A Great Fake Punt!

For this week’s appearance on TuneIn Radio, I got to discuss a great fake punt in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ overtime win against the Los Angeles Chargers.  At the end of the first quarter with no score, the Jaguars were lined up for a punt.  It was 4th and 7 on their own 44-yard line.  Brad Nortman was set to receive the snap from long snapper Matt Overton.  Corey Grant was behind the Jaguars’ line to the right of Overton.  Check out the screen capture I got of the formation below (click on the image for a larger view).

I circled Nortman, Grant, and Paul Posluszny, who followed my yellow arrow into an incredible block.  Nobody was lined up across from Overton, and thus a lineman didn’t notice that Overton was ever-so-slightly angled toward Nortman’s right.  He would direct snap the ball to Grant.  Check out the hole that the Jaguars’ line opened up for Grant, and note Posluszny’s great block to seal the side of the hole to Grant’s right (click on the image for a larger view).

Notice Grant is headed toward the massive hole as Posluszny runs right in front of him.  Grant had faked to his right to give Posluszny time to get in the hole for the seal block.  Nortman rolled out to his left to help sell the fake.

The Chargers had two shots at stopping Grant.  The first was by #40, Chris McCain.  Grant stiff-armed McCain at the Jacksonville 45-yard line as McCain dove toward Grant.  The problem with McCain’s tackle attempt is that McCain’s force mostly pulled downward on Grant’s legs.  That wasn’t going to alter Grant’s forward linear momentum!  Check out the screen capture below (click on the image for a larger view).

McCain tried for Grant’s feet, but Grant stabilized himself just a like a tightrope walker does.  Notice both his arms are extended outward.  That makes it harder to move Grant’s center of mass outside his shoes, which would cause a gravitational torque to make him fall.

The second and last hope for the Chargers was #20, Desmond King.  He had an open-field shot at Grant near the Los Angeles 42-yard line.  But once Grant spied King, Grant shot to his left.  When King drove for Grant, Grant hurdled over nine feet horizontally to avoid having his legs taken out.  Look at Grant’s athleticism below (click image for a larger view).

King dove, but Grant leapt to daylight.  Once Grant cut hard to his right at the Los Angeles 35-yard line, he outran the defense to the goal line.  Those hard cuts can lead to well over 100 pounds of force on a running back’s legs.  It’s no wonder the average career length for an NFL running back is only about four years!

What I especially love about the play is that it took nearly 11 seconds to complete.  Someone could have jogged 10.6 mph along the sideline at the snap of the ball and gone 56 yards to the goal line in the time it took Grant to score.  Grant was through the initial hole at 15 mph, and then hit a maximum speed of about 19 mph halfway into Los Angeles territory before scoring at nearly 18 mph.  A sideline jogger that went 56 yards would have watched Grant run a total of about 85 yards!

Chuck Nice of Playing with Science joined me on today’s radio segment.  Chuck did a great job setting up the play and then I yapped some physics.  Click here for our segment on TuneIn’s No Huddle.  It was a lot of fun talking football physics!

I am Professor of Physics at Lynchburg College and author of Gold Medal Physics: The Science of Sports.

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