Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has gotten a lot of praise around the NFL. He was the runner-up for Assistant Coach of the Year, and he may have very well won himself a head coaching gig in the NFL had he not made the decision to return to Detroit.
But the sincerest form of flattery is imitation.
Earlier this season, we saw Notre Dame win a football game using a play that looked incredibly similar to Johnson’s fourth-and-1 game-winning call against the New York Jets.
Well, it happened again on the biggest stage in football.
With 3:37 left in the Super Bowl and the Chiefs and Eagles tied at 35, Kansas City was facing a critical down. It was third-and-1 at their own 47-yard line. Make it, and you set yourself up for the game-winning score. Miss it, and you likely give the ball back to the Eagles and Patrick Mahomes may watch the rest of the game on the sidelines.
Andy Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy dialed up a brilliant and effective play: a crack (or buck) sweep. Check it out:
Split Back Buck Sweep!! pic.twitter.com/Y74OJm9HKV— Coach Dan Casey (@CoachDanCasey) February 13, 2023
The Chiefs have a split backfield with a receiver to both sides of the line of scrimmage. There are three key facets to this play: the left receiver deploying a legal equivalent to crackback block and setting the edge, the left tailback cut blocking the edge defender, and the left guard pulling to act as another lead blocker.
All three of those players do their job and it’s an easy first down for Chiefs running back Isiah Pacheco.
By extending the drive, the Chiefs were able to kick the game-winning field goal with just eight seconds left to clinch Super Bowl 57.
But all the way back in Week 1, the Lions did the exact same thing to the exact same team. On fourth-and-1 at the two-minute warning of the first half, the Lions scored an easy touchdown against the Eagles.
Kudos to Bobby Peters on Twitter for pointing it out:
Ben Johnson and the Lions scored on the Crack Sweep play call we saw last night on 3rd and 1, against the eagles in week 1: pic.twitter.com/by2h8XqVnm— Bobby Peters (@b_peters12) February 13, 2023
Look at all those same signifiers: crackback block from the receiver, cut block from the left tailback, and the left guard pulling. The overall formation is only slightly different than what the Chiefs did. The Lions threw in an extra tight end on the right side, while the Chiefs split a receiver on that side.
Of course, this isn’t to suggest Ben Johnson is a brilliant genius who is inventing plays no one has ever seen. Johnson didn’t invent this play at all.
But you have to imagine in the Chiefs’ two weeks of film study leading up to the Super Bowl, they may have come across this play and liked what they saw. And it was a big reason they ended up winning the Lombardi Trophy.