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Lombardi's Sweep: Making A Comeback?

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Lombardi's Sweep: Making A Comeback?

Just a fascinating post from Chris Brown over at Smart Football detailing the rise and fall - and possible rise again - of Lombardi's most famous play, the power sweep.

From Brown:

Vince Lombardi’s “Packers’ Sweep” is probably the single most famous play in football. And, if it is not the most famous play on the field, it is undoubtedly the most famous play to have ever been diagrammed. Very few football fans cannot recall the famous “seal here, and a seal here and he runs…. in the alley,” even if they don’t even know what was actually being described; such was the magic of Lombardi.

Whether or not you understood the play itself, you certainly understood the import: A tough runningback turning the corner with a couple of offensive linemen as his personal bodyguards. But, of course, as Vince Lombardi himself explains, a play is just a play; there’s nothing magical to it. It’s about attitude and execution, and, as he also explains in the videos below, the right play comes to personify the heart and soul of an entire team; it makes the whole enterprise go.

But that was then, the common refrain goes. Whether because of the speed of the game, the evolution of offense, or simply the death of the fullback position (which you can see in the diagrams and video had probably the most crucial block in the whole play), the play is simply no longer relevant, having been replaced by zone blocking. Indeed, Bill Walsh’s 49ers, shown in a photo from 1986, was one of the last major NFL teams to run this play.

And it is kind of true that the play is not nearly as popular as it once was, but it — or at least some very similar concepts — have been making a bit of a comeback.

The entire post is just fantastic - highly recommended.

Comments (6)

Nerdmann's picture

The rules changed in 1970 to favor the passing game. Before that, the key was to run the ball. That was Lombardi's era.
Subsequently, the NFL became a passing league. Bill Walsh's offense became the strategy that took advantage of the new set of rules, after Don Coryelle's decade long experimentation with Dan Fouts.

PackersRS's picture

Not only the videos, but the athletic ability of the defenders.

Back in Lombardi's day, if you moved the ball to the sidelines, it would be an advantage to the offenses, as not all defenders would be able to reach in time.

Nowadays, if you run the sweep, most of the time you'll have the opposing DE reaching the sideline and blowing up the play.

The game is just too fast, and the spaces are too narrow for the running game, specially plays that take long to develop, to be sucessful as the main game philosophy.

Ct Sharpe Cheddar's picture

Yes but the "Wild Cat" is old school throwback single wing football.

packers0909's picture

Great video, thanks.

djbonney138's picture

Some people try to find things in this game that don't exist; but football is only two things - blocking and tackling. -Vince Lombardi

Ct Sharpe Cheddar's picture

Linebackers are just too fast now for the sweep to work.

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