount a furious pass rush. In fact, because the Panthers were literally drapped over the 49ers offensive lineman, and because they sacked Kaepernick six times and hurried the QB many more times, the average per pass attempt was an unthinkably low 2.1 yards.
That’s right: 2.1 yards. The 49ers actually had a rushing average that was double their passing average – 4.4 yards versus 2.1 yards. But overall, their total offensive play average was 2.9 yards.
The San Francisco 49ers have to understand that you can’t win with “single system” football, unless the “single system” is actually a collection of other “single systems” which is why the Bill Walsh Offense lasts until this day.
The Read-Option should be thought of as a component in an NFL Offense, but not the offense itself. If the 49ers went back to their Bill Walsh schematic roots, the outcome of the Panther game on Sunday would have been much different.