Anatomy of a Scoring Drive: One Play, Two Concepts

In part #12 of the OBR's ‘Anatomy of a Scoring Drive: A Play a Day’ series, the Bengals' offense went to the air for a 3-yard gain using an 'All Hitches/Spacing' concept.Moving on to play #13, we analyze a unique concept in which the quarterback must decide between a run and pass play at the line of scrimmage.

Play #12 Recap

Down/distance - 3rd and 5

Field Position – Right hash of the Browns’ 9-yard line

Formation – Gun Quad Hi (tailback aligned to right of quarterback)

Concept – All Hitches/Spacing

Result - 3-yard gain by Mohamed Sanu

Facing a 3rd and 5, Bengals' offensive coordinator Hue Jackson elected to throw using the West Coast classic 'All Hitches/Spacing' concept from a spread formation.


Although Bengals' wide receiver Mohamed Sanu made the reception, his route depth forced him to make the catch short of the first down marker, allowing cornerback Tramon Williams to make a solid tackle short of the sticks to force 4th down.

Trends through 12 plays:

  • After running the ball four of the first five plays, the Bengals' have now thrown the ball five of the last seven.
  • The defensive front-seven alignment continues to create large run bubbles
  • Hue Jackson has attacked the outside gaps three out of five running plays with the Counter OF (C-gap), Pin-and-Pull (D-gap), and Outside Zone (D-gap). He has also attacked large interior run bubbles with the Iso/Lead on two of the previous three running plays
  • The offense has consistently created numbers at the point of attack via well-designed blocking schemes 
  • NT Danny Shelton has yet to prevent a scoop to the second level when he is combo-blocked (three plays). As a result, the Browns' linebackers are unable to freely scrap to the ball, leading to solid gains on the ground. Jaime Meder's single appearance this drive resulted in the nose tackle bullying his blocker into the backfield, altering the tailback's path to the hole and likely saving the defense some yardage.
  • Hue Jackson is now attacking match-ups through the air. In five of the previous nine plays he has schemed one-on-one coverage in space via alignment and concept for Tyler Eifert, A.J. Green, and Mohamed Sanu.
  • The Browns' defensive intergrity continues to consistently break down due to errors in alignment and technique.


Play #13

Down/distance - 4th and 2

Field Position – Right hash of the Browns’ 6-yard line

Formation – Wing Stack Right

Concept – Wide receiver Smoke Screen/Tailback Iso 

Facing 4th and 2, Jackson decides to go for the jugular, bypassing an easy field goal for a first down and more. Again we see aggressiveness and faith in his offense to execute from the new Browns' head coach. 

Rather than try to out guess Browns' defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil Jackson decides to give quarterback Andy Dalton two play calls, a run and a pass concept. Dalton will scan the defense at the line of scrimmage and decide which play to run based on factors such as box count, alignment, leverage, and depth. If the defense shows a light box, run the one-back Iso--which has been very successful this drive--and trust the offensive line to execute. If the cornerback over the single X receiver does not play press at the line of scrimmage, throw the Smoke Screen and trust A.J. Green to pick up two yards.

After surveying the defense the TCU product will signal his receiver which of the two plays he wants to run, although sometimes the quarterback will simply have the ball snapped without communicating which concept will be run. In this case, the offensive players will carry out their original assignment. The offensive line and receivers will run block; Green will run the Smoke Screen.  

Allowing the quarterback to identify the defense and get the offense into the best play can only be done with a high football-IQ player. There are a variety of factors that go into the play selection and the decision must be made quickly. The offensive coordinator should have absolute trust in his signal caller to give him this freedom at the line of scrimmage.

The cornerback's depth over wide receiver A.J. Green makes the box count irrelevant. The defender is giving up a 6-yard cushion with his heels on the goal line, which should allow Dalton to get the ball to Green before the corner can make a play on the ball. Assuming Green makes the reception, he now has an opportunity to beat a defender in space, a match-up the offense will happily take all game long.

Before moving to the throw let's start with the bunch on the right side of the formation. Notice that the offensive line, wing, and both receivers run block the Iso weak concept with the tailback taking his normal path to the mesh point with the quarterback. There is a good chance Dalton only signaled Green to the screen, although he may not have communicated anything at the line of scrimmage to avoid tipping the play. When the offense is giving two plays, all players are expected to carry out their respective assignment regardless of which concept is ultimately run. All eleven players must assume their responsibility will be the key to the play's success.   

Due to the defensive back's pre-snap depth, Dalton has what should be any easy completion. Although he is slinging the ball from the far hash, this is a throw any NFL quarterback should be able to consistently make, however the Bengals' signal caller fails to execute here by throwing the ball into the dirt.   

So why did Dalton almost skip the ball to his receiver?

Focus on Dalton's feet as he receives the snap. The throw starts by stepping towards the target with the lead foot. The step should be short, straight and quick. Dalton appears to overstride with his lead foot, preventing the body from transferring his weight over his front foot as he releases the ball. This causes the ball to take a downward path on release, likely causing the underthrow.

At first glance, the defense has firmed up to force a stop and get the ball back for the offense. Unfortunately, defensive lineman Randy Starks hurts his defense with his second major penalty of the drive, getting flagged for defensive offside. The resulting penalty results in a 1st and goal with the ball moved to the 3-yard line.

Jackson has a bevy of options to choose from at the 3-yard line. The running game, three-step passing game, and play action are all viable options at this down/distance. Can the Browns' defense hold after a devastating penalty? Tune in to see what happens next time! 

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