Game: Multiple Games
Play: Deceleration Domination
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
For this week’s Movement Play of the Week, we are going to do something a little different. As I went through the film from all the games of week 11 and I began to highlight the plays which stood above the rest, I realized a not-so-surprising trend. This trend is one that we have mentioned numerous times here at Football Beyond the Stats connected to many of the movers who are more exceptional than their peers. This trend is that the most masterful movers in the NFL have acquired, refined, and mastered the movement skill of deceleration and this deceleration ability is a key to sport performance.
Though not as sexy to the common movement consumer as the qualities of acceleration, top-end speed, or even jumping prowess, the ability to stop on a dime proficiently is arguably the most necessary prerequisite for dynamic and efficient movement to occur on a football field on Sundays. Deceleration skill honestly sets up many of the other dazzling movement skills and sports skills alike that we witness as athletes make their opponents look silly. You will see this while watching each of week 11’s POW candidates; the highlight was made possible from the player’s deceleration ability to display this skill proficiently when the time was needed.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
On each of the plays below, we will focus on the set-up, use, and display of the deceleration pattern that the player used. Let’s give the quick reminder that in the game of American football (and many other sport environments) the main purpose of deceleration is to provide the most effective set-up for the athlete to execute a cut/change of direction/agility action, for the athlete to reaccelerate, or for the athlete to perform a sport-specific skill (such as catching or tackling).
Additionally, we must say that deceleration skill can obviously take place and be displayed in any plane of motion, at any speed, and in highly variable fashions (such as with different base of support and center of gravity, etc). Obviously, the “most optimal” deceleration execution is dependent on what the environmental stimuli offers to the athlete, what the sport movement problem presents to him, and what the athlete intends to do after the deceleration movement pattern.
Four performers, all RBs, showed us all this display of deceleration domination in Week 11:
Our Mover of the Year for 2013 (see: https://footballbeyondthestats.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/2013-bts-mover-of-the-year-lesean-mccoy/) makes his living off of being able to decelerate from numerous positions, angles, and speeds more fluidly than everyone else. Though he hasn’t been nearly as dazzling as he was in the year that I gave him the kudos for being the best moving athlete in the League (while being hampered with some nagging issues), LeSean McCoy is still one of the best doing it; especially when we are referring to being able to stop…then change direction…and re-start again.
As you will see on the play below, after Shady has gotten the corner and past the initial wave of Patriot defenders, he immediately beings to scan the perceptual landscape for potential problems up-ahead. If you pause the video when he’s at the 22 yard line you can see where his visual gaze is fixated. For approximately 7-8 yards, this continues to occur and it allows him to begin the process of deceleration earlier as he essentially sets-up Patriot defenders while also not moving at maximum linear speed.
When at the 14 line, Shady uses a hesitating type linear lunge-type deceleration pattern that leaves two Patriot defenders guessing as to what he’s going to do and where he’s going to go. Of course, if most other RBs performed this action many defenders wouldn’t buy the idea that he could stop and cut the path back inside but because of McCoy’s reputation and capabilities I think this could’ve been at-play here. In any event, Shady showed here, that like most other open movement skills, the level of proficiency doesn’t just come down to the execution of efficient movement mechanics but also aspects of the brain and the behaviors (as he reads and then feints/fakes subtlety to set up his opponents).
The deceleration mastery put on display by Falcons RB sensation Devonta Freeman took place between the 41 to 35 yard line. Though Freeman wasn’t able to score on the play his deceleration ability did give him the opportunity to pick up additional 25 or so yards. Here with this run, you will see a wide, slicing, and relatively sharp cut (at least for the open field at higher speeds) from Freeman at the end of the deceleration pattern.
If you want to see the deceleration position and execution in all its glory, pause the video when Freeman’s left foot strikes the 38 yard line. Here, you will see a low but loaded/coiled position with a shin angle that isn’t so negative or a heel strike that is too apparent that it ends up dissipating too much of the forces and causing him to become unstable or allow many of the energy leaks typical of this type of deceleration action in the open field. This then allows him to take two additional shorter/tighter steps (indicative of many of the most effective deceleration patterns) as he biomechanically prepares for the change of direction action back inside to his left.
In our third POW, we will see one a great overall movement display from Packers RB Eddie Lacy which included a spin move. In the past when we see spin moves make their way to the Movement POW, they often are performed because of efficient deceleration mechanics. This time however, our deceleration movement action takes place AFTER the spin move. Find your way to the Packer 48 yard line, where after spinning past a number of Viking defenders, Eddie Lacy sees one of the better playing safeties in the entire NFL, Harrison Smith, bearing down and coming with vigor, intensity, and passion. Unfortunately for Harrison, he had tweaked his knee earlier and this may have contributed to him not getting his center of gravity as low as he typically would and thus not being able to being a position to keep his movement options open to be able to bring Lacy down.
Though being relatively nimble (when healthy) for a bigger dude, Lacy still isn’t known as the most proficient of movers (could this be contributing to many of the other issues he’s been facing this year??). However, on this play sequence, he does put together a fantastic combination of movement pattern solutions that would leave even the most masterful of moving RBs a little envious. The end zone view is probably the best to see what Lacy did here during this deceleration movement pattern. You will also see his initial lunge cut near the line of scrimmage and the spin move as well as the wide angled power cut after his deceleration movement action.
During our fourth and final Movement POW we see Tampa Bay RB Doug Martin get off to the races and nearly house one from 80 plus. Not known as a top end speedster per se (as you will see when he is caught), I have always loved Martin’s lunge cut and bilateral power cutting movement patterns since he’s entered the League. Well, the thing that makes those cutting actions possible is also responsible to him getting loose in the open field on this Sunday…if you guessed deceleration proficiency you’ve been following along!
Martin’s first deceleration movement action took place relatively early in the play (check out his second & third steps after taking the hand-off from Winston) and may appear ever-so subtle. But as I said at the onset of today’s blog, deceleration movement patterns can be very diverse depending on the performance context required. Without this deceleration movement action, he would’ve been dead to rights in the backfield; instead, it allowed him the affordance to accelerate and get through the Buccaneer first and second levels. Ironically, we also see Martin use a deceleration pattern later on much further down the field while also absorbing contact from an Eagles secondary member (see the 18 yard line). Obviously, Martin is built slightly different from a guy like Eddie Lacy thus he has ease in attaining a wide base of support position (even when moving at higher speeds or having to stop/cut in unilateral fashions).