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[Video] How Saints used “4 Verts” to confuse defenses in 2019

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A staple of the Saints offense goes under review in the film room.

Wild Card Round - Minnesota Vikings v New Orleans Saints Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

NFL offenses have staples that they use almost every game, and the Four Verticals passing concept is one such staple for the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton has run Four Verts many different ways during his years as the Saints head coach. In fact, it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that there has been no team in the modern era who has run the concept more effectively during Payton’s tenure.

When Drew Brees set the all time passing record mark back in 2018 with a touchdown pass to Tre’Quan Smith the play call was Gun King Trips Right Terrapin, 52 Sway, All Go Special, X Shallow Cross, H Wide. All Go Special is the call for Four Verticals in the Saints offense. A version of this play from 2011 would be Jet To Gun Float Right Empty 52 All Go Special H Jerk.

Each play has subtle changes to the base form of Four Verticles. For example, the touchdown pass to Smith in 2018 has the X (Michael Thomas) running a shallow crossing route instead of a vertical. The 2011 playcall has the Z receiver (likely run by Devery Henderson or Robert Meachem) crossing from left to right in a “jet” motion and the running back (Darren Sproles) going from the backfield with Brees in the gun to an empty set by transferring to the slot.

These two examples both use the same basic principles of Four Verts.

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Each vertical route has a landmark. Typically, those landmarks are the outside of the numbers and the hashmarks on both sides of the field. These landmarks don’t change even if a receiver might go in motion. So if a team decides to run Four Verts out of a trips formation (three receivers to one side) then the inside receiver will still have the opposite hash as his landmark which will make the route look almost like a deep post route.

As you would expect from the above, the Saints showed this look in a variety of ways in 2019. I’ve taken two examples; one from Week 17 and one from the playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Jared Cook and Taysom Hill were both touchdown recipients on each respective play.

I also believe these two plays are a good example of Payton adding a wrinkle to keep the play effective in the next bout with the knowledge and understanding that the next opponent will have studied how the play was used most recently. You can see this breakdown in the below video.