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Football 101 – The Bunch Formation

“Football 101″ is a series that will take an in-depth look at formations, coverages, passing concepts and much more to give fans a better knowledge and understanding of the game. This is a post by Tom Like.


In this edition of “Football 101” I am going to break down the bunch formation. I am going to discuss why teams run plays out of the bunch and how it is effective in beating various types of defensive coverages.


Why the Bunch?

The bunch formation has been the bread and butter of many college offences for well over a decade now. The bunch has also seen increasing incorporation at the NFL level, particularly in critical downs such as 3rd and medium. The idea is to “bunch” two or more receivers in one area in order to create confusion for defences and allow receivers to get a clean release. This should help create easier separation for receivers as they are able to run their routes without interruption from defensive backs and thus make for easier reads for the QB.

Against man coverage, the bunch creates “rubs” or “picks” allowing receivers to get open as defensive backs are impeded due to a large number of players in a small confined space. Against zone coverage, often defenses find three receivers in an area where only two defenders are responsible for, thus leaving a receiver open for the QB to find.

Bunch formations are also effective in putting a star receiver on an island or opening up the run game. If an offense goes trips left in a bunch formation with a lone receiver on the opposite side, the majority of the time that receiver will be one-on-one (on an “island”), thus only having one man to be in order to get a TD as there would be unlikely to be safety coverage over the top. As you can see from the play I have drawn up below, if the star receiver is lined up wide left, the free safety will naturally gravitate over towards the bunched side post-snap.


Film Study

The below play is from a crucial 2017 Week 14 match up between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. The Falcons trail 17-10 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. It’s 3rd & 4 from New Orleans’ 8-yard line with a loss potentially eliminating Atlanta from the play off race. Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian needs to call a perfect play here to give Atlanta a touchdown and keep their 2017 season alive.

Sarkisian calls a bunched trips left with the tight end and running back staying in to block. The play call is designed to put stress on the lone safety who is likely to give over the top help against Julio Jones and follow him breaking across the middle. What this will do is vacate the middle where Sanu should uncover from man coverage. This is the perfect play call as both Jones and Sanu are able to immediately sprint full speed up the field as they are not contested on the line due to the bunch formation. The DB trailing Sanu is also unsure where he is going as he starts his route from the back of the bunch formation. Below is the Xs and Os of this play in action.

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