Keys to Victory: Previewing the 2015 NFC Championship

The 2015 NFC Championship features a rematch from Week 1, with the Green Bay Packers visiting the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks won handily in September, but the NFC championship will have different key players, schemes, and match ups:

WHEN GREEN BAY HAS THE BALL:

Green Bay cut the field in half when they chose not to attack the right side of the field to avoid Richard Sherman Week 1; Green Bay aligned #11 Jarrett Boykin to the right on the vast majority of snaps. The Packers must attack all parts of the field in order to be successful this week. ¬†While the Packers will almost certainly line up #87 Jordy Nelson to the right more often, the emergence of rookie #17 Davonte Adams gives Green Bay a viable threat even when Jordy Nelson is on the left side of the field. However, attacking the right side of the field doesn’t necessarily mean attacking Sherman 1 on 1. Look for Green Bay to manipulate formations to move Sherman away from the outside most Receiver. Dallas was able to do this from a Trips tight formation, with the TE as the lone eligible receiver to the left, and 3 Wideouts to the right:

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Sherman moves with Dez Bryant to the slot

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TD or Penalty? Analyzing the Controversial End to Notre Dame vs. FSU

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:

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Rodgers Play Action Progression leads to long Jordy Nelson Sting Route TD

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):

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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