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Point/Counterpoint: Second Play – Second and Five at Midfield with Two Minutes Left in the Second Quarter

Voting Results

Votes: 584
Votes: 562

Picture 1

Diagram 1 - Sail/Drive Passing Concept – Receiver Routes and Spacing

In the situation of second and five with two minutes left from midfield we want to have a concept called that will allow us to gain yardage while having the potential to get out of bounds. The time remaining of two minutes does not bother us at this point in the game because our No Huddle-No Mercy Offense is conditioned to operate at this tempo for the entire game. We do, however, want to be in a position where we can use our saved timeouts on running plays or plays that come up short of the first down. Our Sail/Drive Passing Concept will give us the opportunity to attack both man and zone coverages effectively.

In this situation our quarterback will again pre-snap scan the over the top cap, perimeter boxes, and the interior box. In this instance the Apex defender is aligned in the middle of the field so we would consider this to be a closed coverage defense. Taking a look at the depth of the weak and strong safety we see that they are aligned at 7 yards which is right on the fringe of where we could check to our bubble screen concept or another quick screen concept. This is definitely a possibility but in this situation we will stick with the original play call of the Sail/Drive Concept.  

This situation puts the defense in a difficult situation as the offensive playbook on 2nd – 5 is obviously much bigger than 2nd – Long. Crucial to our decision making is how the offense has been attacking us and, more importantly, hurting us in the previous one plus quarters. Whether we play a run defense, pass defense, pressure or coverage will determine this. In this scenario I will assume we have defended the run well so we will attempt to do a number of things:

1)     Play coverage as opposed to run – Disguise the look.

2)     Take away quick game and eliminate #1 on timing routes to the sideline and bubble from #2.

3)     Think ahead one play for the 3rd down call – for us it would be a pre-determined coverage of pressure defense.


Looking at the spacing of #1 and #2 to the sail drive concept we would automatically “Bunch” check this with the Corner/$. Keep in mind that we are more of a “Matching Zone” coverage concept. We pattern read as opposed to spot dropping. Pre snap we hope to show 5 across and move during cadence. Against a tempo offense we may not have the luxury to move late so the secondary align as speed permits. We would call what we consider a 3 man game and bring our strong side linebacker on a “B gap” blitz (we call this our “Nasty” stunt”) for run support since we have decided to play coverage. The strong side end will short stick the C gap while the nose will short stick the away “A” gap. The Mike will fit “A” gap away from the Nose (Diagram 2).Picture 7

                                                            Diagram 2

In order to take away the quick game, we will play our “Ice” coverage that is a 2 deep matching zone concept.The Will backer will need to displace if #2 is displaced and will make an “Off” call telling the DE he is a “B” gap player on all runs. This will make the Will backer a Force player on all runs to him. In the event the offense throws the ball the weakside DE is a contain rush player.

Both corners will play what we call “Bump” man and will attempt to lock down the #1 receiver.  In the event we receive a 2 man bunch set we will check “Bunch” and the Corner/$ will play inside/outside threats. The $/S/W will pattern read the underneath routes, play physical and match the passing concept. As with all defenses we want to know where our help is and all underneath players should know they have additional help over the top from the 2 safeties.


Our shallow and drive concept is one that gives us the opportunity to attack both man and zone coverages and the ability to protect with six men or get five men out into the route. One important note on this play is the alignment of our receivers in our base (2 x 2) formation.  Our outside receiver to the call side (right) will align on the top of the numbers if the ball is placed in the middle of the field and will execute a FOR route which is our term for a forced outside release vertical route up the bottom of the numbers.

Our inside receiver to the play-side will align on the hash and will run a 10-12 yard sail route.  He will keep the route high if he feels the strong safety invert underneath his route. On the backside our outside and inside receiver will align in a bunch alignment with our outside receiver aligned no more than 8 yards from the tackle, and our inside receiver aligned 2 yards to his inside. 

The spacing of these two receivers is critical on this concept when the ball is in the middle of the field.  Our outside receiver on the backside will run our shallow cross concept by immediately running through the feet of the defensive linemen and building his route to 3-5 yards as he crosses the center. There are a few key coaching points on the shallow cross to ensure the success of the route.

First emphasis is on speed across the formation; we want our players to run the shallow through the feet of the defensive linemen so that we do not allow the interior backers to re-route or slow our progress across the field. We teach our receivers to  continue through the formation and not to look for the football until they clear the tackle box and begin to build the route to 3-5 yard depth as they cross the formation. We do not sit our shallow crosser down in a void against zone coverage but we ask him to stay on the move to make the read cleaner for our quarterback.   

In this situation if we get the ball to our shallow crosser we feel confident that we will be able to get a solid gain and get out of bounds to stop the clock. Our backside inside receiver will take an outside switch release to run his ten yard dig route. The reason we run this switch release is to attempt to get a natural rub if we are facing man coverage. The dig receiver will climb to ten yards and stick and work his route flat across the formation at ten yards. If he feels man coverage he will stay on the move, and if he reads zone he will sit in either the first or second window to the quarterback. 

From a coverage perspective we want to “Match” all routes. In this scenario we would hope to accomplish the following moving left to right of the diagram (Diagram 3):

1)     Corner – play physical “Bump” technique with #1. Get in phase with the vertical and press inside out. TAKE AWAY clean release.

2)     Will – play physical on the vertical release from #2. Understand you have help over the top. Follow Seam rules and lock down vertical sail from #2 inside out.  ALWAYS leverage inside #2.

3)     WS – Play ½ defense over the top. Split the difference between #1 and #2 and read the QB. Understand the concept!

4)     Mike – Open with #3 and drop 8 – 10 yards reading #3. Should he pass protect listen for in call from the Seam defender. Settle at 10 with head on a swivel.

C.P. – In the event the back is involved in routes we will play more true 2 deep zone coverage that will leave CB in flat as opposed to running man or we will add a “Peel” concept to the call that will send the contain rush player to the back on a swing immediately and leave the Mike to rush. This is all game plan based on offensive schematic.

      5) Adjuster – Play ½ defense over the top. Split the difference between #1 and #2  

           and read the QB – understand the concept.

6)     Sam – Work the exchange between #1 and #2. Buzz feet and drive on #2 and try to get a clean collision to disrupt the route. Carry #2 and deliver to the hole.Sink back under #1 expecting check release from the back.

7)     Corner – Work the exchange between #1 and #2. Absorb the route from #1 and work to get in phase with him. Understand where safety help is and maintain leverage outside in (based on initial “Bunch” check).

Picture 9

                                                                     Diagram 3

In theory we have the numbers on all routes. As previously mentioned, how they play the RB will play a major role in how we decide to cover this concept during game planning. 

C.P. – Depending on the personnel, we can adjust how we play the 2 high safeties depending on ability and who we have determined “cannot beat us.” In other words, if the Sail is the concern player we can sit heavier on the Sail etc.

From a pass protection standpoint, pre-snap we are looking at a six man box in a 33 stack defensive alignment. We will slide our protection to the left with a Liz Call and we will put our running back on a check release protection on the Sam linebacker (Diagram 4).  If the Sam blitzes our running back will pick him up, and if he drops our RB will slow release through the line of scrimmage across the formation to the backside of the route after the shallow cross clears the formation (Diagram 5).  He will become an option for the quarterback late in the progression.

Over the past two seasons we have had many big plays come off of our quarterback dumping the ball to the running back on this route against man coverage as the defense tends to forget about the back particularly in man coverage as the shallow crossing route flashes in-front of the Sam linebacker. 

Picture 2

Diagram 4 - Pass Protection vs. Sam Pressure

Picture 3

Diagram 5- RB Check Release

The check release should be picked up by the backside Seam defender once he has delivered the Drive to the Hole defender.

The progression for our quarterback is as follows: 

He will be taking our 5-step drop in the gun which is one big and two little steps.  He will pre-snap ID the flat defender to the playside.  If the Corner is rolled and is a potential flat defender he will peek to the vertical route outside as his primary look. If the corner squats on our outside WR, he will release into the void expecting the football at 14-16 yards outside the numbers (Diagram 6).  If the corner is a soft corner we then identify who the possible flat defender can be.

In this situation we would expect it to be the strong safety inverting to the flat with the apex safety staying high over the top or the Sam linebacker working to the curl to the flat. If our QB recognizes zone coverage he will read the flat defender for the high/ low read on the sail route to the shallow cross (Diagram 7).  If the flat defender gets underneath the sail route he will throw the shallow, and if he jumps the shallow he will look to throw to the sail at 10-12 yards.

We want to be careful that the defense is not playing a trap coverage in the play-side flat to take away the shallow cross. If the play-side flat read is cloudy he will progress to the backside progression immediately where he has the dig sitting in the first or second window to the back potentially leaking out backside. If the Sam linebacker jumps the shallow cross we expect that we will have window for our dig coming from the backside sitting in the void at 10 yards. If the quarterback recognizes man coverage principles his reads will be shallow to dig to the back leaking out backside. In this situation we feel that this concept gives us the ability to have an answer for man or zone coverage, max protect if needed against a six man pressure unit, and to be able to catch the ball on the move and potentially get out of bounds to save valuable clock time and timeouts. 

Picture 4

                                                      Diagram 6 Hard Corner Playside

C.P. – As mentioned before, depending on the personnel, we can adjust how we play the 2 high safeties depending on ability and who we have determined “cannot beat us.” In other words, if the Sail is the concern player we can sit heavier on the Sail, etc.



Picture 5

Diagram 7 – Sail to Shallow High Low Read Playside

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