Play of the Week – Week 9

As part of something I want to do for the blog throughout the NFL season, I will be selecting one play each week where I felt as though special movement was displayed. In the post I will then breakdown some things that I felt contributed to the movement performance. In my normal fashion, I will also be very likely to make note of things that maybe could’ve been done differently, as well.

Game: Bengals at Dolphins

Play: Gio Bernard wows once again and makes his second appearance on BTS

Bernard play 2 pic 1

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

I will admit; this week’s selection was not an easy one. There was a host of plays that could have easily been broken down by me today and no one would have batted an eye. In week 9, numerous running backs came to make people look silly (and we all know how much that gets me up and at em!). From unknown Zac Stacy bouncing off Titans tacklers to the game’s MVP, AD-28, showing his true colors by carrying guys to the end zone. In addition, Davone Bess also put some moves on display that were bound to break even the best pre-habbed ankles. However, when push came to shove, once again Giovani Bernard put on yet another cutting clinic! Though the Giovani Bernard play came during the very first game of the week’s slate last Thursday night, the play was so good that it couldn’t be ignored even when compared to the best line-up of plays this season.

Like in Bernard’s first appearance in my blog’s play of the week series, what 25 did on this play is nothing short of spectacularly mind-blowing. There simply aren’t a lot of RBs playing in the league today who possess the combination of balance, short-distance burst, and reactive ability to be able to make this big of something out of absolutely nothing. He made it look like he was playing some sort of video game and even then he would have had to use multiple super-duper cheat codes in order to do what he did. Yes; it was simply that impressive as you will see.

PS; The Chiefs are now 9-0. Told y’all so. That’s it.

What happened movement-wise on the play?

The play begins by Andy Dalton giving Bernard a little toss sweep right (hope you have a compass handy to keep close watch on the directions). As the play develops, 25 quickly realizes that assignment football was played very, very well by the Miami Dolphin defense which thought that they had stopped this play dead in its tracks especially when Bengals’ TE missed the key block to be made. However, Bernard knows then that something has to be done so he throws on the brakes quickly with a sharp bilateral angled, hockey-type deceleration stop. He does this to mainly brace himself for the punishing hit that is bound to be coming by the freely running defender. The squat position that he gets himself in here is also one that instinctually he has probably learned will allow him high amounts of balance and stability so he could ‘possibly’ continue to carry on the play…which honestly in the NFL doesn’t happen very often as pursuit is so fast and that pursuit usually includes very large and scary guys that are coming to take a back’s head off. Most people in attendance surely thought the play was done here as did even most of the Bengals team. As they will come to find out with 25 running the ball though; the play is never really over!

Once the tackle is missed, Bernard uses a sharp lunge re-acceleration movement action out of the squat.
Cognitively/perceptually; he also knew that there would really be nothing doing out to the right with the sea of Miami-blue jerseys that were out in front of him. He stumbles over the would-be tackler ever-so-briefly but his eyes are looking up to give a quick scan on what his best plan of attack may be. It’s at this point (OK; honestly probably much earlier when he was about to take the first blow from the initial defender), that a reactive running back’s instincts must really take over and he must stop thinking and just simply move! For a movement specialist such as me; this is also the time that I can really begin to evaluate the movement patterns that occur when he starts playing in an involuntary nature and chaos that is the NFL.

His blockers then realize that something special is about to occur and they better get their selves engaged or they won’t make the highlights on ESPN the next day. This includes a gutsy performance from Bernard’s quarterback, Andy Dalton, who elects to make his way down field and throw some blocks for his running back, as well.

Bernard play 2 pic 5

At this point, angular sprinting took primary importance for Bernard. It’s ironic to me how few training specialists actually train their guys for higher speed angular movement like this when it’s relatively easy movement skill to practice though it’s very demanding on the body. However, it’s also very independent from linear sprinting as it puts extreme torques on the inside plant leg especially as movement velocity increases. In this way though, Bernard quickly covers ground especially in comparison to his peers. He moves in this fashion all the way up to around the 30 yard line where he begins to decelerate himself slightly knowing that a short cutback may be needed at anytime based on the job that his blockers have done out in front of him clearing guys towards the outside.

He starts to gain control in his deceleration here with some of the best short distance, sport lunge movement actions that I see anywhere among players in the NFL. This allows him many options as well as the ability to move quickly and change direction in any way that he may elect to do so based on what opportunities the environment may give him. He shortens his steps to allow this to happen and covers 10-12 yards in this fashion. He keeps his feet up underneath him so he doesn’t get too off balance or overly committed to one singular direction.

Based on what he is reading, he uses a cutback to the middle of the field here and even though he begins to stumble ever so slightly (you would be stumbling at this point too after what kind of distances he had to cover very rapidly during the course of this play from side-to-side) but was way too close to lose his control now. Speaking of which; based on the crazy dynamic nature of the way he moves, he often finds himself in off-balance or unstable unilateral (i.e. one-leg) positions while on the field. I noticed it so far this season as well as back to his time at UNC last year. However, he has fantastic unilateral strength and proprioception (i.e. control of his body and its units when it gets perturbed in anyway).

Bernard play 2 pic 2

Of course, he then finishes the play off with an empathetic somersault to add a little cherry on top of the sundae of a play I just broke down and you can see for yourself here!

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