Inside the playbook: Porter's Super Bowl INT

Today: Porter’s Super Bowl INT

Click here for the previous edition of Inside the Playbook: The Miami Wildcat

Late in Super Bowl XLIV, with the Colts driving and the Saints holding onto a seven-point lead, New Orleans CB Tracy Porter stepped in front of a Peyton Manning pass intended for Reggie Wayne and brought it back for a TD — essentially icing the win and the Lombardi Trophy. Today, we will break down the play, talk about the Saints defense and dissect why Porter was able to make a play on a basic passing concept from Indy.

Let’s set it up and go through some coaching points at the end of the piece.

The Colts are in their “Posse” or “311” personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE). As we get into the season and take a closer look at Indy, we will see that the Colts are one of the few teams that run their entire offense out of two personnel groupings: “Posse,” as we mentioned above, and “Ace” or “212” (2 WR, 1 RB, 2 TE).

New Orleans combats this 3-WR look with one of its sub packages: the “Ruby” package (3 DL, 3 LB, 5 DB) under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. A package that includes an extra defensive back and plenty of pressure schemes.

Indy has a third-and-five situation on the Saints 32-yard line, and when Williams has his defense in a third-and-medium situation, he will bring pressure. In this scheme, the Saints are using a form of Cover 1 pressure — with FS Darren Sharper in the deep middle of the field.

The Colts run a simple Dagger Route to the closed side (TE vertical/WR deep Dig Route) and a Hi-Lo concept on the backside (underneath crosser/China) using pre-snap motion to create a “stack look” with Wayne and WR Austin Collie.

Let’s check it out on the chalkboard…


The Saints are showing pressure from their pre-snap alignment with the LBs shifted to the closed side, the closed-side corner aligned in a “press look” and Sharper in the middle of the field.

As we can see from the pre-snap motion, the Colts are trying to cause a situation where they can get a free release from the line of scrimmage and give their WRs room to work with. In a third-and-five situation — vs. pressure — Manning’s first read (and only read with the time he has to get rid of the ball) is to the stacked WRs.

Williams’ defense runs an overload 6-man pressure to the closed side with all three linebackers part of the blitz front. The stunt (with the open-side backer scrapping over the top) is designed to create a 4-on-3 look, as the DT ties up the center. This forces the RB, No. 29 Joseph Addai, to step up in protection and prevents him from releasing as check down player.

But, the key to this entire play — and the Saints Super Bowl victory — is the technique played by Porter and the nickel corner in this play. Porter is originally playing man coverage over the top of Collie, but when he sees pre-snap movement, he backs off to a depth of 7-yards and plays an “in and out” with the nickel corner. By doing this, Porter has the first outside breaking route and the second inside breaking route. And, it is flipped for the nickel corner, who plays the first inside breaking route and the second outside breaking route.

When they both break in (like we see from the Colts), Porter drives to the upfield shoulder of Wayne — and makes the play.

Let’s check it out on the TV tape…

Some coaching points…

The route

As we talked about above, Manning took the blame for this INT. But, when you go back and look at the TV tape, Wayne doesn’t run the complete route. In a “Hi-Lo” concept, the “China,” or “Smash,” is a 5-7 yard square in. But, in this case, Wayne runs what essentially plays out like a Hitch Route — and the ball is thrown inside. Yes, Wayne could have converted his route when he saw the pressure and Porter playing in an “off-position,” but Manning is throwing the China route in this case. Hard to blame just one player for the result, but they are not on the same page.

DB technique

Why was Porter able to drive downhill so hard and fast on the throw? Because of the pressure, DBs who are playing off-man, like we see here with Porter and the nickel corner, don’t backpedal at the snap. Instead, they are taught to “flat-foot read.” The idea is simple: the Saints are sending overload pressure to one side of the ball, and as a DB, that means the throw has to come quickly. Instead of getting into your pedal and creating a cushion, you read through the receiver and into the backfield, which gives you a jump when the QB is ready to release the ball. You hold your depth of 7-yards, plant and drive on the ball. Big-time play.


We looked at a man-pressure in a previous post, but defenses will elect to play man-coverage in the back end in these situations — because they want to challenge receivers. Playing Cover 3 or Cover 2 in a third-and-medium situation allows the QB time to let routes develop and for WRs to find holes in the zone. In this case, it is the exact opposite. Send the blitz and let your DBs do what they are paid to do — make a play on the ball.

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