How Bobby April schemed the punt block

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was a big play at the time and was perhaps a game changer since the Punt Block resulted with Raiders' possession inside the Steelers' 30 yardline and the offense capitalized with 7 points. Those points (and the 14-0 lead) would prove crucial to the win.

But how did it happen? Here's a look at how Coach April schemed the punt block.

It starts with overloading the line with 9 rushers. This forces Pittsburgh to adjust their protection and bring in one gunner. Right before the snap, Chimdi Chekwa drops back, again forcing a protection change. This also creates a little gap that the Raiders will take advantage of.

On the snap, Jack Crawford and Kaluka Maiava run a game that was as crucial to the punt block as Rashad Jennings' outstanding individual effort. Crawford slants out, taking the two blockers in front of him and Maiava loops behind and up inside. This forces the Personal Protector (#21 Golden) to come up to take on Maiava. This is key. Golden vacates the area directly in front of the punter.

Outside, Jamize Olawale will crash inside. These three Raider rushers will attract attention and create a one-on-one island with Jennings against TE #81 Paulson. Paulson will do a miserable job of blocking and Jennings is able to run right past his attempted block.

Jennings takes an outside rush and Paulson will give ground; this sets him up and Jennings will rush right at Paulson's inside shoulder; Paulson doesn't get set and is helpless to do much of anything. Once Jennings get past Paulson, the Steelers have no one else because Golden has vacated the area to take on Maiava. Clear lane.

And that's when Jennings' individual effort comes in; the man breaks thru and explodes to get his hand right on the ball. Great play, but also a great scheme.

This punt block is a tribute to Jennings' effort but it's also a direct result of Bobby April preparing them. It's such a far cry from what Hoffman had them doing last year.


9 on 8. The Steelers know something is up.

They adjust by bringing in the left gunner. But this also means that they must communicate a new protection call.

9 on 9.

Here are the players involved. Note that #60 is the long snapper for the Steelers and those 3 names (Warren, Johnson, Worilds) are LS, RG, RT in order.

Chekwas is standing right over the LS #60 Warren. But right before the snap, Chekwa will drop out forcing the Steelers to adjust their protection again. That is the same area that the Raiders' rushers will attack.

The three key rushers will be (from outside to inside) Olawale, Maiava, Crawford. This will attract the attention of 4 Steelers, the 3 blockers (Warren, Johnson, Worilds) and the Personal Protector (Golden).

Crawford and Maiava run a game that will force Golden to come up; no matter what, they cannot afford to surrender a clear inside rusher. The LS will pick up Maiava looping inside, but that action still pulls Golden up and vacating his area.

This action will put Paulson on an island against Jennings.

Jennings attacks outside and upfield.

The Maiava-Crawford Game-action draws

And that gives Jennings a chance.

The vacated area beckons.

Paulson gives ground, bends at the waist, and doesn't get his feet set. Jennings rushes and makes contact as Paulson's foot is still off the ground. Without a firm base to anchor, Paulson has no chance. Jennings just runs right thru his semi-block.

Jennings will take the inside line and gets past Paulson

In the clear, just as Mesko is getting his drop.


First Try

What is very interesting (and another reason to do film review) is that this was the Raiders' Second Punt block attempt of the game. On the Steelers' first possession (and first 3-and-out), the Raiders also brought a punt block attempt.

They overloaded the C/LS and the right side of the line, resulting in a push up inside and some good penetration (Jack Crawford). This forced the Personal Protector to step up in protection (and he gets rolled backwards like a bowling ball). Even though the Raiders has a nice rushed, it was not enough to get close to that punt. The Steelers' protection held up.

Notably, on the edge, it was Chimdi Chekwa (6', 190) that rushed on the Wing blocker TE David Paulson (6'4", 250) and it was Maiava that was off the line. On the successful punt block, Coach April moves Jennings out to the wing on Paulson, moves Maiava up onto the line, and then drops Chekwa off the line and out of the way. Nice adjustment.

(On a side note, the Raiders brought a punt block attempt again later in the game, but Mesko got the ball off. That was the punt that ended up right at the goalline.)

Here's a quick look at how that Punt Block attempt looked

8 on 8.

The inside rush pulls #21 Golden up into the line.

Mass of humanity in the middle with a couple of the Raiders getting up inside.

Golden gets pushed backwards.

Punt Return

And then after that, when the Raiders played return, here's what the Steelers' protection looked like.

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