2014 Play of the Week – WK9

As I did last year, I will once again be selecting one play each week through the 2014 season 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: Ravens at Steelers

Play: Brown with the route precision and open field movement proficiency

Brown play pic 4

What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?

I am going to be frank here: when I watched Week 9’s games it quickly became a 2-horse race for this week’s Movement Play of the Week. It just so happens that the two plays both came from guys that each spent a week slotted in the top spot at one point in 2013, as well. The two plays that I am referring to are Julian Edelman’s 84 yard punt return touchdown and Antonio Brown’s 53 yard touchdown reception.

I contemplated back and forth regarding which player would see his first trip to the Beyond the Stats podium in 2014 by re-watching each play in slow motion and frame-by-frame for the most closely contested comparison that I can remember. When all was said and done, it was Antonio Brown and his pretty display of precision and proficiency that would reign supreme.

During an interview last week, Steelers Head Coach, Mike Tomlin, was quoted as saying, “Antonio Brown is one of the best in the world at what he does.” Well, AB84 simply went out on Sunday and proved his Coach to be a correct. It seems as though Antonio Brown is trying to stake his claim as not only one of the best but the VERY best.

While standing only 5’10” and 185-ish pounds Brown does not necessarily possess the imposing characteristics of a Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, or Julio Jones. And based on a stopwatch, he’s simply “fast enough.” However, Brown is (in my best estimation & evaluation) the best route runner of the bunch as well as the most explosive in both acceleration & deceleration type of on-field actions. Finally, when he has a ball in his hands, he essentially turns into a punt returner and those instincts come out that separate him from the others mentioned above.

Well, all of these previously mentioned movement qualities were well on display in the phenomenal play from yesterday and that’s why it is Week 9’s top Movement Play. Enjoy!

What happened movement-wise on the play?

AB84 begins the play at the Steelers 47 yard line with the Ravens DB, Chykie Brown (#23), lined up over him. The interesting thing about Antonio Brown’s stance is that he is often very relaxed with a higher center-of-mass position, balanced weight transfer from front to back, and an almost fully-extended knee. In contrast he is much less crouched, flexed, and coiled compared to most of his counterparts.

Most would look at his first step (in any route in the tree) and immediately claim that he is wasting both time and energy as he takes a false step (what some would call a ‘Plyo-Step’) backwards or laterally to the side in each case. However, what you will see is that once the ball is snapped, not only is Brown the first one reacting but his initial short step gets him in position to essentially set #23 up thinking he may be taking a hard directional step inward. In addition, of course this step also allows him to store some initial elastic-reactive energy over his previously more-relaxed position of his stance. This is exactly why I would advise that if a player displays this trait naturally for most acceleration conditions, we (as Coaches) should never attempt to correct it as it is a more authentic movement action than if he were to have taken a linear step instead.

While still maintaining a somewhat higher position, he takes two hard steps as if he may be hitting a slant to work #23 inward which also essentially creates plenty of space for Brown to push the route vertically down field. Once his 3rd step hits the ground and pops back up its then well into his coiled acceleration mechanics and he quickly motors off the screen when watching the video from left to right (wait for the replay from the other angle to see more).

When watching the replay, you can see the movement quality that allowed him to get as open as he did; his sharp cut off of his left leg. The rapid attacking action of that leg to stab into the ground at a crisp angle with no downward dissipation of forces is truly masterful. It’s also all he needs to create the separation for the ball to be delivered in enough open space by Big Ben.

When the ball arrives into 84’s hands at the 35 yard line, he would have already picked up the necessary yardage for the first down but because of Brown’s big play ability the magic on this play was first getting started. He comes down with the ball, takes a couple short shuffle/stutter steps to re-gather himself and set up the Ravens safety who is looking to limit anything bigger from happening.

If you pause the video when he’s on the 33 yard line do yourself a favor and take a look at his right leg and the mechanical action it displays. It quickly coils to its maximum flexion point, stabilizes once it’s there, and gives him a firm platform for pushing off of into reacceleration. He gets his hips flexed quick with his feet back up underneath him knowing that this will open up a plethora of movement options around him.

Because of the efficiency of this eccentric/force absorption ability he is able to get quickly into crisp acceleration mechanics to head back into the middle of the field. As he does this, he gives himself just enough space to be able to get himself weaved into the remainder of the Raven pursuit. This aspect of the most masterful movers is often overlooked and goes un-discussed (except here at Beyond the Stats); but the most efficient movers never over commit in any given direction or with any particular movement action. Instead, they have developed higher levels of kinesthetic sense & awareness which includes the perception and anticipation to know just how much room they may need in order to maneuver. Thus, they never bite off more than they can chew knowing that every split second and inch on the field matters.

Brown play pic 8

On the 30 yard line, he decides enough is enough and he plants his left step down hard into the grass yet again (damn that absorption action is nasty!). Here though, #33 gets his hands on the slippery Brown but quickly gets sent down to the turf with a sharp moving stiff-arm.

Brown play pic 3

From there, it appears it may be off to the races. However, there is enough white and black down the field in order to make things interesting. Essentially several Ravens still have a shot including one guy getting a sniff and a grasp of him. But that’s as close as it was going to come to being a wrap given Brown’s superior balance and then quick reacceleration this one is pretty much all she wrote from there.

Brown play pic 6

That quick reacceleration is one trend that you probably should note throughout the entire play. Though he’s so precise & efficient in his deceleration which obviously sets up his reacceleration, anytime that the opportunity presents itself Brown shows that he is quicker than he is fast especially in his first 3 steps (a trend in most of our movers exhibited each week). His foot contact is particularly responsive and this is due to how stiff his ankle is once it strikes down (creating a more rigid lever and less compensation for leaking valuable energy).

I am not quite certain what exactly #84 is doing in his celebration once he arrives in the end zone but to each their own…especially if the person doing the dancing has gotten there in such a deserving fashion by laying down the movement law in the process. Because of what has happened to Brown’s movement skills in the last year, I think it’s safe to say that we will be seeing his name in the ever-prestigious All-Movement Team at the end of this season.

To take a peek at Brown’s spectacular play click this link below:
http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-cant-miss-plays/0ap3000000422119/Wk-9-Can-t-Miss-Play-Brown-can-t-be-stopped

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