Defending the Power Read

Defending one of the spread’s toughest plays.

The power read is one of the spread’s hardest plays to defend because it stresses the techniques taught by most defensive coaches, and stretches the field horizontally. Any time an offense can attack both planes it is going to stress the defenses’ core principles.  Unlike a QB power, where the RB blocks out on the end and guard pulls for the ILB, the power read plays on the flow read of the ILB. The RB takes a stretch path and heads for the edge. Instead of reading the backside end like the zone read, the power read uses the front side end as the read man and attacks his fit. Below is a live look at the power read.

Playing it Like Power

If the defense is set in an under front the play side end should crash down and “wrong shoulder” the pulling guard, or tackle the QB if he chooses to pull the ball. With the Nose to the three receiver side, the end is allowed to close the “B” gap and take the “dive”. In this case, the “dive” is the QB. The natural gap exchange that occurs post-snap, frees the Mike to attack the up-field shoulder of the RB. Against any power play, the interior lineman getting the block back should try and cross face, and the Will crosses the face of the climbing tackle. The aiming point for the Will is the inside shoulder of the pulling guard. Against a traditional two-back power a defense would ideally like a man on the inside and outside shoulder of the pulling guard. In the diagram below, the Will takes the inside, while the crashing end is technically the outside shoulder player. Take a look at the fits an under front gives the power read. The crashing end gives the QB a “give” read. In this particular play, the Mike should tackle the RB.

.01 QB Give
3×1 Power Read vs. a 4-3 under front.

Making the QB Carry

Like any read play, the defense has to decide who they want to carry the ball. If a DC decides the QB is the worst of the two evils, the defense can still hold the cover down integrity the under front and force the QB to carry the ball by giving a “hold” call to the play side end. The “hold” call creates the same fit for the play side end as if there was a three technique to his side. The drawback to this call is the Mike becomes a fold player, and in the case of an RPO team, a conflicted one. Instead of the end crashing down to the pulling guard, the Mike will assume that role and fold into the box. The play side end will take the back on the stretch path. By doing so, the end forces the QB to pull the ball. Like power, the Will climbs over the tackle and aims for the inside shoulder of the pulling guard. The safety valve in all of this is the Down Safety reading cutback and making the Will right in the run fits. The stretch path by the RB can make the LBs over pursue. Even in the case of a QB pulling the ball, if the LBs vacate too fast, there is a crease on the cutback. The DS has to fill that crease before pursuing the stretch path of the back. See the diagram below:

.02 QB Pull
3×1 Power Read vs. a 4-3 under front.

Don’t Forget the Play-Action

One of the toughest plays to defend is the power read pass. Because of the flow and the pulling guard, it sucks the LBs up to the line of scrimmage and puts pressure on the safeties to be right. Here is RGIII talking about an old Briles bread and butter play-action pass, the “power flip pass.” This is the complement to the power read run play.

The key to defending the play-action is in the safeties and their eyes (understand, this is an obvious statement). Against teams that run the power read, the Cover Safety is the player that has to absorb the vertical of the #3 WR. If the #3 WR stays flat, the Will has a chance to make a play on the ball thrown over the middle. Knowing that the Will has to climb over the play side tackle, he can be patient in pursuing the pulling guard and stay high as long as he can. Sitting in that middle hole muddies the view for the QB. If too hesitant, the Will can get pinned on a run play. This is a patient play for the offense, and it is the defense that has to stay patient as well. The pass distribution should look like the below diagram.

.03 PAP
3×1 Power Read Pass vs. an under front with “Special” coverage behind.


Like anything, the defense has to have a plan on who should carry the ball. The key player is the DS and his role in defending against the cutback and the vertical shoot of the #3 WR against the play-action. The Will has to be patient until the ball is handed off, or pulled by the QB. A “hold” call can change the fit and confuse the QB. It is important to note, that the power fits do not change, the people change.

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