Week 8’s Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles exciting ending featured a long Cardinals TD putting them in the lead late in the 4th Quarter, 24-20. The Eagles drove down the field and with :01 seconds remaining in the game, Philadelphia needed a Touchdown from the Cardinals 16 yard line. Chip Kelly designed a beautiful play to pull out the victory, but the Cardinals Rashad Johnson pushed out Jordan Matthews before he could get 2 feet down, ending the game. Let’s analyze the play further: the Eagles line up in Trips to the left with Jeremy Maclin as the sole Wide Receiver to the right. As seen below, the Eagles are running a Deep “Scissor” around the goal line with Riley Cooper and Jordan Matthews, hoping to create separation. Riley Cooper essentially runs a Post Route, with Jordan Matthews coming underneath with a Corner route. Tight End Zach Ertz originally runs to the flat, but then carries up the sideline:
This weekend’s prime time college football game featured #5 Notre Dame visiting #2 Florida State. With seconds to play, Notre Dame appeared to score the game winning TD on 4th and Goal, only to be called back for Offensive Pass Interference. But what made it Offensive Pass Interference?
The play is a common goal line pass play for many college and NFL coaches: a Slant route and a Shoot or Flat route with the hopes of a natural “pick” to make it difficult to cover in Man to Man coverage. Notre Dame ran the play from a “Bunch” formation, which is 3 Wide Receivers aligned in a triangle close together. The Apex, point man, (Middle WR) runs to the goal line and attempts to make himself a big target and box out any defender. The outside Wide Receiver runs a Slant route, and the inside most Receiver runs a Flat route. Florida State matches this with straight Cover 0: FSU is in all Man to Man with no Safety help anywhere, with everybody else blitzing. Notice the backside Tight End and Running Back do not go out for pass patterns, and the pre-snap assignments are shown below:
While DeMarco Murray sealed the win at Seattle with a great run, an incredible 3rd and 20 completion from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams allowed the game winning drive to continue. Romo showed great pocket awareness to escape pressure and the Cowboys Wide Receivers executed a “Scramble Drill” to set up the Romo-Williams connection. Below is the look pre-snap with the route combinations. There’s not many play calls for 3rd and 20, so Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley are running to the First Down marker and curling up, while Dez Bryant is trying to stretch the field vertically. DeMarco Murray and Jason Witten each “chip” a pass rusher to help the offensive line before getting into their routes. Take note of 3 key elements to this play: Wide Receiver Terrance Williams, Quarterback Tony Romo, and circled Seahawk defender Bruce Irvin:
Week 6’s Jets vs. Broncos match-up featured another two Julius Thomas Touchdowns, his 8th and 9th of the season. The second TD came from a formation and play the Broncos have fallen in love with in the Red Zone, a simple backside slant from the “Dakota” formation (also known as X-Iso). The Broncos have clearly revealed a tendency from this formation; the question is whether anybody can stop it. The Dakota formation features 3 Wide Receivers split wide to one side, with a Tight End split out alone as the backside Receiver. Given the Broncos personnel, the defenses must make tough decisions. Multiple defenses have decided to cover backside Tight End Julius Thomas with a Safety with no other defensive back to the lone Receiver side. The Broncos have repeatedly attacked this defense with a basic slant route. Here is a freeze frame of last year’s Chiefs v. Broncos game using a Dakota formation:
This play resulted in a Touchdown via a Julius Thomas backside slant route. Fast forward to week 1 of the 2014 season. The Colts see the Dakota formation and decide to play Safety LaRon Landry in Man-to-Man coverage. Julius Thomas runs a slant again:
The first quarter of Week 5’s Thursday Night game featured a 66-yard Aaron Rodgers Touchdown to Jordy Nelson. Rodgers put on a QB clinic on this play with an excellent Play Action fake, going through his progression, looking off a safety, and then throwing an accurate deep bomb to Jordy Nelson on a Sting Route. Green Bay only needed a 2-man route to score a Touchdown. Here is the pre-snap look with the routes: Green Bay is running a Play Action pass faking Outside Zone to the left. Randall Cobb, (#18) at the bottom of the screen is inside releasing and running a deep “Post-Dig” route at 15 yards. Finally, Jordy Nelson, (#87) the Wide Receiver at the top is inside releasing, stemming to the corner, and then running a Deep Post (called a Sting Route):
Minnesota is in a base 4-3 Cover 2 look, with both Safeties responsible for one “Deep-Half” of the field, and each of the Cornerbacks and linebackers taking an underneath zone for five defenders across underneath: Continue reading
Every NFL Sunday, the “Zone” run play is called and executed countless times. However, few run it better than the Texans’ Arian Foster. For years Gary Kubiak made the “Outside Zone” or Zone Stretch play a staple in the Texans playbook, and Bill O’Brien has continued to run the play with one of the NFL’s best Running Backs. A perfect example of the Outside Zone was on display this past Sunday on a 3rd Quarter Arian Foster Touchdown.
The basic premise of the outside zone (or zone stretch) play is simple; every lineman will “zone their gap”, or block the immediate area to the side of the play. (in this case, the linemen’s left). Lineman are given the “On or Outside” rule, meaning they should block the player immediately on them, or if nobody is on them, the first player to the outside. If a lineman has a defender immediately to the inside, they will give help so the next lineman can “take over” the block. Arian Foster will run to the outside leg of the Tight End and then make one cut: either continue outside if all the defenders are sealed, or if a defender has overrun the play, plant a foot in the ground to make a zone cut up the field. Here is the look the Texans saw against the Cowboys pre-snap:
Here, the Tight End (#87 C.J. Fiedorowicz) will help the Left Tackle “take over” the Defensive End, (#58 on Dallas), and then attempt to reach block up to the Linebacker, #52, Justin Durant. Meanwhile, the rest of the line takes their Zone step in sync: Continue reading
This weekend’s College Football games were some of the craziest in recent memory, with 4 of the top 6 teams losing. #2 Alabama lead #11 Ole Miss by 10 in the 4th quarter, but gave up 2 Touchdowns late to lose the game. Both of these Touchdowns came from Trips passing combinations. In fact, Trips combinations gave the ‘Bama defense trouble all day. The game tying touchdown came with just under 6 minutes to go from this Trips look, with the backside Wide Receiver running a comeback. On the Trips side, the outside WR runs a Deep Post, the middle WR runs an intermediate dig (10 and In), and the inside WR runs a “pivot” route, or a 5 and out with an open face turn. This picture is seen below for a 1st and 10 from the Alabama 34-yard line:
The focus throughout the play should be on the defenders circled in red: the Safety, Linebacker, and Nickelback. Continue reading
Week 4’s Thursday Night game wasn’t much of a game, with the Giants blowing out Washington 45-14. Washington made countless coverage and game management mistakes throughout the contest. One especially egregious example occurred at the end of the first half with the Giants leading 21-7. The Giants had 0 timeouts, there were 7 seconds remaining in the half, and the ball was on the +40 yard line. Any pass completed in the field of play would result in the end of the half, and the Giants were slightly out of Field Goal range.
The Giants called a Flood concept in a closed trips formation, with 1 TE, 1 RB, and 3 WR. The outside WR runs a post route at 10 yards, hoping to attack the deep part of Washington’s secondary and “take the top off” the defense. Larry Donnell, (Giants Tight End, #84) runs a 10-yard out, hoping to get a catch and get out of bounds before time runs out. Victor Cruz (Giants WR #80) runs a deep flag route with a high break toward the sideline at 12 yards. The underlying goal for the Giants is to stretch the defense, get a completion toward the sideline, and if this does not happen, throw the ball away to attempt a long Field Goal. Here is the play from a Giants perspective: