Breakdown: Joe Flacco’s TD Pass to Steve Smith Sr

During the preseason game 3 against the Washington Redskins, Joe Flacco threw a 24 yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith Sr. Let’s take a deeper look at the touchdown pass. For this analysis, I am going to look at Steve Smith Sr’s side of the formation and describe what Joe saw.

You can discuss this on the BSL board here.

Pre-Snap Read

The Redskins lined up in a 2-Man formation. In the coverage formation, the Cornerbacks are in man coverage on their receivers with help up top from the two safeties playing zone coverage. The benefit of this coverage is that the safeties can help in double coverage against the two receivers if necessary.  During the pre-snap read, there are two major reads that Flacco needs to make to validate that the coverage formation is 2-man:

  • If the CB Biggers has lined up close to the wide receiver (also known as press-man coverage) and are head-up over the Smith Sr.
  • The Safety Ryan Clark is near the hash marks and is deeper than the Cornerback Biggers.

Once the 2-man formation has been confirmed there are a couple of routes that can expose the weakness of the formation.


After the snap

The first route is the Fade Route run by the WR Steve Smith Sr. In a Fade Route, Steve Smith Sr will run a vertical route breaking down Bigger’s cushion. Then Smith Sr will run by the CB on the outside (closer to the sideline). This will allow Flacco to throw the ball in front of Steve Smith Sr where only Smith Sr can attempt to receive the ball. If Smith Sr is unable to make a reception, the ball goes out of bounds.

The next route that exposes the weakness of the 2-Man coverage is the route run by the TE Pitta. This is the key route to the play. Remember, 2-Man formation has two safeties playing up top to help double cover a receiver if necessary. The offense must find a way to keep the Safety Ryan Clark from coming over to double team the outside receiver, Smith Sr. By running a vertical route along the hash marks (also known as a seam route), the TE Pitta is able to hold the SS Ryan Clark briefly and allow Joe to make a throw to Steve Smith Sr who has beaten Biggers in one on one coverage.


Great play call. Great read. Great Route Running. Touchdown.


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About the author

Nadeem Kureishy  

Nadeem was born and raised in Baltimore and now lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids. He is a graduate of Loyola College in Maryland with a degree in Engineering. Nadeem started to write about the Ravens in 2013 for his site Ravens Film Review, and progressing to work for I Hate JJ Redick.

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5 Responses to Breakdown: Joe Flacco’s TD Pass to Steve Smith Sr

  1. John says:

    You didn’t mention Joe stared down Smith Sr. Joe still doesn’t have the awareness to make complete reads. If his primary receiver isn’t open he still panics and holds onto the ball entirely to long.

  2. Steve says:

    Ryan Clark is trash. I remember when he arrived late on the Torrey smith game winning touchdown vs the steelers.

  3. Nadeem Kureishy says:

    Hi John, That’s not necessarily true. If you look at the broadcast, you can see that Flacco checks the Safety position at the snap of the ball then turns to look at Smith Sr. The man weakness in the 2-man coverage is the deep center of the field. Since the safety stayed to cover Pitta on the seam route, the outside receiver is left one on one. Once Flacco sees the Safety hasn’t dropped into deep coverage and Smith has beat the CB, he lets the ball fly. See link below.

  4. Derrick says:

    John you are clearly a Flacco hater and don’t have a true understanding of football. It would best to keep your mouth shut if you aren’t able to provide a clear analysis.

  5. John says:

    I’ve watched every snap Joe has taken this entire preseason and even went back to last year. He locks on right after the ball is snapped. Look, I love me some Flacco but until he can read the entire field and actually look what his 2nd receiver or 3rd are doing, he will still struggle with picks. I’ve never seen him stare a receiver on purpose then go the opposite way to fake out a defence.

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