Power & Counter Runs

Power and Counter Runs:

This is my favorite running concept, admittedly mainly for its name.  Running the football is all about technique and power and this play is the perfect combination of the two.  The power run play is not very complicated, but is probably the most used running play in the NFL right now.  Here is a diagram of the play as the San Diego Chargers occasionally run it.


via smartfootball.com Thanks to Chris Brown for the image.

The blocking of this play is pretty simple.  The “playside” offensive linemen will block “down” meaning they will block the defender to their inside.  This means the “playside” guard and center will block the outside shoulder of the defenders over them and the “playside” tackle will block the defender to his inside.  If the play is being run “strong side” or towards the side of the offensive line with a tight end the tight end will block the defender to his inside rather than the offensive tackle.  Often the “playside” tackle while blocking the inside defender will used the technique of aiming for the back foot that was described for zone blocking runs, this will allow the tackle to head up field and block a linebacker after double teaming the defender over the guard  (or in the case of the tight end he will double team the defender over the offensive tackle and then block the inside defender).  However, keep in mind that by blocking down the “playside” tackle is letting his man, the outside defender, run free.

Notice how in the bottom left diagram the tight end does not block the defensive end "E" but instead blocks the Mike "M"

Just like the advantage gained by offensive linemen who take a sidestep in zone running plays blocking “down” allows offensive linemen to get great leverage on their assigned defender.  The advantage the offensive linemen have in leverage should allow them to literally block their defenders out of the play.  This is the same advantage in leverage gained by the sidetep during the zone running plays.  The “down” blocking done by the offensive linemen also allows double teams right at the point of attack (where the tailback is running).  In the diagrams above notice how the strong side defensive tackle “T” is being double teamed by the right guard and the right tackle (also the right tackle runs upfield to block a linebacker after the double team).  The “down” blocking effectively seals off the backside of the Power run.  Below is some good footage of UCLA running the power play courtesy of Bruins Nation’s jtthirtyfour:

The only reason that the tackle can allow his defender to go free is that he has help, often from a fullback or an h-back.  This fullback or h-back uses a “kick out block” meaning that he blocks the defender while facing towards the sideline.   This “kick out block” just creates yet another seal, the fullback or h-back is blocking the defender so that the fullback or h-backs body is between the defender and the tailback.  The tailback is therefore presented with a very clear running lane, there is a wall of blockers on either side .  When done properly it should appear as a tunnel or railroad tracks with blockers lining either side.

The last part of the blocking involved in the Power run is done by the “pulling” guard (or a very athletic “pulling” tackle).  This player will lead the tailback through the gap and block the first defender he sees; often this defender is a linebacker.  In the above diagram in all of the examples but the play in the top right the left guard is “pulling” and block the Sam “S”.   The tailback follows the guard ensuring that there is no way (short of whiffing on his block) that the guard can make the wrong block.  The tailback will adjust his running angle in such a way that the guard will be blocking the defender away from him.  If the guard blocks the defender so that he is on the inside of the tailback the tailback will run outside, but if the guard blocks the defender so that is on the outside of the tailback the tailback will cut inside. Below is film of the San Diego Chargers running the Power run play with LaDanian Tomlinson.

The perfect complement to the Power run is the Counter run.  Just like the Power run the Counter run has a pretty self explanatory name.  In a Counter play the tailback will take a quick step to the opposite side of the field from where he plans to run.  This is the “counter step” it is a counter too where the play will really go.  This will hopefully cause the linebackers to flow to the wrong side of the field making the blocking even simpler for the offensive linemen.  Below is a diagram out of the old Nebraska playbook of the Counter play being run in a singleback set.


via i109.photobucket.com

As I implied above, the blocking of a Counter play is fundamentally the same as a Power play.  The linemen will block “down” gaining the same advantages as mentioned above in the Power run.  The offensive linemen will have good leverage against the defenders allowing the offensive linemen to seal the defenders out of the play and the “playside” tackle will be able to initially double a defender and then go up field and block a linebacker because he is letting the “playside” outside defender run free.  In the above diagram the “weak side” offensive tackle, the right offensive tackle leaves the defensive end “E” unblocked, does not help double team the nose tackle “N”, but instead heads straight upfield to block a linebacker “B”.  However, in most traditional two back sets the benefit of the “pulling” guard is amplified even further in the counter play.  The fullback will block the outside defender on the side that the tailback makes his initial (and misleading) step towards.  This allows not only the guard, but also the tackle to “pull play side” (the defender the tackle was responsible for is being blocked by the full-back).  Below is a diagram from an old Nebraska playbook of the Counter play out of a two back set.  Notice that the “weak side” offensive tackle, the left offensive tackle does not block the defensive end “E” but instead “pulls play side” and blocks a linebacker “B” while the fullback blocks the defensive end “E”.


via i109.photobucket.com

Lastly, here is some low quality video (my apologies) of the Counter play being run out of many different formations.


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