09 December 2018

Perfect Blocking Leads to a Perfect Run!

The New York Giants obliterated the Washington Redskins today, 40-16.  The Giants have certainly gotten their money's worth from their first-round draft pick, Saquon Barkley (#26).  The rookie is having a great year.  Almost midway through the second quarter, the Giants faced 1st & 10 on their own 22-yard line.  The screen capture below shows the formation (click on image for a larger view).
Barkely is the lone running back and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (#87) is just behind the right side of the Giants line.  I've highlighted Washington free safety D. J. Swearinger (#36) because he's about to get to know Sterling Shepard really well.  The arrows I put on the image show where those two players will meet.

After Giants quarterback Eli Manning (#10) handed the ball to Barkley, the rookie saw a wonderful hole of daylight open up for him.  Check it out below (click on image for a larger view).
What running back wouldn't love that alley to run through!  Once Barkley blasted through the hole at 14 mph, Redskins strong safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (#20) became Washington's last hope.  Clinton-Dix is on the far left of the screen capture below (click on image for a larger view).
You can see that Clinton-Dix was about 7 yards in front of Barkley, but Clinton-Dix took the wrong angle of pursuit.  Check out the point when tackling Barkley was no longer possible (click on image for a larger view).
Barkley is climbing over 17 mph at that point and Clinton-Dix has to know that he's chosen the wrong pursuit angle.  By the time Barkley hit his top speed of nearly 22 mph, Clinton-Dix could only watch helplessly from behind (click on image for a larger view).
Barkley scored 4.7 seconds later in rather theatrical style as he hurdled the goal line (click on image for a larger view).
Washington fans didn't have much fun, but they surely had to respect the great blocking and phenomenal speed they witnessed on that play.

I need to take a few sentences and pay tribute to the great blocking on that play.  There were a total of eight Giants blocking eight Redskins, which formed the alley Barkley ran through.  Accounting for all the padding and helmets, the Giants brought about 2460 pounds of meat to the block party.  The Redskins countered with roughly 2330 pounds, which meant they were outweighed by an average of about 16 pounds.  It was as it everyone was the same size, but each of the Giants was blocking with a bowling ball!  Those 16 football players clashed together with weights comparable to two adult black rhinoceroses.  That's a lot of mass coming together to create that lane for Barkley!

It was fun talking about this play on TuneIn's 1st & Goal Check Down segment.  Chuck Nice of Playing with Science joined me on the show.  Click here for the audio link.

06 December 2018

Recent Media Appearances

With all the posts I've written for the NFL plays I analyze each Sunday, I've been slow to post a few recent media appearances.  I had a blast talking about the Tiger vs Phil golf match on a recent Playing with Science episode.  One of our third-year physics majors and member of the University of Lynchburg golf team, Carter Old, helped me prepare.  You can listen to the episode with the link given below.
As you probably know, Phil won after four playoff holes.

I was asked by New Scientist to answer a question for their LAST WORD section.  They asked me about light skiers who compete in the ski jump.  It was great talking about a winter sport!  Click here for the online article, called "Ski slope catwalk."

At the end of November, I was approached by The Wall Street Journal to analyze charges taken by players who compete against Duke's talented freshman, Zion Williamson.  It was a blast analyzing some of his high-school and college film!  I doubt that kid will be in Durham next year.  Click here for the article.  The story appeared in the Thursday, 6 December 2018 issue of the paper.  Sports Illustrated then wrote about the story.  Click here for that link.

That's it for stuff in the past fortnight or so.  I'll try to keep up better in the future!

02 December 2018

Odell Beckham Jr. Throws 2nd TD of the Season!

The New York Giants held on to beat the Chicago Bears in an overtime thriller today, 30-27.  One of New York's much-needed scores came early in the 3rd quarter when the Giants had 3rd and 13 at the Bears 49-yard line.  Check out the formation (click on image for a larger view).
Giants quarterback Eli Manning (#10) was under center, about to receive the snap.  I've circled Wayne Gallman Jr. (#22) as the lone running back.  A couple of former LSU Tigers were lined up on the left side of the line, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. (#13) and Russell Shepard (#81).

This play about trickery!  Manning tossed the ball to Beckham Jr. (click on image for a larger view).
To really appreciate how effective this play was, look at the toss from a reply angle (click on image for a larger view).
Wayne Gallman Jr. did a great job acting as if the toss were headed his way.  Look how he had his hands up to catch the ball while running in the opposite direction Beckham Jr. was running.  As the bass was tossed, you can see Shepard already behind the Bears defensive line, heading downfield.

After Beckham Jr. got the toss, he had to use a little of his immense athleticism to find space to throw the ball.  It took 5.2 seconds from the snap to Beckham Jr.'s pass for the play to develop.  Check out Beckham Jr.'s pass (click on image for a larger view).
Beckham Jr. threw the pass from the Giants 45-yard line.  Notice that he threw the ball with his right foot forward, meaning he threw off the wrong foot!  Right-handed quarterbacks throw with their right foot behind them and their left foot in front.  Note, too, that Beckham Jr. had a Bears defender right in front of him.  His pass had to be lofted.  Check out another view from replay (click on image for a larger view).
It goes to show just how incredible an athlete Beckham Jr. is.  The same powerful core he utilizes to make circus catches is the same core he utilized to throw off-balance with his right foot forward.  His pass traveled 48 yards!  Check out where Shepard caught the ball (click on image for a larger view).
Shepard caught the ball on the Bears 7-yard line.  Look how open he is!  I grabbed a screen capture of the replay, just before Shepard caught the pass (click on image for a larger view).
Shepard could have moon walked into the end zone!  Instead he turned around and loped in for six points (click on image for a larger view).
I could hardly believe how Beckham Jr. threw that pass.  I just had to analyze it.  The ball was in the air for 2.6 seconds, which was half the time it took the play to develop before Beckham Jr. threw the ball.  He lofted the ball a bit more than Manning would have had Manning thrown from the pocket.  Beckham Jr. had to loft the pass because of the defensive pressure he faced.  He in fact threw the ball 50.3 mph at an angle of 35.7 degrees above the horizontal.  The ball hit Shepard at 44.6 mph, having lost speed because of air resistance.  I solved Newton's second law equation numerically and found the trajectory shown below (click on image for a larger view).
Odell Beckham Jr. is usually the one making the TD catch, but today he again showed that he has quarterback skills, too.  I analyzed the play for TuneIn's 1st & Goal on their Check Down segment.  Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on the show.  Click here for the audio link.

25 November 2018

Josh Allen Can Sling It!

The Buffalo Bills beat the Jacksonville Jaguars today, 24-21.  Despite a couple 3-7 teams getting together in late November, fans did have reason to cheer today.  Late in the second quarter, the Bills faced 1st & 10 from their own 25-yard line.  Rookie quarterback Josh Allen (#17) was under center when the ball was snapped (click on image for a larger view).
Rookie wide receiver Robert Foster (#16) was lined up on the far left side of the line.  The screen capture I got from the replay shows a better view of Foster, the lone wide receiver on the left side of the line (click on image for a larger view).
Foster was only put on the active roster 15 days ago, but he was about to be a part of something special.

Look at the pile surrounding Allen when he threw the football (click on image for a larger view).
He's about to be clobbered by the Jacksonville rush.  But Allen's strong arm made the play.  The main part of the ball's acceleration took about 0.15 seconds, leading to an average force from Allen on the ball of roughly 15 pounds.  The peak force could have reached 30 pounds.  That's a quick release with a lot of force!  The power Allen outputted during a very brief instant of time reached 1.5 kW, which beats a lot of microwave ovens!  The ball left Allen's hand at about 53.5 mph and at angle of 25.3 degrees above the horizontal.

Fleet-footed Robert Foster hit a top speed of over 21 mph in crossing the field to catch the ball near the Jacksonville 38-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
Replay gave a slightly better view (click on image for a larger view).
The football was rotating at about 600 rpm and landed in Foster's hands at a speed of roughly 47.3 mph, about 2.0 seconds after it left's Allen's right hand.  Nobody was going to catch the rookie as he scored his first NFL touchdown (click on image for a larger view).
To get all the numbers for the trajectory of the ball, I had to solve Newton's second law equation numerically.  The trajectory is shown below (click on image for a larger view).
How great was it that two rookies got to be involved in such an amazing play?  The Bills might just keep Foster on the active roster a little while longer.  As for Allen, who played his college ball at Wyoming, that Cowboy can sure sling it!  Despite getting hit from a few Jaguars, I think Allen will take the play (click on image for a larger view).
Chuck Nice of Playing with Science joined me on TuneIn's 1st & Goal to discuss the play for their Check Down segment.  Click here for the audio link.

18 November 2018

101 Yards for a Pick-Six!

The Houston Texans beat the Washington Redskins, today 23-21.  They don't get that win without a brilliant play near the end of the second quarter.  The Redskins had 3rd & goal at the Texans 9-yard line.  Down three at the time, the Redskins were either going to take the lead with a touchdown or tie the game with a short field goal.  Washington quarterback Alex Smith (#11) was in the shotgun.  The screen capture I got shows the formation (click on image for a larger view).
Smith's target on the play was tight end Jordan Reed (#86), who can barely seen lined up on the left side of the formation.  Texans rookie free safety Justin Reid (#20) is circled in the above image.  I've also pointed out Redskins tackle Ty Nsekhe (#79) and Texans defensive end Christian Covington (#95) for what comes later.

Now look at Smith's throw (click on image for a larger view).
Smith threw from the Texans 17-yard line, just outside the left hash.  You can see Reed on the far right of the image breaking his route to his left.  Reid is behind Reed, about to come up on Reed's right.  Confused by Reed and Reid?  So was Smith!  A closer look shows Reed breaking his route to his left, which is where Smith was throwing (click on image for a larger view).
Reid has his eyes on the throw the entire time.  Now watch as Reed stops suddenly to break off to his right (click on image for a larger view).
That didn't stop Reid, who was watching the pass, and knew he had a shot at a pick.  Check out what happened when Reed turned back (click on image for a larger view).
Reid had the interception while all Reed could do was look to his right.  Smith and Reed were clearly not on the same page on this play.  Justin Reid was now looking at daylight in front of him.  As he got going, Jordan Reed appeared to complain to his quarterback about the throw (click on image for a larger view).
In the above screen capture, Justin Reid had just taken his second of 48 steps that would lead him to the end zone.  Along the way, he got a great block from Christian Covington (click on image for a larger view).
Covington is blocking Ty Nsekhe.  Let's hear it for the 300-lb defensive end who stayed with the play and was able to make a crucial block more than 20 yards behind the line of scrimmage.  Great effort!

After crossing midfield, Reid hit a top speed of nearly 22 mph.  I made a plot of his speed versus time for the nearly 11.7 seconds it took him to score after making the interception (click on image for a larger view).
You can see in the above plot that his speed dropped as he neared the end zone.  Nobody could catch him!  Look at Reid turning around to see who's chasing him (click on image for a larger view).
Washington quarterback Alex Smith was the only one would had a shot at Reid, but Smith couldn't match Reid's speed.  Check out Reid loping into the end zone (click on image for a larger view).
It was great pick-six that was absolutely needed in a two-point win.  I hope Alex Smith is okay, because about half a quarter after the pick-six I described, he suffered a brutal leg injury and had to be carted off the field.

Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on TuneIn's 1st & Goal to analyze Reid's pick-six for their Check Down segment.  Click here for the audio link.

11 November 2018

A Lion Can't Tackle a Bear!

The Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions today, 34-22.  They put the game out of reach early in the second quarter when rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller (#17) slipped free of a Lion defender and scampered into the end zone for a 45-yard touchdown reception.  Check out the start of the play (click on image for a larger view).
The Bears had 2nd and 5 on the Lions 45-yard line.  Note the three-receiver set on the right side of the Bears line.  Miller is on the inside, as I've indicated.  Now do a little counting.  You'll count 11 Bears, but you'll only get to 10 when counting the Lions.  Where is the 11th Lion?  Free safety Glover Quin (#27) can't be seen in the above screen capture.  He's playing deep coverage.

Just after the snap, confusion reigned supreme in the Lions secondary.  In the screen capture below, Lions strong safety Quandre Diggs (#28) had just let Miller go by him.  And yet he was pointing toward the line of scrimmage!
You can also see Diggs pointing toward Miller, which I assume was meant for his teammate, Glover Quin.  Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (#10), who enjoyed great protection from his offensive line, had to like seeing Miller break free.  He threw the ball from the Bears 47-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
Now check out all the open space around Miller when he caught the ball at the Lions 27-yard line (click on image for a larger view).
You can see that Miller had to turn around after he makes the catch.  Note that Glover Quin is still not visible in the screen capture.  I had to wait for the instant replay to see where Quin was when Miller caught the ball (click on image for a larger view).
You can see Quin on the far right of the screen capture.  And now comes the decisive physics!  The key concept here is relative velocity.  When you're sitting in a car going 60 mph on the highway, you look out the window and see the world going in the opposite direction at 60 mph.  Your windows protect you from the oncoming air and, ignoring the bumps in the road and other things that give you an occasional acceleration, you feel at rest in your car's frame of reference.  If a car passes you going 70 mph, you see that car passing you at 10 mph.  It's a person on the ground that would see you going 60 mph and the other car going 70 mph.  It's more complicated when all the motion isn't along a single direction.  I put velocity vectors on Quin and Miller as they headed toward each other (click on image for a larger view).
Quin's vector is more into the screen, so it appears shorter.  In Quin's reference frame, he doesn't see Miller moving at the same speed and direction as someone standing on the sidelines would see Miller moving.  That blue velocity vector in the above image has to be subtracted from all velocity vectors if one wishes to see the world from Quin's reference frame.  The problem for Quin is that he aimed too close to where Miller was in the above image, instead of aiming closer to where Miller would be at the point of collision.  Check out the near miss (click on image for a larger view).
A view from another angle shows just how close Quin missed Miller (click on image for a larger view).
Quin is too far behind Miller because Miller's center of mass is to the left of Quin.  The best Quin could have hoped for was an arm tackle while his linear momentum continued to send him behind Miller.  Note that Miller lowered his center of mass to increase his stability.  It's far easier to turn a refrigerator over when it's standing upright than it is when it's on its side.  Check out what happened to Quin (click on image for a larger view).
Quin could only receive a little torque from Miller and get twisted as he fell.  Miller needed only to get to about 16 mph to reach the end zone without getting tackled (click on image for a larger view).
I am in no way claiming that it's easy to calculate a relative velocity in a split second on an NFL gridiron!  It's challenging enough for high school students to add vectors, and they have a lot more time and the use of calculators!  Professional athletes get quite good at adding velocities, even though most probably don't realize that's what they're doing.  Thousands of plays in practice and in games help athletes add velocities as if doing so were second nature.  Quarterbacks do it all the time when they throw to a spot where a receiver will be by the time the ball nears the turf.

This was a fun play to analyze for today's Check Down piece Chuck Nice (of Playing with Science) and I did for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for the audio link.

04 November 2018

Over 100 Yards on a Double Toss!

The Carolina Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, 42-28.   Probably the best play of the game took place inside of 12 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter.  The Panthers had 1st and 10 at the Bucs' 33-yard line.  Check out the starting formation (click on image for a larger view).
I had to circle and identify several Panthers for what was about to unfold.  Panthers running back Alexander Armah (#40) moved to his left prior to the snap (click on image for a larger view).
Once the play got going, look at the initial motions of wide receivers D. J. Moore (#12) and Curtis Samuel (#10) (click on image for a larger view).
Both wide receivers are headed toward the backfield!  Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (#1) took the snap and faked a hand-off to running back Christian McCaffrey (#22).  After the fake, Newton tossed to D. J. Moore (click on image for a larger view).
But the fun had just started because Curtis Samuel is racing back to receive the second toss (click on image for a larger view).
Samuel's momentum actually took him to the 46-yard line before he turned on the jets toward the left sideline.  He made three positively sick cuts on the play.  Check out the first one, which was to his right (click on image for a larger view).
His teammates were blocking in front of him, but there was little space, so Samuel cut hard to his right.  Note how close to the left sideline he is, and remember that he began between the numbers on the 35-yard line, closer to the right sideline.  Now check out his second hard cut, which was to his left (click on image for a larger view).
Bucs outside linebacker Lavonte David (#54) was barreling down on Samuel when the third cut was needed, which was to his left.  This cut left David with his legs cut out from under him (click on image for a larger view).
You can see David going down.  Samuel managed to squeak out of harm's way and then ran across the field to the far right of the end zone (click on image for a larger view).
The play took 14.2 seconds to complete.  I estimate that Curtis Samuel ran 103 yards on the play, though he only got credit for a 33-yard run.  His average speed was 14.8 mph, but he did hit 18 mph at one point.  It was the three sick cuts that got Samuel into the end zone!

I looked at the cuts more closely, specifically when Curtis Samuel turns about 45 degrees in only a step or two.  The inward force needed to change his velocity so quickly is over four times his weight.  At 200 pounds, plus pads, helmet, etc, his legs could have felt peak forces close to 900 pounds!  No wonder there are so many ACL injuries in football.

Gary O'Reilly of Playing with Science joined me on today's Check Down piece we did for TuneIn's 1st & Goal.  Click here for the audio link.