Here’s a look at the well-designed plays that made our list in Week 5:
Passing Design of the Week: Matt Nagy pays homage to Bob Stitt
Chicago Bears fans have been in a strange spot so far this season. While the organization has assembled a potential new Monsters of the Midway on defense, the offense under second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky has lagged behind, even under the tutelage of offensive-minded head coach Matt Nagy. After a narrow victory in Week 3 over the Arizona Cardinals, Bears fans remained unconvinced regarding their young QB.
Week 4 might have settled some nerves.
Trubisky busted out, completing 19 of 26 passes for 354 yards and six touchdowns in Chicago’s 48-10 blowout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The scoring plays took on many forms, from a well-designed fake screen, to a well-executed “Texas” route in the end zone and a perfect anticipation throw on a corner route near the goal line.
But on Trubisky’s fifth touchdown “toss” of the day – toss is in quotes for a reason – Nagy borrowed from the playbook of Oklahoma State offensive analyst Bob Stitt, while adding his own twist.
Facing a second-and-goal, the Bears line up with Trubisky (No. 10) in the shotgun. Next to him is backup quarterback Chase Daniel (No. 4). That’s right – a two-quarterback formation. Chicago also uses a 2×2 alignment (two eligible receivers on both side of the formation) with wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (No. 18) in a wing to the left:
Here, the Bears run a “tap pass” play that’s been executed by a number of teams over the past few years. Gabriel comes in motion, and upon taking the shotgun snap Trubisky simply flips the ball forward to his wide receiver, who runs around the right end for the touchdown. After flipping the ball, Trubisky and Daniel carry out a run fake in the backfield:
The origin of this design can be traced back to the Colorado School of Mines, a Division 2 program. Years ago, Stitt – then the school’s head coach – came up with the idea to have his quarterback flip the ball forward on sweep plays rather than hand it off. That way, if the ball is dropped during the exchange, it’s merely an incompletion instead of a fumble. West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen used this design in an Orange Bowl victory over Clemson. On Sunday, Nagy added his own variation with the dual-QB element.
It worked to perfection.
Running Design of the Week: Saints’ power ices it
The New Orleans Saints improved to 3-1 with a 33-18 win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, thanks in large part to running back Alvin Kamara. The second-year player carried the ball 19 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, adding five receptions for 47 yards.
Kamara’s third touchdown of the day – a 49-yard run behind a power-blocking scheme – ended any chance of a Giants comeback. From the blocking up front to the burst and stiff arm from Kamara, this play was power running at its best.
The play takes place with just over two minutes remaining and the Saints holding an eight-point lead with the ball just beyond the 50-yard line. They align with Kamara (No. 41) as the deep back in the I-formation and Drew Brees (No. 9) under center. Everyone inside the stadium – including the Giants – know the Saints are going to run, which makes the result even more impressive.
Here’s the blocking scheme:
Most of the offensive line blocks down to the left, but left guard Andrus Peat (No. 75) pulls to the right side, forming a two-man convoy with fullback Zach Line (No. 42). From there, Kamara does the rest:
Line, Peat, and Co. give Kamara a huge hole to work with, but the running back still has one defender to contend with. However, he’s able to brush that defender aside and race to the end zone and down the tunnel with the game-clinching score.
The end-zone angle has a fantastic view of the blocks coming together:
Kamara deserves plenty of credit for his big day, but on this play that iced the contest, it was the power-blocking scheme up front that paved the way.
Pressure Design of the Week: Blake Martinez and the A-gap blitz
The Green Bay Packers blanked the visiting Buffalo Bills 22-0 on Sunday, as their defense completely shut down all facets of the Bills’ offense. After earning his first win as a starting quarterback last week against the Minnesota Vikings, rookie Josh Allen was held to just 151 yards passing, was intercepted twice, and was sacked seven times. One of those came on a perfectly executed A-gap blitz from linebacker Blake Martinez.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Bills trailed 19-0, but were mounting a bit of a drive to get back into the game. Facing a first-and-10 in Green Bay territory, they align with Allen (No. 17) under center. Across from him, Martinez (No. 50) aligns as the middle linebacker of a 3-3-5 scheme (three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs):
This is the blitz that Martinez will execute:
Watch how well Martinez times his movement, knifing through the offensive line and getting to Allen untouched:
Allen tries to execute a play-action fake with running back LeSean McCoy (No. 25). However, just as he comes out of the fake, Martinez is already upon him.
This was just one of Green Bay’s seven sacks on the day, but it’s a perfect example of how design, timing, and execution can lead to big things for a defense.
Coverage Design of the Week: Oakland’s Cover 4 tip drill
In perhaps the strangest game of the day, the Oakland Raiders came back to knock off the visiting Cleveland Browns 45-42 in overtime, spoiling Baker Mayfield’s first NFL start.
Mayfield threw for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the game, but also tossed two interceptions. One of them went the other way for six, and that serves as our coverage play of the week.
Facing a second-and-8 in their own territory early in the contest, the Browns put Mayfield (No. 6) in the shotgun with three receivers to the left. The Raiders show Cover 6 in the secondary, which is a combination coverage that plays like a Cover 4 on one side of the field and a Cover 2 on the other:
Mayfield tries to throw a curl route to the left, but it’s between the cornerback and the safety on that side, who are playing a Cover 4 (or “quarters” coverage), with each being responsible for a quarter of the field. That, in essence, allows the two defenders to bracket the route:
Safety Marcus Gilchrist (No. 31) reads Mayfield’s eyes and is able to drive on the route, knowing that cornerback Gareon Conley (No. 21) will still be in position. Gilchrist tips the ball, and Conley is there to capitalize:
From this angle, you can see how the coverage enables Gilchrist to jump the route with confidence. Even though Conley slips on the stop and cut, he recovers for the timely interception, and then returns it the other way for six.
Game Ball: QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
As covered above, there was still plenty concern in the Windy City about Trubisky. Whether his stellar performance against Tampa was the start of a true turnaround or just a one-game boost due to a suspect pass defense remains to be seen. But any six-touchdown performance is worthy of a game ball.
Mark Schofield writes NFL feature content for theScore. After nearly a decade of practicing law in the Washington, D.C., area Mark changed careers and started writing about football. Drawing upon more than a decade of playing quarterback, including at the collegiate level, Mark focuses his work on quarterback evaluation and offensive scheme analysis. He lives in Maryland with his wife and two children. Find him on Twitter @MarkSchofield.