Scheme Session: the big play Saints

In today’s edition of Scheme Session, let’s look at the play-action game from the Saints’ playbook using the Coaching Players 3D software.

One thing we should look for from Saints head coach Sean Payton on Sunday night is the ability to call and execute the play-action passing game when New Orleans is in Indianapolis territory. It is a way to engineer a big play and a chance to take a shot down the field when the Colts defense is thinking run.

I pulled a clip from the Saints Week 10 win over the Rams to break this concept down, as it is a perfect example of the Saints setting up St. Louis by the personnel they have in the game and by their alignment on the field.

New Orleans has a first-and-ten at the Rams 27-yard line and has its Tank personnel (1 WR, 2 TE, 2 RB) on the field. St. Louis is in its 4-3 front playing a form of Cover 1 with free safety help in the middle of the field.

As we will see, the Saints run a concept in the NFL commonly known as the “Swap Boot,” where the fullback starts to the open side and replaces the closed (or strong side) TE in the flat on the boot action. New Orleans QB Drew Brees will read from high-to-low, with WR Robert Meachem (who is highlighted in yellow) as his primary read, TE Jeremy Shockey his secondary read and the fullback as his final read in the flat off of the boot action.

However, what is most important from a scheme perspective in this particular route is the disguise that Payton has set up. With the ball on the right hash and Meachem aligned inside the numbers, along with the closed side TE removed from the formation and coming in motion (a signal that a crack block is coming), the Rams are thinking run.

It is the perfect setup, but it still has to be executed.

Let’s check out the diagram first…

The Saints use the basic routes from the boot action: the post, the crosser and the flat. But, the key here is that Meachem is able to cause some separation by stemming his route to the outside before breaking back to the post. He gets the corner on his back, and now all he has to do is outrun the safety to a spot on the field.

In reality, this should be a dead play, because the Rams do a pretty good job of reacting to the play fake and finding their coverage. The backside corner drops the crosser by Shockey to the Mike (or Middle backer) and now he can “push” vertical to the middle of the field and look for any crosser coming over to his side or to help on anything deep.

However, with any big play in the NFL, it is usually a breakdown in the secondary that givers up points.

Let’s check out the video replay…

Brees pulls up when he realizes that Meachem — who has now gained leverage on the corner — can get behind the free safety (who is highlighted in red). As we said above, Brees is going to read high-to-low and look for the big play first, and then come down to his secondary reads.

With Meachem now a step up on the corner and with the angle to beat the free safety (who is sitting low due to the crossing route by Shockey) to the back of the end zone, Brees puts the ball on the wide receiver’s up-field shoulder. A perfect throw by the league’s most accurate passer.

And, it is time to strike up the band.

All week we have been talking about Manning, but don’t forget about Brees and the Saints offense. They can spread you out, they can run the ball, and when needed, they can set you up to get that big play in a crucial moment of the game.

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