Beating The Cardinals: Three Plays To Attack Their Defense

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 – Arizona Cardinals

Game reviewed vs Los Angeles Rams

Play One

Q2 – 3RD and 3 from their own 10

Los Angeles – 11 personnel

Arizona – Nickel, Single High Man

The Rams are in 11 personnel and line up in an empty set with three receivers right and two left. Arizona is in Nickel playing Man coverage. This play looks to be designed for one purpose, getting the ball to the tight end Tyler Higbee.

On the right, from outside to inside, the Rams have Robert Woods (17), Cooper Kupp (18) and Todd Gurley (30). Their goal in this play is to cause traffic. They are all going to run slants, very close together as far as routes go, and form a wall.  The idea is to make it as difficult as possible for a defender in Man coverage to come from the opposite side and stay in coverage.

On the left side, Brandin Cooks (12) is going to run a go route from the inside and Higbee (89) is going to run underneath Cooks and the three slants on a shallow cross. On the play, rookie safety Jalen Thompson (34) is lined up over Higbee. When Higbee breaks across the middle Thompson is going to pass off the route to linebacker Jordan Hicks (58). I’m not sure if this on purpose or by necessity because Hicks doesn’t look like he’s ready for it. Either way it’s a great play design to get a guy open on third down with room to take a 2 yards pass for 25 yards.

Steelers Scenario – This should be added to the play book immediately. The obvious swap here is Vance McDonald in the Higbee role but if you want a little more speed use Jaylen Samuels to run the shallow cross. It has potential with whomever you put in that role.

Play Two

Q2 – 3RD and 5 on their own 27

Los Angeles – 11 personnel

Arizona – Nickel, Single High Man

The Rams are in 11 personnel with trips to the right. The Cardinals are again in Nickel with Man coverage under the single high safety.

The trips to the right include Woods, Higbee and Kupp from outside to inside. Linebacker is in the face of Higbee and is going to take him on the outside route.  DB’s Patrick Peterson (21) and Byron Murphy (33) seem to be a little confused on whom to take after the motion. The end up with Peterson on Woods and Murphy on Kupp.

Woods is going to run a Curl in front of Budda Baker (32) and as he reacts to that it looks like he points toward Kupp to tell Murphy to stay with him. Kupp runs a Drive route behind Baker and again confusion by Murphy for a split second as he flattens as if he will cover the curl. The conflict is caused by the two receivers in the QB sight line forcing the defenders to figure out to which he is throwing. A nice throw by Jared Goff (16) for 27 yards.

Steelers Scenario – For Pittsburgh I like Diontae Johnson as the curl route and put James Washington on the drive route. If it’s not a perfect throw he’s probably the best choice in the contested catch area. You can run Deon Cain on the Go route to clear out the DB and safety to that side of the field.

Play Three

Q3 – 3RD and 6 at the Cardinal 41

Los Angeles -11 personnel

Arizona – Nickel, Match Quarters

The Rams are again in 11 personnel this time with three receivers to the left and one to the right. Arizona’s coverage I believe is match quarters which is basically the DB’s matching the receiver in their area with two safety help over the top and linebackers taking the underneath routes. But Higbee is split wide here taking a linebacker out of the underneath coverage.

To the near side the Rams have Higbee outside, Woods in the slot and Kupp is going to motion into a stacked formation behind Woods. Higbee and Kupp are going to run Go routes up the left side with Woods running a deep out underneath them.  Cooks is going to run a shallow cross from the far side and the linebacker is supposed to pick up the underneath route but he is nowhere near close enough. The three routes clear out that side and at worst it leaves a WR one on one with a linebacker.

Steelers Scenario – Here I’ll use Nick Vannett and Cain to run the Go routes, put Washington on the out route and Johnson as the shallow cross. He can make guys miss and getting him the ball in space with this much room to work with could produce big results.


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