One of the sad realities of the NFL is that our heroes don't last forever. It's a painfully brief period of time that we're privileged to marvel at the talents of our favorite superstars.
It's tough to imagine LaDainian Tomlinson's best years might be behind him. But L.T. turns 30 next June and doesn't look like the same runner that shredded defenses for 14,025 yards from scrimmage and 129 touchdowns in his first 111 career games.
Anatomy of a Play
Nagging injuries have dropped his yards per carry average to 3.8, the lowest it's been since his rookie year, and he's on pace for just over 1,100 yards, which would be the lowest total of his career.
It was only a couple of years ago that L.T. was unquestionably the best running back, and perhaps the best player, in football. Now, he's just another good back and two years from now, who knows ...
An athlete of Peterson's caliber is extraordinary and unique. His natural size, speed, and explosiveness make him, from a pure talent perspective, one of the best backs of all time.
Instincts, check. Work ethic, check. Desire, check.
Peterson still has a lot to learn about the NFL game and is a work in progress when it comes to learned skills like vision, patience, and timing. The other stuff he's got covered.
But there's no telling how long he'll be the kind of back that can run over, around, and through an opponent, the kind of back that scares a defensive coordinator into putting eight men in the box on third-and-12, and the kind of back that can lift his team to new heights by simply inspiring greatness in others.
In our Anatomy of a Play we pay homage to 2-8 and his amazing talents, but we also showcase the interesting scheme created by Brad Childress that was able to generate such an enormous hole on second-and-2.
With three tight ends on the field, Childress put a twist on a simple zone run, and the results were devastating to Green Bay's man-to-man based defense.
Instead of having backside tight end Visanthe Shiancoe cut block the defensive end, as he would normally on a zone rush to the right, Childress released Shiancoe into the left flat on a pass route. That forced the defender responsible for him in coverage, safety Nick Collins, to react to him. That removed Collins as a run-support player without even having to block him.
The other interesting element was that the wing tight end on the right, Jeff Dugan, crossed the formation to the left, and blocked the backside defensive end (the defender Shiancoe would have blocked on a normal zone run).
Dugan's action impacted two players that he didn't even have to block: Corner Charles Woodson and middle linebacker Desmond Bishop.
Woodson was responsible for Dugan in man-to-man in coverage and followed him across the formation, removing Woodson from run support. Bishop, who would have had the best chance to tackle Peterson, took two steps in the wrong direction in response to Dugan, and was completely out of position to make the tackle.
Thanks to Shiancoe's release and Dugan crossing the formation, four players were eliminated as potential tacklers.
There will be plenty of plays where Peterson's ability to make grown men look ridiculous is the reason he scores, but this was not one of those plays. Thanks to a couple of cool wrinkles to an everyday zone blocking scheme, Peterson ran through a gaping hole at full speed -- something Peterson himself can truly appreciate.