Super Bowl 51 Preview

Super Bowl 51 is a matchup of juggernaut offenses and underrated defenses. Here’s what to expect from both teams from an X’s and O’s perspective:

When the Patriots have the ball

Expect the Patriots to spend their first couple drives combining fast paced tempo with information gathering. The Patriots use motion and non-traditional sets early to analyze the defense. For example, the Patriots line up fullback James Develin or a running back out wide to see who goes out to cover him. If a linebacker goes with the back, it’s man coverage. If a corner stays with the back, it’s zone coverage. From there, Brady picks the best matchup.

This will help diagnose the Falcons relatively simple defensive scheme. The Falcons primarily play Cover 1 or Cover 3, and don’t blitz often. Although the Falcons have blitzed more frequently during the playoffs, I don’t expect them to blitz Brady a ton in Super Bowl 51. Nor do I expect the Falcons to sit back in Cover 3 and let Brady pick apart zone coverage. Instead, the only consistent strategy for beating the Patriots in the playoffs has been pressure with 4, preferably up the middle.

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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

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Mills Concept

“Mills” is a pass game concept used both at the NFL and NCAA level, originally made famous by Steve Spurrier. Mills is executed with a Post route from the outside Wide Receiver and a Dig route from the slot. In today’s NFL, it is primarily used as a Cover 4 or Quarter/Quarter/Half beater and is most often seen in offenses associated with Dirk Koetter, Norv Turner, Mike McCarthy, and Peyton Manning.  Mills is also sometimes referred to as the “PIN” concept (Post/In combo). This article analyzes the Mills Concept and how it can be utilized in various ways depending on personnel. Below, the 2014 Broncos run Mills against the Rams at the end of the 1st half on 3rd and 10 against a 2-deep safety look:

Denver Mills

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Dagger Concept

The Dagger concept is a pass game route combination that is commonly used both at the College and NFL level. Dagger is most often associated with Mike Martz and Norv Turner, and is similar to the “Hi-Lo” concept. In its most basic form, Dagger is a 3 man combination involving a vertical route from the slot receiver, a drag from the weak side for a horizontal stretch, and a 15 yard deep dig or square-in from the primary receiver:

Vikings 2014 Dagger

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Spot: The Versatility of a Common Triangle Read Pass Game Concept

The Spot scheme is a common pass game concept run at the high school level all the way up to the NFL. It is also referred to as “Snag”, and is known for its simplicity and ability to create both a horizontal and vertical stretch. Like the Stick Concept, Spot is a half field “Triangle” read. This scheme features a flat route as a horizontal stretch, a deep corner or 7 route as a vertical stretch, and the Spot/Snag route coming underneath at about 5 yards and settling in an open zone. Against man, the Spot route should work back toward the sideline if it is initially covered. The Spot route is also commonly referred to as a slant settle or a mini-curl, and is an easy completion and chain mover against zone. The Concept can be run from a variety of formations, and with or without motion. Additionally, offenses can change up which Receiver will run each route; this dictates how a QB will read the play. Generally, the Quarterback’s progression is flat to spot to corner. Below, the Patriots run the Spot Concept from a Bunch Trips set on the top of the screen, with a closed TE to the bottom:

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Yankee Route Combo vs. Single High Safety Coverage

I broke down the Yankee route combination for James Light Football here. The Yankee route combination is a common concept seen in the NFL, especially amongst teams with speed receivers. Washington and Buffalo are two teams that utilize the Yankee combo often with DeSean Jackson and Sammy Watkins. The Yankee route combo is a great concept for teams with a speed receiver and a credible running game.

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The Stick Concept & its Many Variations

The Stick Concept is one of the most popular passing plays in today’s NFL and NCAA. The scheme is simple and can be run with countless variations. The Stick Concept is a high percentage throw that minimizes how long lineman must protect. It can also be run as a part of a packaged play. In its most basic form, the Stick Concept is a three man scheme with a vertical stretch, a horizontal stretch, and the Stick route. The outside most receiver provides a vertical stretch and works for an outside release, the middle receiver provides a horizontal stretch and attacks the flat, usually via a speed out. Finally, the most inside receiver runs the “stick” route, attacking vertically for about 5 yards before sticking his foot in the ground and turning for the football. Below is an example from Week 1 of the 2014 season:

Roddy White Stick Route

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Peyton to Demaryius: Breaking down the Broncos Tunnel Screen, Now Slant, and Trips X-Drag Concepts

With Demaryius Thomas franchise tagged and Peyton Manning officially returning to Denver for 2015, let’s take a deeper look into the QB-WR duo that has combined for nearly 300 Catches, 4,500 yards, and 35 TD’s in the past three seasons. Peyton gets the ball to Demaryius in a variety of ways, but particularly loves three Pass Concepts designed specifically to get the ball to his favorite Receiver: The Tunnel Screen, the “Now” Slant, and the Trips X-Drag.


The Broncos run the Tunnel Screen (a/k/a Jailbreak Screen) more than any team in the NFL, with 6’3 230 Thomas on the receiving end almost every time. Denver runs the play from a variety of formations. Below is the play, with Denver is in Trips tight:

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Assignments: (#1 WR): Sell Vertical, Bend back square to QB (#2 WR): Block out CB on #1 WR (#3 WR): Arc Block to Safety over #2 WR( Right Tackle): Sell Stretch Left, arc to first defender outside box (Right Guard): Sell Stretch Left, arc to first defender inside box

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Analyzing how the Patriots Offense Manipulated Matchups in SB49

Shane Vereen Sets Up Rob Gronkowski’s 2nd Quarter TD

The Patriots Super Bowl 49 game plan began as expected, with New England lining up Tight End Rob Gronkowski extremely far out wide in order to see how Seattle would respond. The Patriots then motioned Julian Edelman across to the slot. This first play would give New England a ton of coverage information for a Touchdown later in the game:

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Seattle occasionally moved Richard Sherman into the slot when they felt the Offense’s biggest threat was there, or when either a Tight End or Running back was the furthest outside Receiver. By lining up Gronk out extra wide and motioning Edelman, the Patriots were able to gather information even before running a play. Continue reading

How Malcolm Butler knew what Play was Coming on the Interception that Changed NFL History

By now everyone knows the story: With under 30 seconds to go and the Patriots about to lose in heartbreaking fashion, Malcolm Butler jumped the 2nd & Goal route, and made an impressive interception to win the Super Bowl for the Patriots. The Seahawks were in a Stack formation and ran a pick play with a slant route coming underneath the pick. The Patriots were in man-to-man coverage and had Brandon Browner jam front Seahawk Wideout Jermaine Kearse:

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Butler attacked and drove hard downhill to make the interception. After the game, he eluded to the fact that his decisiveness in going for the interception was based on him anticipating the route combination/pick play from film study. He also said he had been beaten by the route in practice during that week.

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