The X's and O's of Newton's TD pass vs. Packers

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The goal line fade. One of the top two route concepts (along with the one-step slant) that we see inside of the 5-yard line in the NFL. Today, let’s go back to Week 2 in the NFL and check out Cam Newton throwing the fade for a TD vs. the Packers.

A quick set up. Carolina is in their Posse (or 311) personnel in a 3x1 set with a “cluster” alignment (TE at the point of a bunch look). Green Bay counters with a 2-4-5 sub-package look (2 DL, 4 LB, 5 DB) playing Cover 0 (blitz-man with no safety help). Check out the replay and then we will get into some coaching points…

Route concept: As it plays out, this is no different than seeing the “Spot” route (7-curl-flat) out in the field—except WR Brandon LaFell is running the fade to replace the 7 (corner) route. However, the key (on the goal line) is the alignment. By using the “cluster” look; LaFell can get a free release (no jam) at the line of scrimmage and break to the corner of the end zone.

WR Splits: To the open (weak) side of the formation, Steve Smith (aligned vs. Charles Woodson) has a split on the bottom of the numbers—where he can run the slant or the fade. To the closed (strong) side, the “cluster” is tight to the core of the formation. Why? Create room for LaFell. Now, he has field to play with—and room to work away from the defender’s leverage.

Cover 0: I love the call down inside of the 5-yard line. And when you have the talent to play “Zero Coverage,” it forces the ball to come out quickly. The Packers are sending 7-man pressure at the rookie QB. Exactly what I would call in this situation.

DB Technique: If you are in Cover 4 (quarters), or playing combination man coverage (Cover 7), a “Box” call (4 on 3) is ideal to defend the “cluster.” In Cover 0? Tough play for the Jarrett Bush and the Packers’ secondary. From the replay, Bush and Sam Shields are playing the release by levels. Shields drives the flat and Bush has to recover (from inside leverage) to play the fade.

The throw: Not perfect, but off the back foot (vs. pressure), this is a big play for a rookie QB. Bush does recover in time to “play the pocket,” at the point of attack, but in a goal line situation, you tell your WR to go make a play on the fade. Exactly what Newton gets from LaFell--and it all started because of the formation alignment.

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