Scheme Session: Ed Reed's pick six

On Sunday, Ravens safety Ed Reed took yet another interception back to the house against Carson Palmer and the Bengals. Today, I will show you how the Ravens used a pressure scheme to bait Palmer into throwing the slant to WR Chad Ochocinco—and the resulting pick six from Reed.

First, let’s check out the scheme in chalkboard form below…

The Ravens have the Bengals in a 3rd and long situation. Cincy sends in their 3 wide receiver package, and Baltimore counters with what I learned as the “Ruby Package,” consisting of 3 down linemen, 2 linebackers, and a 6 defensive back Dime look.

In the back end for Baltimore, this is a classic man-free defense. The two corners and strong side Nickel play man-to-man with outside leverage principles—forcing every route to the middle of the field to free safety Ed Reed. Sounds simple, and looks simple, but the blitz itself is complex.

Baltimore shows a pre-snap look that tells Palmer and the Bengals’ offensive line that they are bringing pressure to the strong, or three-receiver side. Both linebackers, including MLB Ray Lewis, No.52, show pre-snap pressure, thus forcing the Bengals to count them into the protection and, in turn, keeping the tight end in to block.

However, as we can see from the diagram, all three strong side players are in coverage. The defensive end actually has the RB in coverage—which is a downfall of this blitz if the QB has time to throw—the weak side, or Will Backer has the Tight End, and Lewis, acts as a “robber,” dropping to the middle of the field between the hashes to cut off any underneath inside breaking routes.

But, then, where is the blitz coming from?

Just before the snap of the ball, the Dime will creep to the line of scrimmage on the weak side, followed by the strong safety who rolls to the flat—almost acting as if he is going to “cut” the No.1 receiver to the weak side, which happens to be Chad Ochocinco, No. 85.

However, what they are creating, with the Nose and strong side defensive end (who are running a crossing stunt), is a 4 on 3 blitz that gives them a matchup edge from a scheme standpoint. The Bengals are faced with 4 rushers to the weak side with only the offensive tackle, guard, and the running back to block in protection.

Let’s check it out in real time from the game on Sunday below…

The Bengals know that Baltimore is a pressure-heavy team on third down, so they ran what is called “all-slants,” where the three receivers run the inside breaking slant route—deep enough to ensure that a catch and immediate tackle will result in a first down.

An experienced QB like Palmer will check Reed’s alignment out as he gets to the line of scrimmage. What he sees in a single-high safety, telling him that the Ravens are running man-free—the perfect defense for Cincy to run and produce with this play.

But, Reed knows that they are bringing pressure to the weak side, and because of the pre-snap look, the Bengals will be outnumbered, the ball will have to come out quickly, and this allowed Reed to jump the route.

The play itself was classic Ed Reed, but it was the scheme, and the pre-snap looks, that allowed this basic slant route to turn into a pick six for the Ravens.

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