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49ers Film Room: Kyle Shanahan’s double-slants and slant-flat concepts

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49ers Garoppolo
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We break down San Francisco 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan’s double-slants and slant-flat concepts, as executed by QB Jimmy Garoppolo in the Niners’ Week 15 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

 

In the San Francisco 49ers’ last-second victory over the Tennessee Titans in Week 15, it took quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo just three plays to get kicker Robbie Gould into field-goal range for the game-winning score. Each of the three plays is a staple in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s playbook; the third play combines two popular West Coast passing concepts made famous by 49ers former head coach Bill Walsh, with an added wrinkle to improve the play’s effectiveness.

Even if you aren’t familiar with these concepts from the 1980s, you’ll still recognize them, as Shanahan has used these concepts throughout the season, and even ran the play earlier in the game as well. Every team in the NFL uses these concepts separately, and many use them together in the same play. Ted Nguyen — who writes for FanRag Sports and InsideThePylon — pointed out that the Oakland Raiders ran a similar play — the “2122” — 30 times in 2016:

If you watch NFL Film’s Turning Point episode on Garoppolo’s comeback drive, you’ll hear that the play is San Francisco’s play number two. It is a key part of the 49ers’ hurry-up offense because it’s designed to defeat any type of defensive coverage. The double-slants concept works best against man and Cover-2, and the slant-flat is a Cover-3 beater that the New England Patriots used ad nauseam against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX.

After Garoppolo’s 24-yard pass to tight end George Kittle on the 49ers’ game-winning drive last Sunday, Garoppolo calls out for play number two, and gets the team to the line with just over 30 seconds left on the clock. The 49ers — who have the ball on the Titans’ 44-yard line — need at least eight more yards before they’ll be in field-goal range.

Play number two is a double-slants concept to the left, and a slant-flat concept to the right:

49ers Garoppolo

What makes Shanahan’s version of this play different from the “2122” is the flat route in the slant-flat combination is run by the running back and not the Y receiver, as it would in Walsh’s “Dragon” concept. With Garoppolo passing quickly out of the shotgun, there’s little need for an extra blocker in the backfield; by running the RB into the flat, the tight end is freed up to run the Middle route. This ties up the defenders in the middle of the field, which allows the inside slant more room to the inside, which in turn helps isolate the outside slant:

Earlier in the fourth quarter, Shanahan ran the same play, with added motion, and different personnel. The play is run from the opposite side, with wide receiver Trent Taylor running the Middle route, and tight end George Kittle running the inside slant:49ers Garoppolo

When three defenders converge on Taylor, Garoppolo throws it past them and into the hands of wide receiver Marquise Goodwin for another first down:

Back when Garoppolo was thrust into action in Week 12, the quarterback called out one of the few plays he knew — play number two — in the closing seconds of the game:

49ers Garoppolo

Garoppolo ended up improvising, but as I mentioned when I broke down the play, the Middle route was one of the keys to the play’s success:

The double-slants and slant-flat concepts aren’t new to Shanahan’s repertoire. Here’s a play from last year’s NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and the Atlanta Falcons:

49ers Shanahan

Wide receiver Mohamed Sanu runs an exaggerated route to the inside in order to give extra room for star receiver Julio Jones to make a play:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has impressed in his three starts, even though he’s been forced to play with a limited playbook. It will be exciting to see what “Jimmy Franchise” can do once he has a full understanding of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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