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I want to go back to the Giants’ win over the Cowboys on Sunday night and breakdown Victor Cruz’s 74-yard TD. A perfect opportunity to talk technique, route recognition and why angles to the football are crucial.
The route concept? Nothing more than a Curl-Flat combo off of sprint action. The same route you will see on Friday nights in high school ball. Let’s check out the Giants from their pre-snap alignment and discuss some coaching points that allowed Cruz to exploit Terence Newman and the Dallas secondary.
Cowboys vs. Giants
Personnel: Ace (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB)
Formation: Doubles Slot Exchange Wing
Route: Sprint Curl-Flat
Some coaching points to discuss…
Route recognition: Ball on the far hash, TE (Y) in a wing alignment and Cruz in a reduced split (tight to the formation) on a 3rd and 1 situation. That must tell you as a DB to alert the sprint pass. With that pre-snap alignment, Cruz is running an outside breaking route (highlighted in yellow). Expect Manning to move the pocket and target a quick, easy read to pick up the first down. Always check the splits of the WRs when you break the huddle as a DB—because they read like an open book.
Coverage/Pressure: The Cowboys are playing blitz-man. Rush six (blitzing LBs highlighted in red) with FS help in the middle of the field. As a DB in coverage, that tells you to play with an outside shade (outside leverage) on the WR. Even vs. an outside breaking route (Cruz on the Flat), you want to force the WR to adjust his route stem based on your initial alignment. Always play to your help in the secondary.
Playing the Flat route: Newman is beat at the snap. He loses leverage, looks back inside at the QB and takes an angle underneath Cruz once the WR breaks on the Flat route. That immediately puts the Cowboys’ CB in a trail position vs. a route breaking to the sideline. That’s a first down.
Angles: Talked about Newman’s angle on the route, but don't forget about FS Gerald Sensabaugh (highlighted in white). As a deep middle of the field player, you must take an angle that puts you in a position to use the sideline as your help when a receiver breaks up the field. In this situation, Sensabaugh drives downhill at an angle that takes him out of the play. Add in the block down the field and this play is going for six.
A ball thrown to the flat vs. Cover 1 should never go for 70-plus yards at the NFL level. However, when you look at the technique, angles and the failure of the Cowboys’ secondary to recognize the pre-snap formation, this is a situaiton that can get you beat. Football doesn't have to be complex to produce results when you take advantage of poor technique.
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