Baylor’s 2019 defensive success was built on creating havoc. The creation of turnovers and negative plays directly correlated with Baylor’s ability to win games. Nationally, Baylor ranked 8th in DEff (Defensive Efficiency), but that didn’t mean they were dominant. The Bears were middle of the pack (#55) in First Down rate (the percentage of opponent drives that result in a TD or at least one 1st Down) and 39th overall in Total Defense. Where Baylor excelled was in killing drives and limiting TDs. To do that, a defense needs to dominate in negative plays (TFLs/Sacks) and turnovers.
Baylor was second in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma in total TFLs (Tackles for Loss) with 102 total and 18th nationally. Included in that stat is Baylor’s 46 sacks, which led the Big 12 and was ninth nationally. Finally, Baylor was tied for second nationally in opponent turnovers, ending the season with 30 total (13 fumbles/17 intercepts). These stats were crucial to the Bears’ success. One way the Bears were able to cause havoc was to bring pressure. As shown in Part 1 (Coverages) and Part 2 (Fronts 7 Fits), Phil Snow’s 3-4 defense was transformed into a 3-3-3 in 2019. His aggressive style of play calling meshed with the roster Baylor had. Placing two converted CBs at “hash safeties” and hybrid LBs allowed Snow to bring pressure from all over. In Part 3 MQ takes a look at the most frequently used in the Bears’ scheme.
The “ameba” front highlighted in Part 2 of this series is a base down look for the Bears. By standing the D-linemen up, the O-line has no anchor point to go off or. The single-high look can indicate pressure is coming. In the prior article, I highlighted a clip that showed the Bears using this as a “bluff.” Below, the Bears Sam LB “green-dogs” once he has deemed the play a pass (green-dog refers to a “delay” pressure where you insert if your man blocks). With Cover 1 behind the front structure, the Sam can climb to contain once the RB and QB divvy out the mesh. The Sooners’ QB, Jalen Hurts, pulls the ball on a slight Waggle (no O-line protection) and the Sam climbs immediately. The pressure in the QB’s face forces an errant throw.
This concept can be used in a zone concept as well. The Bears are running their typical 3-Invert. This frees up the box players to be aggressive on run reads. The Mike LB reads and fits the pulling O-line as though it is run. The delay works because of the pulling guard and tackle “walling” the DE. The right guard can’t handle the tempo of the Mike (and probably assumes one of the pullers will clean up the edge) and the LB is unabated to the QB. Again, the pressure in the QB’s face forces him to throw it away.
Delay rushes don’t have to be exotic or need a specific call like you see in Kirby Smart or Dave Aranda’s playbook. One LB just needs to be freed up to be the 4th rusher (“green-dog”). Baylor does this by using single-side OLB (previous) or the Mike (above) in their 3-Invert or Cover 1 scheme. This is a great way to add in on play-action to gain an extra rusher from depth.
Play-action passes take time to develop. These plays are built to suck up the LBs or Safeties with their eyes in the backfield. By tagging a delay LB, the defense can gain a rusher from an area the O-line isn’t ready to handle. In both clips, the edge blocker latches on to a defender from the front. This allows the LB to come clean and disrupt the passer. A “cheap” way to cause havoc.
Fire Zones are “safe” pressures designed to attack the offense at a specific point while dropping defenders away from the pressure. Many times these are designed to attack an edge (tackle), pass-pro (Slide or BoB), or a weaker guard on the O-line. Below, the Bears run a Cross-dog on the right guard. The Bears run a 3-Cross concept where the MS drops into the Hook area of the offense (on top of the center).
Many times in a 3-down, the Cross-dog blitz path is used on the weakest guard. By leaving both DEs in the fit, they occupy the tackles. The Nose engages the center and “pins” the “A” gap away from the Cross-dog. “Pinning” means the Nose will engage and bring the center with him as he works to guard next to him, pinning the guard and center in the “A” gap. The point is to occupy both players and force a double team, keeping the eyes (and hands) of the O-line on the defender.
This type of pressure is great on base downs because it holds up against the run. Above, the Sooners run a play-action pass and the RB sells the action to the point of not blocking the extra rusher. This puts two players on the guard. Even if the RB were to pull up, he would be standing still. Simple science tells you he will be blown back a bit and into the QB’s lap. Even if the play doesn’t result in a sack, the QB has to move or throw the ball without stepping into it. Cross-dog, a great age-old pressure.
You can’t run a Fire Zone without running “America’s” blitz path. That’s two off the edge. The Bears play a type of Tampa as the coverage and check the blitz to the Mike and Will. The Hook players hinge open to their WR and wall under routes while climbing vertically. To the single-WR side, the CB plays the Deep 1/2 while the Safety sinks into the weak hook. Blitz-path wise, the Mike takes the “B” gap and the Will takes the contain.
The Tite Front is used by the Bears to their advantage. By placing the DE to the field in a 4i, and moving him across the guard’s face, he has essentially put the left tackle in a two-on-one situation. The RB leaks out away from the pressure, so there is no one to help the tackle. As the tackle fans out to get the Mike, he rips into the “B” gap leaving the Will free to contain. The Nose “pins” the “A” gap opposite the rush and the boundary DE ends up in contain. The Mike’s action in the “B” cuts off the pocket for the QB who steps into the Will’s path. Simple and effective.
The Stack gives the defense the ability to literally attack the offense from anywhere on the field (other than field CB). Fire Zones, in particular, is a safe way to rush the passer and stay relatively gap sound in the process. In Baylor’s case, using 5-man pressures lends itself to their typical Cover 3/Cover 1 secondary look. In both the Cross-dog and “America’s” Fire Zone, the defense would have been able to handle a basic run play. The five rushers create one-on-one matchups, and as illustrated, if done right, they can create two-on-one scenarios.
If looking for more resources on how to create five-man pressures from Quarters looks, make sure to check out MQ’s CoachTube clinic by clicking HERE.
One concept that is getting a lot of play this offseason is the concept of a “shared rush.” Last Spring many coaches were introduced to the “delayed rush” or schematic green-dog of rushing the ILB away from the RB to get a fourth rusher on base downs in a 3-4 (Aranda even has a “Wizard” call to get the OLB involved in single-WR formations). A shared rush sounds exactly like its name. Two defenders will “share” the RB on a five-man rush. This takes the six-man blitz concept of “peel-and-eat” to a more advanced level. The diagram below illustrates how a shared rush would look on 3rd Down from an Overload Front.
The Baylor pressure in the clip below is almost identical to the one shown above. There are many ways to set the front when trying to attack an offense’s pass-pro, but one that continues to come up regardless of personnel or scheme is the Bear Front (two 9s/5s, two 3s, and a “Zero” Nose) The main difference is the loop is attacking the RB. The above illustration is an Overload Front (“Bigs” on one side), but when broken down to its foundation it is a Bear Front. The five men across the board force man blocking by the O-line. Place the “bigs” on one side and the defense might get Slide protection. Regardless, the defense has made the offense predictable.
If looking for more 3rd Down Front resources click HERE.
The Bears Odd Stack defense is built to use a Bear Front and attack an offense easily with shared rush pressures. The ability to run Cover 1 on 3rd and medium ensures the offense won’t have a free release. Baylor places the Sam and Will in 9s outside the OTs. The Mike is left in the middle as a “zero” Mike reading the RB. The Bears have two converted CBs as hash Safeties, so this lends well to running Cover 1. All WRs are accounted for. If the RB were to stay in, the defense is afforded a “spy” or “rat” in the middle of the coverage with the Mike cutting any crossers or matching the elusive QB’s movements.
The pressure is a simple pin-and-loop stunt to get the field DE free. The boundary 3t and the Nose will pin the “A” gaps. This essentially wastes three O-line men with two defenders. The boundary 3t brings the right guard with him and inserts off the backside of the center. The loop by the field DE brings the left guard into the Nose. He obliges by latching on (there is no second-level threat). You can see for a split-second the center sees the looper and thinks about kicking out to meet him. Instead, he doubles the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (Lynch).
Both tackles are occupied with the edge rush (five-man front, that is their “man”). The beauty of the shared rush is when the RB flares and the tackle has traveled with the peeler too far to work back in the box. In the clip, the right tackle attempts to work back as two defenders working free behind him. The right guard has attached himself to the boundary DE. The tackle whiffs on the Mike who is more athletic and can see the movement of the QB. Hurts, the Sooners’ QB, is ran down by the “fishhook-ing” Sam LB and the Mike who comes from off the shared rush. This is a “cheap” and easy way to manipulate the pass-pro when the offense flares the back to get a soft edge.
The final pressure discussed is a simple “Scissors” Add concept from the Tite Front. Baylor is essentially blitzing to a Bear Front and adding in the Mike LB if the RB stays in. Below, the clip illustrates how the Tite Front can affect the pass-pro. The 4i to the field is ate-up by the tackle because the guard is pulling on play-action. The Sooners aren’t sliding the protect away from the motion, so this leaves the edge vulnerable. By blitzing from depth, the Sam is allowed to come free. This pairs well with Baylor’s 3-Invert or Cover 1 concepts.
Though Matt Rhule and, his partner in crime, Phil Snow are now in the NFL their 2019 campaign is something that will hold value for a time. What Baylor did was prove that an Odd Stack defense can get a pass rush and disrupt the timing of an offense. As shown in Part 1 of this series, Iowa State’s production has gone down over time as the Big 12 figures out how to attack it. Baylor, on the other hand, was able to climb back to the previous regime’s (Phil Bennett) production in TFLs and sacks. The Bears even led the Big 12 in interceptions and sacks, something the Cyclones haven’t done.
Phil Snow’s ability to adapt his defense to fit the Odd Stack while placing converted CBs as hash safeties allowed him to be much more multiple in the way he attacked offenses. What better offense to study than OU’s? Lincoln Riley had to work in both games he went up against Snow. Baylor would finish the 2019 campaign with 11 wins and the Defensive Player of the Year in the conference. More impressive is the way the Bears were able to wholesale change and get production.
Maybe the greater point made from this defense is to understand that each conference is built differently. Being able to adapt and use the abilities of the players a team has is what makes a great coach. Snow and Rhule tried to fit a square peg in a round hole for two years. It wasn’t working. They chose to change and it paid dividends. Take that into this off-season. Don’t be rigid, find ways to innovate and put players in the best situation possible to make plays. Grow…
Read the whole series on the Baylor Odd Stack:
- Evolution of the Odd Dime Part 1: Baylor Coverages (2019)
- Evolution of the Odd Dime Part 2: Baylor Fronts & Fits (2019)
© 2020 MatchQuarters.com | Cody Alexander | All rights reserved.
Go deeper than just X’s and O’s. Have a philosophy.
MQ’s books are available on Amazon and Kindle:
As always, support the site by following me on Twitter (@The_Coach_A) and spreading the word to your coaching friends by liking and retweeting the articles you read (even sharing them via Facebook and LinkedIn).
Do not hesitate to contact me with questions through the site’s CONTACT page or through my DM on Twitter. I enjoy speaking with you guys (iron sharpens iron).
– Coach A. | #ArtofX