Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ugly; Nice

A chess board.  Two players sit at opposite sides each with sixteen pieces, each taking one move at a time, everything out in the open for anyone to see.  Gradually, like magic, one player gains control.  I'm a pretty good chess player. Not master's level;  I don't see the entire game the way real experts do.  I win the game by winning on single moves.  Each move I make is just a little better than my opponent's move.  The accumulation of many little wins eventually gives me total control. 

Every play in a football game starts with two teams of eleven players each, lined up face to face, ostensibly equal.  Each play is eleven different contests.  Eleven offensive players trying to control eleven defensive players.  Eleven defenders determined to escape the blocks and get to the ball carrier. 

In football it all happens quickly.  They start lined up eleven versus eleven, then two or three seconds later... 

... one ball carrier is surrounded by three defenders.   

So how does that happen? 

With my 300mm lens and my Nikon camera recording the action at 2.5 frames per second, my fancy photo-editing software allowing me to zoom in and analyze things, I often see what happened. 

In the photo above, how did Cookie get into that predicament?   Well let's take a look.

The play started innocently enough.  I count three Outlaw blockers on the left side of the line and three defenders.  But there's another defender we can't see in this frame.

She is coming from the left and the Outlaw's left tackle is moving to meet her, as you seen in the photo below.  The trouble is, that leaves three attackers to be handled by the remaining two Austin blockers (you can see the number 5, our left guard, and the white towel tucked into the togs of our center).  Three tacklers, two blockers.  Not good.

In this photo, our left tackle is engaging the Mustang's defensive end, #58.  The left guard is hidden from view but is engaging one of the other three tacklers.  That leaves our center, #62, to take on the two remaining attackers.

The center has a difficult job.  She has to snap the ball to the Quarterback so she isn't able to establish a strong three-point stance.  Then, if her blocking assignment is not directly in front of her, she has to move laterally to get in front of a would-be tackler.  You can see in the above shot the defender has an advantage; our center will have a difficult time getting in front of her for an effective block.

Things get really ugly really fast.

The center doesn't get the block and the left tackle loses control of her opponent.  Suddenly two defenders, #58 and one other are converging on the quarterback.  A third defender is getting loose from blockers on the right.  The next photo in the sequence is the one I put at the top of this post where Cookie is fighting off three defenders.   

The end has #58 closing the deal, giving Cookie a big unfriendly hug.  One way things turn against the offense is the defense having more attackers than we have blockers.  It is  complicated when the blockers can't get a good line on the tackler or can't hold the block long enough (this sequence took only 2 seconds).

Let's take a look at another little sequence.  This time Outlaws win the play.  I like this one because it shows tenacity.  Football is messy.  You rarely get a clean shot on your opponent.  You have to fight off blockers,  climb over bodies.  

This sequence has the Outlaws on defense. 

There is an Outlaw on the ground.  She was slammed by a huge blocker.  I don't have a good shot of that block but it was effective.  So we have the runner at the left and the Outlaw's #1, Fuller, fighting off a block.  If the runner can cut to her left, keeping the blocker between herself and Fuller, she could make a good gain.

But Fuller is quick and slick.  She discards the blocker and grabs the runner.  A couple things to note.  Fuller has been fighting the blocker so she is a little off balance when she reaches the runner.  Second, another potential Outlaws tackler is being held.  Isn't that illegal?  It is if the official sees it. 

I hope you can make out what is happening here.  Because Fuller couldn't get a good solid hit, she is just hanging on to the runner.  She is on the ground hanging on to a leg or two.  Coming to assist is Tiffany James, wearing the red-sleeved shirt.  So Fuller is slowing the runner down, James is coming in to complete the tackle.

If you look closely you'll see a red glove reaching over the runner's back, grasping her right arm.  That glove belongs to Tiffany.  You can also see her left arm (red sleeve) reaching the ground with the runner's left arm.  You can also just make out Fuller's right arm still hanging on.  All that remains is the runner hitting the turf.

I've included the final picture even though it is superfluous, because I want to point out for all to see that Crash (Tiffany Jame's nickname) has learned to land on top.  In many of my earlier Tiffany photos, she is pulling the runner down on top of her, which is part of how she earned her nickname, Crash. 

Slowly in chess, quickly in football, the game turns on individual contests.  A tackler escapes a block and the defense wins the down.  A blocker holds and the offense wins the down. 

In earlier posts I featured blocking.  It is important.  And difficult.

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