Wildcat Keeps Sanu Perfect!

The Atlanta Falcons beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today, 34-20.  The play I analyzed for TuneIn‘s No Huddle took place early in the 2rd quarter and broke a 3-3 tie.  The Falcons faced a 3rd and 1 from their own 49.5-yard line.  Former Rutgers quarterback and Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (#12) was in the shotgun.  The Falcons had pulled the wildcat formation out of their playbook.  Running back Tevin Coleman (#26) was lined up to Sanu’s left.  Julio Jones (#11) was in the left slot with the Bucs’ Robert McClain (#36) lined up opposite Jones.  The screen capture below shows the formation and defensive set (click on image for a larger view).

Did the Bucs think Sanu would run for the 1st down?  If so, that was a costly mistake!

McLain looked like he got a little lost on the play.  He left Jones not long after the snap.  He turned to cover the wide out.  That left Jones in single coverage with Bucs safety Justin Evans (#21).  Not long after the snap, Sanu faked the hand-off to Coleman, but the ball was bobbled.  Check out the screen capture below as Coleman’s right hip knocked the ball out of Sanu’s hands (click on image for a larger view).

Sanu recovered the ball from the air and threw it 3.10 s after the snap.

By the time Sanu threw the ball, Jones was running at about the Bucs 33-yard line.  Though Jones averaged almost 16 mph during the entire snap-to-score play, he averaged 19 mph after the ball was thrown.  Sanu released the ball at 53.2 mph and 43.8 degrees above the horizontal.  The ball took 3.27 s to reach Jones.  Air resistance was about 19% of the ball’s weight, which is why the ball landed in Jones’ gut at 47.1 mph.  Check out the ball’s arrival in Jones’ gut below (click on image for a larger view).

Jones was falling when he caught the ball, but physics helped him score as his linear momentum took him into the end zone!  See the score below (click on image for a larger view).

Julio Jones may have hated watching yesterday’s Iron Bowl, but he surely loved watching that football fly at him from the wildcat position!  And how about Mohamed Sanu?  He is now 6 for 6 in his NFL career with 3 TD passes.  That makes for a PERFECT 158.3 passer rating!  Check out the trajectory of his latest TD pass below (click on image for a larger view).

Sanu’s pass soared 16 yards above the turf before reaching Jones.  It was an amazing play for sure.

Chuck Nice from Playing with Science joined me on today’s Check Down segment.  He did an amazing job setting up the play before I yapped about the physics.  He loved it when I noted that Sanu’s spiral was about 10 revolutions per second or 600 rpm, which is one-and-a-third times faster than a helicopter’s rotor blades!  Click here for the live bit we did for TuneIn.

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

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