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By Mike Giancola, Defensive Line Coach, Bridgewater College (VA)

The chess match that is played on the field during a game is one that comes down to a few critical moments that will ultimately determine the outcome. Because of the high value nature of these situations, those are what Coach Giancola call them “money situations.” Find out how he defends these situations here...


By Mike Giancola
Defensive Line Coach
Bridgewater College (VA)
Twitter: @CoachGiancola



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The chess match that is played on the field during a game is one that comes down to a few critical moments that will ultimately determine the outcome. Because of the high value nature of these situations, we call them “money situations.” While certain downs are more critical than others, all downs that give us an opportunity to get off the field are categorized as money for us.

As such, the game plan each week has a unique set of fronts and coverages for third down. We put a lot of effort into dissecting an offense in those situations to come up with a plan that will give us the best chance to get off the field. This article will discuss a few different coverage concepts that helped us maximize our third down efficiency over the last two seasons.

3rd Down Coverage

On third downs, the three most successful coverage concepts were utilized were Rat, Thud and Punch coverages. 

Rat Coverage

Rat coverage is a single high man concept we use to take away the outside stem of pass routes, and funnel receivers to our two rat players in the middle of the field. Depending on down and distance, we will have short and middle hole rats, or middle and deep hole rats. The purpose of the rats is to take away shallows, digs, and posts.

Rat coverage also puts stress on offenses as it is designed to create five-man pressure if the back stays into block. The ILBs are responsible for the TB. Whichever LB the TB steps to has him, and the other becomes rat player. That LB that gets the back will insert, keeping the possibility of screen in mind as he goes.

The rat players will always be a linebacker and a safety. The funnel players will be the corners, the other safety and the OLB.


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  • The responsibilities and techniques of the funnel players in Coach Giancola’s Rat Coverage Concept.
  • The Thud Coverage concept Coach Giancola uses on third and medium and the responsibilities of the half field safeties and short hold defenders.
  • The Punch Coverage concept Coach Giancola uses to eliminate the flats on third and short yardage including the responsibilities of the punch defenders.
  • How Coach Giancola handles stack and bunch routes as well as mesh routes and pick routes.
  • Plus, narrated and raw game film of all these coverage concepts.

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The concepts discussed above are used in tandem as part of the larger game plan we create week to week to best set ourselves up for success. More importantly, these are concepts that can be easily implemented into any defense with relative ease. My hope is that this article helps you and your players reach the level of success you’re striving for, especially in those Money Situations.

Meet Coach Giancola: Coach Giancola just completed his first season at Bridgewater College where he helped the BC defense lead the Old Dominion Athletic Conference in turnovers and red zone efficiency, while coming in second in the conference in sacks. Before Bridgewater, he spent five seasons at Westfield High School (Chantilly, VA) as the Defensive Line Coach (3 seasons), Special Teams Coordinator (1 season), and Defensive Coordinator (1 season). Coach Giancola took the job at Bridgewater after helping Westfield win their second straight VA Class 6A State Championship.



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