Fooch's Note: Thanks to Grant for putting this FanPost together. This was an extremely interesting play call and I am curious to see if it is utilized moving forward.
Everybody knows that an NFL coach's life is spent in the film room. But the smartest coaches will use this very fact against their opposition by showing one thing and then doing another. The photo series that I've posted as the first comment depicts the second offensive play the Niners ran against the Redskins, a simple handoff to Kendall Hunter that gains 5 yards. What interests me isn't so much the effectiveness of this run play as the effect it has on the defense, and that it just might set up a counter QB option run play that can be run out of the same set.
I think this play might be Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman doing exactly that--running a play that will set up a much more devastating play that utilizes the unique running ability of Colin Kaepernick.
Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter, and Frank Gore start bunched in trips right and motion into an old-school full house backfield with Gore deep. At the snap of the ball, Gore starts right, Miller heads out left to block for Kendall Hunter, who follows blocks by Miller, Mike Iupati and Adam Snyder to carry the ball for about 5 or 6 yards.
What you also notice is that Ryan Kerrigan lines up on the outside of Anthony Davis' right shoulder, and he stays there after the shift--the adjustment is made on the second level of the defense; the strong safety that had dropped into the box bails out and the free safety drops down. This means that when Alex Smith snaps the ball the offensive line knows which 8 guys they have to account for.
If the adjustment had been made at the linebacker level (if Kerrigan had shifted to Anthony Davis' left shoulder, or dropped back off the line of scrimmage), a huge running lane could have opened up to the right side of the offensive formation. What I want you to notice is the way Gore and Alex Smith are aligned on the 6th photo in the series. It looks like an option play, with the QB in a bootleg-type motion and the RB on the outside. If the Niners ran a quarterback option out of this same set and play-action, faking the ball to Hunter and then running with Kaepernick and Gore to the offensive right, as long as Anthony Davis seals the edge on Kerrigan and/or the DT and the WR locks his CB up to the outside, you have Kaepernick and Gore running downfield for a potentially huge run.
Smith has already carried the ball a number of times this season (perhaps even worryingly so), so we know that Harbaugh isn't averse to the idea of using his quarterbacks as runners. At this point I really wonder three things:
1) what would a QB option counter to this play look like...
2) if the Niners would ever run it, and...
3) if they did run it with Kaepernick and his 4.53 speed, would it go for a 50-yard TD or an 80-yard TD?