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» OFI: Letdown Saturday

A week after big upsets of Stanford and Ohio State, the USC and Virginia Tech themselves fell to less-talented opponents. Georgia also fell to South Carolina after pummeling Clemson in the opener.

02 Nov 2007

Too Deep Zone Blender

by Mike Tanier

This play-diagramming gig isn't all sunshine and gumdrops. Sometimes, your DVR malfunctions, corrupting several game recordings, including two Colts games. So much for the obvious story hook this week. Luckily, there's a lot of action going on that doesn't involve the Game to End All Games, and there are plenty of scribbles in the Too Deep Zone notebook worthy of diagramming and dissection.

Cover Who?

Early in the Eagles-Vikings game last week, Kelly Holcomb threw a nine-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Visanthe Shiancoe. It was an easy touchdown, and it seemed to illustrate a point that we bandied about in Audibles at the Line back in Week 7: The Cover-2 defense just ain't what it used to be. Tight ends seem to get open at will over the middle. Defenses give up way too many short completions in the name of avoiding long ones. It's one thing to get picked apart by Jason Witten or Dallas Clark when you are focused on stopping the Cowboys or Colts wide receivers. It's another thing to leave Shiancoe open at the goal line when there's only one wide receiver on the field, and he's not that good. The Eagles aren't a "Cover-2" team. I wanted to know why they were playing Cover-2 on the Shiancoe touchdown.

It turns out that they weren't. I'm not exactly sure what their defensive strategy was, but it wasn't a straight Cover-2.

Let's examine Shiancoe's touchdown, first with most of the defensive assignments toggled off (Figure 1). The Vikings line up in the I-formation with two tight ends (Shiancoe and Jim Kleinsasser) to the right on first-and-goal. This is a run-dominant formation. The Eagles counter with base personnel, but they align safety Sean Considine (37) as the force defender to the offensive right, with cornerback Sheldon Brown (24) as one of the deep safeties. Considine is clearly close to the line of scrimmage so that he can aid in run support. Adrian Peterson (28) is the Eagles' primary concern.

Figure 1: Shiancoe Touchdown

The Vikings execute play-action at the snap. This draws all three linebackers to the offensive right (their left), and it freezes Considine. Peterson blocks Jevon Kearse, while Shiancoe (81), Kleinsasser (40), and fullback Jeff Dugan (83) run a three-man route combination. Dugan attacks the flat, Kleinsasser runs a corner route to the back of the end zone, and Shiancoe releases to the sidelines, then cuts and runs an in-route at nine yards.

Quarterback Kelly Holcomb stares Kleinsasser down as he runs his route. Zone defenders are trained to read the quarterback's eyes and the route combination; on this play, the Eagles are playing right into Holcomb's hands. Brown and Considine both follow Kleinsasser to the back of the end zone. Omar Gaither (96) drifts in Kleinsasser's direction. Shiancoe, reading a zone, sits down two yards to Gaither's right as the defender shuffles left. Holcomb resets his feet and throws. Gaither cannot redirect and make a play, nor can Quentin Mikell (27), who is caught in the no-man's land between Shiancoe and the receiver running the hook route on the weak side.

It's clear that Gaither is a middle zone defender. Still, this is no simple two-deep, four- or five-under scheme. Figure 2 shows my best guess at what the Eagles called. It appears to be a Cover-3 defense with a twist: Takeo Spikes (51) has man-on-man responsibilities against Peterson. Mikell, who aligned as a deep safety, has flat responsibilities on the weak side. Lito Sheppard (26) covers the deep sidelines. Chris Gocong (57) takes the flat to the strong side (or possibly has man responsibilities on Dugan). Gaither covers the middle, Brown the deep middle.

Figure 2: Eagles D vs. Shiancoe

Considine's role on this call is a mystery. As drawn, I have him covering the deep defensive left, which is where he ends up on this play. It's possible that both Considine and Spikes were responsible for Peterson, depending on which way the running back released. When Peterson released right, Considine prepared for man coverage. When Peterson blocked, Considine dropped into a deep zone. Sheppard, Brown, and Considine may be playing "half-quarter-quarter" coverage in the end zone, meaning that Sheppard is responsible to the weak half of the field while Brown and Considine split the strong half.

No matter what defensive coordinator Jimmy Johnson called, it wasn't the correct call. Shiancoe got open, and Gaither was asked to cover too much ground in the middle. Could the Eagles have played man coverage in this situation? Certainly. Considine could have covered Peterson. Brown could have handled Shiancoe. Sheppard could have easily blanketed any Vikings receiver. Gaither and Gocong could have handled Kleinsasser and Dugan. Spikes would have been free to blitz with Mikell in the deep middle. It would hvae been harder for Holcomb to throw to a very ordinary receiver in a tight spot than it was for him to use his experience to look off the defense and find a seam in the zone. Why allow an easy touchdown with a zone call?

The key is to remember the Eagles' biggest worry: Peterson. Man defense requires defenders to turn and run with their receivers, which puts them in poor position to read and react to a running play. Johnson needed Considine, Brown, Spikes, and others looking in the backfield. He gambled that Kelly Holcomb wouldn't be able to make a play. The gamble didn't work in this case. It worked many other times in the game.

It's important to remember that every team in the NFL uses a mix of man and zone coverages, and that each defensive call is designed to stop the run and the pass. Each defensive call has a weakness. Zone coverage schemes often require defenders to cover huge swatches of turf and process large amounts of information in a split second. Most coordinators will live with a few 10-yard passes to the tight end if defenders also force some turnovers and prevent long touchdowns. No defensive coordinator will accept a lapse like the one the Jaguars suffered against Joey Galloway last week.

Get Deep

Joey Galloway is fast. He hasn't lost much speed since his prime, and he has gotten better at reading coverages and adjusting his routes to burn defenders deep. He's not the kind of guy you want to leave uncovered as he sprints across the field. But the Jaguars did just that, allowing Jeff Garcia to connect with a wide-open Galloway for a 58-yard touchdown last week.

Let's examine the play. On first-and-10 in the second quarter, the Bucs align in an offset I-formation with both wide receivers tight. This is an effective running formation that also works well for short passing; the receivers have plenty of room to run out-routes and can also quickly execute mesh plays (a polite name for a moving pick) in the middle of the field. It's not a classic deep passing formation, though the tight alignment gives Galloway plenty of room to run a corner route to his left. The Jaguars counter with a Cover-2 shell.

Figure 3: Galloway Touchdown

Garcia executes play-action, then rolls to his right. Two eligible receivers -- halfback Michael Bennett and the tight end -- stay in as pass protectors. This is maximum protection. Three receivers run patterns: the fullback to the flat, the left end a dig at about 15 yards, and Galloway a post. Jaguars linebacker Mike Peterson follows the fullback into the flat (not shown). The other defenders play a straight Cover-2. Reggie Nelson (25) follows the in-route receiver crossing through his zone, leaving Galloway isolated against Sammy Knight (26). Unlike Galloway, Knight has lost much of his speed to age. Galloway cruises past Knight and into the end zone.

Steve Mariucci diagrammed this play on NFL Network on Sunday. Mooch knows a teensy tiny bit more about football than I do, but he was working on a tight deadline, and I don't agree with his evaluation of the play. Mooch blamed Nelson for biting hard on the in-route, but I believe Nelson made the correct decision. He was the deep zone defender on that half of the field, and Garcia was rolling to his direction. Nelson could not afford to peel off and cover Galloway.

The player who made the biggest mistake was yet another greybeard: cornerback Aaron Glenn (31). Glenn is responsible for the flat zone on the offensive left side. After the in-route receiver clears through his zone, Glenn doesn't have anyone to cover.

Let's take a close-up look at Glenn's responsibilities (Figure 4). His first job is to ride the left end through his zone. While riding that receiver, Glenn must note that Garcia is rolling to the far side of the field. Once the left end runs his in-route, Glenn must scan for other threats. Bennett is blocking, and the fullback is in the opposite flat. There is no underneath receiver in position to attack Glenn's zone. Even if someone crossed through (or Bennett stopped blocking), Garcia would have to throw across his body into the opposite flat to reach him. That's a recipe for an interception. Garcia would never attempt such a throw.

Figure 4: Aaron Glenn's Decision

When an underneath defender in a Cover-2 scheme is sure that there are no receivers who can threaten his zone, he's usually expected to turn and assist with the deep coverage. Glenn does this, but he is far too late. By the time he turns upfield, Galloway is about to streak past Knight. Had Glenn followed his receiver, ascertained immediately that the left flat was out of play, and gone deep, he would have forced Garcia to throw into a smaller window.

Sammy Knight and Aaron Glenn have been playing Cover-2 for over a decade, but both have lost something to age, and neither has been with the Jaguars long enough to master the minutiae of Mike Smith's system. Even veteran defenders can be caught thinking when they are still figuring out defensive terminology or adjusting to a coach's specific instructions. Hesitation can get you killed in zone coverage, especially when you are on the wrong side of 30 and can no longer use pure athleticism to overcome your mistakes.

Angry Steelers

I hoped to diagram some Steelers blitz plays this week. Specifically, I wanted to take a closer look at what Stuart Fraser tells me is called the "Eleven Angry Men" blitz package. The Steelers line up with only one down lineman; the other defenders just mill around the line of scrimmage until the snap, then blitz or drop into coverage.

Unfortunately, the Steelers-Broncos game was lost in the great DVR Malfunction of 2007, which also wiped out an episode of Heroes and lots of children's programming (there were no survivors in Bikini Bottom). An activity called "trick-or-treating" limited my ability to break down Steelers-Bengals tape. Luckily, I took some notes from the Steelers-Broncos game; not enough to break down a specific play, but enough to whip up some general diagrams.

Figure 5: 11 Angry Steelers

Figure 5 shows an approximation of a typical Eleven Angry Men alignment. Remember, only nose tackle Casey Hampton (98) is set with his hand in the dirt. The other defenders are loosely aligned, and most are in motion until the snap. This alignment stands the principles of pass protection on their head. Offensive linemen are taught to make certain reads based upon whether they are covered or uncovered (a defender directly across from them or not), whether the A, B, or C gap is immediately threatened, whether there are three, four, or five or more down linemen, and so on. When the Steelers use this formation, only the center and guard are covered, and there are six or seven linebackers and safeties nearby who could come from any direction. You can imagine the blockers' dilemma.

The Steelers also give up something when using this strategy. Obviously, the Steelers are using smaller personnel and aren't in position to stop an off-tackle run. That isn't much of an issue, because this is a third-and-long tactic. More importantly, they lose leverage and defensive precision. Linemen start with their hands in the dirt because they want to get their hands under the shoulder pads of the blockers. At the line of scrimmage, lower means stronger. The blitzing defenders can still gain a leverage advantage against opposing blockers, but it isn't as natural as it would be when exploding out of a stance. Precision is important when blitzing, and it's hard for defenders to maintain their lanes and angles when they aren't set in exact locations pre-snap. The Steelers have several experienced pass-rushers among their linebackers and safeties, so they'll trade a leverage advantage and precision for the ability to strike from all angles and confuse their opponent.

What's most interesting about the Eleven Angry Men formation is that there are often only four or five angry men rushing the quarterback. Figure 6 shows a typical blitz package, with the Steelers rushing five. Travis Kirschke (90) runs a stunt with Troy Polamalu (43): Kirschke executes a hard inside move, while Polamalu threatens the edge by looping wide. LaMarr Woodley (55) adds an extra blitzer to Polamalu's side. Clark Haggans (53) threatens the offensive left and provides containment, while Hampton gums things up in the middle. What looks like a jailbreak is a simple Cover-3 with three defenders underneath. A quarterback who panics and throws too soon is likely to connect with James Farrior (51), James Harrison (92) or safety Ryan Clark (25). If the quarterback survives this play, he'll discover that Harrison and Clark are blitzing with Polamalu on the next play while Haggans and Woodley drop into zones. It's harder to read than a Russian newspaper.

Figure 6: Steelers Angry Blitz

When I wrote about the Four Giant Aces two weeks ago, I noted how an unusual defensive personnel grouping can confound an offense and cause major mismatches. The Eleven Angry Men scheme is similar. Typically, the Steelers use two linemen, four linebackers, and five defensive backs in this formation. They use specialized personnel like Woodley, a pass-rusher off the bench, and Anthony Smith, a deep safety who allows Polamalu to act as a roving enforcer. The Broncos had some success running screens and quick slants against the Eleven Angry Men, but most teams (including the Bengals) have been unable to consistently beat it. The Ravens will have to use their power-oriented offense to avoid third-and-long situations this week, because they don't want to test the continuity of their rebuilt offensive line against this scheme.

TDZ Goes Mainstream

When you think of detailed play diagrams and jargon-filled descriptions of the minutiae of football strategy, you no doubt think of Maxim magazine.

That's right: In the December issue of Maxim, you'll find a brief Too Deep Zone-type discussion of goal-to-go strategies. It will be wedged somewhere between some hot young starlet with her hands over her bare bosoms and ... well, if you don't get to the play diagrams, I won't blame you.

My long-range career goal is to sell play diagrams to ever-more salacious magazines. I will know I've made it when I stand in front of the Supreme Court, Larry Flynt-style, and defend my constitutional right to display my waggle.

Next week: TDZ's annual trip to NFL Films.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 02 Nov 2007

37 comments, Last at 06 Nov 2007, 9:15pm by Matt

Comments

1
by Steelboots (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:27pm

Good stuff. I shall refer to my team as Angry when I see them in that formation now.

2
by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:27pm

I just want to point out that Aaron Glenn was filling in for an injured Brian Williams and is realistically the 4th or 5th cornerback on the roster. Sammy Knight began the season as the 3rd safety and is now starting only due to injury. And I wanted to thank Mike for not being too harsh on the Jags for playing those guys--all things considered, I think the Jags are getting more out of Knight & Glenn than anybody thought possible.

I wonder what exactly it means that there is no consensus on who blew the coverage on the Galloway reception. My friend and I were sitting there watching, and found it hard to blame any single defender for the decision they made. We decided to blame Terry Cousin, because it was just easier that way and usually bad plays are his fault.

3
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:41pm

Lovely. Mike, will you guys link to the Maxim article? I'm a married man, and I'd follow a TDZ article into a site like that, but if I have to browse from the home page to find it, I'd probably abstain.

:-/

4
by Goran (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 2:54pm

I have a proposition for this column. While I'm sure a lot of people know every player's jersey number, plenty of us don't, and it would be nice to put those in a table under or between the charts.

5
by DrObviousSo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:00pm

Fantastic as always. This is why I love me some FO.

6
by zip (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:04pm

#3

*cough* whipped *cough*

;)

7
by Nathan S (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:07pm

haha @ waggle

also, I second #4, because it's frustrating to continually look back into the text to find out who is exactly where.

8
by TomC (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:12pm

Terry Cousin is still in the league? Wow. He was the worst DB option on some horrible Bears teams in the early 90s -- not exactly the recipe for a productive 12-year career.

Oh, and TDZ=teh awesome.

9
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:21pm

There are other games this week? I don't approve of scheduling other games during the Super Bowl.

10
by Jimmy (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:22pm

"Next week: TDZ’s annual trip to NFL Films."

ooooh...... do we get to ask questions again?

11
by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 3:56pm

8:

The fact that Cousin is still on the team baffles Jaguars fans to this day although he seems to be a very serviceable nickel back and when he's in as the 5th back he's adequate in run support. He's fairly good at keeping the underneath stuff in front of him on third down and not giving up too big a play. Doesn't always work but he could be worse. He doesn't need to cover deep.

12
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 4:29pm

Re 8:
Apparently he was on the Bears from 97-99, so he hasn't been around quite that long. That was also the longest he's been with a team. Second longest was the two years with Carolina and every other stint was only a year. He's just good enough to be signed and not on the practice squad but not good enough that a team can't draft or find a cheap option that's better. Still, getting nine years out of that kind of career is a bit of an accomplishment.

13
by Rollo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 5:32pm

Cousin's also a decent nickel blitzer. Starks should be rotated in there much more than he is, however.

14
by The Boilermaster (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 6:52pm

It's shit like this that makes football the most intellectually interesting sport.

15
by muddy waters (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 8:24pm

Who started all this milling about the line stuff? Was it Belichick? Or was there someone before him?

I remember watching the Jets and Ravens do stuff like this in the playoffs last year. And the Cowboys introduced it this season (one of the Boys blogs, either Vela or Grizz, calls it "Chaos") and the Bills used a version this year against Dallas.

16
by B (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 11:14pm

15: First time I saw it was when the Patriots played the Bills in 2003.

17
by Sean Goodwin (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 11:28pm

"Garcia would have to throw across his body into the opposite flat to reach him. That’s a recipe for an interception. Garcia would never attempt such a throw."
um, I seem to recall Garcia attempting this exact type of throw when he was with the Lions and they were playing the Bears. Based on that, I can see why Glenn wouldn't turn to cover deep, waiting on the bonehead play from Garcia

18
by sam (not verified) :: Fri, 11/02/2007 - 11:56pm

Even if Glenn had hauled ass upfield, I don't thin he could have kept up with Galloway. I have to think this one's on Sammy Knight, who just can't keep up.

19
by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 12:23am

Yeah, it's on Sammy. Aaron Glenn had basically no chance at reaching Galloway, so Knight was on an "island" even though the call was a zone. Sammy waited a bit too long to close, possibly fearing another move by Galloway. Hey Sammy, keep 'em in front of you! Oh, well, at least Knight can tackle.

20
by Bob in Jax (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 12:26am

Sorry about the double post, but for those that don't remember, Marlon McCree was originally a 7th round choice by Jax, and played safety for them for a couple years. Seeing Sammy Knight take down Reggie Nelson at the end of the Tampa game probably made a few SD fans wish he had been on their team last year.

21
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:44am

Allright, watching the Jacksonville game tape now. They had a safety 30+ yards off the line of scrimmage. I noticed this on an earlier play. I don't think Mike correctly does it justice with his diagram.

Nelson ended up following the unnumbered WR on the left... I'm assuming because he figured that Sammy Knight would cover whoever was deeper. Seriously... Knight was a good 15-20 yards BEYOND Nelson (or maybe it was a different DB).

It seems like the sole purpose a team would have a safety 30 yards back on every play against Tampa Bay is to make sure Joey Galloway doesn't run past him. Looking at other replays it looks like this is Knight's responsibity.

The diagram is wrong... while I don't think you can really fault Glenn for not getting back fast enough, I fault Knight since he was playing 30+ yards off the LOS and still got beat deep.

Oh yeah and on the first TB FG drive the personal foul call on Reggie Nelson was absolutely atrocious... I mean he didn't even hit Garcia, it looked like he dove in a manner that avoided making contact with the sliding QB and the jerk side judge makes that horrible call... otherwise I think Geno Strattatorio's crew has done a great job the past 2 seasons...

22
by Penrose 10,000 (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 2:54am

I've always believed that Maxim has far better photographers than Playboy, but Playboy has much better writers. Imagine if you could combine the two! Congrats on the sweet gig, Mike, but I hope you can hang around the supermarket sex giant for a little while and be a part of making it readable!

23
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 5:28am

After watching the whole came I'm convinced that it was Cousin's responsibility and he's way slow and needs to be replaced... what liability in deep pass coverage. Jacksonville was using Nelson closer to the line of scrimmage and Cousin as their last man back providing help on deep routes. There are 2 throws in the 4th quarter that Garcia misses, but both of those the WR (one time Galloway, one time Hilliard) beat the CB (Galloway ran past and Hilliard had a nice double move). Cousin was 20+ yards off the line of scrimmage and both times he wouldn't have been any help.

It's not hard to even see why Jacksonville was having Nelson cover the medium crossing routes, as there's no way Cousin would be able to cover that... it seemed like they were hoping the pressure they brought on multiple blitzes would take away any time a WR had to get deep or else, uh oh.

Anyway Mike, great job on TDZ but watch the tape again... Cousin can't cover... he's more of a scarecrow. This was apparent from watching the whole game. It was like watching Archuleta last year. Ahhhhhh! Sorry Jag fans... at least your team was able to generate a decent pass rush. Reggie Nelson is the next Bob Sanders.... freakin' knocked himself out with his head on hit to Jeff Garcia... that game was entertaining as all getup... I think its probably one of the most enjoyable games to watch... between Jacksonville running the ball every down, they've got the politburo in the backfield with MJD, Jones, Toefield, and Taylor all making some contribution, Quinn sailing passes (my suggested nickname Captain), all the hitting that was going on by both defenses, a blocked punt, the emergence of Maurice Stovall (he didn't look bad at all), and a 60 yard punt that saved the day for Jax... fun stuff...

24
by sam (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:12pm

Fergasun, your last post makes no sense. Cousin is the nickelback. Perhaps you meant Sammy Knight, who is the strong safety?

25
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:20pm

I'm sure you can compile a Sunday's worth of highlights entitled Linebacker's lost in zone coverage. From the replay I saw of the Shiancoe coverage that's all it was... LBs are easy to beat in zone since they always face the QB and don't have eyes in the back of their head... so does that mean they need to drop back further in order to keep everything in front of them? I prefer the method of faceguarding, but then you've got the back to the ball. This is why its important to have a strong pass rush that disrupts the QB so he can't set and throw to the open man in the zone...

26
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:23pm

Whoever was the deep safety... #26. Sammy Knight, yeah I think that's who it is. Sammy Knight can't cover... sorry went off on a rant about the wrong player. Sammy "The Scarecrow" Knight... there were at least 3 more plays that the Bucs couldn't complete where they beat him deep, and again, he was off the line of scrimmage by 20-30 yards.

27
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:24pm

I guess that's what happens when you make a post at 1 in the morning, replace "Cousin" in post 23 with "Knight".

28
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 1:31pm

I generally like zone coverages near the end zone, because with things more compressed, the holes in the zone are naturally a lot smaller. And man coverage is a lot more vulnerable to (legal) rubs and (illegal but hardly ever called) picks. Of course, it's a good idea to mix it up often, play combo man/zone (say, man on anyone split wide, tight zone over the middle), never give the same look twice if you can. I don't think the Eagles necessarily called a bad defense - maybe the deep middle defender should've read it better and come up to help? There was no one threatening to attack the area, and one LB covering the whole middle from the LOS to the end zone. Why not shade up more and help out? Surrendering a 10-yard pass isn't a huge deal, except when they're on the 9...

"Garcia would have to throw across his body into the opposite flat to reach him. That’s a recipe for an interception. Garcia would never attempt such a throw."

Apparently you didn't see any of Garcia: The Cleveland and Detroit Years. Not that I blame you, they were quite fugly.

I can understand why that "10 men standing" defense would be for 3rd and long. How short can it be where they'd risk using it? I would think teams would have an automatic audible to a running play - C/LG double Hampton (or other team's NT) and push him one right, RG and RT pull left (or mirror image), quick pitch with the RB following three blockers and the smallish defenders in bad leverage positions. Wouldn't that consistently pick up five or six for even a bad running team, and possibly spring a longer one? In potential 4-down territory, wouldn't it be good to run against this D and set up 4th and short? With a lot of the QB's out there, I'd much rather trust a simple run than a complex pass protection and coverage read.

29
by Chris M (not verified) :: Sat, 11/03/2007 - 5:37pm

Thanks for the explanation of the benefits of the hands in the dirt stance. Ever since Pittsburgh started using the Angry package, I was wondering why the linemen would EVER put their hands down, since roaming creates obvious problems for an offensive line.

30
by socctty (not verified) :: Sun, 11/04/2007 - 4:58am

I remember seeing the Patriots do the "milling" bit about 3 or 4 years ago, and that it was the first time I saw it. I think I remember wondering if there was a rule change, and if there wasn't, why this was even something that was considered new. If there wasn't a rule requiring (say) 3 down linemen, why wouldn't you put 5 linebackers out there and move them around?

Something around 3rd and 12 and I would imagine that an audible to a running play that pulls an o-lineman or two and gets them into those linebackers would be the best play to run. If only for better field position.

31
by sippican (not verified) :: Sun, 11/04/2007 - 11:27am

The Pats called players milling around behind the line of scrimmage with undifferentiated roles until the ball is snapped the "Moo Cow" defense. Heh. The first I remember them using it was on Bledsoe after he became Bills QB. I think Bledsoe tried to call time-out fourteen times in one quarter. The sportswriters in Boston, who know little about football, and nothing about writing, tried to make a big deal out of Belichick employing it. They were on their "he's a genius" setting that day, ready to switch back to "he's duplicitous pondscum" on Monday. Belichick told them he didn't invent it, that it was sorta common if you watched film of college ball.

I think he meant "all the existing film of every college, ever."

32
by Jim Haug (not verified) :: Sun, 11/04/2007 - 11:31am

Woodley wears 56 now, i believe, to avoid any impression of disrespecting Porter's memory.

Jeff Dugan? Last I heard of him, he was the program director at Q-SKY in LA.

33
by Mungo (not verified) :: Sun, 11/04/2007 - 2:33pm

I thought it was called the "Moving Cow" defense when the Pats do it? In any case, the 9ers have been trying a similar version on 3rd down this year, it's fun to watch. But we still suck.

Seems to be a fairly common option in 3-4 defenses across the league.

34
by Sebastian the Ibis (not verified) :: Sun, 11/04/2007 - 11:35pm

I think Belichick was watching tape of one of the best, albeit unheralded, parts of a college football game when he thought of this D - drunken fans charging the field and getting tackled by 300 Angry Policemen!!!

I can't wait to watch it this weekend at the Final Game at the Orange Bowl!!

35
by Frenchy Fuqua (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2007 - 5:48pm

Shouldn't it be 10 angry men?

36
by RyanD (not verified) :: Mon, 11/05/2007 - 8:40pm

@31: I film a lot of high school ball, and I've seen it (the 'scrambled' pass-defense look) around here. Just a couple of innovative D-coordinators, but still, it's not unheard of.

(First time I saw was in maybe 2002, the high school QB correctly audibled to an off-tackle run, zone blocking I think. Lost two yards.)

Oh, and this is in the San Francisco Bay Area.

37
by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/06/2007 - 9:15pm

32 - Woodley changed to 56 because it was his number in college and became available at the final cutdown when Chukky Okobi was turned loose.

Getting away from Porter's shadow is just a side benefit.