Every Monday I play beer league hockey with a bunch of physically underwhelming and tactically inept schlubs like myself. In our darker moments, when our utter lack of coaching and ability rears its ugly, toothless head our defensive schemes devolve into little more than puck-chasing. As defensive strategies go, this one tends to be disastrous. It’s also the technique that the San Francisco 49ers utilized in pursuing Tarik Cohen, the Bears’ diminutive rookie running back, as he scored one of the more remarkable touchdowns of the year.

Cohen’s brilliance on this play is undeniable. His speed, acceleration and agility are simply off the charts. He makes a cut at the 30-yard line that leaves Aldrick Robinson – a freaky fast dude himself – flailing his arms and falling way behind the play. The whole play, in which Cohen outmaneuvers an entire professional football team, makes for a reasonable facsimile of the “Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl” technique that shouldn’t work in real life and seems borderline unfair.

Cohen is receiving a lot of praise for this touchdown and rightfully so. But it takes two to tango. If the 49ers’ punt coverage unit hadn’t played with all the technique of a bunch of drunk amateur hockey players and instead kept to their coverage lanes they could have eliminated Cohen’s ability to create open space. Cohen can’t run backwards and then double back to break free if the 49ers simply hold their ground. But yeah, they didn’t do that.

Cohen’s an absolute assassin when he gets the ball in open space but on Sunday the 49ers willingly played the victim and so, in a week where Rob Gronkowski made the dirtiest play of the year, the Detroit Lions’ old home stayed on brand by failing to even fall down properly and Monday night’s Steelers-vs-Bengals game was essentially an argument against the very idea of football, I’m naming San Francisco’s punt coverage unit as the Kings of Incompetence.


Brennan Quenneville is an editor and contributor at The Read Option. He can also be found at his blog and at Type In Stereo, where he is a contributor.

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