Alright boys and girls, this is my all-inclusive guide to my thoughts and diagrams on how to attack defenses with the passing game. More importantly, this post will cover how important passing routes really are when playing NCAA 06.
How do I know which routes work best against Man coverage? What is the best way to attack Cover 3 Zone? How do I get my halfback and fullback involved in my running game? Hopefully I can help answer these questions for you in this post.
As most of you know, my entire offensive philosophy, regardless of scheme, is based on knowing which coverage the defense is using. Nothing can be more true than when throwing the football. I believe that the NCAA 06 passing system was designed for certain routes and route combinations to work against certain coverages.
There are lots of passing plays in 06 and by the end of this post, my goal for you is to be able to shuffle through the formations easily and efficiently by knowing and identifying certain routes and trends without getting confused.
Now I am a visual thinker and learner. Even though everyone learns differently, I feel the best way to teach you my passing game is by lots of pretty pictures with lots of colors. The point of this is that once you understand what routes and combinations to look for, depending on the coverage, that you will never pay attention to the actual names of plays but only out the routes.
Heck, I can’t even tell you the names of 95% of the passing plays I like to use. I only know what they look like via which routes and combos are used.
Also, I will go over in some detail about how hard or soft you should throw the ball depending on the route. For simplicity sake, let’s just say there are three types of throws: soft/lob, medium, and hard/bullet throws. You can also try to push your ball high, low, left or right of the receiver with some english with your left analog stick.
Finally, from time to time, I will mention my usage of hot routes. I like to keep Home Field Advantage ON. This means that you will not have complete access to hot routes due to your receivers not being able to hear it.
While there are plenty of plays that contain my favorite routes and combos, you can still use hot routes to your advantage, you just don’t have to use them to succeed. Whether you have HFA on or off, know that you don’t have to use hot routes to be successful (even though they can help).
Let dive right in, shall we?
How to Attack Man Coverage
Understanding how to attack Man Coverage is much easier to visualize and explain than Zone so we will start with it. The most important thing you need to know is which routes work against Man. From there, all that matters is being able to identify Cover 2, Cover 1, and Cover 0 after the snap.
Let’s get the safety coverage stuff out of the way.
- Cover 0 – Safeties come running to you
- Cover 1 – Either the FS or SS will run toward the middle of the field
- Cover 2 – Both Safeties run toward the back corners
- Cover 3 – A combination of one safety and two CBs cover three parts of the deep field or 2 safeties and one CB cover three parts of the deep field.
- Cover 4 – Both safeties and both outside CBs cover 4 parts of the deep field.
Let’s look at the Man routes you need to be familiar with. Know that the more grass and field these routes have, the better chances of success, obviously. This is not a hard rule though.
Here is an image of the first batch of Man routes you need to know. All of these routes are great against man because your receivers and do a decent job of either separating themselves or shielding themselves (S&S) from their defender.
GO Route – Gray: Probably the most talked about route in 06. It is best to only hit the GO against Cover 0. You can hit it against Cover 1 but most safeties are fast enough to double team it. A lob/soft throw is all that is needed here. This isn’t a cheese route as it can get picked off, or dropped, or over and under-thrown. Thankfully your receivers are good enough to adjust to the ball with this route. It does not matter where the route is located on the field with GO.
WHIP Route – Orange: Good S&S here. WHIP works best when there is more grass to work with though. Medium pass should be good enough here. Hit it after your receiver breaks.
IN/OUT Route Variations – Yellow, Blue Purple: These 5, 10, and 15 yard variations work about the same. Medium to hard throws work best with these. Hit it after your receiver breaks.
SHALLOW CROSS – Green: Another good S&S route. Medium pass will do. Your QB needs good accuracy to be able to hit your receiver in stride.
Do you notice any trends with these routes? Besides the GO Route, the rest of the routes end with an IN or OUT movement. Notice the red portions of those routes, each one end going out or in.
Finally, coverage does not matter to any of these except for the GO which you should hit against Cover 0.
These are the most obvious to see but as long as a route ends with an IN or OUT movement, then it should be able to attack Man Coverage efficiently.
CORNER Route – Gray: This route needs to be on the grass-side of the field, just to have room to work. (ex: ball on right hash, CORNER route on the left). Works against Cover 1 and better against cover 0. You must you a lob/soft throw with even put some english with your left analog stick to make this easier to complete.
FLAG Route – Orange: Basically no different than the CORNER route. See above.
POST Route – Purple: This is the next best Cover 0 route besides the GO. It doesn’t really matter where this route is at as long as there is some grass to use. This route is not worth it against Cover 1. Touch on the ball can be tricky here. It is best to lob the ball and let your receiver adjust. A medium pass can work well but the defender can get in front of it and pick it off. A bullet pass is the most risky but if your QB is accurate enough then he can fire it in there leaving the defender eating dirt ending up in 6 points. The better defenders can intercept the bullet pass though.
COMEBACK Route – Green: This is the only comeback related route (think curls and stuff) that works in 06. Very good shielding action here. A medium or, even better, a hard throw is best here. There is another variant of this route where the receiver will cut left instead of right like show above that does not work as good. Coverage doesn’t really matter here either.
ARROW Route – Blue: This is not the SLANT route. Unfortunately, slants do not work well in 06, period. The ARROW route takes a much steeper route and your receiver can separate pretty well here. Notice that this route MUST go towards the middle of the field and not to the sideline. A bullet pass works great here. Coverage doesn’t matter here either.
Again, notice the red portions of the three angle routes. These work well against man but you have to pay attention to the coverage as well has how hard you throw to these routes.
The COMEBACK and the ARROW are special routes that just work well against Man, even though they look a little funky.
These 11 routes and their variations are all you need to attack Man coverage. They all, in one way or another, shield and/or separate well from defenders.
Don’t forget to use hot routes if you want. GO, IN, and OUT are available hot routes to use at your disposal.
How to Attack Cover 2 Zone
Instead of giving you a list of routes to look at, what matters most when attacking zone coverage is to know which areas of the field are the weakest against which coverages.
The most important thing to know about attacking Zone coverage is the CPU/AI does not like to give up the deep ball. This means that all of the back defenders (CBs, LBs, and Safeties) like to stay in somewhat of a prevent mentality when in Zone. In other words, the defense likes to keep receivers in front of them.
This is just the way the defense is designed in 06. This is not a bad thing. It just helps to know this going forward as I explain the Zone stuff.
90% percent of Zone coverage that you will face in 06 will be either Cover 2 or Cover 3. Cover 4 is super rare and it is obvious to not throw deep stuff against it.
The best way to attack zone coverages is to attack certain areas via combo routes. Combo routes are simply two separate routes whereby one route distracts a defender while the other route gets open.
Let’s look at Cover 2 first.
Pay less attention to the defenders (defensive front does not matter) and more to the colored circles. These five circles are the five weak points of Cover 2 Zone.
Even though these are the weak point of Cover 2 Zone, what makes these points even weaker are the combo routes mentioned above.
Now let’s take a look how we can attack each of these areas, starting with learning how to attack the safeties.
For this example, the ball is on the right hash, which is super important for the following explanations. Notice the three colored circles. Notice how each weak point is between each safety? We want to attack those areas.
The best way to do this is to use combo routes to distract the safeties and to free up a receiver.
GRAY AREA: In the image above you will notice a combo of a GO and a CORNER route. To attack this area, always hit the CORNER route. The GO route will distract the FS while leaving your CORNER route open after he breaks. It also helps if you roll out your QB some to the left side. A medium pass is good here with a little left English. There are several combos that can work here. Just make sure you hit the route going toward to corner.
RED AREA: This is the most well known weakness of cover 2 Zone, between the safeties. The best combo to attack this area is a POST route with a GO route to the right of it (purple route), as shown above. The GO route occupies the strong safety while the POST route should be open after he breaks. You will have to be super careful with your touch and English here as you will often have to lob the ball over a LB. This is why it helps even more if you have an underneath route to distract that LB.
PURPLE AREA: This area is open only if you run a play action play with a GO route (and sometimes a corner route) on the short side of the field like shown above. You have to fire a bullet pass once your QB is done with his play action movement. Just the timing or your play action movement along with the CB’s movement work fairly well in this situation.
We also have a crossing combo that still gives us what we want: putting the strong safety in a bind.
It is possible that you will stumble upon a play where you have a CORNER or FLAG route on the grass-side but no GO route to complement it. Here is where hot routes come in. Simply hot route the receiver next to that CORNER or FLAG route to a GO route and boom, there is your combo.
If your QB is still alive by the time the combos get open, you should now know how to attack these areas and the safeties.
But what if you start seeing blitzes from CBs and LBs and you know you won’t have time to attack the safeties?
Here is the answer to that solution.
Notice the GREEN and BLUE areas. Also notice the ball is on the right hash. There are the two most important areas on the field to attack Zone Coverage. Cover 2-4, it doesn’t matter. These spots are where it’s at in attacking Zone, period.
Each of these spots are perfect to attack since the routes you use here take very little time to develop, and like mentioned earlier, back defenders like to keep receivers in front of them, which leave these underneath spots open.
BLUE AREA: The most important spot to attack Zone Coverage (ZA = Zone Any). We want a hi-lo read here. Having a receiver occupy the CB on top will give you room for a receiver to stay underneath and get open. Notice the BLUE route above. This a FLAT route, with a FLAT route on the short side of the field, like shown, he will run towards the sideline, turn around and stay. By the time the CB is defending the high read, your FLAT route will be open. Medium to bullet pass is fine here.
Remember this for your FLAT route: once your receiver catches the ball, let him finish his catching motion (no matter what type it is) and then proceed to move up the field, speed button or otherwise.
GREEN AREA: This is a great area to hit when a LB blitzes or if the defense just so happens to leave a hole there. A medium to bullet pass is fine here. Notice above how my GREEN route, a SHALLOW CROSS, can eventually attack the BLUE area. Many options here for sure.
The biggest thing to take away here is the noticing what the CB does. He will naturally defend the high read before coming back to defend your low read. Always hit the low read and you should be fine. Many routes work here even though the FLAT route works best.
How to Attack Cover 3 Zone
Attacking cover 3 Zone is much harder than Cover 2. There are even less windows to hit but there still are some areas to exploit.
Here is Cover 3 Zone Right (right hash) and it weak points. The GREEN and BLUE area are not different than same areas against Cover 2. In fact, they are much more important here since the defense will have 3 defenders covering deep.
Show above is one of several types of Cover 3 looks but they all have the same Zone principles.
Look at the PURPLE and RED areas. Notice how they are directly on the both hash marks? Either area (sometimes both) can be open against Cover 3 Zone.
RED AREA: This area is directly on the hash where the ball is at. Just above and between the LBs and just below and between a high safety and high CB, there is some room her to make a play. Notice how my Post route on the right side can get open here along with the POST on the left side. This is a super tight window but you can complete it. Medium pass is best after the receiver breaks.
PURPLE AREA: It is possible for the area between the hashes can be open against Cover 3. A backside Post or something similar works best here with medium touch.
Also notice I included the GREEN and BLUE areas in the image. I cannot stress the importance of these areas enough.
If there is no one blitzing and your line is doing their job, then you should look for holes between and around the hash marks. Otherwise, look for the GREEN and BLUE areas.
How to Include Your Backs in the Passing Game
Your running backs can do more in the passing game than just block. They can also be affective in your passing game as well.
Again, initial ball placement/hash marks matter in my passing game so act accordingly.
The BLUE routes are great when attacking the famous BLUE zone we have been talking about.
The GREEN Route(s) is actually good against both defenses. Against Man, your HB gets good S&S action while against zone, can be open if there is a hole left there due to design or to blitzing.
You have swing routes that can help if you are being blitzed as well the Man defender who is supposed to be guarding him is several yards away.
Of course, the good ole GO route is great when the safeties come up.
I know I have thrown a lot at you, but hopefully these visuals can give you some understanding on how to attack all types of coverages, whether Man or Zone.
By far the best thing for you to do is to go into Practice Mode and pick plays that can attack defenses in many ways. Use Pass Skeleton at first so you don’t have to worry about pressure.
Place the ball back and forth between the hash marks and see why certain routes and combos work on certain sides of the field.
The point of all of this is find plays that contain at least one Man route (short to medium route, preferably) and one zone route (blue route being the best). Those two route types should work. Adding your Cover 2 beaters is just icing on the cake.
Trust me! There are lots of plays with the formations that has all of these concepts.
I think this enough to digest for one day!
The next post or two will cover example plays from 06 that I like to use that we will go over together, just so you get a feel of everything and to be able to tie it all together.
If you have any questions, please post them in the comment section below.