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Cover 2 in the red zone. One of the top defensive calls you will see on Sundays in the NFL. Coach up your CBs to sink hard (“soft squat” technique) to protect the two deep half safeties, drop the Mike Backer and create a 5-across look in the end zone. Take away the vertical concepts and force the ball to go underneath.  A coverage I would carry in my game plan on Sundays.

However (like any defensive scheme), there are routes designed to target Cover 2 inside of the 20-yard line. Today, let’s look at the Eagles-Falcons matchup from the 2011 season and break down TE Tony Gonzalez on the “Y-Shake” (or “Nod” route) to beat the Eagles 2-deep shell.

Eagles vs. Falcons
Personnel: Posse (3WR-1TE-1TB)
Formation: Empty
Route: Y-Shake
Defensive scheme: Cover 2

Route breakdown: Double Smash-7 (corner) from the Falcons to both the closed (strong) and open (weak) side of the formation. A route combination that always shows up in the red zone vs. defenses that will play Cover 2 (bait the CB with the Smash, target the safety with the 7). But the key here is Gonzalez. With both safeties now playing the 7 cuts, the middle of the field is open for the Falcons’ TE to work the “Y-Shake” vs. the Mike.

Y-Shake: Think double-move here from the TE position. Straight vertical release, stutter at depth of 5-7 yards and then work up the field on the inside seam. And I can tell you from my own experience of playing vs. Gonzalez, this is a route concept he has run (and produced with) throughout his entire career once the ball is inside of the 10-yard line.

Target the Mike: The MLB in Cover 2 will open his hips to the passing strength and “carry” any inside vertical route. However, vs. the “Y-Shake,” you will often see the Mike settle his feet on the stutter move (playing for an inside option route). This opens a quick throwing lane over the top of the underneath defenders (seam-hook players) and between the 2-deep safeties.

Double-moves in the red zone: Why do they work? DBs and LBs shorten their depth and drops dramatically when the ball moves inside of the 10-yard line to close down throwing lanes (use the end line as an extra defender). But unlike out in the field where you can get help from a safety on the opposite hash (or even numbers) vs. the deep ball, there is no room for error in the red zone. Take a false step, or bite on a stutter move during the route stem, and it will lead to six points.

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