FILM REVIEW: Spotlight on 3rd Down Sack - Connolly vs McDonald

Ian Logue
December 17, 2012 at 09:16pm ET

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After sitting back down and going back over last night's game, one of the biggest problems during the game was the fact San Francisco was able to create pressure using just a four man front in passing situations.

One guy who struggled last night was Dan Connolly, who had quite the battle with San Francisco's Ray McDonald.  That ended up being a problematic match-up, and here's a quick look at a sack he made last night.


In this first frame above you'll see McDonald (circled) lined up against Connolly on a 3rd and 7 from the 49ers 7-yard line.  He's going to bull right past him and kill the drive and force the field goal attempt.


You can see in the above frame that McDonald starts working his way inside, although Danny Woodhead is still in the backfield, but he ends up chipping Aldon Smith before slipping out.  Unfortunately by then Brady's already down.


The worst part about this play is Brady should have a throwing lane to Aaron Hernandez, who is coming across right in Brady's view and he's got space right now to let go of the ball.  The problem is McDonald has already slipped past Connolly inside and as a result he's standing right in the way - so Brady can't throw it.


Now it's breaking down and you can see Brady starts to try to slide to his left to get away, but McDonald starts to accelerate and he's going to get away.  The window to throw the ball has already closed because you can see Hernandez was more or less his only option.  Wes Welker (who was in the right slot) and Deion Branch (split out right) - as you can see at the top of the screen - are both covered.


McDonald takes him down, which is too bad because the protection with everyone else on this play was actually pretty good.  But it's another example of some of the issues they had last night, and the fact San Francisco was able to be so effective rushing just four guys hurt because looking at these numbers Brady historically is pretty lethal when teams commit extra blitzers against them.

It's just one look at a myriad of issues, but it was one key play in a first half that saw them go 0-for-7 on third down, which allowed San Francisco to grab control of the game early. They could have used a touchdown on that play, which would have tied the game. Unfortunately at the time that sack helped give the 49ers some additional confidence and momentum, and they were able to hold New England to a field goal on that drive.