Week 1 X’s & O’s Review: A.J. Green vs. Revis

Week 1 Film Study–An X’s & O’s look at a big play from the past week in the NFL, Darrelle Revis and A.J. Green:

Bengals Play Action Yankee Concept TD vs. Jets Cover 3

Week 1 resulted in quite a bit of buzz around Darrelle Revis and his subpar performance against the Bengals. One particular play was a 54-yard touchdown to A.J. Green. Let’s take a further look and break down exactly what happened.

Below, the Bengals are running a play action Yankee Concept with a wide receiver running orbit motion behind the quarterback and running back. A.J. Green is at the top of the screen running a deep over, while Brandon LaFell is at the bottom of the screen running a deep crosser. Revis is lined up outside of the motion man and Green:

Bengals PA Yankee

Continue reading

Week 4 X’s & O’s: Steelers 2-Read Fire Zone Coverage

Week 4 Film Study–An X’s & O’s look at a key concept from the past week in the NFL:

Steelers 2-Read Fire Zone Coverage

The Steelers intercepted Joe Flacco on Thursday Night Football with a zone blitz pattern reading defense known as “2-Read Fire Zone.” 2-Read Fire Zone involves a 5 man pressure scheme with very specific rules for the LBs/DBs who are in coverage. To get a better understanding of 2-Read Fire Zone, let’s first look at what routes the Ravens are running on 3rd and 6:

Ravens Out/Drive

At the top of the screen, the Ravens are running a 5-yard speed out and a vertical. At the bottom of the screen, the Ravens are running a “Drive” combination, which involves a drag and a dig route.

The Steelers have the perfect defense called to not only stop the play but also force a turnover. First, the Steelers are sending a 5 man pressure scheme via a Fire Zone blitz using multiple DB’s. The blitz should make the ball come out of the Quarterback’s hands before he can fully identify the trap coverage behind it. Quarterbacks are often taught to throw “hot” by throwing the ball where blitzers are coming from, or replacing blitzers with the ball. 2-Read Fire Zone baits Quarterbacks into throwing to a trap:

Steelers Fire Zone 2-Read

Continue reading

Devin McCourty’s Impact at Free Safety: Awareness, Range, Versatility

With the news that Devin McCourty will be back with the Patriots on a long-term deal, let’s take a deeper look into the X’s and O’s of his game. There are three reasons why he was one of the top Free Safeties on the market: Awareness, Range, and Versatility.


Devin McCourty made one of the best plays of the year from the Free Safety position during the 3rd Quarter of the 2014 divisional round due to his awareness and play recognition skills. On the first drive of the game, the Patriots gave up a big gain on this pass play:

Continue reading

Super Bowl XLIX: Previewing the X’s and O’s of the Big Game

Super Bowl 49 features the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, two teams with very contrasting styles from an X’s and O’s perspective: one team is very simple, and the other is constantly changing. Seattle’s defense plays a 4-3 under and either Cover 1 or Cover 3 for over 90% of its snaps. The Seahawks have a fierce pass rush and the best secondary in recent memory. On the other side, New England could become the first team to win the Super Bowl without recording a sack in the playoffs. The Patriots use their athleticism, position versatility, and lockdown man to man corner Darrelle Revis to change their defensive scheme nearly every game. On the offensive side of the ball, Seattle loves to run inside and outsize zone with bruising Marshawn Lynch, play action off of it, and some Zone Read with ultra mobile Quarterback Russell Wilson. As for New England, they may throw the ball 50+ times and not run the ball at all (Divisional Round), or run the ball 30+ times for 3 TD’s (AFC Championship) depending on the defense. Let’s take a further look at the X’s and O’s of Super Bowl 49: Continue reading

Battle of the Birds: How the Cardinals Cover 0 Escaped with a Victory against the Eagles Deep Crossers

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:


Continue reading

Ole Miss burns Bama’s 2-Blue Solo Pattern Read with Pivot, Dig, & Deep Post Route Combo

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

Cruz Capitalizes on Multiple Washington Errors covering Flood Concept

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:

Cruz is the middle WR in the trips set running a deep flag route

Continue reading

Alshon Jeffery’s “Ghost Motion” Touchdown & how Brandon Marshall Affects Defenses

The second quarter of Week 4’s Bears vs. Packers game featured a wide open Alshon Jeffery receiving touchdown on a play where only 2 Bears ran routes. Jeffery is an excellent Wide Receiver, but got an assist from both fellow Wideout Brandon Marshall and Coach Marc Trestman on the score. Before the snap, Alshon Jeffery went in Ghost motion, which is to arc behind the line of scrimmage from the outside.

Here is the pre-snap look with how the Packer defensive assignments will match-up with the offense: Jeffery will run back to where he started toward the goal line. Brandon Marshall will run a skinny post from the slot. (Both in navy blue). On the defensive side, Sam Shields (#37) for Green Bay is playing Man-to-Man on Jeffery (in red). Brandon Marshall is being “bracket” covered, or double covered, which is highlighted in orange. The slot Cornerback will play outside leverage, and #33 will be responsible for any in-breaking route from Marshall. The play is accompanied by play-action to the right, with a “Max-Protection” of 8 blockers.


Safety and slot corner “bracket” inside WR Brandon Marshall

Continue reading

Unconventional/Inverted Tampa 2 Zone Coverage w/ “Robber”

In last week’s Georgia v. South Carolina game, Georgia was able to create a huge turnover in the 4th Quarter with a less common version of Tampa 2 Zone coverage. Tampa 2 is a modification of traditional Cover 2 which goes back to the Steel Curtain, but was made famous by Monte Kiffin and Tony Dungy’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. As opposed to traditional Cover 2, Tampa 2 involves the Middle Linebacker dropping into the “Deep Hole” or vulnerable deep middle of the defense.

Tampa 2

MLB drops into the deep middle zone








Here is a video example of how each Safety attempts to cover a Deep 1/2 of the field on either side and the Middle Linebacker (Urlacher #54) drops in between to cover any deep middle routes from slot receivers or tight ends.

Continue reading