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Anatomy of a Play: Blaine Gabbert, Garrett Celek Connect for Two TDs vs. Falcons

Posted Nov 11, 2015

Breaking down the coaches' film to show how the quarterback-tight end combo twice beat Atlanta in the end zone.

In Anatomy of Play, we use NFL Game Pass to break down the coaches’ film of a critical moment from the San Francisco 49ers game each week. Want to nerd out like us? Sign up for the service here if you're in the U.S. or here if you're an international fan.

Before Sunday, the 49ers had been held out of the end zone for two consecutive weeks – first against the Seattle Seahawks and then versus the St. Louis Rams. 

But in its Week 9 matchup with the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco found the end zone twice in the first half. 

Both scores were delivered on third down by the unlikely combination of Blaine Gabbert and Garrett Celek, neither of whom were starters at the beginning of the season but have since worked their way into the lineup.

The first came at the goal line off of a play-action fake and the second was from 11 yards out on a double move over the middle. 

Here’s how Gabbert and Celek put 14 points on the board against the Falcons, illustrated in the form of GIFs.


The Fake:

The 49ers line up with their jumbo package in the I formation. All three active tight ends (Celek, Vance McDonald and Blake Bell) are in the game with Bruce Miller and short-yardage running back Kendall Gaskins in the backfield.

Obviously the goal here is to force the Falcons to commit to the run. Gabbert motions Bell across to create an unbalanced line. This helps free up the left side of the field for Celek to sneak out into open space.

The Sell out:

This angle offers a better view of how well the offense fakes the run. Every lineman cut blocks left, forcing the linebackers to come down in anticipation of a handoff. Nate Stupar (No. 54) and Philip Wheeler (No. 51) are the key Falcons to watch. Both players completely sell out on the play-action. All the left side of the line has to do is give Gabbert enough time to set his feet and throw.

Celek initially blocks Kroy Biermann (No. 71) before starting his route uncovered in the end zone. By the time Stupar and Wheeler recognize the play-action, it’s too late and Gabbert makes the easy completion for six points. He could’ve thrown to a wide-open McDonald as well.

The Thread:

Unlike the first touchdown, the 49ers don’t have the luxury of making the Falcons defend both the run and pass. At 3rd-and-6 from the 11-yard line, Atlanta dials up a four-man rush with its nickel defense in zone coverage. There really isn’t much open space for Gabbert here. McDonald’s corner route along with both underneath crossers (Bruce Ellington and Torrey Smith) are covered.

Jaelen Collins (No. 32) has outside technique on Celek, who stutter steps toward the corner before breaking inside. Watch as Paul Worrilow (No. 55) drops back and initially shades the right side of the field. This opens up the small window for Gabbert to hit Celek. Worrilow tries to recover at the last minute, but Gabbert puts just enough heat on his throw.

The Pocket Presence:

Gabbert doesn’t hesitate after taking his three-step drop. With the pocket closing in, the quarterback fires a rocket to Celek in between two defenders. Shaun Draughn is an option out of the backfield, but Gabbert doesn’t have time for that route to develop.

Instead of scrambling to avoid the pressure, the signal-caller steps into the hit from Adrian Clayborn (No. 99). Gabbert told reporters after the game that he “was going to stick in there and take some shots to the chin” if he could get the ball out on time. Mission accomplished here.

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