After their third takeaway of the first half on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, the Detroit Lions had a moment where it was possible effectively put the game away. That could have meant using the rest of the second quarter clock to add points, or be more aggressive.
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson chose aggression, calling for a flea flicker that left tight end Sam LaPorta open for a 31-yard touchdown. But it was more than an ordinary flea flicker, with Jared Goff pitching to David Montgomery, Montgomery tossing to Josh Reynolds and Reynolds tossing it back to Goff.
On Sunday night, as the San Francisco 49ers started to take control in their own blowout win, tight end George Kittle's second touchdown of the game looked awfully familiar to anyone who saw the Lions' play earlier in the day.
To be fair, it's not like the Lions have a copyright on a play like that. Anyone can use it, it's just a matter of being able to pull it off. There are so many moving parts, and all it takes is one little mistake to derail it. Truly, the Lions and 49ers both made it look surprisingly easy.
Kyle Shanahan was emboldened by Lions' success on trick play
When talking of "offensive geniuses" in today's NFL, 49ers' head coach Kyle Shanahan is part of the discussion. It truly doesn't matter who his quarterback is (within reason), he can foster an effective offense around a growing array of proven skill position talent.
After the game, Shanahan acknowledged seeing the Lions run the trick play the 49ers did.
"Detroit ran it earlier in the day, they scored,” Shanahan said. “I saw it before the game. Based off what we were going against today we planned on calling it, but definitely, seeing it work for someone else gives you more confidence."
Shanahan added the 49ers have been practicing the play for years, they just never ran it in a game before Sunday night. Apparently it's called "toss 18 flea flicker" in their offense.
“We installed it a couple years ago,” Shanahan said. “Just brought it out today.”
The 49ers may have "toss 18 flea flicker" in their playbook going back a couple years. But the record will show the Lions appear to be the first to run it (whatever they call it) and score a touchdown on it this season (the Atlanta Falcons ran it and didn't score in Week 2). It's a copycat league, and copying things that are successful is easy.