Preventing the Defense from Playing Press-Man Coverage

In 2014, the Patriots did a tremendous job of using motion and alignment to prevent teams from playing press-man coverage.

On the 3rd down play below, Julian Edelman was aligned outside. Brady and the Patriots knew that cornerback Greg Toler was playing man coverage because of what they saw on the other side of the field. There, tight end Rob Gronkowski was aligned on the perimeter with receiver Brandon LaFell inside of him. Just like with the Shane Vereen play, the Colts’ alignment tipped the coverage. They had cornerback Vontae Davis follow LaFell inside. Safety Mike Adams went outside over Gronk. This meant man coverage.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Edelman motioned toward the formation. When receivers motion tight to the formation or toward other receivers, defensive backs tend to back off to avoid getting picked in the traffic. As you can see here, this is exactly what cornerback Greg Toler did.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

The potential press-man to that side had been taken care of. Brady’s primary target would not be disrupted. And with Toler now backed away from the line of scrimmage, this allowed tight end Tim Wright to run his man downfield into Toler’s path, making it difficult for him to stay with Edelman as he ran a shallow cross underneath Wright.

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

Screen Shot Courtesy of NFL.com Gamepass

The result here was an easy 12-yard gain.

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