Splash plays. Every team wants them but how do they happen? This article is going to look at the upcoming defense of the upcoming opponent focusing on the three biggest plays they allowed the previous week. It’ll take a look at the whole play including details such as personnel, formations, blocking schemes and route combinations. As a follow up to each play, there will be the Steelers Scenario identifying the player or players who could benefit by running similar plays.
Week 14 Opponent – Buffalo Bills
Game reviewed vs Baltimore Ravens
Q1 – 2ND and 7 from their own 23
Baltimore– 13 personnel
Buffalo – 4-3 Base, Cover 3 Zone
Baltimore is in heavy personnel with a pistol formation with two TE’s in a stack formation to the left and 1 TE in the tight slot to the right with a WR on the outside. Buffalo will counter with their base defense and play Zone.
The play will start with the stacked TE Nick Boyle (86) in motion to the right that will end up in a flat route. This gets all of the line backers to shift to the left. After the snap there will be a play action fake to running back Mark Ingram (21). This will get two of the linebackers, Tremaine Edmunds (49) and Lorenzo Alexander (57), to take one step towards the line of scrimmage which is enough to cause some confusion in the coverage.
LB Matt Milano (58) who was lined up over TE Mark Andrews (89) is going to jam and release Andrews before heading toward the flat route. Edmunds also takes the flat route. TE Hayden Hurst (81) is going to come under the line backers from the left side and Andrews is going to run a curl. QB Lamar Jackson (8) has his choice of who to throw to as all three TE’s are open.
Steelers Scenario – Well, if McDonald is out the Steelers don’t have 3 tight ends. I don’t see them running this with Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry and Zach Banner but let creative with some player assumptions. If JuJu Smith-Schuster is back they can use him as the motion, he’ll draw the most attention. Run Vannett on the underneath cross and James Washington on the curl.
Q3 – 1ST and 10 on the Browns 39
Baltimore– 12 personnel
Buffalo – 4-3 Base, Man Coverage
The Ravens have two tight ends to the right, in the tight slot and the wing, with WR’s wide to each side. Jackson is in a pistol formation with Gus Edwards (35) behind him. The Bills are in their base 4-3 in and over front and have all 11 defenders within 7 yards of the line of scrimmage.
Baltimore is going to use play action again but this time Buffalo counters with pressure bringing Milano and Alexander off the edge leaving the defense to play Man Coverage. The pressure works as Jerry Hughes (55) beats Edwards block attempt and gets a hit on Jackson however the Man coverage fails.
The TE’s are the focus here and they’re going to cross off the line of scrimmage. Prior to the snap, safety Jordan Poyer (21) is lined up across from Boyle on the wing. Micah Hyde (23) is lined up across from Hurst in the slot. At the snap, they TE’s are going to cross confusing the Man coverage for just a second. Boyle will break to outside and run a curl to get in front of Hyde. With Hyde occupied it leaves Hurst open on the post. With the defense close to the LOS there is no safety in the middle of the field and the WR at the top runs a short hitch to keep his DB near the LOS. He has clear sailing for 61 yards all the way to the end zone.
Steelers Scenario – This success of this play was really dependent on this coverage and the aggressiveness of the defense at the line of scrimmage but even against Man with a safety back there it could work. Let’s use Deon Cain on the go route at the bottom of the screen to draw the safety. Vannett runs the curl and Gentry running the post. He hasn’t been playing most of the year. Maybe it will surprise the defense.
Q3 – 2ND and 5 at the Browns 34
Baltimore -11 personnel
Buffalo – 4-3 Base, Cover 2
The Ravens line up with 3 WR’s to the left with Boyle as the inline TE on the right. Buffalo is again in their base defense, over front, and looking like they’re playing a Cover 2 Zone. The beauty of this play is what it does to the linebackers.
Willie Snead (83) will run motion to the right from the tight slot and run a route into the flat. Jackson will fake the ball to Ingram and take a quick look to Snead. The play is a screen to Ingram who ends up with 3 offensive lineman out in front with the center Patrick Mekari (65)hinging back to block DT Star Lotulelei (98) which also stops Hughes.
From the view behind the defense you can see what this does to the linebackers. The motion by Snead has them move left. The play fake to Ingram has them move right. Jackson looking back to Snead gets Milano and Edmunds to move back left. All that misdirection gets 3 linemen out in front to block two guys leading to a 15 yard gain.
Steelers Scenario – Choose your RB for this play. Likeliest choices would be James Connor, Jaylen Samuels or even Kerrith Whyte. Run Washington and Cain on the deep routes not only to clear out space but to block downfield. Diontae Johnson can draw attention with the motion. Easy pass for Devlin Hodges and could be big gain.