Sunday, January 23, 2011


This is part III of the series on Bracket Coverage. You can read Part I and Part II to get caught up to speed.

Combination brackets are match style brackets. At times the coverages can appear like quarters coverage after the pattern distribution. The difference between combo brackets and match-up zone, is the more aggressive man nature of combo-brackets.

I use the term combo brackets for these coverage because they usually involve bracket concepts combined with a man read concept. Before I get to confusing about the whole process, lets jump in a look at 3 different combination brackets.


I have already discussed this coverage previously, but it is the first and easiest combo bracket to understand.

This coverage involves "cone"and "bracket"technique put together. The SS is playing out and up on #2 and the corner is playing out and up of #1. The FS is in the read technique. He is looking to cut and match the 1st inside cut of speed. The Bracket concept becomes clear when the 1st inside cut of speed occurs. If the slot is the first cut, the coverage works like "bracket" if the #1 WR is the first cut it plays like cone.

The key to a coverage like this is to know what it is great against. This coverage is designed to stop routes that involved people breaking to the outside. Specifically it can cover double out routes with no problem. Typical sprint out concepts have trouble versus this coverage. For Example:


Mix coverage combines the two main bracket types, in/out and under/over.

This is confusing for the quarterback and offers bracket coverage on both #2 and #1. This coverage is trying to get double coverage on 2 receivers using only 3 defenders. This might sound like a paradox but it really isn't. The underneath routes of #1 are handled by the SS exclusively hence the trail technique. The under routes of #2 will be handled by either the corner of FS. If both #1 and #2 are vertical the FS will be pushing #2 towards him while the SS will force a high throw to the #1 WR. In both cases the QB's throwing window will be an air ball towards a deep corner who will be in position to make a play on either WR.

If #2 breaks in you will have under/over coverage on #1 with the corner and SS:

If #2 breaks out, the FS will play #1 over while the SS plays under.

If the #1 WR breaks off his route the SS will take him, and you will have the FS and corner playing #2 in and out.

You can see this coverage is strong versus underneath routes. The major benefit to this coverage is that it can be disguised easily.


Squeeze might be my favorite combo-bracket of all.

I don't want to get redundant, but if you understand the principals behind the other coverage I have discussed in this article, then this should make sense. This is simply a combo bracket that closely resembles a pattern read cover 2. The corner is M/M out and up of #1 unless #2 works out. Essentially "Cone" with a read on #2. The SS is the inverse of the corner. Essentially playing deuce with a read on #1. The FS is looking to double the first up field route or split the difference between double verticals.

This bracket squeezes both WR's and allows most vertical and interminably routes to be played effectively. The problem routes are those that involve both WR's working in or out.

I am sorry these posts are coming out later than expected. Off-season, power-lifting, and standardized testing are in the full swing of things. I am looking to do more work on split safety zone blitzes, playing the power running game from the 4-2-5, and scheming empty formations. Is there anything anyone in particular is interested in reading about? Leave a comment if you have a suggestion; I want to write about stuff that people are interested in most.

Monday, January 3, 2011


One of the most pivotal plays of the Rose Bowl was Tank Carder's tipped pass on the Wisconsin failed 2 point play. The crazy thing about football is that Wisconsin had the right play at the right time, but still came up short. At the same time TCU was not in too bad a defense for the situation, and despite two major mistakes, they managed to keep Wisconsin out of the end zone. In this post I will examine TCU's DOG Package and analyze the Dog call on Wisconsin's two point conversion attempt.


The Dog package at TCU is a simple concept. 4 Guys are bringing pressure on one side of the offense. The usual way to run it is to bring a safety and linebacker from the same side. This creates enormous pressure and will likely leave at least one person free. In the TCU system a "Dog" call is a combination of a "Bullet" (backer blitz) with a "Smoke" (Safety Blitz). Man coverage is run behind it. The man rules are easy: The FS covers the #2 WR to the side of the dog, the corners cover the most outside guys. The other linebacker accounts for a back, and the WS accounts for a 4th WR or another back. Lets look at some examples.

If you don't understand the jargon of the call here is a quick explanation. The first "T" Refers to the way the 3 Technique will be set. "T" Means he will align towards the TE (Y). The second "T" Refers to the side which the blitz will be run from, this is also the TE side. Dogs is the type of blitz that is being run, and the "A" at the end is the gap the linebacker is assigned to run through.

The Left Corner has the Z, the FS has the Y, the WS and Mike will work off on the backs and the right corner will cover #5. This is a pretty straight forward process. This is an easy example. The Use of strength calls and blitz directions is crucial for the effective execution of the DOG package. Lets look at another example versus a 2x2 formation. Here you will see how the double strength calls are needed to get the defense coordinated properly.

Everything should be straightforward except for the "S" in the call. The "S" tells the secondary that the blitz will be coming from the "Split" side which is the side away from the TE(Y). That is why the numbers are reversed in this example.


The last important part of the Dog call is that D-End to the side of dog is on an Auto-Fire call. The TCU system can tag a Fire call onto a play even if it is not Dog blitz. However, the fire call is a must when a dog call is on. A Fire call is simply an alert to the D-End that he needs to take an inside rush on the offensive tackle if the tackle pass blocks. If it is a running play he just attacks the C-gap. This allows the offensive tackle to get into a lose-lose situation that results in somebody coming free on the DOG. Here is an example.


Lets look at the Dog call that was used versus Wisconsin on the 2-point conversion attempt. The call is F-Tag W-DogsB. (I am not sure if this is the exact wording that TCU used but it will suffice for the example.) From the offensive perspective, Wisconsin aligned in a TE trips formation.

Versus this formation the blitz and assignments woulds look like this.

The "Tag" call is to the D-Tackle, alerting him to slant into the A-Gap. Usually on Dog calls versus trips, TCU will elect to make a "switch" call and simplify the coverage via alignment. A switch call looks like this. The "F" call sets the 3-tech to the field, and the "W" means "wide" as in run the Dog from the wide side of the field. (The secondary works off the wide/short concept, as the front uses Field/Boundary.)

Versus a pass the "switch" call is much better because of the alignment of the safeties. However, it is not as good versus the run. Any cutback or run away from the Dog would score easily. Given that Wisconsin was pounding TCU all night, this would not be the best way to run a Dog. TCU probably elected not to go with the switch call, because they wanted to remain stronger versus the run. (by keeping a linebacker in to play the weak-side run). (This is just speculation.)

You can see this alignment and assignment is more sound versus the run then the "Switch" call would have been. What you will see in this play, is that TCU makes two big mistakes on the execution of the blitz. One in the coverage, the other on the actual pass rush.

Coverage Error

The Weak Safety for TCU #9 Alex Ibiloye fails to cover the #3 wide receiver on the settle-out route.

This left a receiver wide open . Starting with alignment, the Weak Safety was in bad shape, even if he did try to cover the #3 WR he was out of position to cover the particular route the receiver ran. TCU has shown on blitzes that their players will stem to effective alignments regardless if it is safety or linebacker in coverage.

If you look at the highlights, you can see Gary Patterson pointing and yelling after the play was over. Like any good coach he was more concerned with correcting errors than celebrating one of the biggest defensive plays of his career.

Blitz Error

The blitz error was more subtle and shows that the person who made the second best effort on this play (behind Tank Carder) was the right tackle #58 Ricky Wagner. Lets look at the Wisconsin protection scheme.

Wisconsin used a 4 man slide to the right to pick up the TCU blitz. This should not be problem for the DOG blitz, because 5 men will be coming with only 4 to protect. (4 From the dog side plus the nose).

Just looking at the side of the Dog, someone should be free. Even if the Wisconsin center and guard pick up the D-Tackle and Sam Backer (which they did) the tackle should be in a lose-lose with the D-end and SS. The breakdown happens here. Wagner made a great play by pushing the D-End down to the ground preventing the end from cutting inside of him, and then came off to block the SS #28 Colin Jones. It was impressive.

I have not seen nor think I will ever see an O-Line coach expect one his linemen to block 2 guys like this. It goes to show how good the Wisconsin offensive line is. Here is the highlight of the play.

Even though Wisconsin had the right play called and did a great job protecting it, it still comes down to play-makers. Tank Carder got blocked and saw the QB get ready to throw, then did what play-makers do, make plays! He bats the pass down and essentially seals the win for TCU.

From ESPN Dallas Carder is quoted saying:

"I was definitely on the blitz," Carder said. "We thought they were going to run. Coach [Gary] Patterson put me on the blitz. I got blocked so I stepped back and he [Tolzien] cocked his arm back and I jumped up and swatted it down."


This post was in no intended to downplay TCU and the game they played. They showed that they are the #1 Defense in the Nation. Its a tribute to them that even on a play with a couple of busted assignments, they can still find a way to make plays.

The Dog Blitz is very effective and great versus the run and pass. TCU blitzed a lot in this game, and they needed too. Wisconsin was pounding the ball better than anyone I have ever seen against TCU. The frogs played the run aggressive all night, and not just by blitzing. The safeties were in hard flat-foot reads that ended up with tackles close to the LOS. The top two tacklers from the game were safeties. #28 Colin Jones and #3 Tejay Johnson each had 10 tackles. It was a big win for TCU and for the 4-2-5 defense in perhaps the biggest stage the defense had ever been on.