49ers can create opportunities for Kaepernick

Play action can test discipline of defense and make Crabtree solid target

The 49ers can build off the Read Option look and create play-action opportunities Sunday for quarterback Colin Kaepernick against the Falcons in the NFC championship game at the Georgia Dome. Three-level route schemes will target the Falcons' Cover-3 defense.

As shown here, the 49ers have their Ace personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends and one running back) on the field in a Diamond alignment with Kaepernick in the Pistol. The Falcons counter with their base 4-3 Over front playing Cover-3 (three-deep, four-under) in the secondary. The idea is to use play action, test the discipline of the defense and target Michael Crabtree on the Sail concept.

Sell fake

Kaepernick lit up the Packers defense last weekend in the divisional round by running the Read Option from the Pistol alignment. With that on tape, the 49ers will send tight end Delanie Walker (U) on short motion to the closed (strong) side of the formation and ride running back Frank Gore (R) through the mesh point. The 49ers want to show the option to the Falcons defense and test their ability to read basic run/pass keys. If the Falcons defenders step to the line of scrimmage, Kaepernick will have clean throwing lanes coming off the play action.

Dressing up Sail route

The Sail route is a common three-deep beater in the NFL with a clear out 9 (fade) route, a flat option and intermediate 7 (corner) route. Here, the 49ers are running the same concept with Crabtree (X) replacing the 7 route from a backside alignment. With a reduced (or nasty) split close to the core of the formation, Crabtree will stem his route back across the field and work over the top of the strong safety. That gives Kaepernick a high-to-low read with the added window dressing to disguise a basic concept.

Fear of Moss

Randy Moss still can run and cause fear in opposing secondaries with the threat of the deep ball. By running Moss (Z) on the clear-out fade route, the 49ers can drive cornerback Asante Samuel (LC) up the field while forcing free safety Thomas DeCoud (FS) to open his hips and leave the middle of the field. That allows the 49ers to create a two-on-one matchup versus strong safety William Moore (SS) with Crabtree and Walker.

Target strong safety

The goal behind the Sail route is to target the strong safety in his curl-to-flat drop. Moore will align 5 yards off the ball outside of No. 2 (Walker) and drop at a 45-degree angle to the top of the numbers at a depth of 10 to 12 yards. Moore is coached to sink under Crabtree, force the ball to the flat and then drive on the throw. However, if Moore sits short or bites on the play action, Kaepernick can target Crabtree on the intermediate crossing route.

Kaepernick's skill set

The Falcons can read their run/pass keys, gain depth in their drops and take away Crabtree on the crossing route, but they still have to account for Kaepernick's ability to break contain. Both defensive ends, John Abraham (RE) and Kroy Biermann (LE), must rush with contain principles to keep Kaepernick in the pocket. If the Falcons allow Kaepernick to escape the pocket, or step through open rush lanes, the quarterback has the open-field ability to pick up an explosive gain on the ground.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.

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