Week in Review: Film Study: Bratkowski’s Back as Bengals Face Familiar Nemesis

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Passing Game

As Bratkowski himself explains here, his favorite concept is the “China” concept. He loves to challenge any coverage with an outside hitch that can be converted to an inside breaking route with an inside receiver stretching the cornerback with a corner route. The Jaguars run it consistently, with the illustrated play having a couple of quicker developing routes on the back side, but often the China route is run on both sides.

Gabbert is often quick to check to his hitch route, as is encouraged by Bratkowski by a quarterback under pressure. If the cornerback can play physically of the line of scrimmage and stay with the outside receiver, this play can be shut down.

The Bengals have an advantage over the Jaguars in the secondary, despite their weakened state. The Jaguars have no receiver who can handily beat the Bengals vertically, so by playing disciplined coverage and putting pressure on Gabbert with their trifecta of Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins, Gabbert can be forced into the hitch route with little pressure exerted onto the linebackers.

Although the Bengals often play a similar shell coverage as the Vikings, with a single high safety and the other safety patrolling the underneath routes, the play action game will undoubtedly be used against the Bengals’ undisciplined (looking at you, Maualuga) linebacking group.

A play action pass with post routes will be often employed, but if the Bengals can manage to get their linebackers to not overreact, bracket coverage can take away this concept used by the Bengals during the Bratkowski years.

The linebackers’ reaction to the hitch routes determine the throw, but an over-dedication underneath opens up the post to the right and the skinny post to the left. If the backers can play with proper depth (and that is a big if) then it is up to the burden is on the safeties to not over commit and play disciplined coverage.

The crossing route is also an important concept to the Bratkowski offense, or any Coryell-based offense. Larry Fitzgerald has made a career in the space created by the vertically-stretching concept.

The whole point of the concept is why Bratkowski’s offense is light on audibles and heavy on option routes. Finding holes in the coverage is paramount and any route can be adjusted to the coverage. The offense looks to stretch a defense either horizontally or vertically, and in the pictured play, the throw will be based on which level the defender plays.

While Zimmer’s defensive backs are not the most athletic, this is a simple concept to defend as long as the defensive backfield stays within their assignments and forces the check down.