Defending The Spread Offense - Goal Line

When you think of defending the spread offense, your first thought is usually between the 20's where both the offense and defense have a lot of room to execute their respective attacks.
 
But what happens when your defense has to defend a spread look within the 5 yard line?, or what we call Goal Line Defense?
 
As you watch more football on all levels, you are seeing an increase in this scenario, where the offense will continue to spread the field all the way to the goal line. As a former coach I have to agree with them, I mean why not stay with what got you there in the first place.
 
Before we get into some defensive goal line looks versus two spread offense sets, lets first look at a traditional offense and how a defense would defend that (or at least how I would).
 
 
In the diagram above, you'll see the offense in a double tight end (2TE) off-set ('Rip' = right) I formation with the quarterback under the center. Lets assume the ball is on the 2 yard line going in with all the diagrams.
 
The defensive alignment is what we call a 60 Defense
 
In a 60 defense, you would substitute an additional Nose Guard (N) for one of your Corners (C), giving you another defensive linemen or large body who can get in a 4 point stance and attack the A gaps with a very low pad level, literally submarine, then crabbing through the A gaps looking to disrupt any A-gap run plays or QB sneaks.
 
The above diagram also shows the other gap responsibilities of the down linemen defenders as well as the linebackers and defensive backs. I have noted some stunts or line movements we use to include in our goal line package, like slanting the defensive linemen based on a specific strength of formation or play you know they like to run in short yardage, as well as a twist or 'veer' look with the Noseguards and two middle-backers (Mike and Buck).
 
I always thought of goal-line defense as a test of your defenses will, meaning your mentality has to be to toughen up, keep your pad level low, and attack the line of scrimmage.  The way you tackle on the goal-line has to be discussed with your defensive players and practiced, since it requires you to tackle runners for no gain or negative yardage, the defensive player has to truly 'square up' on every tackle with perfect form, literally stale mate-ing the ball carrier and then wait for your teammates to assist in the gang tackle.
 
To reinforce the importance of great execution on the goal line, a team needs to scrimmage live in goal line situations in preseason. A scrimmage environment also helps players to get their keys down and learn to react to play-action and naked bootlegs in game speed.  Of course as a coach, you should know your opponents 3 favorite goal-line plays, and review these scenarios with your players both in the classroom and on the field.
 
Lets take a look now at some spread offense looks at the Goal Line.
 
 
The diagram above is a 2x2 spread shot gun set with a running back in a Rip (or 'Right') set (Liz to the defense, or 'Left'), now again we are assuming we're at the 2 yard line here. The gap responsibilities of the interior 6 has not changed ( From End to End), because we still need to assume that an offense is spreading you at the goal line in order to run the football, especially if you have a dual threat type quarterback (ala: Tim Tebow) and an opponent who believes in running the football.
 
Notice how we align the Sam backer versus the off-set running back, Sam here should have an outside shade alignment about 4-5 yards off the LOS, because his responsibility is to mirror that running back either on a pass play or a run play with the Quarterback. If that running back crosses the formation at the snap, resets himself pre-snap, or motions, Sam has him!
 
The rest of the defenders on the perimeter are in man to man coverage. Again your scouting report will tell you what to look for as far as the passing game. Does your opponent like to run the stop-fade route to the widest receivers? Do they like to try and set natural picks or rubs on the goal-line?, will they throw a quick screen or bubble?
 
One area that may bring you trouble would be if the offense pre-snap motions the #2 receiver covered by Will in order to set-up some sort of zone read/triple option to the other side of the field. In this case, you may want to discuss getting a 'bump' call with your Sam and Will, allowing you to get better perimeter support on an option play. Bascially the bump call will tell Sam to widden with the motion and take Will's man on option, and Will would then slide into the box and defend the running back in the Liz off-set.
 
One last point on coverage, please don't have your man to man defenders standing 5 yards in the end zone at the snap when the offense has to go two yards for a touchdown. Explain to your defensive backs and pass defenders that they are no good allowing an easy quick pass at the goal-line. Get up on your opponent and defend them, drill this in practice.
 
Here's a look at a Spread Empty Set:
 
 
Now in this sort of set with a dual threat QB, you have to be thinking QB Power and the play action off of that, the 'jump pass' that again Tim Tebow made popular down in Gainesville.
 
A note on this set, if the offense motions either one of the #2 receivers back into the backfield, the Free Safety and Will need to follow, then align themselves like above in the 2x2 set as Sam did.
 
In regards to defending the pass on the goal line, explain to your players that the back line of the end zone is your friend and you should use it in your technique. The 'trail technique' in man to man coverage is good to use at the goal line, especially if your defender has a height advantage on the receiver. As a coach, you may want to make some personnel adjustments in your defensive backfield on the goal line, substituting an athletic player with height over your vertical speed corners you need between the 20's? Make the quarterback beat you with a perfect pass.
 
Also, I make note of some various stunts out of this package we have used in the past.
 
I personally love goal line football, it's in a nutshell what football is all about. Don't let a spread offense get your defense out of the tough guy mentality - tell your guys to man up and win the war!
 
The impact of being successful on the goal line cannot be overstated. One of the greatest plays I witnessed as a coach happened on the goal line in 1994, our Mike linebacker (that was actually his real name also) placed his helmet/facemask right on the football of the tailback in a 0-0 game with 2 minutes remaining in regulation, causing a fumble and allowing us to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchback.  We went on to win that game in overtime, and advance to the state final.
 
Keep spreading and defending e'm!
 
--Mark
 
 
 

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