The Thursday Three - Week 4

by Shawn Syed|October 5, 2023

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For the first half of the season, I will be bringing you The Thursday Three. This article will cover three schematic points as related to the NFL; the three points may connect to a game plan, specific concepts, or something else interesting across the league.

To this point, I have written about Miami’s motion adjustment, the Crunch run concept, the differences between Cover 6 and Cover 8, the coverage concepts Zeus and Ring, the run concepts Counter Solid and Duo Kick, Cover 2 Invert, Lookie Jaguar, the Wipe tag to Outside Zone, and the shot play Hiccup.

This week I am covering the play action shot play Heat, Counter Bash, and Truck toss. 

Heat

Heat is a play action shot play. It has four main parts: a play action fake, checkdowns, a Miami route, and a Post route.

Heat is often run from heavier sets to encourage the defense to load the box and play with a single high safety. With one only one middle of the field safety, the quarterback can to the Post or Miami route based on the safety’s reaction.

The Miami route is meant to look like a crossing route. Instead of crossing the entire field, the route will stop in a void in the defense if the safety does not cut off the route. If the safety does cut off the route, the receiver will work back to the sideline to give the quarterback a chance at a throw.

If the safety insists on cutting off the Miami route off, a big Post route will be coming from the other side of the formation.

The Post route is challenging to cover in this circumstance because it is often run from a condensed split. The cornerback is likely to play outside leverage against this type of split and will assume they have safety help in the deep middle of the field.

If the Safety plays the Miami route, the Post is a foot race to space where the cornerback is already lagging behind. The Detroit Lions love running Heat:

The Lions really love it:

The Lions really, really love it:

Here is an example where the Post route is covered, and the Miami route starts to uncover:

Here is an example from Week 4 where the 49ers run Heat from a different formation:

Counter Bash

Counter Bash is a run play that introduces a quarterback read element to a core blocking concept.

As I wrote in Week 2, Counter is a run play that uses two pullers from the back side of the formation with standard assignments. The first puller is kicking out the end player on the line of scrimmage. This is generally a defensive end or an on the ball outside linebacker. The second puller works inside of the first puller’s block and wraps up to the play side linebacker (W in the diagram above).

The Bash element refers to the running back running away from the blocking scheme. The running back will run on a horizontal path to force the defensive end (the red E in the diagram above) into a bind as the quarterback reads their movement. If the Defensive end plays the running back, the quarterback will keep the ball with Counter blocking set up:

If the defensive end crashes to play the quarterback, the quarterback will hand the ball off.

Involving quarterback read elements in the run game makes the defense’s life harder as run plays can be designed to ensure the defense is always wrong.

Truck

Truck is a crack scheme run play. It is an important addition to the outside zone toolbox as a way to get the ball to the edge quicker while crack blocking the pesky defensive end.

Truck is run to a 3-player bunch set. The point player of the bunch (F above) is responsible for blocking down on the defensive end. The inside player of the bunch (Y above) will pull into space and block the defense’s support player. The outside player of the bunch (Z above) will get vertical to block the first off ball defender that is in the box. In Truck, the play side tackle must pull.

The back side of the run often plays out like the back side of outside zone as the offensive line is attempting to cut off the defense. It is important to note that teams may have different blocking rules on both the front and back side of the run. Certain defensive fronts can also lead to additional pullers, and naming conventions can change based on formations and rule.

Here are the Texans running a crack scheme from shotgun. Pay attention to how well the wide receivers handle their blocking assignments.

The Rams also like to run crack scheme plays. Here the running back helps set up a cutback by pressing the outside.

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