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Steelers-Packers play to watch: Inverted bone 26 counter

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Steelers WR Antonio Brown vs. Packers CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams

MATCHUP: Nobody has been able to slow Brown this season. Whether it is deep passes, screens or underneath tosses, Brown has torched opposing defenders. Williams and Shields have been torched their share. They are part of the 22nd-ranked defense against the pass.


BROWN: He is having a monster season and approaching two single-season Steelers records. Brown, who has 95 catches for 1,307 yards, needs 18 catches over the next two weeks to break Hines Ward's team record of 112 set in 2002 and needs 92 yards to surpass Yancey Thigpen's record of 1,398 yards set in 1997. Brown has had at least five catches in each of the team's 14 games. Only one other receiver (the Redskins' Pierre Garcon) has accomplished the same this year.


SHIELDS/WILLIAMS: The Packers secondary has struggled, whether it is Shields or Williams. Both lead the team with three interceptions but have been picked on at times. Williams and Shields are rated as the 33rd and 43rd best cornerbacks in the league, according to Williams has allowed 42 catches for 573 yards and three touchdowns, and Shields has allowed 39 for 620 and three scores.

Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

In this age of the read option and the no-huddle, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy likes it a little simpler.

And it is pretty difficult to get simpler than the inverted bone 26 counter. Some call it the diamond formation.

It has been a staple formation since McCarthy took over in Green Bay, and it was something the Packers used extensively en route to their Super Bowl XLV victory over the Steelers three years ago.

It also is a formation and play that changed the momentum of last week's come-from-behind win at the Dallas Cowboys.

Eddie Lacy's 60-yard run out of the inverted bone 26 counter on the first play of the second half spurred Green Bay's comeback from a 23-point deficit.

“It was a perfectly blocked play,” Lacy said. “It's not a formation I ran out of in college, but I have no problems with it.”

The Packers ran out of the formation nine times against Dallas.

The inverted bone positions the player — in this case Lacy — in the fullback position between the backfield split-backs but 8 yards off the line of scrimmage.

The base “bone” formation keeps the quarterback under center with commonly used plays being runs inside the tackles, play action, roll outs and the way the Packers use it the most: the counter.

The formation has fullback John Kuhn lined up to the left and tight end Andrew Quarless to the right, both 3 yards behind the tackles. Quarterback Matt Flynn is under center with Lacy in the deep I-formation.

Receiver James Jones is split wide left and Jordy Nelson wide right with five offensive linemen.

The formation gives the Packers options and keeps the defense honest as there is no clear strength of formation. There is nothing tip the defense on whether the play is going left or right.

The natural running formation forces defenses to put eight men in the box. This allows teams to get one-on-one coverage with an up-back out of the backfield. Typically, this sets up an athletic tight end against a linebacker.

And with a receiver or receivers on the field, the Packers are capable of throwing out of such a run-heavy formation.

Also, there are three potential ballcarriers and a pair of lead blockers who can cause issues for defenses trying to key on three backs.

The inverted bone 26 counter has three players getting blocks at the second level. Kuhn, from the left fullback slot, will block the inside linebacker with Quarless coming across the formation from the right fullback spot to block the same inside linebacker before scraping off to block the strong safety. Right guard T.J. Lang pulls to the left to shield off the other inside linebacker with the rest of the offensive line blocking the guy in front of them.

At the snap, Lacy will take a counter step to the right before following the blocks of Kuhn and Quarless and just inside the kickout block of left tackle David Bakhtiari.

“It's a play that gets us back to the basics,” McCarthy said.

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.




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