Inside The Playbook
November 5 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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This week in inside the playbook I take a look at the halfback screen, used to perfection against the Raiders. Screens are used in a number of ways, for a number of reasons, but they all depend on one elementary technique - that being, using an overly aggressive pursuit of a defense against them. Essentially, when matched against a team that is running blitz after blitz or pursuing the quarterback very heavily, the screen becomes a key tool in disrupting the defense.
On a given screen, blockers are told to let their man come by them, so as to open a soft zone in the first layer of a defense. It is this soft zone that is exploited with the screen, in this case the pass goes to the halfback, who suddenly has his offensive line blocking on the move in front of him.
The half back screen was once a very popular aspect of the 49ers offense. Defenses however, began to sniff it out, and its effectiveness declined. The 49ers have thus reduced the number of screens that they run, and as such, have been able to use it much more effectively.
Against the Raiders in the second half the 49ers ran a screen to Garrison Hearst who picked up the first down, the screen was run to perfection with good blocking, and accurate passing and effectively slowed down the Raiders defense. Interestingly, the 49ers defense as of late has been very effective of detecting the screen. The veteran leadership in the defense has begun to recognize the soft type of blocking an offense uses and as such have been able to defend against the screen very effectively.
The 49ers will continue to use the screen, particularly when they recognize that defenses are over pursuing. This type of play can do a whole lot of damage when a defense doesnít recognize it, and itís a high percentage pass - Garrison Hearst is the primary target on such a play, but it wonít be long before the 49ers try and get the ball to Barlow on such passes.