Sunday, June 2, 2019

Field Overload Firezone

Really interesting play during the Syracuse vs. NC State game this season. The Cuse are in a base 4-3 personnel running a field side firezone pressure.

The Rush:
End & Nose contain with the DT on a long stick to balance the pass rush. The inside blitzer (Mike) is working B gap to A gap path while the Sam is blitzing wide B.

The Coverage:
3 under 3 deep firezone coverage with pressed corners

The technique of the inside blitzer is critical to the success. By starting wide in the B gap and working to the A gap the blitz takes on a two through one gap effect.  The B to A path of the inside blitzer helps the timing of the pressure. By starting wider in the B gap the path allows the DT in a 3 technique the time and space to execute his long stick. The B to A gap path also creates confusion for the RB.

The Guard & RB end up in a really tough protection situation. The Guard has a B gap threat from the 3 tech DT. As the DT leaves a new B gap threat shows up from the inside blitzer. The guard reacts by blocking the inside blitzer and stays on as the blitzer crosses face to the A gap. The RB is initially looking inside out from ILB (Mike) to overhang (Sam). When the inside most threat (Mike) blitzes the RB aggressively steps up to make the pick up. End result is two blockers on the Mike leaving the Sam on a run through pressure affecting the QB. The little detail of the B to A path of the Mike had a huge effect.

Looking at the possible outcomes.

One way the offense could have picked it up is for the Guard to continue to set out and handle the wide B gap blitzer bypassing the Mike. This is how the RB tried to pick up the pressure. In reality this is possible but very difficult. The Guard set initially to the DT in the B gap. As the DT sticks inside there is an immediate pass rusher attacking the Guard. It is unlikely a Guard will ignore an immediate rush threat from the Mike to set to the Sam. Also there is the issue of the Guards vision. When the DT sticks the Guard's vision is directly in line to see the Mike. It's unlikely the Guard would have vision to the wide B gap rushing Sam. 

Alternatively and more likely is to have the RB to take the wider threat.

Here the Guard picks up the Mike. Now the challenge falls heavily on the RB. The issue starts pre-snap.

The picture for the RB has two primary blitz threats. The Mike is further inside making for a quicker threat to the QB. The RB priorities the inside threat first. When the Mike blitzes the RB wants to aggressively step up to make the block. Once he aggressively steps up it makes it difficult to redirect out to the Sam. The RB may be even more aggressive to get to the block due to the initial deep alignment in the pistol. The RB can't fight physics, object in motion stays in motion. The more aggressive the RB is toward the LOS the harder it is to redirect. The path of the blitzer also manipulates the eye's of the RB. The RB is looking at the Mike as the 1st threat. The Mike starts wide and redirects back in to the A gap. That path pulls the RB's eyes inside and away from the Sam. Two truths play out as a result: your feet go where your eyes take them and you cannot block what you don't see. 

This type of blitz sets up a Goldilocks situation for the RB. If the RB is aggressive to block the Mike inside, he can get caught up inside (as he did in the clip) and cannot react out to the Sam. If the RB is more under control allowing him to either block the Mike or redirect out to the Sam, he runs the risk of getting pass rushed deeper in the pocket. A RB in the lap of the QB can affect the QB just as much as a pass rusher. This forces the RB to use just the right amount of aggressiveness. 

This play is also interesting because of the route. NC State has a variation of a curl/flat combination. 

The route of the S receiver is an inside stem curl. The Seam dropping Safety is a Match-Carry-Deliver player. The question is should he carry (treat the S as a vertical) or deliver (treat the S as an inside route)? The Safety treated the S as a vertical threat (hips are more vertical than under) and carried the route. This forces the 3RH Will backer to get depth and width under the Z and eventually break on the Y. There is no doubt this route puts stress on the Will. This is a good reminder the pass rush co-exist and play off one another. You give up some part of coverage to get more pass rushers, the extra rush has to affect the QB. It's easy to for an offensive coach to draw up this route and say "easy completion" or a defensive coach to talk themselves out of firezone because of a stressful route. Who else is stressed out on this play? The RB with a tough pass protection task and the QB with a blitzer in his face. 

Good stuff from Syracuse and defensive coordinator Brian Ward. All the details of this blitz are executed to make it work even against a stressful route.


  1. What was the down and distance?

  2. should the money safety have carried the route inside by s. Y crossed his face, shouldnt he have come off and have the will drop under that route?

    1. That is a interesting question. The receiver's hips are more vertical than horizontal. The risk you run if you don't carry is what if that is a deep crossing route from the Y. They both have the same initial release so telling the difference is difficult. If it is a crosser to the opposite hash that is a major stress route. The post player shouldn't jump down on a intermediate crosser. The back side corner is playing a tight 1/3 aggressive match technique not a zone 1/3. The corner has little ability to vision and break on a crosser in a match technique on #1 weak. If the field seam player doesn't carry the stress is still on the 3RH player, only now it is on a deeper crosser that might hit for an explosive.