Football 101: Taking What The Defense Gives You

As much a defensive coordinators hate to admit it, there is no such thing as a perfect defense. There is no system, set or play call that can account for every option the offense has. Simplicity is an offense’s best friend as sometimes its as easy as finding what the defense will give you.

Lets start off with a great example. The Ravens and Vikings had one of the most dramatic finishes to a football game, when they met in the snow this past winter. The Ravens defense was playing an almost prevent defense, they were trying to prevent a deep pass. So the Vikings run a draw play with Toby Gerhart. The defensive line over pursued to get the passer, and there was no one in the middle of the field. Gerhart scored on a long run. The Ravens essentially gave up on the notion of run defense. Minnesota’s counterintuitive play call simply took what Baltimore gave them.

Football is not rocket science. In fact the best football is rooted in its simplicity. If you have 8 in the box you probably pass. If there is only 5 in the box, pick up some easy yards on the ground. Simple, sharp and aesthetically pleasing, thats what smart offense looks like.

We glorify brilliant play-callers, but its as important to have on field adapters. The “run the damn play that I called” attitude does not fly in today’s fluid game. While good play calling is important, the burden of avoiding negative plays is on the players.

Lets put together some situations that explain what I mean. Say the receiver is supposed to run a deep corner route. But the safety is giving deep help. Throwing the corner route could be forcing it into double coverage. Imagine if the receiver sits in the open area and catches the corner in his back pedal. The QB should hit the receiver for the easy reception.

The biggest deterrent to moving the football is greed. In this situation the quarterback wants to hit his receiver on a deep post but its not open. He goes to his second and third read who have a defensive back draped all over them. His only option is dumping the ball off to the running back, who is being chased by a much slower linebacker in man coverage. Instead of taking the easy completion the quarterback hesitates and gets drilled. He wanted a big play and he gave the defense a bigger play. Take what they give you.

Quarterbacks careers are made and broken on their ability to beat the blitz. As a quarterback you should always punish them for bringing the blitz. Screen passes are a great way to beat the blitz. Think about it, the QB invites the pass rush, pops it over the rushers for an easy reception with blockers in front of the football. Another great blitz habit is finding your hot receiver for a quick reception.

The moral of this gridiron story is that good football is simple and rooted in deductive logic. Its not rocket science, calculus or trigonometry, its football. Find what the defense can’t do on the play and thats where you go.

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