Glossary Entry: Passing off Twist Games

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Passing off twist games and stunts in pass protection requires a high level of communication, mental processing, and play speed from offensive linemen in order to successfully execute the task at hand.

First, identifying the potential for games from the opposing defensive line can oftentimes be determined in the pre-snap phase. There are various different “tells” that can be seen on film during game preparation or in-game depending on the down and distance.

One of these tells involves the defensive line bunching up or shortening their spacing to one side of the line, which is geared towards making the stunt hit quicker and raising the level of difficulty for blockers to pass it off without losing their levels.

Another tell is when two known pass-rushers are aligned together on one side of the line, such as a two defensive ends or edge rushers.

The last giveaway we’ll talk about is being aware of game situation, so obvious passing downs such as 3rd and 7+ are prime opportunities for the defense to dial up a stunt or twist to generate pressure.

Tackle-End Stunt (T-E)

The Pittsburgh Steelers under offensive line coach Mike Munchak (2014-2018) have long been the premier place to go if you wanted to watch offensive line work together and handle stunts at an elite level. This first example comes from Week 5 of the 2018 season against the Atlanta Falcons.

Pre-snap, the Atlanta Falcons align two of their top pass-rushers in Vic Beasley (#44) and Tak McKinley (#98) over Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert (#77) and right guard David DeCastro (#66) in a wide-9 and 4i alignment on a T-E stunt. Coupled with it being 3rd down and 10, the Steelers right side knows to expect some sort of game or twist.

At the snap, DeCastro is all over the Falcons’ intended plans, demonstrated by how explosively he fires out of his stance to get a hand on Gilbert not just to secure the B gap, but also let him know he is there and ready to deal with whatever the rushers throw at them.

McKinley is the defensive tackle in this scenario, and he shoots hard through the B gap in an attempt to create penetration and disrupt their levels so that Beasley has an easier path to loop behind and knife through the A gap to the quarterback.

Gilbert does an excellent job working to position himself inside to cut-off McKinley as DeCastro helps to secure him while simultaneously keying the looper (Beasley). Due to each blocker being aware of the game situation and effectively communicating (non-verbally) with one another, Gilbert is easily able to overtake the tackle as DeCastro bumps out to thwart the end:


End-Tackle (E-T) stunt

The E-T stunt is the inverse of the T-E, meaning the end is going to be the crasher with the tackle tasked with looping around him to the outside. The key is an end with enough juice off the snap and power to earhole the guard before he realizes what is going on. It also requires the offensive tackle to get preoccupied with the end so he is late to pick up the looping defensive tackle.

Similarly to the T-E, having offensive linemen who are able to efficiently process and communicate in the pre-snap phase goes a long way in being able to defeat this stunt variation.

Here we have the Dallas Cowboys squaring off against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5 of the 2017 season. Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith (#77) and left guard Jonathan Cooper (#64) are facing a 3rd and 4 with Packers linebackers Nick Perry (#53) and Clay Matthews (#52) each in a 2-point stance over their outside shoulders in shaded alignments.

Clearly, some sort of line game is about to transpire, especially considering another linebacker (Blake Martinez #50) is in a 2-point head up over the center, indicating a blitz.

The key in how successfully Smith and Cooper were able to thwart this E-T stunt begins with Cooper’s patience and mental processing. Notice how his pass set subtly allows him to maintain an inside-out relationship on Matthews as he is reading his movements. Once Matthews shows a hint of hesitation, he knows that an end is coming to crash from the outside. Cooper tactfully utilizes independent hand usage with his inside hand to widen Matthews’ track around the end as he maintains an ideal, tight relationship to Smith for the takeover.

Smith gives a great pass-off to Cooper, also using independent hand usage to ensure Perry is secured with Cooper before kicking back out to pick up Matthews and establishing contact with his outside hand.

From there, Smith executes a snatch and trap technique to defeat Matthews’ attempted long-arm rush while Cooper widens Perry to give quarterback Dak Prescott (#4) a huge passing lane to make the throw to the left for the first down:

Tackle-Tackle (T-T) stunt

Lastly, we’ll break down the tackle-tackle stunt which are handled by the interior of the offensive line, primarily a guard and center. Even with the aforementioned pairings of two known rushers aligned on the same side of the line of scrimmage, the interior blockers (including center) need to be equally aware of when this occurs, because it could mean the ‘tackle’ on one end is running a game with the opposite side defensive tackle.

This next clip is from Week 11 of the 2014 season with the Cleveland Browns matching up against the Houston Texans.

The Browns are facing a 2nd and 12 midway through the third quarter, down 14-7. With the offense in empty and the Texans in a 5-man front that is overloaded with 3 rushers to the offense’s right, this becomes the vulnerable side that games could have the most success against.

DE J.J. Watt (#99) is in a 5-technique alignment over right tackle Mitchell Schwartz (#72), with LB Brooks Reed (#58) outside of him in a wide-9, and nose tackle Jerrell Powe (#95) shaded to the same side over the center.

This pre-snap alignment could be a tell for a possible T-E or E-T stunt considering Reed and Watt’s alignment, but once the ball is snapped Watt makes it apparent he is coming inside. With his eyes inside and an obvious slow-play post-snap, Watt is signaling to right guard John Greco (#77) that he is waiting for Powe to crash inside so that he can loop around.

Greco and center Nick McDonald (#68) do a very nice job on the exchange, smoothly passing it off. McDonald gets his hands on Powe very quickly to control him on the pass off as he ‘looks through’ his man to the looper (Watt). Each blocker does a nice job of staying tight to one another to prevent any leakage, defeating the T-T, and setting up a firm, clean pocket for the quarterback:

Brandon Thorn wrote this entry. Follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonThornNFL.

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