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Film Breakdown: A peek at Kyle Shanahan’s playbook in Atlanta

We take a look at some offensive tendencies from the 49ers potential new head coach

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

With the head coach position all but filled, we can begin to anticipate what’s to become of our beloved San Francisco 49ers. We also can expect to see some wholesale changes on the offensive side of the ball going from Chip Kelly to new presumptive headman Kyle Shanahan. Below I’ll break down some of the scoring plays from the falcons last two playoff games.

Thus far, in reviewing Falcons film, a few things stood out to me. Our offense under Chip Kelly was basic at best, however it’s aim was to bore defenders into mistakes. Similar plays and formations would be run over and over again, and eventually Kelly would drop in a wrinkle to catch defenders off balance who would try to guess after seeing the same play several times. I think Kelly’s offense didn’t really reach it’s full potential due to lack of overall team speed and talent. It required quick, fast twitch guys who could get in and out of breaks, or make jagged moves on option routes before defenders could adjust. Jeremy Kerley was the only player that fit that mold, which explains his breakout season.

In contrast, Kyle Shanahan’s offense uses formations and stacked route concepts to get players open. I feel his offense will work with our current roster because it employs rubs, zone floods, and often uses the running back as a primary option down the field instead of using them as another Blaine Gabbert check down on 3rd and 8. While Carlos Hyde is a bruiser, he has shown to be pretty adept at catching and running. I think Shaun Draughn will be a factor in this new offense as he has similar measurables to Falcons running back Tevin Coleman. Hyde and Draughn are very capable of being a two headed monster along the same lines of Coleman and Devonta Freeman in Atlanta. Let’s get to the film.

The play below is a great zone buster route combo. If I squint I could totally see Draughn running this route and finding the end zone in the same way. Most of our running back routes under Kelly were simply out to the flat, or they would always cross the QB in the zone read look and end up chipping a defender without ever really getting into a pattern. Here Coleman runs up the field and hits a corner route. The stacked alignment at the bottom of the field bunches the defenders into the same area. The drag route by the WR across the field and the flat curl by the TE to the outside creates a huge window in the zone and Coleman becomes wide open. Suck it Seahawks!

The next play is a play I’ve seen Hyde run and score on, so it should yield the same successes with Little Shanny at the helm. Once again, you’ll notice the stack alignment at the bottom of the field. The formation keeps defenders from getting solid jams at the line of scrimmage. Our current WRs struggled with press man this past season and these formations will make their lives easier, and hopefully yield more TDs just like this one. Freeman will be the primary read. Similar to the previous play, the drag route clears out the middle of the field. This time the TE creates a pick on the defender who has man coverage on the RB Freeman. Freeman ducks behind the rub and catches the inside slant for the TD. I can see it now Hyde for six!

Disclaimer: No one on our current roster is Julio Jones. In no way am I making that comparison on this next breakdown. I could see, however, Rod Streater, a big bodied guy, winning the same way on the following route concept. First off the formation prevents the defense from truly leaning towards coverage, or towards stopping the run. You’ll see a tight formation at the top of the field to keep the linebackers honest. However at the bottom of the screen you’ll see Jones and Mohamed Sanu in a tight stack formation. Is it run? Is it pass? The offense is already winning before the play started. I recall several articles where defenders playing against Chip knew if the play was a run or pass before it was even run. Shanahan appears to be more deceptive in his approach. With Julio lining up off the line of scrimmage in a stack Richard Sherman is forced to play off coverage. That’s not his forte. Also, because of the tight formation at the top of the screen, Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner get nosy and peek in the backfield, this leaves them out of position to cover the inside route. Sanu does his job and creates the rub, and Julio darts in behind him for six. Suck it again Seahawks!

The next end zone play is a 4-wide, 1-tight formation. You’ll notice a familiar pattern here when it comes to the stacked WR formation. The result of the play isn’t as designed, but the concept was effective. Sanu, Jones, and Taylor Gabriel line up to the bottom of the screen. In usual fashion, there’s a drag route across the middle. Julio makes his way across the middle while Sanu runs to the flat and attracts both defenders in the zone. This leaves Gabriel wide open on the out route near the back of the end zone. Matt Ryan, however holds the ball. Presumably he feels #36 on the Packers is still in position, as Ryan steps up in the pocket Gabriel becomes even more wide open as the defenders react to Ryan possibly scrambling. Still no throw by Ryan. However, when you’re rolling, you’re rolling. The play still ends in six as Ryan flips a shovel to Sanu who lost all the defenders that were in the zone. I don’t think I’ve seen Colin Kaepernick’s shovel game, but I heard Kirk Cousins might have a mean one.

The final piece of film shows something I think we lacked last year. I’m not sure who’s to blame for this offensive omission this season. On this play, based on what I see, it looks like this play was actually a called run, with a pass option. In reviewing the end zone cam angle, you’ll see combo blocks, and the offensive linemen fire off the ball. Those are usual symptoms of a running play by design, Freeman also charges the line of scrimmage. However, both WRs run fade routes, Ryan sees the one on one coverage and makes makes the quick choice to raise up and throw it to Sanu. Torrey Smith and Rod Streater are two guys we have now that can win on routes like this so I could definitely see Shanahan bringing more run pass options our way. I didn’t see many audibles this past season, I don’t believe I ever saw a pass thrown on a play designed to be a run. On a side note, Suck it again and again Seahawks!

I’m really looking forward to what our offense becomes. I think we could’ve done some decent things with Kelly as the mastermind, but in the first year he didn’t really have the players needed to run his style of offense. Despite Trent Baalke bringing in a new practice squad cast-off every week, I can say offensively we hit a nice stride as the year went on. Kaepernick notched his best game ever against Seattle, and as a season had his highest passer rating since 2012.

Unfortunately, the clock struck 12 on Kelly and Baalke. We now have Shanahan in the wings, and hopefully some of the dynamic things we saw in Atlanta can carry over to our group of skill position players. Kyle doesn’t force his players to win in one-on-one match ups consistently. He uses formations and route combos to allow his players to win as a team. That’s something we missed last year. Especially as the new GM aims to fill the swamp that’s become our talent pool, being able to play solid team ball is going to be a key factor to winning and being competitive. Go Niners!