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I want to take a quick look at Tom Brady’s TD pass to Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco in last night’s preseason game vs. the Bucs. A good example to breakdown the play action game in the red zone.
As I have written before, the Patriots will use multiple personnel grouping to set up matchups. And what we see here is no different. Bring Heavy personnel (1 WR, 3 TE, 1 RB) onto the field to create a vertical route scheme that tests the top of the defense. Check out the video replay and then we will get into some coaching points…
WR Split, depth of the RB: When you see this up on the chalkboard, what is this telling you? A high run tendency. First, look at the split of Ochocinco: on top of the numbers. That alerts you to a crack block (considering Heavy personnel is on the field) or an outside breaking route. Now, check out the depth of the RB: 8-yards. As a DB or LB, you always check the back’s alignment in your pre-snap read. And at 8-yards, you are thinking run. Perfect set up here from New England.
Ochocinco’s release: This is called a “slow-play." Come off the ball with an inside release and stem your route to the safety. As a deep half player (Bucs are in Cover 2), your first run-pass key is to read the release of No.1. And if the safety doesn’t go through his entire run-pass progression, this can get you beat. Don't take your eyes off the WR.
Tampa 2 in the red zone: The closed side CB is going to play a “soft squat” in the red zone. No jam on Ochocinco. Read through the TE and sink at a 45-degree angle to protect the safety on a 7 (corner) route. That leaves the safety playing the deep half. But as we talked about above, with the slow release from No.1, the safety puts his eyes right into the backfield—bad technique.
The Mike backer: Go back to the replay and check out the middle linebacker. His responsibility in Cover 2 is to run the inside vertical seam—essentially creating a 3-deep look. Instead, he attacks the line of scrimmage on a false run read, leaving the middle of the field vacated.
Give the Patriots credit for setting up the play action game by their personnel and alignment. This isn’t complicated football. But as we can see, when the defense doesn’t read their keys vs. a Pro Bowl QB, it is too easy.
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