The San Francisco 49ers did not look good in a lot of ways this past Sunday, but there were some positives to come from Colin Kaepernick. David Neumann broke down a lot of the positives in his All-22 recap. On Thursday, Matt Barrows brought up another one that had escaped me: Kap's use of the hard count.
The Steelers dominated the game, but they did deal with numerous penalty issues. Three of those involved jumping on the hard count. On the 49ers first offensive play, Steve McLendon jumped offsides. Early in the second quarter, McLendon was called for encroachment. Later in the quarter on the same drive, James Harrison was called for a neutral zone infraction. The 49ers came away with a field goal on that drive.
Barrows was able to get some quotations from Chryst that appear to be separate from his press conference transcript. Chryst told Barrows that Jim Tomsula stressed the hard count in the offseason. As Barrows pointed out, given Tomsula's work as a defensive line coach, it makes sense that he would have some insight on the value of the hard count.
It will be something to track the rest of the season. The hard count is great for the five free yards, but even more importantly is potentially opening the door to free deep shots. The team has the speed in Torrey Smith, and if they can get defenses jumping offsides, they can take more shots.
I have also noticed some people asking about the differences between the various penalties. Some give the team a free play, while others result in a stoppage in play. Here are definitions from the NFL rulebook:
Encroachment: When a player enters the neutral zone (area between the offensive and defensive lines of scrimmage) and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped. Play is stopped immediately
Offside: A player is offside when any part of his body is beyond his scrimmage or free kick line when the ball is snapped or kicked. Play is allowed to continue.
Neutral-zone infraction: Two options: 1) When defender moves beyond neutral zone prior to snap and is parallel to or beyond OL, with unabated path to the QB or kick, even though no contact is made; 2) When defender enters neutral zone prior to the snap, causing offensive player(s) in close proximity to false start. Both require play stopped immediately