The Perfect Play by Jake Plummer
Hands at home! Eyes Sharp! I squat down behind Tommy Nalen knowing we have the perfect play called! This isn’t always the case during a game, but in my mind, I think every play will work. I am an optimist. Some critics might say this is my biggest ﬂaw, but I believe it’s my greatest attribute. As a quarterback I had to have a strong belief in my abilities along with a mutual respect for my coaches and teammates. Belief in each other’s abilities and mindset from the owner down to the bus driver is key to the success of any NFL organization. I believed every play would work, so my teammates adopted that same mentality.
When I played football, I always believed we could win no matter what the score was. Obviously, there were games that were over before the fat lady sang, but in my mind, I had to keep believing and continue playing 100%. Our chances of winning those 42-10 blowouts were slim, but my job as a leader was to inspire my teammates and never give up.
I watch the game today in hopes of seeing a team fall behind and then rally to win. There’s nothing sweeter than snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat. It takes a whole team effort with all energy directed at succeeding. The whole team, including the coaches, trainers and video guys must believe there’s still a chance. This starts with making every call from the offensive coordinator a perfect play. Coaches coach and players play. Once the play call comes in its up to the 11 guys on the ﬁeld to make it work. We must believe in each other and take it one perfect play at a time!
Flashback to 2005. I’m playing QB for the Denver Broncos and we are dialed in as an offense. Our offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak has a playbook that enables our offense to dominate both on the ground and through the air. He’s calling lots of perfect plays this year and just now he radioed in one of my favorites. An explosive play-action we run to perfection every time. Here’s the call;
“Strong Right Fake 34 Naked Left X Stutter”
I grin as it comes through the speakers in my helmet fully expecting this play to work like every other play. I believe all plays are going to work, it’s my nature, it’s my way of leading the troops and making sure all our thoughts are laser focused on succeeding in the now. All 11 guys in rhythm, ready to explode on this poor defense tasked with stopping our offense. Good luck dudes!
For this particular play-call to be effective our offense must run the ball well. Today we are doing just that with Mike Anderson, Tatum Bell, Ron Dayne and Cecil Sapp leading the charge. Our stable of running backs are physical bruisers that love to run the rock downhill. But we all know who deserves credit for our dynamic run game, the offensive line. It consists of 5 smart, tough and unselﬁsh believers that live in the shadows of any offense’s success. Matt Lepsis, Ben Hamilton, Tommy Nalen, Cooper Carlisle and George Foster reinforce my belief that we can succeed on every play. I love their fat faces!
As I get behind center the ﬁrst thing I do is conﬁrm there is no threat of a weak side blitz. We have a naked bootleg called, which means I have no one blocking any weak-side defensive threat. Therefore, priority number one is to sell the run. All eleven offensive players must be in sync and execute a ﬂawless run fake in order to trick the defense. Set Hut!!! Off we go……
Our ﬁve Offensive Lineman ﬁre out with their heads play side engaging their defender and convincing this hapless defense that we’re running 34 zone again. This unit is willing to sell out for the cause. Off they go………….
Rod Smith is our X receiver. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, cuts off the defensive back on his way to block the strong safety. Rod is crafty and knows how to sell the run, off he goes……
Cecil Sapp is our Fullback. His job is to blast into the 4 hole ahead of our tailback and lead block the 34 zone. Basically, poor Cecil smashes into the middle linebacker making it look like downhill zone running play. He’s a soldier and he loves his job and will do whatever it takes to keep it, even if that means rattling his brain for a fake 34 zone. Off he goes…………
Jeb Putzier is our Tight End. He also must make it look like a run by widening the defensive end lined up over him in order to get inside leverage and widen the 4 hole. While sealing the end he also gains depth upﬁeld and works himself into position to run a crossing route across the formation from strong to weak, or right to left across the ﬁeld. His duty is to cross the formation from right to left and aim to get 10-12 yards depth. He is my second option and my only bail out if a late blitzer or nosey defensive end sniffs out the naked boot coming their way. Off he goes……
Kubiak only calls this play once he conﬁrms the defensive end is an eager beaver tasked with preventing the weak side cutback by our tailback. Remember, we’ve been gashing this defense all day with the run. Hence the call. The perfect Play! Believe it!
Ashley Lelie is our Z receiver. His job is to make the corner covering him think another run is coming his way. As he works for inside leverage, he also gains depth and runs a 20 yard deep cross towards the opposite hash. This route keeps the Free Safety in the middle of the ﬁeld and away from the sideline I have in my sights. The area of the ﬁeld I plan to ﬂing this bomb! Off he goes…….
While all 10 guys execute their assignments it’s now my job to get away from center, gain depth and mesh with Mike Anderson, our tailback. A mesh is a clean execution of a run or play fake with the running back. Mikes job is to act like he has the ball and go get tackled by the defense. He sells run on this play and gets tackled or helps seal the back side in case a cagey defender spy’s the fake and gives chase. Off he goes…….
I pull the ball out of Mike’s belly after a clean mesh and take a quick glance at the end of the line of scrimmage to make sure the weak side end bit on the fake. Its working, they all bit on the run fake and it’s clear sailing! I continue to gain width and depth as I rollout to my left thus allowing my receivers time to get to their landmarks. Off I go…..
First, I use my EYES to freeze the Free Safety by checking my Tight End on his crossing route. I have green grass in front of me, so I bring my eyes back to the left sideline where my crafty old pal Rod Smith has straightened his release, pushed up the ﬁeld to get his depth (about 20 yards deep on the sideline) and is settling down to ﬁnish his comeback route.
Rod has already caught two balls on this play, “Strong Right Fake 34 Naked Left.” Did you catch it? What’s missing? If you said, “X Stutter” you were right. If you’re still scratching your head then let me explain. Kubiak added the glorious word “Stutter” onto the end of this play, thus turning a highly effective play from our playbook into a big play opportunity for our offense.
Rod Smith is one of the best route runners in the game. At the top of his route he sinks his hips, settles and makes it look like another comeback. This poor DB thinks he’s got Rod covered and he sits on the route as I make spiritual, mental and most importantly, EYE contact with Rod as he spins, hits the gas and accelerates up the sideline on a perfect “X Stutter” route! Off he goes…..
Now for the fun part! While still rolling to my left I rip the pigskin across my body towards Rod. The throw is ﬁrm with touch and its trajectory is perfect as it pierces the thin Colorado air in a tight spiral leaving the cornerback grasping, spinning and attempting to somehow catch up to #80. It’s too late for him, he’s toast! Off he goes……
The ball lands softly in #80’s soft, reliable hands as he accelerates and races towards the end zone!! I enthusiastically sprint the remaining 60 yards downﬁeld screaming “Go Baby Go!” to celebrate another touchdown with the guys who helped orchestrate this play. The tingle and rush we experience together as the crowd erupts conﬁrms that we are unstoppable. Touchdown Broncos!!!!
At this moment there are 70,000+ believers in a frenzy feeling the same euphoria. It’s amazing to be a part of something this precise, potent and positive. It’s one of my fondest memories from my playing days in the NFL. The perfect Play! Now off I go…….