Game Plan Central
Game Plan Central is a brand-new section of Football Film Room with a focus on the different ways that NFL coaches use play-design and game plans to break down their opponents. Whether you’re a coach looking to find new ways to expand your playbook or a fan hoping to learn more about the game, this section will provide insight into the different ways that NFL coaches win with scheme.
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There are many ways to stress protection schemes, and double-A-gap pressure looks are a great starting point for doing so.
This look by Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense against the Bengals in Week 1 of the 2021 season is a great example. First, notice the linebackers aligned in the gaps on both sides of the center (the double-A-gap look):
This led to the Bengals setting their protection as illustrated below:
This was a five-man slide, allowing the offensive line to protect inside against the two linebackers in the A-gaps and prevent pressure up the middle (a common protection to combat this look). The problem was that this left Minnesota’s best pass rusher, defensive end Danielle Hunter, isolated on a tight end.
That’s not an ideal matchup for the offense. However, you live with it in certain cases if the trade off is protecting against inside pressure.
But the Vikings wouldn’t be blitzing either of those A-gap linebackers. Instead, they dropped out and the defensive line shifted right before the snap. This ended up being just a four-man rush instead of a blitz. And since the Vikings shifted right before the snap, the Bengals didn’t have time to adjust the protection. They were stuck using the five-man slide.
That meant the Vikings were able to get their best pass rusher aligned in a 1-on-1 matchup against a tight end with just a 4-man rush. The result was a sack:
The below play was just as clever and fun to watch if you’re a football fan. Here, the Vikings were able to adjust their blitz at the line based on the protection call.
Again, notice the double-A-gap look from the Vikings defense. Also notice the center pointing at the linebacker to his right: