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Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Vantage point: One goal line play

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Here's my take on an idea you might have seen in the average-to-bad movie "Vantage Point."

In a goal line period with the offense at the 1-yard line Tuesday, the Titans handed off to Chris Henry. Linebacker Rocky Boiman blew up fullback Robert Ferguson Casey Cramer, helping keep Gerald McRath clean, and the rookie came crashing through. The end result -- McRath's big hit on Henry, with Boiman also involved -- was probably the loudest hit I've heard in all the practices I've watched this month. [Turns out I didn't nail the details here, and even multiple vantage points didn't give us all the information. That kind of proves the point of the post, maybe, no? Read all the way through for clarifications.]

I went to some of the key people in the play, and to one keen observer and asked them each to recount what happened. So without further ado, here are multiple takes on that one play:


McGrath, who said things were more spirited under the hot noon sun: "I came free, he didn't score, so I don't care what anybody says. We're going to take it to the film room, the eye in the sky never lies. It was a good play, a good run. Really I think the hit came from Rocky stopping the fullback because he got the penetration. Everything was cleaned up, I came free from the outside and just wrapped up. In a game, on the goal line, third-and-1, fourth-and-1, that's what you live for."


Defensive end Larry Birdine: "We were in goal line gaps on the 1. We pretty much just shot our gaps and filtered the run to the linebackers that were flowing and they pretty much just had to come down hill. With gaps, you're pretty much getting the penetration. We got deep penetration, we funneled up all their blockers and it was just one-on-one, G-Mac and Chris Henry, and he came down hill and fitted him up. I heard it. My back was kind of to the play, matter of fact it happened on my side. I ripped the tight end [Matthew Mulligan] and McRath just came off my [butt] and just hit him. I was like, 'Damn, somebody just got popped.' So I tried to spin out, and he still had him up, then he finally let him go."


Starting fullback Ahmard Hall who watched the play from behind the offense: "Both of them got a pretty good hit on Chris. Gerald got in, he's a real instinctive guy, he shot the gap, he's been doing that the whole camp, and Rocky came in and cleaned him up. The defense just made a good play on that one. Rocky's a vet, so he can read plays well but I think Gerald really made the play by shooting the gap and standing Chris Henry up and letting Rocky come through and clean him up."


Second-team left guard Jason Murphy: "The defensive line really clogged it up so good up in there that there was nowhere to go. I was a puller on that play, I was pulling from left guard out around to that front-side B gap, we were trying to hit it in there. You're just trying to find green grass in there. Once I did find green grass, I just tried to push the pile and [McGrath] slipped through there from somewhere, I'm not sure, I'll have to look at the film. As soon as I found green grass, I got one of the linebackers, I grabbed one of the linebackers and just kept on pushing. I just heard a big smack and everybody screaming. I knew it wasn't a good result. The defense was in the back of the end zone and we were going towards them, you could just hear them, see them, jumping up and down screaming and stuff. From what I understand, it was a good play evidently. It's the game. He's a big hitter. I like the kid, he's quick too."


Henry: "It was a loud noise, but I was still standing and I think the guy who delivered the blow was on the ground. I was standing so I don't know what to tell you. In a live situation, I hope he would have wrapped up. In a game, we met, it was a loud noise and if you don't wrap up that's not a tackle the last time I checked. It was an iso play, so it was going to be a quick hitter, it's goal line, you've got to get it. I saw a little bit of light and then McRath came and filled the hole. He probably was in unblocked. I hope you get in the hole, it's not that hard if you're unblocked. ... It sounds good, but I got a big hit man, I think my helmet is bigger than McRath's. I don't know what to tell you."

Photographer George Walker of The Tennessean snapped the play and showed me several several frames on his computer of after practice. Boiman did wind up on the ground at the end. But McGrath was on his feet and the defense would have easily rallied to Henry, easily tackling him for a loss. The defense clearly won the snap.

UPDATE, Wednesday afternoon: Jim Wyatt also wrote about this play, and like me, he thought McRath delivered the big hit. At special teams practice Wednesday morning, Wyatt was told it really had been Boiman.

That started a long lunchtime conversation about it -- isn't camp beautiful, we're debating a second team goal-line play a day after the fact -- and we wound up asking  if we
might see the play on film.

Lo and behold, as McRath said the eye in the sky didn't lie and, even his take on the play wasn't completely accurate. Boiman did make the big hit, but it wasn't on the fullback, it was THE hit on Henry. Boiman shot through the gap, went low, put his helmet and right shoulder on Henry and drove him back, ensuring there would be no score.

Thanks to the Titans for their participation in this exercise and helping us clean things up.