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Friday, November 9, 2012
Quick look at play-action passing games

By Mike Sando

Kevin Seifert's recent item on the Minnesota Vikings' floundering play-action passing game invited a look into where NFC West passers stand in this department.

Teams with strong ground games should, in theory, enjoy greater success with their play-action offense. Opponents preoccupied with stopping the run should be more apt to bite on the fake handoff, the thinking goes. This should, in turn, open up opportunities in the passing game. This doesn't mean a strong running game guarantees a strong play-action game, or even that team must run well to succeed in the play-action game.

Earlier this season, Arizona's Kevin Kolb completed all his play-action attempts for 115 yards and two touchdowns against Miami even though the Cardinals averaged 1.9-yards per rush that day. Coach Ken Whisenhunt suggested the team used formations and personnel effectively to set up those plays.

Every case is different. When we examine how well the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith has fared as a play-action passer, his team's strong running game comes to mind as a likely contributing factor. San Francisco makes frequent and effective use of heavier personnel and formations. This could be one reason the team has been so effective on early downs.

For now, let's take a look at those play-action figures. The chart breaks them down. I've included stats for the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez. He is the only non-NFC West quarterback participating in a game involving a team from the division in Week 10.