Palazzolo’s Pitch: Fool Me Once

In-game adjustments for players are a key to success in the NFL and Steve Palazzolo looks at a couple of examples from Week 9 while also discussing a Thursday Night ...

| 4 years ago

Palazzolo’s Pitch: Fool Me Once

Pitch-WK10Fool Me Once

One of the most underrated aspects of NFL players is their ability to make adjustments within a game, particularly when it comes to play recognition.

As we watch thousands of plays a week, there are times when a player may show a perceived weakness, only to clean it up just a few plays later. That’s not to say you can’t find something that works and stick with it, but there’s a reason why NFL players are the best in the world, even if there are various levels of ability within the league itself.

Here’s a couple good examples from Week 9:

Dontari Poe vs. Buffalo Bills

Poe has made great strides in his second season, grading at +14.7 overall and +10.0 against the run, good for fourth among defensive tackles. He’s been tough to move, while also using his athleticism to make plays throughout the first half of the season. On Sunday, the Bills found a play to neutralize Poe early in the game, but it didn’t last very long.

Q2 3:49

Poe lines up at his usual nose tackle position, shading slightly toward the left guard. LG Doug Legursky blocks down and seals Poe out of the play with center Eric Wood pulling around to lead through the hole. A good block by Wood combined with a nice second level block by RG Kraig Urbik makes for an open lane for running back C.J. Spiller and eventually turns into a 29-yard gain.


This is actually the second time the Bills ran this play in the game and Poe was taken out of the play both times. The only difference the first time was poor blocks from Wood and RT Eric Pears resulted in a 2-yard gain.

Q3 3:57

Fast forward to the second half. With Poe neutralized on the same play twice before, it makes sense for the Bills to go back to it. This is where Poe makes an adjustment, however. His alignment is the same and Legursky blocks down once again. This time, instead of getting pinned, Poe works to cross Legursky’s face and gets himself back into the play to make the tackle for the 3-yard gain.


When watching the game, it’s easy to watch Poe and think that the Bills had found a way to take Poe out of the game, but he showed why he’s one of the league’s best nose tackles by making the proper adjustments.

Lawrence Timmons vs. New England Patriots

It was a rough game for the Pittsburgh Steelers defense against the Patriots Sunday, but there was at least one play where they were able to disrupt New England’s timing in the passing game. Here’s a look at LB Lawrence Timmons learning from an early mistake.

Q2 11:41

Since the offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels returned as offensive coordinator last season, the Patriots have run a lot more play action off their outside zone run look. They often look to take a deep shot on these plays, but they also look to set up the backside tight end drag to take advantage of an overaggressive defense.


As QB Tom Brady and the entire offensive line flow right, TE Michael Hoomanawanui sneaks back to the left on a shallow drag. The key man here is Timmons who is responsible for the drag route. He’s an easy target on this play as he follows the flow of the offense and loses track of Hoomanawanui who breaks free for a wide-open reception and a 17-yard gain.

Q3 13:07

The Patriots waited a quarter to break out the same pass concept, targeting Timmons once again. This time, however, Timmons is ready. He’s much more disciplined and immediately takes away Brady’s first read. Pressure from DE Brett Keisel further blows up the play as he forces Brady out of the pocket before he finds a check down to RB Stevan Ridley who fumbles the ball after a 1-yard gain.


While Timmons had little to do with flushing Brady from the pocket, or the forced fumble, it was his adjustment in play recognition that set the wheels in motion and helped spark a Pittsburgh comeback early in the third quarter.


Thursday Night Football: Tackling Optional

What used to be reserved as a post-Thanksgiving treat, Thursday night football has become an NFL mainstay the last two years, and while most would balk at the idea that another night of televised football is bad, the on-field product has been noticeably lacking in recent weeks. While the idea is a fine one – each team gets the national spotlight at least once during the season – the short week has resulted in some sloppy play.

TNF MTThe inept tackling the last two Thursdays forced me to go back and look at previous games to see just how bad it has been in the week’s first game. Surprisingly, the first eight weeks of the season were just about status quo, but the last two weeks have skewed the results into the abysmal.

As the season has progressed, the tackling has gotten much worse. The Dolphins missed an absurd 23 tackles in their overtime win against the Bengals two weeks ago while the Vikings and Redskins managed to miss 13 each last night.

It’s an interesting trend to watch as teams head into the second half of the season and the wear and tear may catch up to them with the short week of preparation.


 Around the Site This Week

–  Always a big hit, our Midseason All-Pro Team

–  Sam Monson details a key adjustment for the Vikings on defense.

–  Stock Reports for two players on every team, AFC and NFC, from Ben Stockwell.

–  Gordon McGuiness offers Week 9’s Secret Superstars

–  In his 32 Observations, Nathan Jahnke looks at the 2012 draft class.

–  Neil Hornsby names the best special teamer on each team.


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| Senior Analyst

Steve is a senior analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has been featured on ESPN Insider, NBC Sports, and 120 Sports.

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    What the NFL should really do, is schedule it so that teams who play on Thursday have a bye week before it. Problem solved.