- The Curl Series - A chain mover pass play package designed to pick up 8 to 12 yards and take advantage of the vertical threat from Detroit's outside wide receivers, especially Calvin and Tate. (Part 1) (Part 2) (Part 3)
- The Quick Post/Angle Iso Series - An underneath set of pass plays designed to attack the middle of the field by winning one on one mismatches with Ebron, Riddick, and Abdullah.
- The Power Game - The traditional core run package of Iso, Power, Counter, and Trap. This maximizes the value of athletic guard play and the fact we now have a superior blocking fullback, and minimizes negative yardage runs through aggressive gap blocking. Best against any two high defense that is strong versus the Curl or Quick Post/Angle Iso series.
- The PA Z Cross Series - A play action pass package built off the power run game that punishes zone coverages designed to take away the Curl Series or the Quick Post/Angle Iso series
- The Slant/Stick Series - A quick hitting three step drop package designed to get all wide receivers (both slot and outside) the ball quickly for YAC opportunities, specifically Tate, Moore, and Jones.
545/525 F Post
- James Light Football: 525 F Post Passing Concept
- Dan Gonzalez Football Consulting: Sprucing up 525 F Post
- Cripes! Get back to fundamentals: Ernie Zampese on Air Coryell - Start at around 38:25 on the first embedded clinic video. Absolutely worth watching in full if you truly want to understand the Scat protection hot scheme.
- The Daily Norseman: Norv Turner, the Chinese Room and Israeli Prisons
We'll start this series with a review of another old but successful play that continues to be run in the NFL: 545/525 F Post. Much of what we'll look at here is based on material from James Light Football and Dan Gonzalez Football Consulting.
According to Ernie Zampese from the 1992 clinic linked above:
Now F Post, and now this is the best play we have. Everybody has a best play when you get down to the nut gutting (?) time , you know, and you have to throw the ball - you're gonna throw the ball, everybody has a play that you're gonna throw it. I mean it is your play.
Your whole team knows it, quarterback can tell you, the receivers can tell you, the offensive line can tell you, everybody can tell you what the call's gonna go ahead and be. And it's good, I mean you gotta have one of those, where you have that kind of confidence in it. This is ours (pointing to the play diagram on the blackboard).
In the diagram from Zampese's 1992 Cowboys playbook, he has notes on the TE route that says the Y will have an inside release and "must past ball." What Zampese's note means, which he clarifies in the clinic, is that the tight end must get to the other side of the field before he does anything fancy because he's trying to influence the inside coverage defenders and drag clutter away from the fullback. The point is to give the F Post space to work.
This is actually why I suspect a lot of teams moved to 525 instead of 545 - this changes the TE route from a crossing route to a flatter drag route. It makes the TE action clear out of the area faster and less susceptible to being bumped off his route by a linebacker. Otherwise, it does the same thing on a faster developing route that's run shallower.
Against zone, the fullback can run his route wide (Zampese says the FB should run his route a little wider and set back from the backside of the TE as his aiming point) and find the seam in the zone coverage. Once he locates the zone coverage, he can run straight up the seam and look for the ball immediately.
The note on the fullback's route says he must cross the face of the defender trying to cover him, but if he cannot to go outside and cut back to the inside behind him. This is clarified by Zampese, who says:
Sometimes... again, if you (the fullback) get across his face, that's great. The angle may change even though we said post. That angle may change to that, that almost looks like a cross there, doesn't it? Bender looks like a cross pattern except it happens a little bit wider. That's the reason we tell this guy (the tight end) - what did we tell him on 545? Whatever you do, you do it on the other side of the ball. From the ball on out, you've gotta give this post room to work.
If this guy (the linebacker covering the fullback) comes out a little late and he's there, and you're already there (starting to pass the linebacker)... now, to tell that guy to get across his face, he's almost gonna have to come to a complete stop, isn't he? I mean, if i'm coming out of there hard, and that backer's ridden that guy a little bit and all of a sudden he's there, it's gonna be hard for me to get across his face. Hell, I gotta stop and duck all the way back underneath him.
So what we told him was this - what we tell him is, you continue to move fast. You continue to move fast. You make the decision of whether you're gonna do that (cut inside early like the cross) or whether you going to go ahead and run over the top of him - run over the top of him up the field, but if you go around him or over the top of him, then once you get over the top you gotta break inside.
Okay, once you have gone around him - say i'm the fullback coming out Kev's covering me here, i'm coming out here just like this, he gets stuck in there a little bit (points to his left), I can't get across his face. But if I just keep running (to his right) he runs up the field with me, as soon as I get over the top then i'm going to give the quarterback an angle to throw it at.
If you do it fast... if you do it fast, and you come open, the quarterback can find you. If you're not open, he's going to move on to the next guy. All right? He's moving on to the next guy, cause we said right now you're coming back, it's three big ones (backpedal steps), four, five, feet up underneath me... if I don't like it (looking right at the fullback route), who do I find? Tight end (points left). He's not there? Then the comeback on the outside (points further left). Again, that's a little tougher. If you just want to forget the comeback and tell him go right to the swing, no problem with that.
The overall design of the play is to spread the field and carry everyone away from the strongside tackle box, which is where the F Post runner (in the past a fullback, but can be anything really) gets isolated against what should be a slower and outmatched linebacker. Here's Dan Gonzalez:
While his predecessors switched personnel groupings to get the desired player in the F position, Martz added the ability to simply call 525 Z Post/ H Post/ X Post to give the play even more formation flexibility. Whether it was Faulk, Bruce, Holt, Az-Hakeem, or Proehl, Martz's Rams could dial up anyone to run the quick post. The play is designed to isolate the Post runner (hopefully vs. no short hole player) for a quick rhythm throw and catch.
Shake and Bake
What's interesting about this play is that almost everything is window dressing on the fundamental action going on inside. As long as you have an alignment and pass patterns that spread the field to give the post runner open space to work in, it doesn't really matter what kind of mix of elements you throw in. That is great because you can make this look like almost any other play except in the eyes of the linebackers you are working on inside.
2014 Green Bay, 2Q (9:42), 3rd and 5 at Green Bay 33
Detroit goes trips left with 12 WR Jeremy Ross, Ebron, and Tate lined up from the outside. Ross goes vertical while Ebron and Tate carry their guys away from the underneath area with deep comebacks. On the right side, Calvin goes outside release on a deep out route to clear out the cornerback. Green Bay defensively is in 2 Man Under, with safeties playing over the tops of each side and everyone locked up in man coverage up the stems.
With most of the formation to the left side of the ball and Calvin getting his guy to turn and run, the entire right side is open space to work in. This leaves Reggie one on one with 50 LB A.J. Hawk, who he beats easily. Although the Green Bay DL stunts and almost gets to Stafford, the angle route is too fast for them to beat.
This is what we mean by coverage mismatch of linebackers against our backs.
2014 at Minnesota, 1Q (11:11), 2nd and Goal at Minnesota 9
This is a good example of how pretty much anything can be the window dressing. On the left hand side we have a Flood combination with 10 WR Corey Fuller running the vertical, Tate on the intermediate out, and 45 FB Jed Collins in the flat. On the right hand side, Ebron clears out the perimeter with a corner route. Notice how 50 LB Gerald Hodges bites hard to the outside for Riddick (route in brown) to beat him inside; once you run enough combinations like Curl-Flat, Flood, Flat-7, etc. that have a flat route component, the linebackers start trying to anticipate the flat.
Now just look at the reaction by the defense as a whole - everybody, and I mean everybody sells out to take away the Flood side. Just look at 54 MLB Jasper Brinkley (boxed in yellow in the route diagram) and 22 FS Harrison Smith (boxed in pink in the route diagram). What the hell are these guys thinking? The answer is that Matthew Stafford dragged them out of the picture with his eyes:
Stafford gets the snap and looks left to the Flood side... one two three BANG, back foot hits and he's coming back right to Riddick. Not the prettiest throw, and the TD had to withstand a challenge that the runner broke the plane (it did), but this is clearly the work of a quarterback who knows what he's doing and feels the flow of the play.
Last year we had 21 HB Reggie Bush and 25 HB Theo Riddick, who are both considered very good catching the ball out of the backfield. This year we have Riddick and now 21 HB Ameer Abdullah, who is also quite good catching the ball. Although he hasn't been used in this capacity much, 46 FB Michael Burton has shown in the past he has excellent hands. We have used these types of plays, but not as frequently as i'd like to sustain drives, and almost exclusively in the red zone for some reason. For example, the touchdown at the end of the game in San Diego:
2015 at San Diego, 4Q (1:09), 2nd and 10 at San Diego 21
All of the elements of the classic F Post play are there: both wideouts run stems up the sideline to keep the defense spread out and occupy the safeties, while Ebron on the other side of the tackle box breaks slightly outside to influence the inside help over to his side. Riddick has a one on one against 50 LB Manti Te'o and gives him a fake to the outside before exploding inside. Stafford was tracking Theo the whole way on this play, so it was indeed designed to be an F Post style throw.
2015 Denver, 3Q (10:51), 1st and Goal at Denver 16
The Lions are down 14-6 but driving from great field position thanks to a fumble recovery by Quandre the Giant. We come out trips right with 16 WR Lance Moore on the outside running a vertical, Ebron and Tate next to him running curls, and Calvin by himself on the left running a vertical. If this seems familiar, scroll up and look at the Reggie Bush play against Green Bay last year.
Denver fakes a blitz with 54 OLB Brandon Marshall backing out into coverage on the releasing back. Abdullah is able to cross his face, though, and makes him miss for a big score on a quick throw by Stafford evading pressure. Notice that Stafford makes the completion while backing away from the rush off balance, which is impressive and again indicative that he knows what he's looking for on the route.
Next Time: Change Ups
Zampese is emphatic in his clinic about how the entire hot series of F plays consist of throws that are extremely easy to make for the quarterback. They are short throws, and so more difficult to intercept. At one point, he goes off about not needing perfect form: if the ball gets there and turns into a touchdown, who cares if it's a perfect spiral? You can have a perfect spiral with great form and velocity, but be off target and incomplete. He jokes that the pass with ugly throwing form that turned into a touchdown will later be hailed as a "great throw" but the other is a forgettable incompletion.
The F series type plays, whether F Cross, F Flat, or F Post, are a good fit for the Lions personnel because it works the ball to playmakers in space. The ball is only thrown about 6 to 7 yards, but often turns into big gains because the pass catcher can make a man miss. Reggie Bush, Theo Riddick, and Ameer Abdullah are exactly those types of playmakers. I like the screen game with these guys, but this adds more tools to get the same kind of effect.
Next time we'll look at what the defense might do to take the Quick Post/Angle away and how wrinkles can be added to the route and read to defeat these adjustments.