Inside the playbook: the Bills' defense vs. Vick

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

I want to try something new with the NFL playbook series and take you even deeper into the Xs and Os of the NFL game; using Michael Vick and the Bills defense to give you a new look on the telestrator and video.

The Eagles’ QB threw four interceptions in the 31-24 loss at Buffalo. Today, I want to focus on the final pick by Nick Barnett (his second of the day) to breakdown zone pressure vs. the 3-step route tree.

Here is a quick set up. The Eagles are in their Posse (or 311) personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) using 7-man protection in a 3rd and 3 situation. The Bills counter with their “Ruby” package (3 DL, 2 LB, 6 DB) and rush five, while dropping six into coverage.

First, let’s go the telestrator and take a look at the Eagles route scheme. A basic slant-flat combo to the open (weak side) of the formation with a another slant to the closed (strong) side. With the TE and RB staying in on protection, the Eagles have seven to block five.


Flip over to the defensive side of the ball. The Bills want to bring edge pressure and drop LBs into coverage. Here, we see the edge rush from the nickel and dime backs with both CBs playing a “Gold” technique (read No.1 to No.2 off the jam). In the backend, both safeties will play with Cover 2 principles to limit the vertical route tree.


Now let’s watch the replay and then get into some coaching points, breakdown the techniques of the coverage and discuss why Buffalo CB Drayton Florence is the key to icing this win for the 4-1 Bills .

- This is a great call by Bills’ defensive coordinator George Edwards—because of the coverage aspect. The pressure is designed to force Vick to get the ball out. But the key is the play of the CBs. As I said above, this is called a “Gold” technique. Jam No.1 (think Cover 2 technique) and read through the release of No.2. Here, Florence re-routes Jeremy Maclin (X) at the line of scrimmage, but he is playing for Jason Avant (W) to break to the flat. Set a trap for the offense.

- What is Vick reading? Most likely, Cover 2. The Eagles’ QB sees the initial jam from Florence, and he expects the CB to sink or carry Maclin on the slant (possible 9 route). That’s why we see the flat route as a combination on all Cover 2 beaters.

- The underneath zone droppers. I call these “inside vertical hook” players because both LBs are coaches to show pressure and then drop underneath any inside breaking route (similar to 2-Man technique). Playing vs. an outside breaking route (falt, option, out), they will work to a cut-off point on the bottom hip of the WR.

- The safeties play a 2-deep shell. If the pressure doesn’t get home, or the defense has to stop two vertical route concepts, the safeties will play on top of the numbers and overlap the outside 9 (fade) route or the 8 (post).

- Final thought here… go back to the replay and check out Florence one more time at the point of attack. Not only does he get the re-route on Maclin, he also takes the ball away from Avant. The credit for the INT goes to barnett, but given the situation of the game this is a big time play by Florence.

(screen shots and videos courtesy of You Tube)

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