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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
X's & O's: Cover-3 beaten deep

By Mike Reiss

For those with an interest in X's and O's, Matt Bowen's "playbook" series on the National Football Post website offers comprehensive, easy-to-read breakdowns that can lead to a better understanding of the game.

For example, check out Bowen's most recent breakdown on 49ers tight end Delanie Walker's long touchdown catch against the Patriots.

Bowen uses pictures to illustrate how the 49ers used formation variation with their multiple tight ends to create favorable matchups, which was a point Tedy Bruschi made in his ESPNBoston.com weekly chat. It is somewhat unusual for a team to attack vertically with a 1 WR/2 TE/2 RB grouping, but that's what the 49ers do on Walker's touchdown catch, and four things stand out from Bowen's analysis:

1. Randy Moss' deep speed should be credited with an assist on the play, because it draws middle-of-the-field safety Devin McCourty to his side. This is a clear-cut example of how stats are only part of the equation -- Moss had only 2 catches in the game, but his presence was a big reason for this touchdown.

2. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick does a great job with his eyes to draw McCourty to Moss, before firing to Walker on the opposite side.

3. Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, while closest in coverage, is put in a very tough spot. The 49ers successfully targeted him on the play, but any corner would have had trouble based on the way McCourty played the middle of the field.

4. This is a good example of how effective usage of the All-22 film can highlight breakdowns in the secondary and lead to a better understanding of the game.

The last point to make is that if we retrace our steps and read colleague Field Yates' picked-up pieces from the game (see point No. 7), his analysis mirrors Bowen's.

Nicely done, all around.