Creating a simple way to run Match-3
MatchQuarters goes MOFC.
Entering the 2022 offseason, there was a glaring deficiency within the system I had built. Moving from 5A/6A in Texas, where RPOs and Spread formations are king, to the 4A level, which featured lesser QB play, meant more teams ran the ball. For my entire career, I have run a two-high Quarters-based system. I mean, it is the name of my brand, MatchQuarters. For the most part, I have always had Safeties that could come downhill and make plays from off the table (top-down). But, exiting 2022 and noticing that my Safeties were struggling to make plays near the line of scrimmage (LOS), I needed a way to “force-fit” those Safeties into the box when needed.
We needed a simple system to get an extra defender near the box on early downs or run-heavy situations. Entering a different ecosystem was great for me — new problems to solve and new ways of looking at the same picture. Y-off at the 5A/6A level in DFW is much different than the one I saw at the 4A level. Play-action was dominant over RPOs, and most teams, though Spread, were run-oriented. I had to re-adjust how I saw the game.
» Coaching Point: I think it is extremely important to experience things outside your comfort zone and talk to people that don’t base in your same philosphy or system. As coaches, we get set in our ways, we build systems and answers, and then settle in, becoming rigid. It is important to constantly challenge the way you do things.
Seeking out people that have a different worldview will keep you ahead of the game. When you become an expert in something it makes it difficult to adjust to changes that might becoming; you are terrible at predicting the future. Add in group-think if your staff has been together and you can quickly become stale. As I tell young coaches all the time, learn a system and then try and disprove it. What sticks is best-practice.
Looking at our personnel, we needed to play with a Nickel CB instead of a true Sam hybrid (or a regular LB) that I had become accustomed to. In reality, our front seven, combined with our two-high structure, couldn’t handle the run game of our opponents. We were outmanned, and sitting in two high wasn’t helping the problem. I needed a way to force-fit the box and load it up with numbers while also being sound in the passing game. Something needed to change, and the most likely culprit was me.
In December, I started to look for simple ways to install a Match 3 concept that could marry up with my proven Quarters system. We already had tags within the system that could get my Safeties down near the box (Travel and Thumbs), but I wanted a more intuitive structure that could be run from our static Over Quarters look. I believe in post-snap movement, choosing to beat the 17-year-old QB and not the seasoned OC in the box. Keeping it simple for my players and putting them in situations to succeed was on top of my list. We are already behind the eightball in most aspects.
To be able to mesh the learning systems together, I had to break Cover 3 down to its roots. For many Cover 3 coaches, they begin the process by teaching it as “Xs” on a whiteboard. The defense can insert any defender into any “zone,” and the coverage stays the same. In the end, it is about plugging in the right call to get the desired look. Below is the primary teaching for Match 3 versus an 11 pers. 2x2 formation.
The passing strength is to the left because the two WRs are located there. If the formation had been a four-open set, the “Xs” would not change, as the RB would set the passing strength or “Strong Hook” defender. In reality, 2x2 formations are easy to handle. A modern defense generally uses a Ni to the two WR side and will rotate the Safety down away from him versus 2x2 sets. If the Slot is a burner that likes to run Over routes, the defense can insert the Safety into the “Weak Hook” area to assist in carrying the Over route and dropping the Safety from the “table.”
When the offense goes 3x1 is where the complexity can come in. Does the defense drop the front side Safety on top of #2 (Swap) or #3 (Buzz)? Or, does the defense rotate weak and “push” the coverage to the three WR side by dropping the “weak” Safety into the weal hook or “3-Up” spot (Cross) or as the “Final 4th” defender (Thumbs)? What about loading the zone strong (Skinny) or weak (Thumbs Skinny)? It boils down to what you can teach, your imagination, and is it “expensive” to install (Time is money!).
Though Cover 3 has the illusion of a simple coverage, the ability to interchange parts within the scheme is how defenses keep the offense guessing and answer issues within their system. Defenses can load the box while establishing an umbrella in the intermediate zones. My problem was I needed a simple way to attack Y-off formations and load the box without overloading my athletes. As I watched my beloved Broncos, I had an idea. The clip below got me thinking about how we can build Match 3 from Quarters coverages we already carry.