Game: 49ers at Steelers
Play: Brown keeping up with the trends of the season
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
I am not always great at predictions; hence the reason I don’t gamble on horse racing.
However, if there were a pool for prognosticating what may happen in movement patterns on a football field, I think I would have to consider putting my hat in the ring and betting the family business.
Last week, I said (albeit somewhat jokingly) that the 2015 football season could become the ‘Year of the Spin Move’ after San Francisco 49er RB Carlos Hyde was awarded this season’s first Movement Play of the Week with his sizzling spin move just one week after Braxton Miller executed the spin heard around the college football world.
Well…this week, Pittsburgh Steeler WR Antonio Brown gave the 49ers a dose of their own movement medicine with his own rendition of spin move flair (even if it wasn’t completely necessary!) and in the process he earned Week 2’s Movement Play of the Week.
As you may or may not recall, Brown was not only on last season’s All-Movement Team but I also rated him as the very best at his position.
Additionally, he was also given the nod for what I felt was the clear #1 Movement Play of 2014 for the open field mastery he displayed in Week 9 against the Ravens.
Thus, to see him get the nod for an early Movement Play of the Week this season should really not come as a shock to anyone as I am sure it will not be his last!
What happened movement-wise on the play?
This play begins with Big Ben under center and with it being 3rd down and 6 to go, he knows it’s likely that his star wide-out, Antonio Brown, is likely to see nothing but double coverage in some way, shape, or form. He also knows, that as long as Brown gets off any jam cleanly, the ball is going to his direction as he will beat the 49ers defensive backs like a drum…repeatedly…which of course he did to the tune of nearly 200 yards on Sunday including this 59 yard dandy at hand right now.
At the snap of the ball, Brown works his patented plyo step get-off from the line to put himself in a position he feels very comfortable in; undeterred acceleration! One of my biggest pet peeves is when position coaches, movement coaches, or strength coaches attempt to get players to change this plyo step out of one’s stance even if it is naturally occurring. Now, I will say in some athletes, the step can be turn out to be a “false” step in that it wastes not only time but also energy…however, that only occurs in the inefficient mover with this type of action. “IF” the athlete has a naturally occurring plyo step, as long as they are not violating any biomechanical truths, then it is not something that should be advocated against…and you can see why here as it allows Brown to get into acceleration at a great body lean but also allows a certain degree of read & recognition chaos from the cornerback which leads to his hesitation.
When Brown and the 49er cornerback leave the screen they may look as if they are hip-to-hip and it’s an equal race. However, if you’ve watched any of Antonio Brown over these last 2 years, there is no such thing as an equal race! As you can see as they depart your viewing pleasure, Big Ben has a bead on Brown the whole way and will let it fly with zero hesitation knowing that not only will his man win & make any double coverage advantage a non-factor, but he will do so with great ease & efficiency by several yards.
When the ball gets aired out by #7 and the main party of our feature today re-enters the mix, you can see who has the advantage of the situation where Brown has now well burnt not only the first 49er DB but also a second (who didn’t take what we would refer to as “a great angle”). If anything, Ben significantly under-threw the ball as Brown has to slow down and come back inside slightly in order to re-position himself appropriately to meet the ball’s flight.
At the 25 yard line he tracks the ball, catches it, and immediately begins processing the unique movement problem that has unfolded around him. The thing that makes Brown one of the most masterful movers in the entire NFL is his unique sensory-perceptual-cognitive ability that then leads to an efficient biomechanical display. What I mean by this is it’s his ‘information-processing’ that sets up the movement mechanics that we often see. And in this particular case, it’s really no different.
After he passes by the 20 yard line, he essentially has, give-or-take, 2 general decisions to choose from: 1). Continue on his angular path towards the end zone even though he was slightly off-balance and getting back to re-acceleration after having to slow down to wait to catch the ball in the air on the throw. Or 2). He could improvise, combine some relatively unorthodox movement patterns together, and lay down a sick highlight for us. Well, he chose the latter.
Now, either he felt like we really wanted to see this highlight done with greater pizzazz (most of us do) or he felt as though the pursuit from the original two 49er defenders and an additional safety tracking the play from the opposite side of the field would’ve been too much to outrun to make it to paydirt. I want to note here that based on what I’ve seen from Brown in the past I do believe he may have been able to outrun all of the guys in white & gold due to his world class re-acceleration. However, he also has some of the most masterful of stop, directional change, & restart movement actions that you will see on a field on Sundays so I will trust his judgment on how he felt was best to overcome this particular movement problem.
At the 17 yard line, with a opposite side safety bearing down hard to attack, Brown throws his left foot down hard into the ground (note the already ‘preactive’ coiled/flexed left leg prior to contact which allows for little energy dissipation) and stops on a dime with a sharp slicing action (sharp slicing in decelerations and directional change is frequently what allows Brown to do so differently than his peers).
After this, he brings his right leg & foot swing in tight and nearly directly underneath his base of support instead of what most movers do which is over-stride this next step; which would force a strong heel strike with an overextended leg. However, because of Brown’s position, where his right leg hits the ground in an already coiled action, this allows him to safety yield a high amount of eccentric forces through a short crossover action and then re-position himself to execute another move.
He takes a few, quick transitional steps back towards his own end zone but away from the 49ers defenders who have now over-pursued in the opposite direction. These few steps conclude with an angular slicing stop (some would call it a lateral stop or a hockey stop) and without hesitation (or energy dissipation), he quickly snaps his left foot into the ground, and uses that energy to execute a crossover spin move (told ya it was coming!).
The thing I want everyone to realize about these spin moves being executed effectively on-field each week is that unless the athlete performing the action has tremendous deceleration movement mechanics & stopping ability then the spin move is NOT possible! The ability to stop on a dime and adequately withstand as well as utilize the kinetic energy from that action is the movement characteristic that makes the rest of the execution possible!
From there, you see more of the movement mastery that makes Antonio Brown a rare specimen even in today’s NFL when he gets back to his acceleration mechanics in a controlled & coordinated fashion. It’s because of this then that he is able to gain ground so rapidly compared to others. If you pause the video below in his first 5 steps after that spin, and while either foot is on the ground, you can see the front side posture mechanics & technique that allows him to efficiently get back up to high velocities quickly.
He finishes the play diving for the goal-line but comes up just a few yards short even after the 59 yard effort. Now, in retrospect, he may have wanted to try his hat with his original path to the end zone but as I said earlier, he knows what his body is capable of in the open space environment better than I do!
The year of the spin continues…here’s further proof: