Tale of the Tape from NFL Week 2

Matt Bowen @MattBowen41NFL National Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2013

Every Monday, former NFL defensive back Matt Bowen brings you an X’s and O’s look at the game. Here are his five key plays from the Week 2 Sunday schedule.

Seahawks read-option gashes the 49ers defense

Russell Wilson and the Seattle offense leaned on the read-option scheme more than I expected in Sunday night's win over San Francisco. And it was the inside give to running back Marshawn Lynch off the initial read that gave the 49ers issues playing their two-deep looks.

Let’s break down Lynch’s touchdown run and discuss why San Francisco failed to fill on the run.

49ers vs. Seahawks

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Slot Open

Offensive Concept: Read-Option

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Defensive Scheme: Cover 2

Wilson reads the path of the edge defender through the mesh point (quarterback-running back exchange) on this play and gives to Lynch on the inside zone. With the center working up to the linebacker plus the arc release (vertical stem) from the tight end, Lynch attacks the box before safety Donte Whitner can fill downhill.

We can see Whitner’s entry point into the run front as a Cover 2 defender in this situation (closed-side A-gap). But with the center occupying the linebacker and wide receiver Doug Baldwin working up to the free safety, Lynch can cut back and look for a clear lane.

Whitner is in position to make this tackle to the closed side of the formation. But with the lateral cut from Lynch (and the second-level blocks), the Seahawks running back finds room to the open side to put this ball in the end zone.


Jay Cutler’s game-winner versus the Vikings

The Bears invested in Martellus Bennett this offseason to upgrade the tight end position, and they are seeing some early returns during their 2-0 start. Bennett gives them a target in the middle of the field versus Cover 2 and Cover 1, and his ability to create leverage leads to opportunities on the seam, corner and dig (square-in).

On Sunday at Soldier Field, Cutler led a two-minute drive to beat the Vikings, and on the winning play, he targeted Bennett versus Cover 2 with a back-shoulder throw to give the Bears the win.

Bears vs. Vikings

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles

Offensive Concept: Switch Route

Defensive Scheme: “Bluff” Cover 2

The Bears are running the “switch” concept: No. 1 on the seam/post and No. 2 on the quick wheel route up the numbers. To the closed side of the formation, receiver Earl Bennett runs the post/seam. The Bears tight end works the boundary on the wheel to put the cornerback, Chris Cook, in a tough spot in his zone drop.

Cook sinks (zone turn) with the release of No. 1 and splits both verticals, with the seam-flat defender (linebacker) getting depth to cushion any throw inside of the numbers. However, with his back to the sidelines, Cook has to plant, redirect and open his hips if Cutler targets Bennett on the outside vertical.

This is an outstanding throw from Cutler and a great finish from Bennett. With Cook driving to the upfield shoulder of the tight end, Cutler puts this ball to the outside (back-shoulder throw) and away from the defender’s leverage. I thought the Vikings got a little too creative in this situation with the pre-snap disguise, and Cutler took advantage of the defense by targeting his tight end to close this one out.

E.J. Manuel's touchdown to beat the Panthers

The Bills' rookie quarterback picked up his first career win Sunday versus the Panthers in a crucial game situation versus Cover 0 pressure (no safety help). With no timeouts left and under 10 seconds to play, Manuel hit wide receiver Stevie Johnson on a 7 (corner) route to send Carolina home.

Let’s break down the route, look at the coverage issues for the Panthers and discuss the basics of playing a “banjo” technique in the secondary.

Panthers vs. Bills

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles Slot

Offensive Concept: Smash-7

Defensive Scheme: Cover 0

The Bills want to create a pick or "rub" situation here with the Smash-7 concept. The No. 1 receiver runs the inside smash, and Johnson breaks to the corner. The coverage is smart given the game situation: send pressure and force the ball to come out. That allows your defensive backs to drive the quick three-step concepts.

This is a bust from the Panthers. To the closed side of the formation, the cornerback and nickel are playing a "banjo" technique (in and out). If No. 1 breaks inside, the two defenders will switch coverage responsibilities to avoid a pick situation. However, the cornerback drives the smash route and the nickel squats inside, leaving Johnson uncovered.

The finish from Johnson resulted from a defensive bust—I understand that. But the rookie quarterback still had to stand in the pocket (versus pressure) and make the throw in a critical moment.

Aaron Rodgers versus the Redskins' zone pressure

Aaron Rodgers lit up the Redskins at Lambeau Field by taking advantage of matchups within the Green Bay playbook. He finished with 480 yards and four touchdowns (on 34-of-42 passing), and the Packers consistently moved the ball against the Washington secondary.

On Rodgers' first touchdown pass, the Packers created a 3x1 "Dakota" set (tight end removed as backside X receiver) and targeted Randall Cobb in the middle of the field versus a closed-side (strong-side) zone pressure.

Redskins vs. Packers

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles Slot "Dakota"

Offensive Concept: Tare/Option

Defensive Scheme: Closed-Side Zone Pressure

The Redskins are sending zone pressure to the closed side and dropping the defensive tackle. Underneath, the strong safety and nickel play the seam-flat (match to No. 2), with the linebacker dropping to the middle hook (match to No. 3). In a 3x1 set, the Packers can run the inside tare combination and get Cobb matched up versus a linebacker.

Rodgers has to step up in this situation and climb the pocket to avoid vertical pressure to the open side of the formation, but he has the matchup he wants with Cobb. As we can see here, the linebacker opens his hips to Cobb and allows the wide receiver to take advantage of his leverage on the break back to the middle of the field.

Pressure isn’t always going to get home, so the coverage is just as important on a zone blitz. The call itself checks out here, but again, this is about matchups. And when Cobb can get up the field after the catch, that’s trouble from a defensive perspective.

Knowshon Moreno runs past the Giants

I wasn't surprised to see the Giants play some Cover 2 versus Peyton Manning after the Broncos quarterback threw for seven touchdowns in the Week 1 win over the Ravens.

However, playing two deep (rush four, drop seven) presents opportunities in the run game for the offense to work against a soft box (seven-man front). Moreno took advantage of that in Denver's sub-package runs (three wide receivers on the field) to test the edge of the defense and pick up a couple of explosive gains.

Broncos vs. Giants

Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1RB)

Formation: Doubles

Offensive concept Closed-side Toss

Defensive Scheme: Nickel Cover 2

The Broncos are essentially working against a six-man box, with the nickel walked out over receiver Wes Welker to the open side of the formation and the deep-half safeties removed from the run front. That gives the Broncos a soft edge to attack, with right tackle Orlando Franklin pulling to the play side, the tight end sealing the contain on a reach block and receiver Eric Decker blocking the cornerback.

Franklin gets to the second level on the pull to chip on the contain, pick up the scrapping linebacker and work down the field. And with Decker pinning the cornerback inside, Moreno now has a clear path to square his pads and get vertical.

Look at Franklin here. This is excellent effort from the right tackle to get down the field and pick up the deep-half safety. That allows Moreno to lower his pad level and finish this run for six points.

Seven-year NFL veteran Matt Bowen is the NFL National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. 



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