The Lions Playbook: Facing Two High Coverages
In the week 3 match-up between the Packers and Lions, Marvin Jones recorded 6 receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers secondary. Utilizing dependable route combinations and great eye work and accuracy by Stafford, the Lions were able to manipulate these two high coverages for big plays. Let’s take a look at a few of the big plays and see what happened that led to their success.
Presnap: At first this looks like a 1 high look with man coverage underneath. A Green Bay safety is shifted down just outside of the box which could indicate he has a man coverage assignment on either Ebron or Theo. The corners are showing a press look. The right side of the field has an outside release vertical route by Marvin and a speed out by Boldin.
Post-Snap: The first thing a quarterback is looking at the snap is the safeties. Is it still one high? Or did one drop? At the snap, Stafford’s eyes drop to the left as he sees the safety back-pedaling to play the deep half. This tells us it’s atwo high look. Stafford immediately moves his read to the combination on the right side. We see the cover 2 develop as the corner releases Marvin Jones to help pick up the out route here by Boldin. Another indicator of zone coverage is that the linebackers all drop into zone spots rather than following a man. We see the out/go combination work twice due to both plays releasing vertical. The safety has to respect the seam by the inside receiver keeping him from flowing too far to Marvin’s route. After the cut to the outside by the inside receiver you have now isolated the corner back who must choose between the vertical route or the underneath route. Stafford makes the correct decision resulting in two big plays.
Presnap: In this play we have Tate/Boldin split to the left running a “man beater” coverage with Tate shooting vertical up the seam, and Boldin running a wheel route. Underneath that, Riddick is running a checkdown known as a “2 by 2” which 2 yards up and 2 yards out from the Left Tackles’ Alignment. On the right, we have the same combination as Play 1 with an out route (Ebron) and an outside release vertical route from Jones. The read here is 2 high safeties.
Post-Snap: Once again, Stafford’s eyes jump to the left safety to confirm that it’s still 2 high. The linebackers again drop deep into a cover 2 zones in the middle of the field so Stafford ignores the man-beater routes on the left, and opts for the Go-Out combo. Same thing as play 1, the corner jumps to defend the out route and Stafford strong arms it to Marvin down the sideline before the Safety can get there. Having this kind of arm strength is important as floating this pass can mean insta-concussion protocol for your receiver. But Stafford windows is a thing and it’s a big play as Jones toe taps his way to a first down.
Presnap: Showing 2 high deep, the linebackers are now aligned over Ebron and Dwayne as opposed to aligning over the guards in the first two plays. With all 3 corners close to the LoS, we have ourselves a two high man look. The key to this play revolves around manipulating the strong side safety and making a decision based on his assignment. We see a high-low read in the middle with Boldin running an underneath drag to draw the Linebackers up to possibly hit Ebron over the top with a skinny post. Dwayne Washington is running a flat route to clear out the linebacker assigned to him. And Marvin will work vertically on his man to draw the safety away from the middle of the field.
Post-Snap: Stafford’s eyes are instantly locked on the strong (right) side safety. The safety has two options, help protect the vertical route by Jones, or follow Stafford’s eyes to the middle of the field to play the post by Ebron. This is the down side of 2 high looks is that eye manipulation by the quarterback forces the safety to pick his poison. We also have Tate vertical on the left side to draw the other safety deep away from the middle of the field. The play design here is to find Ebron on the post, but since the safety steps up to defend that, we have Jones 1 on 1 on the vertical route. Stafford delivers the ball and Jones once again makes the catch.