Spread Pass Concepts in the Red Zone

Executing spread pass concepts in the red zone can be a like solving a Rubik’s Cube for some coaches. Once you cross the 20 yard line with pay dirt in sight, the offense tends to sputter as the rhythm and tempo that got you there is completely out the window. That’s because the field shrinks and the defense doesn’t have to cover as much grass.

This can make it tough on a play caller who is looking to attack space and out-leverage the defense.

Trust me, I’ve been there before.

I’ve stood at the end of the coaching box on the sideline staring down at my play sheet hoping something will jump out at me to get us in the end zone. It seemed like the longer I stared at my sheet the less I knew what I wanted to do.

I was failing to attack the defense who had more numbers in the box than us, and was also pressuring our WR’s on the perimeter.

So I decided to go back to the drawing board and look for spread pass concepts in the red zone. Here’s a few that I found to be successful after daily repetitions in practice.

Spread Pass Concepts in the Red Zone

Typically what I see in the red zone is Cover 1, which is man underneath and 1 deep safety over the top. Defensive Coordinators favor man in the red zone because it’s is easier with a condensed field, and it also free’s up LB’s to stack the box and commit to the run or blitz the QB.

Here are a few different concepts that attack this defense and will help get you in the end zone.

RB Wheel

YShallow cross. He will rub underneath A off the LOS and run down the toes of the LB. If the backside LB vacates and runs with T on the wheel, then continue the cross. If LB doesn’t vacate, then put the foot in the ground and work back to the sideline WITHOUT gaining ground.
ZDeep comeback – 16 back to 14 to the boundary. His goal should be to get an outside release and trade hips with the corner.
ASmash route. Set the defender inside by attacking his inside hip to get an outside release to the corner.
XRun a 5 step post. X needs to get over the middle of the field and occupy the middle safety.
QPriority is T on the wheel route. Pre-snap read LB and the RB’s leverage on him. Eyes go to LB at the snap of the ball and quickly identify if RB has a beat on him.

If LB gets over the top, look for crossing route underneath from Y, or QB work back to the deep comeback from Z if he likes that match up.
TAlignment: straddle the outside leg of the LT. Immediately get out to the flat and into the wheel route. The route will work from top of the numbers, to bottom of the numbers, to the sideline (if ball is in middle of the field).

Slot Fade Rub

A/YA & Y are going to run a fade route from the slot position. They will get an outside release immediately off the LOS and they are going to rub with the Corner to open up the slant from the outside.

The aiming point on the rub is the Corner’s inside hip. We want to force the Corner underneath the rub action so he is in a trail technique behind the slant route, as opposed to playing over the top and taking away the slant.
X/ZX & Z will run a slant route underneath the slot fade from A & Y. They will set up the rub action for A & Y by attacking the outside hip and setting the Corner to the outside. This will create a natural rub for the slant to come underneath.

If X and Z don’t immediately get the football (defense may switch man responsibilities), they will get vertical and split the middle safety over the top.
QThis is a quick three step drop from the QB. The primary route is the slant route from the outside underneath the rub action from the slot fade.

If A/Y gain leverage and has their defender in a trail technique at the mesh, the QB can throw the ball over the top on the slot fade.

If the Corners and overhang defenders switch the routes, then look for X/Z getting up the seem and splitting the Middle Safety.

Slants Rub

XX will be tagged with either a fade route or a slant.
AA is going to run a 1 yard speed out under Y and Z and he’ll run straight to the front pylon.
YY is going to run his slant into “A’s defender. He must get his eyes on the QB and his hands out to avoid being flagged for a pick. Once he rubs with A’s defender, he will then work back out and find space to get open for the QB rolling out.
ZZ will run a slant and rub with Y’s defender. He must get his eyes on the QB and his hands out to avoid being flagged for a pick. Once he rubs with Y’s defender, he will open his hips to the QB and run to the back pylon.
QQB has a pre-snap read to his left with X on whatever route he is tagged with. If he likes the matchup, then he’ll catch and throw to X.

If he doesn’t like the matchup, then he will sprint out to the right in his post-snap read. His first read will be A sprinting to the Pylon, then Y in the corner of the End Zone, and then A working back with the QB in space.

If you have other spread pass concepts in the red zone that have been successful for you, then please drop them below in the comments! I’d love to know what works for other coaches.

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