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Film Study: Ken Whisenhunt’s use of the Bunch Formation

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Jerome Watson breaks down the Chargers usage of the bunch formation in the Chargers’ win over the Falcons.

NFL: San Diego Chargers at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

1st Quarter

1st + 10, 15:00

Personnel: 12

Formation: Singleback, Bunch Right

San Diego goes to the Bunch right away. Ken Whisenhunt calls for a shift from Bunch Left to Bunch Right to see how Atlanta’s defense reacts. This is a Stretch Right run play. Chargers TE McGrath doesn’t stick with his assignment, giving his man the open lane to make the play. This play nets 0 yards here but stick with me here it gets better, as I believe the early shift gave Whisenhunt what needed going forward...

2nd and 5 12:21

Personnel: 12

Formation: Singleback, Bunch left

“Remember our rule about game planning. The first thing we do with any coverage is identify the grass. The second thing we do is identify the plays in our arsenal that put our guys in that open grass. It’s that simple” - Erick Streelman of Win With The Pass

This is exactly what Ken Whisenhunt did here. He didn’t wait to set this up either. He knew the Falcons were a Cover 3 heavy team and went with a concept that stresses that very coverage. Out of the bunch, you get a vertical concept with the tight ends and WR Tyrell Williams taking the deep over route which puts that back end in a lot of trouble. Inman’s route is highlighted in yellow because this is key to the vacant area. If his route is a streak, the CB is in that area. Smart move by Whiz to not go 4 Verts and elect to tag the curl.

1st and 10 11:40

Personnel: 12

Formation: Singleback, Bunch Left

Chargers go with the Split Zone concept that they love so much with TE Hunter Henry as the wham player. Melvin Gordon does a good job of staying on path allowing the OL moving left to all get to their assignments and then punching it through BS A-Gap for 8 yards.

1st and 10, 1:55

Personnel: 11

Formation: Singleback Bunch Right

Standard Dive Right play with the bunch decreased. We’re not going to over complicate this, but this play is important because there’s a PA Dive that happens later in the game – that we’ll get to - and I believe the 10-12 yard cushion the Atlanta DB gave the Outside WR on this play, let Whiz know he can come back to this look and get plus yardage.

2nd quarter

1st and 10, 15:00

Personnel: 11

Formation: Bunch Left, Ace (Closed TE)

This was the Toss Reverse Pass. This play ended up being incomplete but it was fun to see Whiz channeling his Inner-Steeler. And he called it right out of the quarter break, so I had to at least acknowledge it.

I really enjoyed some of the coaching points that went into this play:

  • Closing the formation with their best blocking player assured Travis Benjamin can get to his launching point. As you saw him load up to throw, tuck it and be able to re-launch.
  • The G Pull and the subtle motion inside by 15 helps to really sell the toss action block.

2nd and 10, 14: 54

Personnel: 12

Formation: Singleback, Bunch Left (Zip Motion)

The previous play was incomplete and Whiz didn’t change the formation. No need to. He saw he can get what he wants when that deep out is called. Once Dontrelle Inman moved, you saw a wholesale reaction by Atlanta – they in trouble.

“The corner is soft and the OLB is a run-first defender that has limited coverage skills. The 5-8 yard region outside the hashes will be open all night” - Erick Streelman of Win With The Pass

Bingo! The motion caused the rushing DE to stand up and cover Inman. The hard counter action froze him and put him in no man’s land. This is a sail concept and the dope coaching point here is that the outside WR isn’t just running a straight line streak. Williams is veering inside to kind of shield the DB or preventing from being able to break on the out route. Beautiful design, beautiful call. That route also held the safety long enough for Inman to find grass for +24 yards.

3rd Quarter

3rd and 3, 12:25

Personnel: 11

Formation: Gun Left, Bunch Right

This was an incompletion on the Spot concept. I don’t think Whisenhunt was expecting Man-Blitz here. They isolated Antonio Gates up top. 17 was thinking first down, so he went with the quick arrow. Nothing wrong with that but I thought that would’ve been a good time to take that shot to Travis Benjamin who had a deep route or take 85 one-on-one.

1st and 10, 8:05

Personnel: 11

Formation: Singleback, Bunch Right

Remember that dive from earlier? Remember the cushion the DBs give when the bunch is decreased? Whiz goes Sail Concept here and it is a pretty cool way to run it.

Coaching Points:

  • Stutter by Benjamin up top sells run action.
  • The point man (T. Williams) and Hunter Henry either had delay tags or could have been given check-release tags. Either way, it was dope. Williams released on an arrow once Atlanta defenders bailed out.

Chargers keep finding grass as the deep out by Inman got +17. Whiz is locked in and finding different ways to run the same concepts. Whew.

1st and 10, 5:47

Personnel: 21

Formation: Bunch Left, Move to Weak I (Shuffle Motion by FB)

Chargers go Lead Draw here for + 8 yards. Just another wrinkle out of Whiz’ bunch calls. FB Derek Watt does a great job of picking and locking up the Atlanta’s Mike Backer. Henry is well, Henry, and the Chargers WR continue their trend of finding work downfield. This was a no-nonsense run for Gordon. Buried his head and almost got a new set of downs.

4th Quarter

3rd and 6, 12:33

Personnel: 11

Formation: Gun Empty, Move to Gun Left, Bunch Right

The decreased split by the X WR kind of gives this play away. If you guessed shallow or mesh concept, you guessed right.

Randy Moss Tyrell Williams does a good job of setting the mesh point and makes it easy for T. Benjamin to work his way to the opposite sideline. Chargers run this so much, it’s seriously the new staple. The Chargers offense nets 13 yards off of this.

San Diego got away from the Bunch to finish the game but incorporating it in almost every possession throughout the game made it evident that Whiz identified what he liked, where he wanted to attack and wasted no time finding grass for his wide receivers.

San Diego went to the Bunch 13 times for 122 yards. Averaged 9.3 yards per play out of that package. Any offensive would love to get 120+ yards out of one formation. Way to go, Whiz.