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Anatomy of A Play


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I have done a couple of offensive plays and I think that in some ways, that's a bit easier. Television doesn't give a coaches' view (all 22 players) very often. I'm still trying to improve my understanding of defense. I wanted to walk through this play. There are several I could have chosen for various reasons. After hearing so much about the "confusion" that the Browns have been able to generate and the "exotic" schemes...I wanted to see if I could a) capture it and B) explain it.


As a refresher for those that don't know, a standard 3-4 front looks like this:




You'll note that there are three down linemen and the versatility in this scheme is that any of the asterisked LB's could be the fourth rusher. As in a 4-3 they could send more than four and even all seven of the front. Different 3-4's treat these LBs a little differently in the sense that some always ask one of the OLB's (yellow asterisks) to rush and one to drop. Others will ask both to drop. This scheme is particularly important in run plays as the playside OLB usually has to "set the edge" and the backside OLB has to contain. It's very difficult for the offensive line to assign pass blocking if they don't know where the "extra" rusher(s) will come from.


With that out of the way...let's move on....


Situation: 1st Q, 0:43 left, Browns up 10-0 and Pats stalling again.

Down: 3rd & 5, -15yd line


1. Presnap



The Pats come out in 11 personnel (1 back, 1 TE). The Browns come out with 1 lineman, 4 LBs and 6 DBs. Ward and Elam (off screen) are deep. It's worth noting that when the defense tries to matchup, they care more about the personnel on the field than the formation they are in. This is important here as the TE is flexed at the bottom of the screen (he went into motion) to line up inside of Tate.


-As he went into motion, Fujita followed him out and the arrows are meant to illustrate that presnap, Fujita is showing man coverage on the TE and dropping out and then back to the man look again.

-Bowens starts at the weak side with Fujita and then shifts over to the strong side next to Rogers who is playing 0-technique.

-The asterisk shows Benard lined up in a two point stance as a 5-technique outside of Matt Light. He's showing blitz.

- #1 shows Matt Roth and Eric Wright in the slot on Welker and #2 shows Haden on Branch. The question is here what is the relationship between these three players and the Welker-Branch duo? Are Wright and Roth going to bracket Welker high-low or inside-out? Is Roth going to take Welker and Wright helps out Haden with Branch? Are two in single coverage and Roth rushing? Is Ventrone in the middle covering Woodhead? As you can see, the presnap look offers enough questions for Brady. His man in motion showed him a man-to-man look with Fujita and the only real indication of zone is perhaps Haden's depth.


With Elam deep in the middle of the field, we can guess that this could be man-free (1 safety deep, man under) or cover 3 (3-deep with zones under). In the NFL, however, it gets more complicated because guys can cover so much ground that they could really rotate significantly at the snap into something in the "none of the above" category (e.g., 2-deep zone, 2-man, 3-man, etc).

2. The snap



OK, there's some serious disruption of the releases on the line of scrimmage. The Browns rush 3. BIG BABY IS TRIPLE TEAMED!


#1- Fujita jams Hernandez and Sheldon Brown jams Tate. They get pushed together a little. At a minimum this throws off the timing. In this instance, Brady starts looking that way and he comes off of those two because of the initial coverage which still looks a bit like man-to-man. Roth has jammed Welker and knocked him off balance. Notice that Ward and Elam have dropped out and Haden (top of the screen) is bailing deep (the receiver happens to oblige). This is Cover-3. Note that Eric Wright (marked ?) is apparently mirroring Woodhead. To Brady's view, this probably still looks like man-to-man coverage. Notice Benard (*) has crossed the face of Matt Light. He's beaten him and beaten him badly. At this point, Brady sees the pressure and has to sidestep to the outside. This begins to shrink the field.


3. Brady Under Pressure



A photo is worth 1000 words. Benard has made Matt Light look like a scrub and Brady now has to do something with the football or eat turf. (pee courtesy of Earl)




1. Brady avoids Benard.

2. Woodhead releases to the right flat but Brady is under pressure and doesn't see him.

3. Bowens and Fujita are covering Hernandez and Tate and while it still looks like man-to-man it's really going to end up as a zone coverage...the two LBs cross and it looks like they're either headed to their zones or Bowens doesn't see the crossing receiver and Fujita tries to stay with him.

4. Matt Roth is smart. Watch this...


4. The decision and throw



Brady is now fixated on this area. The field has shrunk for Brady. He's throwing to a receiver that has just gotten past the first down marker but he doesn't see Roth*. I think that the more I watch this, Roth might have tipped it. Tom Brady with time could fit this pass into this tight space but it is across his body and between four Browns' defenders. Welker at the bottom probably has a better chance of beating Bowens and poor ol' Danny Woodhead is all by his lonesome up at the top of the screen.




The ball deflects and falls incomplete...but this photo is to illustrate that while he might have made the completion with some luck...Brady was fooled into an "alley" with 5-7 Browns defenders. The ball was deflected and he was very fortunate that this wasn't picked off.


Like I said, it's a little hard to be sure about defense with the TV view but this is an attempt to show how much confusion an NFL play caller can generate even for someone as intelligent as Tom Brady. Couple that with making a decision and throw under pressure and that's the name of the game. The pre-snap disguising is something that is really interesting about NFL football specifically because most high schools and many colleges don't have the kind of athleticism to pull off some of the more complex schemes.

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Great picks BUT as a fan of the Pats the play that decided the game was the fumble on the Browns 2 yrd line when the score was 17-7. A TD there and who knows what the second half brings either team.


Yes but there wasn't a lot of X's and O's in that play...it was just who wanted it more.


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