By Aaron Nagler on Dec 22, 2011 with 3 Comments
Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) “Paul Ott Carruth”, a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers from an X’s and O’s standpoint. Today he takes a look at various ways an offense can stretch defenses not only vertically, but horizontally as well.
Stretches refer to how an offense intends to stretch a defense. Vertical and horizontal refer to directions. The vertical passing game refers to throwing the ball deep down the field. The horizontal passing game refers to throwing the ball short. So, to stretch a defense vertically you have to attack short and intermediate and to stretch a defense horizontally you have to throw the ball deep. Wait…what?? Welcome to the bizzaro world of football. Actually, it’s not really bizarre when you think about it. It’s how the ideas are used to describe certain aspects that get confusing. If I were to say we run a vertical passing game you’d conjure up images of 30 yard go routes by all receivers. But if I were to say we’re going to attack the defense vertically I would mean to say were going to send Nelson on a deep go, Finley on an out or stick route 8-10 yards deep and run Kuhn on a 2 yard flat route, yet you might still be thinking of 30 yard bombs. Hopefully I can explain this better by using some imagery. To the diagrams we go.
Diagram 1 – Horizontal Stretches:
Anything that causes a defense to expand for width. Verticals, skinny posts, deep digs….essentially any routes with vertical stems by the receivers. The offense is trying to take advantage of the creases created by defenders running laterally to collision and re-route receivers. Receivers can adjust routes depending on the trajectory of defenders. For instance, if the SS on the left side of the diagram over pursues to the outside of the seam route, the receiver can covert that route to post by crossing his face. If the SS stays over top and gets depth, the seam receiver can convert it to a deep in route. This is very “Run and Shoot-esque” in principle.
Diagrams 2 & 3 - Vertical Stretches:
Any route concept that forces a defense to expand for length (up and down, north and south). Diagram 2 shows a 3 level flood. You have a deep route, an intermediate route and a route that attacks the flat. This is the type of route Jordy Nelson scored on in the Super Bowl. The offense is trying to “level” the defensive coverage by attacking deep, middle and short. Does the Sam drop underneath the stick route of the TE or does he come up and jump the short flat route? Does the Free Safety help over the top of the vertical route or does he stay on top of the Stick route? Diagram 3 is the classic “China” route. Does the corner jump the short in route or does he sink to help the Safety underneath on the 7 flag route? Incidentally, this is the route concept Driver scored on against the Chiefs.
Diagram 4 – Oblique Stretch:
These are triangle routes. The offense is trying to create a triangle and stretch not only vertical but horizontal as well. Does the corner sink on the 7 route flag to help the Safety (vertical stretching of the defense)? Does the Nickel run with the TE on the bench route (horizontal stretching of the defense) or does he pass off the route to the corner and wait for the spot route coming back inside? That would leave the FS to take the flag route by himself.
From what I witnessed, horizontal stretching of the defense was the soup de jour against KC. The Chiefs did a nice job of covering the vertical routes. The Packers never made them pay by stretching them horizontally. By contrast, the Chiefs did the exact opposite in their approach, stretching the Packer defense vertically with floods and triangle routes. They sprinkled in some of the vertical passing game when they could. McCarthy was outcoached by Crennel and Rodgers was outplayed by Orton. No two ways about it.
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