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Monday, August 15, 2005

Three-Verticals and Converting Pass Patterns

To kill two birds with one stone, I will continue to elaborate on the topic of pass pattern adjustments that began with Spurrier and some other plays by discussing the three-verticals play, known as "787" or the corner/post/corner combination. This is a big-play pass play effective versus all coverages, primarily cover 2 man or zone.

In this play, here diagrammed from a base Pro-Set, the outside receivers will run post-corner routes, and the inside receiver, Y, will run a "middle-read" route, or "adjustable-8". The running backs will control the undercoverage with a shoot and a swing route. The outside receivers and the middle receiver have simple keys to help them adjust their routes based on the coverage and the leverage the defenders are using against them.

Below is some video of the Patriots running this play (though with tight splits for the receivers and flipped as I have it drawn up):

Keys for Outside Receivers
The outside receivers are going to read the "two Bs" we emphasize to them every day: Bail or Bump. In this case bail is any coverage with the defender off 7 yards or more as long as he takes his read steps backwards.

Bail Technique

In this case the receiver will get a free release and will run a true post-corner route, as shown below. Beginning with the outside foot back, he will release vertical for 7 steps and should reach at least 10-12 yards. He will plant on his outside foot and break at a 45 degree angle to the post for three steps, looking back at the QB on the second. On his third step he will plant his inside foot hard, open his hips and break for the corner at a hard 45 degree angle.

As shown above, we teach that if the corner stays inside he will break hard for the near pylon. If the corner stays outside or quickly is back over top of him, he will drive his outside elbow and plant his outside foot flat to the LOS, and begin to come back for the football. If this happens he will catch it at 18-22 yards (this requires QBs without strong arms to have great timing). I will get back to the QB shortly, but the QB is instructed to "throw him open", and the receiver must get to the football, whether it is thrown upfield or back flat to the sideline.

Bump or Up Coverage

For bump coverage, the corner may employ several different techniques: he may align off and then step up (roll-up corner); play hard man inside or outside; or be in cover two, aligned outside and playing zone. Each is shown below:

Versus a roll-up corner, the receiver must abandon his vertical step-based stem and must instead stem inside to get proper leverage.

Against man he will abandon his steps and look for the quickest vertical release to a depth of 10-12 yards. The move at the top is the same, if abbreviated. He will sell the post, look at the QB, then break for the corner. If the receiver does not beat the bump coverage he will get back over top and push vertical.

Lastly, against a cover 2 corner, he will free release inside to a depth of 5-6 yards, then push to 10-12, stick his inside foot to the post to sell the safety, then break high to the corner. He will allow the QB's throw to get him to the open area.

Middle Route

The middle-read receiver will take the fastest vertical release he can. He does NOT want to get slowed by the second level players. He will get a pre-snap and a post-snap look at the middle of the field. If the middle of the field is open (MOFO - cover 2, 0) he will go for it. If it is closed (MOFC - 1, 3, 4) he will run a square-in route.

He will take the fastest release and push to a depth of 10-12. If he reads MOFO he will stick his outside foot and head for the nearest upright. He wants to catch the ball at 18-22 yards, and is expecting to get hit after he catches it.

If he reads MOFC he will plant hard at 10-12 and will stick his outside foot and make a 90 degree cut. If he reads zone he will try to make eye contact with the QB and find the window between the linebackers to catch the football. If he reads man he will burst and sprint away from his defender.

Undercoverage Control Routes

Here, they are RBs, but they can also be tight ends, wingbacks, H-backs, etc. They will run control routes. The shoot is a straight route to a depth of 3 yards, no wider than the numbers. The swing is a straight run out from their original position (5 yard depth) for 4-6 steps and then they will look over the inside shoulder. Will get no wider than the numbers and no deeper than the LOS.

QB Drop and Reads

This is a 5-step drop timing based play, so the offensive line must be able to hold their blocks. The QB will take a 5-step drop with a hitch step, keeping his eyes downfield.

His primary key is the weak safety. Even before he understands coverages he must be able to find the weak safety and watch his movement. On this play, if the weak safety goes weak (cover 2, or lines up as a middle safety and rotates weak) the QB will read strong (Z-1, Y-2, A-3). If the weak safety stays in the middle or rotates strong, then the QB will read weak (X-1, Y-2, B-3).

Notice the QB reads outside to in on this play. This is a timing route and the primary timing is between the QB and the corner route.

As shown above, once the QB determines which direction he is going it then becomes a strict progression read, where he actually is reading the receiver rather than the defender, looking for open grass. This is similar to my article on the all-curl route, where the QB keys the middle linebacker and then does a strict progression. This also helps with "throwing the receiver open", and has actually helped cut down interceptions, since the QB has a better idea of whether the receiver is actually "open" rather than the reaction of one particular defender.

Below are diagrams versus various coverages, with the W/S circled:

Note: The QB needs to be be able to identify Cover 4. Since the play is designed to attack Cover 2 zone and man, and is very effective at it, you can expect the D to try to catch you by playing Cover 4--where they outnumber your deep receivers--and force an interception. With the W/S staying weak it indicates to the QB to go strong, which is good, but overall he wants to find the best outside matchup. We hope the middle route can control the safeties a bit, and the hard post-corner move can still get the outside receiver open. Regardless, this is not my favorite call versus Cover 4.

And below is video of the play as used by the Airraid teams. Courtesy of "otowncoach."

Conclusion and Other Uses

Below is a quick diagram of the play from a one-back formation, and the route shown for play action from the I-formation. It matters little to your players what wrinkles you add to it, but, as per my article on personnel and formations, it can matter a lot to the defense. The idea is to get you doodling; it can be aplied to lots and lots of situations.

This is one of my favorite passes. It is extremely adaptable to many offenses, formations, personnel, and situations. Furthermore, it is an aggressive pass play but also is very precise and can be well protected. It is not just a heave or throw without purpose. It is part of a well-crafted, timing-based passing attack.


Zennie said...

Hi Chris,

I really enjoy this, but I think shifting has been given less words than the technique deserves. This action, which goes all the way back to AA Stagg around the turn of the 20th Century, has only been effectively employed by one team, the Dallas Cowboys under Tom Landry.

The Cowboys effectively and constantly used shifting to keep the defense guessing and "stablize" formations. To understand what I mean, I'll go into some words on the advantages of a complete pre-snap shifting system.

Shifting Advantages:
1) To cause defenses to change coverages -- generally from more complex to simple ones -- to give the offense a better chance of success.
2) To place a defender in a position of disadvantage, ie: a linebacker on a halfback in the open.
3) To destroy or disrupt the defenses' keys to what the offense may do
4) To cause a defense to shift out of a set where they may blitz, to one where they can't blitz.

Here's an example of what I mean: the offense comes out of the huddle and into a "Red" or "Split Right" formation where there are two RB's and the FB is behind the strongside tackle. The defense is in a 4-3 and they plan to blitz the weakside linebacker.

Then, the offense shifts: the FB moves out to a space between the TE and the Flanker (Z), and the HB moves out to the wing position right over the weakside linebacker.

Then, the FB goes in motion from the strongside to the weakside and between the Split End (X) and the HB.

At the snap of the ball, the QB takes a five step drop as the FB comes inside to "rub" the weakside LB while the HB runs a flat pattern, and the X runs a fly pattern. X is number one; HB is number two and "hot"...the QB is trained to look for him in the first three steps, while the tackle on that side blocks the defensive end at his thighs (not his knees) to cause the end to get low. That forms the passing lane.

All of this shifting happens before the snap and the weakside LB would only still bliz if they were prepared for the shift. Even then the LB may not hear the call for the coverage change, and try to cover the HB. In other words, there are a number of errors the defense can make because of this.

Chris said...

I have little to add to your excellent analysis. My article was meant a bit more as an introduction, as most teams won't begin to shift, then motion until they have mastered some of the concepts behind motioning and formationing to begin with.

And, as I said, the actual ways it affects the defense are the same, but are just applied in different ways or with less reaction time (or, in the spirit of your comment, to affect a particular defender).

As a side note, the more I shift or motion, the less complicated the play I call is. I do not like to ask my players to make complex reads or conversion routes after I have shifted and run motion, because their keys are often out of place, which is good, but not if it confuses the offense.

Zennie said...

That's a great point. There's a balance to be established between shifting and reading. I have often believed the most effective type of offense was a variation of the Run and Shoot that incorporated shifting and multiple formations.

What formations would one shift to or from? Well, bunch formations to either side, split backs, etc. The point is to "wind up" in some kind of four or five wide receiver set that the various Run and Shoot read / route combinations can be ran from.

Thanks for the complement by the way.