Another long-time Manning staple is sending all of his receivers on vertical routes except one on a crossing route, or a running back as a safety valve in the flat.
The receiver must read the coverage. If his defender stays on top of him, he must break off his route and be ready for the ball on a comeback. Here Eric Decker, aligned to the left, knows he will have the safety coming over the top, so he breaks off the route for a deep crossing pattern to cross the safety’s face.
On the other side, the outside tight end draws away the underneath defender, while the inside tight end and Thomas run verticals. The circled strong safety is, again, the key. He shades towards Thomas, the more dangerous vertical threat, so Manning hits his tight end Dreesen, who is matched up against a linebacker.
Although the tight end breaks outside against the man coverage, it is very often to see Manning send him across the field on a crossing route, especially against zone coverage to make the linebackers over-commit one way or the other.
Another page out of the vintage Manning playbook, he has taken advantage of linebackers with this routes so many times, it should be engraved on his bust in Canton.
The two verticals clear out the field and draw up the safety to Manning’s right. The flat route underneath those draws the linebacker to the flat, and now the chess match begins.
The strong safety has coverage of the tight end aligned in the slot on the left, who runs a deep crossing route. The outside receiver runs a shallow underneath crossing route, timed to run past the linebacker in the middle of the field just behind the high crossing route.
Now Manning just observes the linebacker. The linebacker breaks underneath towards the low route and Manning promptly throws up towards the high route. The best advice for Maualuga and Burfict is to keep their depth evenly between the routes, possibly towards the high side, and stay square to scrimmage and do not let Manning control their position with his eyes.