Brady & Manning All-22: Spot Passing Concept

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The spot series is a staple of the Bill Walsh West Coast Offense. It is a triangle passing concept that involves corner/flat/curl routes allowing the offense to find a hole or weakness, no matter what the defensive call or coverage is. It is extremely popular at all levels of football due to it’s effectiveness and the simplicity of the reads for the quarterback. Today I will illustrate how two of the best quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning & Tom Brady utilize the spot concept in their offense.

Both examples are run out of bunch formations, which is fairly common when the spot concept is run the red zone. As you could see in the diagram above the progression read is the flat to curl. The corner route is an alert versus man coverage.

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We’ll first take a look at Brady and the Patriots running spot. It’s 3rd & 7 with the ball on the 8 yard line with 2:12 left in the 2nd quarter in week 1 vs the Bills. Below the routes are illustrated, corner/flat/curl.

pats 1

You can see the triangle concept/read as the routes develop. The routes are stretching and putting pressure on the defense vertically as well as horizontally.

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The Patriots take the spot play to the next level with the route of Julian Edelman. Edelman is running the curl route but Buffalo has it well defended with their zone defense. The linebacker drops into a hook zone and jumps the curl. Edelman reads the zone defense and takes his route vertical to the hole in the zone.

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The result is Edelman comes wide open in the middle of the field and Brady with this type of defined read will always make the defense pay with a touchdown. This is executing the spot to perfection. Even if the defense covers the designed routes, Brady and the Patriots have adjustments built in to counter those defensive looks.

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pats z spot 1

pats z spot 2

Peyton Manning and the Broncos line up in the same bunch formation on 3rd & 2 at the 7 yard line in the first quarter of last week’s game vs the Eagles. Once again you see the spot route combo of corner/flat/curl.

broncos 1

Manning reads the man to man coverage immediately and knows that the matchup he wants to go to is Wes Welker running the flat route. The Eagles safety is too far inside and has to fight through the traffic from the curl route to cover Welker.

broncos 2

Welker comes wide open to catch the 3rd down red zone touchdown.

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broncos z spot 1

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While Bill Walsh is gone his influence has not left the game. You will see this concept run by most of the teams in the NFL, even if they’re not traditional West Coast offensive teams. With the examples above you could see how effective the spot route combo is vs man or zone coverage.

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5 thoughts on “Brady & Manning All-22: Spot Passing Concept

  1. Quick question, what are some of the reads that WR make against zone coverage that defenses use against the Corner-Flat-Curl combo? The article mentioned WR Edelman went vertical, but is that a “standard” read and if the Flat WR is covered would he go vertical also?

  2. I love the part about eddleman taking the route vertically. Receivers that can read coverage and use it to make themselves open- not enough of them in this world. Also thought it was good how you illustrated the safety getting caught inside. Question for you. Can the safety cheat over to get into better position before the snap. How would the offense adjust to the safety covering it well?

    • The Bills were in a split-safety coverage. The safety went with the corner route, leaving nobody but the linebacker in a hook zone, so Edelman worked his route to the open middle. If it was a single high coverage, the corner/flat would vertically stretch the CB and would be where the QB would target.

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