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Old 03-31-2015, 06:04 PM   #16
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Hitch-Seam

This is a fundamental concept teams from Pop Warner to the NFL run on a weekly basis. I checked out a bunch of different looks the Pats used last year which should illustrate how this core concept works and what the QBs and receivers are trying to accomplish.

The basic concept is simple. The outside number 1 Receiver runs the Hitch and the Inside Number 2 runs the Seam-Read. The Seam-Read adjusts his route to the coverage. If the MOF is closed he stays high. If it’s open he bends to the inside and in some cases flattens out into a Dig based on Safety leverage.

The QB will decide pre-snap which side of the field he is going to work. Usually, the Hitch-Seam is a two man combo that is either mirrored which means both sides of the Formation are running the Hitch-Seam and the QB finds the best leverage and works it or the Hitch-Seam is attached to another Concept which the QB chooses from Pre-snap or just after the snap. You will sometimes see single up Hitches like Gronk ran in the Super Bowl or the concept run out of a 3 receiver surface.

The QB makes a set of pre-snap reads. How many Safeties? CB depth, eyes alignment, over hang players, inside leverage, match-ups. He decides which side of the field to work then snaps the ball.

The progression is Hitch to Seam-Read. You can read it as a progression or you can Key the Flat defender. The QB has to have a clear window to throw to or the ball might go back the other way. He also has to be aware of the Danger player aligned inside the Seam. As we’ve seen a few times in recent years with Spikes and Collins for the Pats and DeQuell Jackson for the Colts and others, those players can get under a Seam and take the ball away.

The first pic shows the concept against a Cov 3 MOC look. There is a single high Safety closing the Middle of the field and soft zone CBs aligned over the outside Hitches. There are read Flat players aligned over the slots and two Danger players in orange at the ILB spot. The Slots will stay high against this look to stay away from the free safety and will stay wide to stretch the deep middle. The QB wants to hit the Hitch first if it’s there. He’ll work whichever CB has the most depth to the best match-up. He’ll also look for the best leverage he can on the Flat defender and inside Danger players. If you look at this diagram, you see that the CB’s are about even. The Read Flat defenders both have outside lever and could possibly get under the Hitch although in this coverage they will most likely carry the seams up the field. The Free Safety is shading to the offenses right which is one of the reasons the Slot defender on the left is a bit deeper. Brady’s best option here is to work the Hitch Seam to his left reading Hitch to High Seam. It’s practically a gimmie although the throw to the right might attract him due to how much shorter it is giving the walk-outs less of an opportunity to jump the ball. Decisions like this are made during the game planning and evaluation process.
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File Type: jpg Hitch Progression 1a.JPG (46.9 KB, 140 views)

Last edited by AllWorldTE; 03-31-2015 at 06:13 PM..
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:08 PM   #17
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The second look is run against the Chargers Dual Safety look. They could be in Cov 2, Cov or Man 2. Once again the QB reads the CBs to the Slot defender. Two Safeties tells the Slot receivers to adjust their routes as staying high brings them right into the Safeties. They will typically bend inside vs Safeties who widen or Dig under dual Safeties who squat. We see both here. The QB will again read the depth, eyes and alignment of the CBs, and will start off thinking his best Hitch. If he doesnít have the Hitch he works to the Seam. If the pre-snap presentation leads the QB to think that neither will be available heíll change the call.
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:09 PM   #18
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This last look is the Hitch-Seam being run against Man Free. There is a single high Safety taking away the Middle of the Field. There are two man CBs pressed on the Hitches. The Hitch might be viable if you have a great match-up. Deon Branch was a superlative Hitch runner against Press man. The Pats havenít really had a match-up Hitch receiver in a few years. They prefer to use size when faced with this situation moving Gronk and/or Hooman outside forcing the defense to walk LBs out in Man who are usually over-matched. One of the things the Pats have done for a few years in this situation was a change in basic philosophy. For many years most teams would convert the Hitch to a low percentage Fade when faced with rolled up CBs like this. The Pats donít do this. They still run the Hitches. The Seam runners adjust. The Seam runners see the press and the Single high look and know itís man free. They are going to try to gain a good outside release, square up their man defenders then widen to an inside Fade. Widening takes the Seam away from the Danger player and the MOF Safety. This is becoming a standard Seam adjustment throughout the game. The QB reads Hitch to Seam/Fade. Then he places the ball in its best spot either outside shoulder, inside shoulder or back shoulder depending on defensive leverage. The Pats loved Welk & Hernandez in this role under Bill OíBrien. They donít get this look as much these days as Gronk is a scary ass **** running down the Seam against this look.
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:16 PM   #19
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I broke down a bunch of Hitch-Seams and their variations the Pats ran this year that Iíll post and make a few observations about and maybe point out a few items of interest. The Pats have packaged the Hitch-Seam with a different concept here against the Dolphins. They are running Levels opposite the Hitch-Seam read. Weíll talk about Levels later. The Fins are in a MOC Cover 3 type Zone. The read here is Hitch to Seam read. The Seam is going to stay high if the Safety stays high. He does. The Hitch will drive the Zone cover off and settle at six yards. Brady wants to get the ball out fast.

This play is a nice example a packaged play. Brady ended up hitting Thompkins on the Hitch but he initially wanted to work the Levels (Edelman & Hooman) pattern. The Dolphin had Levels stoned so Brady had to switch up and find another receiver. He may have expected the Dolphins OLB aligned on the LOS to rush giving him the low throw to Edelman but he dropped. The play resulted in a 3 yard gain because Thompkins had to come back to the ball.

Even though it wasnít a flawless look at the concept you do get a nice look at how the route combination works against the single high zone coverage. The CB is soft and stays soft allowing Brady to get the ball there very late. The slot defender aligned on Wright jams him then widens to the Hitch. Some teams will trail the seam here and some try to impact the throw to the Flat as the fins did here. Brady most likely would have keyed on the slot defender if he had chosen to work the Hitch-Seam pre-snapped, seen him wide and re-set his feet to take a shot at the Seam which is wide open in the whole. When people talk about the weak spots in Cover 3 being the Seam and the Flat the second picture is what they are talking about.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 1a.jpg (79.1 KB, 133 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 1b.jpg (81.8 KB, 131 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:16 PM   #20
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The Baltimore Ravens have petitioned the NFL to make every single one of those formations illegal.
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:17 PM   #21
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This is a look at a Hitch-Seam packaged with Levels as run against the Raiders. This is play we saw in Miami with Wright motioning added in. Thompkins-Wright again run the Hitch-Seam while Hooman-Edelman run Levels. The Raiders defend this pretty much the way the Fins did except they show a Dual Safety look pre-snap which as weíve seen should tell us that Wright will bend his Seam to the middle of the field as shown in the first pic. However, the Raiders safeties are not level and one is aligned over the ball indicating this is not a true Dual Safety look. Wright and Brady have to be on the same page here and they are. When the Free Safety drops into the MOF, Wright stays high in the hole thatís created when the slot defender widens to take away Thompkinsí Hitch. A nice wrinkle here is Ridleyís check release to the short Flat to hold the ILB keeping him from dropping under Wrights Seam. This was a nice 20 yard pick-up.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 2a.jpg (73.9 KB, 127 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 2b.jpg (80.9 KB, 126 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:18 PM   #22
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This is another look at a Hitch-Seam packaged w/Levels against the Broncos. Edelman motioned left and is running Levels with Gronk. In the previous view Edelman was the low Level here heís the high Level. LaFell is running the Hitch and Dola is running the Seam read. Dola sees the Broncos in a Dual Safety look which they stay in. He reads the near safety. He does not have the same hole that Wright exploited due to the Dual Safety. He wants to take the MOF if he can gain inside leverage on the near Safety. If he canít, heís going to adjust to a Dig which is what happened. The slot defender aligned over him however trails the Seam and jams his attempt to break inside on the Dig. Where the Fins and Raiders widened that defender to attack the Hitch, the Broncos took a different approach. Brady made the right decision to work the Hitch-Seam Read as we can see and the right decision to throw to the Hitch here by progression and hit LaFell clean. Unfortunately LaFell dropped it.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 3a.jpg (65.1 KB, 125 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 3b.jpg (70.0 KB, 124 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:20 PM   #23
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This is a nice look at the concept as run against the Chargers. The Chargers are also in a Dual Safety coverage playing Cov 4. Here itís LaFell running the Hitch and Edelman now running the Seam read. Edelman has now run both level routes and the Seam read in just these few plays. Gronk and Hooman are running the packaged Levels concept. Brady has chosen to work the Hitch-Seam. Edelman is reading the near Safety just as we saw Wright do earlier except the Safety widens rather than squats on the Post so Edelman takes the MOF as can be seen in the second pic. Brady has to read the Key defender/Hitch in his progression however he is working it. The Chargers defend it like we saw with the Fins and Chargers where the Slot lets the Seam go and widens to the Hitch. Brady sees the window open however since the jam slows down the slot defender letting Brady get the ball into Lafell for a nice first down pick-up. Brady probably could have taken a shot at Edelman who is open but went with his first read who was open. Edelman already has seen that the ball was thrown and is in the process of turning to block the Safety in pic 2. We also get another look at the RB, in this case Blount, hitting the Flat to occupy the ILB.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 4a.jpg (70.7 KB, 126 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 4b.jpg (78.8 KB, 125 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:21 PM   #24
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Baltimore presents another Dual Safety look. LaFell & Hooman are running the Hitch-Seam here with Gronk/Edelman running the packaged Levels. Brady goes to the Hitch side and Hits Lafell. Levels is not particularly good against Dual Safety coverages where the Near safety is playing low like we see here, especially where the CB aligned on the Hitch is as soft as we see. Brady would be silly to pass up the Hitch here. The Ravens trail Hoomanís Seam rather than widening to the Hitch the way weíve seen other teams do. Hooman is in no mansí land. I think heís trying to Dig here because his near Safety squatted on him but the Safety saw the ball thrown and is bailing on the throw making it look a bit odd in the second picture. The second picture shows the wisdom in Bradyís decision as the Ravens have the Levels well covered.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 5a.jpg (79.9 KB, 127 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 5b.jpg (80.5 KB, 124 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:22 PM   #25
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This is a clear Dig read against the Colts. Once against Hitch-Seam is packaged with levels. Here we see Hooman running the Hitch and LaFell running the Seam read which Gronk & Amendola work the levels. Brady likes the soft corner and goes right to Hoomanís Hitch. LaFell who we havenít seen run the Seam yet gets a clear Dual Safety squatting on the post so rather than run the high Seam right at him or get jammed on the MOF bend he breaks this to the Dig. The Colts gave Brady a clear Hitch throw read when the slot defender dropped to disrupt LaFellís Seam route rather than driving under the Hitch.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 6a.jpg (77.5 KB, 123 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam 6b.jpg (91.4 KB, 122 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:24 PM   #26
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This is a nice look at a mirrored Hitch-Seam concept out of 2x2 where both side of the Formation are running the same concept. This was Bradyís TD pass to Wright that got the ball rolling against the Bengals. Brady looks at the safety and sees clear single high. He looks at the CBs and sees similar depth, alignment and match-up. Then he looks at the two Flat/Trail defenders. He decides to work to his left. He does this because there is an overhang player lined out outside his number 2 receiver on the right while there is no overhang to his left. That defender is aligned in the box giving his Seam-Read better leverage. This is another great look at why the Seam stays high against the single high Safety look down the field. This is a clear weakness in the coverage. The Bengals got confused here by motion and got no one underneath Wright who is wide open. The third pic still shows how tight the window is though when the CB comes of the Hitch to drive on the Seam and the back and Safety drive on the ball. It looks tight but by NFL standards Wright is wide open on one of the more important TDís of the season.

Whatís interesting here is that Hooman had motioned out wide and was covered by a CB indication to Brady and the Receivers that this was pure Zone. Brady could have taken a shot at the Hitch but most likely by game plan he was to skip Hoomanís Hitch if he was covered by a CB and Wright was given the look he got. Brady must have been salivating. I think is an example of outstanding game planning. If we were to break down the Bengals prior game films weíd probably find what it was that brought this to the offensive coaching staffís attention.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam Mirror 1a.jpg (78.2 KB, 121 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam Mirror 1b.jpg (81.4 KB, 119 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch-Seam Mirror 1c.jpg (104.8 KB, 117 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:25 PM   #27
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This is a quick look at a single Hitch throw out of 3x1. Many teams including the pats attach single quick throw routes to the back-side of a three man combination pattern. The QB has to read the field and find his best leverage. If the defense appears to be leaving a throwing lane open, the QB can throw to the single receiver. It is his choice which concept to work, the 3 receiver side or the single receiver side. On this throw against the Vikings, we see they have chosen to attack a Hitch on the back-side of a 3 man Stick pattern. Brady sees that there is no walk-out player who is a danger to get under the Hitch throw. The only player in position to threaten it is the DE on the LOS who Brady believes is going to rush rather than drop out. His throwing lane is open pre-snap and when that DE rushes inside, it stays open post snap. Brady also sees a soft CB making this decision easy. Itís like stealing.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-3x1 b.jpg (75.0 KB, 124 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:26 PM   #28
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This is a just a quick look at a companion Hitch & Go play the Pats trot out once in awhile. Fake the Hitch and take a shot down the field. They Cross the Seam runner to occupy the Safety give it a go.
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File Type: jpg Hitch & Go 1a.jpg (53.3 KB, 119 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch & Go 1b.jpg (57.1 KB, 116 views)
File Type: jpg Hitch & Go 1c.jpg (66.1 KB, 116 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:27 PM   #29
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The Pats also have a compliment to Hitch-Seam they use occasionally where they run a Hitch-Option Route by the usually Seam route runner. Against Buffalo itís attached to a regular Hitch-Seam. Brady has to decide which concept he favors pre-snap. He chose the Hitch-Option here. He probably chose the Hitch-Option Do to the depth of the Slot Receivers of the match-up. Either that or he just wanted to throw it to Gronk on the match-up. The Option route effectively occupies the Slot defender preventing him from widening out under the Hitch.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Option 1b.jpg (85.5 KB, 119 views)
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Old 03-31-2015, 06:28 PM   #30
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The Hitch-Option is nice here against the Chargerís Dual Safety look as mirrored Seams could put tow receivers in the same spot which you see once in awhile watch pats film as both receivers get the same downfield read. Brady went with the simplest Hitch-Seam read here finding the deepest aligned CB and throwing at him.
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File Type: jpg Hitch-Option 2b.jpg (79.6 KB, 114 views)
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