Thursday, October 16, 2014

Football Fundamentals: Flare Control

A great addition to any playbook is a concept known as flare control. Flare control is a RB route intended for the primary purpose of hold and/or manipulating the underneath coverage. It can act as a block on a LB, it can force defensive flow, and it can prevent the underneath coverage from sinking into downfield developing routes. Likewise, “bubble control” can be used in much the same way. Indiana, along with many other teams, use flare control and bubble control as a part of their screen action and double screenpackage.

Flare Control
The most common application of flare control is to hold underneath coverage to prevent them from sinking underneath deeper routes. It helps prevent that defender from bringing pressure, it forces them to respect the underneath threat, and it doesn't allow them to gain depth.

On this play, the RB is no more than third or fourth in the QB’s progression, depending on the QB’s read of the safeties. He is not intended to be a primary receiver, instead, he is supposed to draw the underneath coverage away from the mesh routes and hold the outside leverage defender (in this case, cloud leverage) from sinking underneath the corner route.
This flare route works to control and manipulate the defense in either situation.

This is a concept that is used for a lot of downfield passing attacks. Many teams that utilize outside zone run schemes or run inverted veers or sweeps will utilize flare control in the same way. Here, OSU uses it to run a Sail Concept. Here’s an example of Baylor utilizing flarecontrol in their play action attack off of inverted veer.

Flare Control Screens
For teams that are facing defenses that are undisciplined or fast flow to the football, flare control can be used in multiple ways to get the defense flowing away from the ball. Likewise, if you have a young OL that struggles to identify assignments in space or get outside and pull on traditional outside run screens, flare control can be used to set up middle screens. In this way, if your OL isn’t adept at when to release on their screen blocks, releasing early only simulates releasing for the flare screen and pulls the defense away from the middle of the field.

Let’s look at Minnesota running a Flare Control TE Slip against Northwestern. Here’s the alignment and the play design.

The flare control is going to suck either a DE peeling outside or an OLB outside in coverage and form a clear tunnel in the middle of the field.

As the rest of the defense works into inside gaps, the OL can begin releasing out into blocks.
In this case, an OL trips. Often you’ll want an OL pealing back to prevent a DL from retracing into the play. But if no one is there you have two blockers leading down the field through a clear tunnel.

Here’s the video.

But it’s not just TE slip screens. WR tunnel screens can also be utilized in much the same way. In this case, the flare control takes the LB’s eyes off the far side of the field. The TE can release into what looks like a route and kick out the leverage defender. The interior DL is sucked up field as the interior OL releases. This isn’t a key to the defense until they aren’t releasing outside, but up the middle of the field.
Here’s the video:

Bubble Control
Bubble control works in the same way as flare control. The most common form of bubble control in today’s bubble screen heavy offenses is the bubble action slip block. Here, the bubble route sucks the defense up hard as they try to beat the blocks so they can swarm the bubble receiver. But the blocks aren’t coming, instead, they are going to be slipped and the offense will attack vertical off of the play.

Here’s video:

But flare control and bubble control can also be used to help the run game, either by running draws, counters, or even normal run plays when attached to bubble control.

Watch this defender:
Here’s the video:

Flare control can be an effective way to control and manipulate underneath coverage to open up deep running receivers or open up the middle of the field for middle screens or even run plays. Rather than forcing yourself to have to block another person in the box, the control route simply takes that player out of the box and essentially blocks him through the running of the route. It is an extremely helpful addition to any offense. On top of that, it starts getting the RBs involved in the pass game. By both running flare screens and bubble screens and running flare control and bubble control, the defense must respect both, and you put defenders in a constant bind for if a player is actually getting the ball, or if the defender is simply getting sucked away from the play. By forcing the defender to second guess his intention, he’ll play both situations slower and therefore possibly take himself out of either situation.


  1. I wonder if that last video was a packaged play. Looks like they could have been trying to leverage that OLB between the bubble and the run, so had he attacked the RB, the QB could've flipped it to the slot receiver, now with a numbers advantage as regards blocking. Kinda similar the the stick/draw play many teams run.

  2. You are correct. Michigan was making a read on that play and threw bubble if OLB crept inside. Just thought it showed how bubble control can work in that way

  3. Yeah it doesn't detract from the point of your your article I was just curious. Love your site by the way, keep up the good work!

    1. It's a very good point you bring up though that I didn't touch on, in that the "flare control" action is still a threat to an offense.

      In the case of a package play, you have two (or more) distinctively different plays packaged into one play, and each play within a play works to control the defense in some way (the Inception of plays if you will). So the run action controls the defense if the bubble is thrown, the bubble control holds the defense if you run the ball.

      So that is a nice addition to this piece, and a big reason why I appreciate readers adding to the comments section. I certainly don't cover everything, sometimes because I can't and sometimes because I don't think of it. In this case, I didn't even think about it as an add-on feature, but your comment brought up a really good point.