Levels

Levels:

Reportedly this Peyton Manning’s favorite passing concept.  It is a very simple concept, a few receivers on the same side of the field will run “in” or “dig” routes at various “levels”, hence the concepts name. Against zone coverage the weak-side linebacker or defensive back tasked with covering the area where the receivers are running will commonly drop back to prevent the deep pass to the receiver running the deeper dig route, but this allows the very easy five yard completion to the outside receiver running the shallow dig route.  Then as soon as the defender drops down to cover the shallow dig the deep dig is open for a 10-15 yard gain.  The beauty of this passing concept is that it all occurs right in front of the quarterback, the receivers are running right across the quarterbacks field of vision.

In a four wide set where their are two receivers on either side of the field the levels concept will only be run on one half of the field, only by two of the four receivers.  The inside or slot receiver (the A receiver in the diagram below) will run up straight up the seam, as if he were running a go-route, for about 10 yards.  Then he will cut towards the opposite sideline at a 90 degree angle.  Meanwhile the outside receiver (the Z receiver in the diagram below) will only five yards upfield before he too cuts at a 90 degree angle towards the opposite sideline.

The other three receivers (the two receivers on the other side and the running back) will often run some simple concept like a curl-flat or smash concept.  The Indianapolis Colts like to have their outside receiver run a go-route up the sideline and the inside receiver run an option route.  In its simplest form the route ran by the slot receiver is called a “bender”.  The slot receiver is given two choices, run a go-route straight down the seam, or run a post route where he runs straight towards the opposite pylon.  In this case the slot receiver will watch the safeties, if a safety covers the middle of the field (as in a Cover 3 or Cover 1, which will be referred to as M.O.F.C. from this point forward) he will continue his go-route straight up the seam, but if the safeties both cover the sideline (as they would in a Cover 2 defense, this will be referred to as M.O.F.O. from now on) then he will run the post route crossing through the empty deep middle of the field.  Allowing the slot receiver the ability to modify his route during the play makes this concept almost impossible to defend.

Below is an example of what this will look like on the chalk board.  Again thanks to Chris Brown at Smart Football for the image.

Levels_gif_medium

via 2.bp.blogspot.com

The throwing of this pass for the quarterback is both coverage and timing based.  This means that as soon as he is done with his three steps he must know where the ball is going to go.  Saying that this concept is coverage based means that the reads of the quarterback are determined by the coverage he sees.This play is mainly built to beat Cover 2 based defenses, where their are two safeties deep.  If the quarterback sees two safeties outside of the box (this is a Cover 2 shell) he will first look at the deep-dig and then the shallow-dig.  In a Cover 2 defense this means he is watching the middle linebacker and seeing if he drops down to cover the shallow dig or is dropping back to cover the deep-dig.  However, if the quarterback sees only one safety in the box (a Cover 1 or Cover 3 shell) he will instead first look to the divide route.

If all these routes are covered the quarterback can just dump off the ball to the tailback.  (The only way they can both be covered is if the middle linebacker covers the deep in-route while the right outside linebacker covers the quick in-route, or vise versa.  However, in both cases the tailback is being neglected and will be open for an easy completion.)  Against a man defense the receiver running the quick in-route will just run under the nickel-back covering the deep-dig route.   This will create a rub and both receivers running dig-routes will be open.

Here is a video of this play in action in the 2007 Superbowl between the Giants and Patriots.

This passing concept is also commonly run out of a trips formation.  If this is the case the deep-dig and shallow-dig are still run, but there is often another shallow-dig route run by the middle receiver on the trips side.  The core concept remains the same, but the follow concept is also added (which will be explained below).  On the weakside of the formation a very simple passing concept is usually run, such as the curl-flat concept (using the tailback for the flat), or as in the example below a streak-out concept.

Below is how this play can look on the chalkboard out of an empty trips formation.

Packers_gif_medium

via 4.bp.blogspot.com

Now here is video of this play being run by the Green Bay Packers.

Here is video of this play being running Madden 10 practice mode:

If you are looking for more information of this concept I recommend these two Chris Brown articles from Smart Football and the NY Times Fifth Down Blog:

http://smartfootball.blogspot.com/2009/01/peytons-favorite-pass-play-levels.html

http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Deconstructing-How-Florida-tackles-Empty-Tebow-?urn=ncaaf,194833

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