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Five Plays that Beat Cover 2 (Diagrams and Video)

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

Cover 2 is one of the most popular defenses at every level of football today, and that's for one big reason: It works.

It's become the go-to coverage for defenses facing a limited QB, since defenses can take away quick game throws, while ultimately forcing throws in tight windows downfield with safeties on the prowl. 

However, there are still plenty of ways to attack Cover 2 – creating explosive plays with the combination of reactive quarterback play, and wide receivers with awareness for zone voids in the defense. 

Continue reading below to see how offenses attack cover 2. 

How does Cover 2 Work?

Cover 2 is a 5-under, 2-deep coverage that is predicated on stopping the quick passing game, while also having players over the top to take away deep throws. 

The staple of this coverage is that both cornerbacks become the flat defenders, which is a big difference from their usual man, or cushioned zone coverage techniques. 

Cover 2 Beaters - How Does Cover 2 Work?

Most teams employ this coverage situationally, as it’s great for stopping quick passes out to the perimeter, as well as dump downs over the middle of the field. 

For even more detail, check our in-depth article on Cover Two Defense.

How to Beat Cover 2

Explain the weaknesses of the coverage and some simple ways that offenses like to attack it.

Putting a high-low stretch on the corners, using 3 receiver surfaces, vertical route concepts, and attacking the middle of the field are ways that offenses look to attack cover 2. 

Starting with high-lowing the corners, since they become the flat defender in cover 2, QBs can read their movement to find completions in the pass game. Both smash, and the fade-out combination are two route concepts offenses use to push the ball downfield as the corner is held low with a route in the flat.  

Moving to 3 receiver surfaces, the middle linebacker becomes responsible for carrying the #3 receiver vertical in these situations. Offenses can use this to their advantage by high-lowing this player, as a dig/seam combination from the #2 and #3 WRs is a reliable way to accomplish this. 

With only 2 deep safeties over the top, vertical concepts are a great way to make a defense pay for playing cover 2. 4 verticals out of a 2x2 formation is an efficient concept against this coverage, as both safeties are put in a bind, and forced to split the difference between the 2 WRs pushing vertically. 

Lastly, since cover 2 is a split-field coverage, this means that the middle of the field is open. A common tactic offenses use is widening both safeties with vertical routes, and sneaking receivers deep over the middle of the field to green grass. From a 2 receiver surface, a common way to do this is by having the #2 receiver run a corner route, while the #1 receiver releases with patience running a post to the middle of the field. 

#1 Corner-Flat to Boundary / Fade-Pivot-Swing

This play is taken from 101 Plays from the Ohio State Offense

Cover 2 Beaters - Fade-Pivot-Swing Ohio State

The smash concept puts an immediate high-low on the CB in cover 2.

In this look, Ohio State’s #1 and #2 receivers swap responsibilities, and the X receiver comes open with ease as Notre Dame’s boundary CB honors the slot receiver. 

Watch the video below to see the play:

#2 Snag and Go Slot Fade 

This play is taken from 101 Plays from the Oregon Offense

Cover 2 Beaters - Snag and Go Slot Fade Oregon

Oregon’s idea here is to widen the safeties as the Z receiver looks to come open over LB level with his double move. With a corner route to the boundary, and an inside fade route to the field, the scheme has the makings to accomplish just that. 

Arizona rolls into a cover 1 look post-snap, but QB Anthony Brown is still able to find the Z receiver for a first down. 

Watch the video below to see the play:

#3 Empty Shock / Fade-Out

This play is taken from 101 Plays from the Michigan Offense

Cover 2 Beaters - Empty Shock Michigan

With the cornerback's eyes on the #2 WR in a cover 2 defense, the fade-out combination applies stress immediately as the CB honors the X WR’s out-breaking route. 

With the Rutgers free safety playing from depth, he has no chance as McCarthy locates an accurate hole-shot throw up the sideline that sparks a big gain.

Watch the video below to see the play:  

#4 2x2 QB Draw RB Pop Pass

This play is taken from 101 Plays from the Ole Miss Offense

Cover 2 Beaters - QB Draw Pop Pass Ole Miss

With Louisville’s safeties playing high and wide, run action keeps LB level players low as the RB sneaks over the top. 

While the score unfortunately gets called back for an illegal man downfield, this design from Ole Miss is a great wrinkle in the red zone (and plenty of other teams have run this play legally). 

Watch the video below to see the play

#5 Wing Twin PA Jet Sweep Verts

This play is taken from 101 Plays from the TCU Offense

Cover 2 Beaters - PA Jet Sweep Verts TCU

4 verticals is a must have against cover 2 defenses. Here, TCU dresses it up from a 12 personnel set with jet motion for a score. 

It doesn’t end up being a cover 2 defense from Texas Tech, but you can see the immediate stress the SS would be put under with 3 vertical routes to his side of the field. 

Watch the video of the play below:

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