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49ers Unveil New Goal-line Defense

Posted Jan 14, 2014

San Francisco surprised the Carolina Panthers with an un-scouted defensive alignment during two pivotal goal-line stands.

Both of San Francisco’s coordinators saved new wrinkles for the NFC Divisional Playoff win over the Carolina Panthers.

Greg Roman called a Colin Kaepernick sneak on 3rd-and-1, a risky play the 49ers have seldom used in the offensive coordinators three seasons in the Bay Area. Anquan Boldin also attempted to throw a pass to Michael Crabtree, who was double-covered by Carolina, forcing Boldin to throw the ball out of bounds.

On defense, Vic Fangio provided an un-scouted defensive look during two critical goal-line stands against the Panthers.

Instead of using a typical 6-2 defensive alignment, the normal goal-line defense for the 49ers defense, Fangio opted for a 5-3 alignment.

49ers-Panthers in Pictures

The biggest difference was the use of 6-foot-3, 259 Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks as an interior linebacker. Brooks last played the position during his collegiate days at the University of Virginia.

When Carolina was unable to convert a 3rd-and-1 from San Francisco’s 1-yard line on the final play of the first quarter, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton convinced his coach, “Riverboat” Ron Rivera, to attempt a fourth-down sneak to start the second quarter.

Carolina’s quarterback tucked his head down tried to drive himself into the end zone behind his right guard. Brooks, however, had other plans. The physical outside linebacker met Newton at the point of attack and held his ground, pushing Newton backwards to seal the turnover on downs.

The new defensive look paid off for the 49ers in a major way.

“For the years we’ve been here we’ve never shown a 5-3 look,” Jim Harbaugh said on Monday. “By taking Ahmad and moving him into the center to create the 5-3 was what was un-scouted. We had not shown that and I thought it was a great move by Vic Fangio.

“We talked about it during the week. This is something that would be very difficult for the opposition if we get in that position and Vic said, ‘Well I hope we’re not in that position.’”

The Panthers were in position to score from the 1-yard line later in the second quarter. Brooks jumped offsides, impressively leaping over the top of the Panthers offensive line, but the penalty was not an issue.

NaVorro Bowman tackled Carolina power back Mike Tolbert for a 1-yard loss on the ensuing 3rd-and-1 play. As a result, “Riverboat Ron” settled for a field goal. It would also stand as Carolina’s last lead of the game.

The 49ers went on to out-score the Panthers 17-0 on their way to reaching the franchise’s third-straight NFC title game.



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