QB deception: Games within the games

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
7:30
PM ET
ESPN's Mike Reiss and Tedy Bruschi have put together a detailed look at the New England Patriots-Seattle Seahawks game Sunday.

Bruschi, who played his final NFL game for New England at Seattle in 2008, likes what he sees from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

"There are various quarterbacks that the Patriots will go up against where I'll say, 'He'll give you your chances,' " Bruschi said. "With Wilson, he'll give you one chance. He's that smart of a decision-maker."

Bruschi pointed to play-action situations as crucial for the Patriots to exploit. He thinks this could be the week New England tries to go deep, using play-action fakes to spring receiver Brandon Lloyd down the field. Reiss notes that the Patriots' defense has been vulnerable to play-action.

The charts show play-action stats for quarterbacks and the defenses they will be facing in Week 6. There's one chart for each game involving an NFC West team.

The first one shows the Patriots' Tom Brady with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 131.3 NFL passer rating in play-action situations.

Brady will be facing a Seattle defense that has allowed only 48.3 percent completions on play-action throws (excluding screens). That is the fifth-lowest percentage allowed and well below the 60.4 percent NFL average, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The second chart shows the San Francisco 49ers' offense with what appears to be a strong play-action advantage over the New York Giants' defense.

A strong ground game doesn't always translate to play-action success. It's not a requirement, either.

Kansas City's Jamaal Charles leads the NFL in rushing yards. The Chiefs' quarterback, Matt Cassel, has the NFL's lowest passer rating on play-action throws. Arizona's Kevin Kolb averages 11.5 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and a 128.6 rating on play-action throws even though his team ranks last in yards per rush (2.7).

The 49ers are both good on the ground and on play-action throws. Quarterback Alex Smith ranks third in passer rating on play-action throws. The 49ers also lead the NFL in yards per carry (6.1).

The third chart shows Arizona's opponent, Buffalo, with two picks on play-action throws. The Bills' and Cardinals' defenses have combined for 11 sacks when defending play-action. Six is tied for the NFL lead. Five is tied for second.

Arizona has given up 17 sacks over its past two games. Properly selling the run is one way the Cardinals can slow down opposing pass-rushers.

Steve DeBerg, one of the best play-action quarterbacks when he played, explained some of the finer points as part of a 2008 piece from ESPN's Greg Garber.

"It's interesting that a lot of quarterbacks don't like play-action," DeBerg said then. "I didn't like it when I first started playing because I didn't like taking my eyes off the defense. In my opinion, it's the best pass protection you can have."

The final chart suggests the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins could be dangerous against one another in these situations.

The Rams' defense has allowed only two touchdown passes all season, both on play-action throws. Detroit's Matthew Stafford threw one of them under pressure for the game-winning score with 10 seconds left in Week 1. Robert Griffin III threw the other for a 68-yard strike to Leonard Hankerson.

Rams quarterback Sam Bradford has one play-action scoring toss, a 1-yarder to tight end Matthew Mulligan against Washington.

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