Steelers-Titans play to watch: Mirror routes eliminate mental aspect, take advantage of Mettenberger’s big arm
Tennessee quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown 73 passes in the NFL, so it is obvious he’s learning on the fly.
However, Mettenberger also has one of the stronger arms in the league.
When you combine that inexperience with that athletic ability, you are going to see a lot of mirror-route concepts, and that’s what Titans offensive coordinator Jason Michael has done since Mettenberger jumped into the starting lineup two weeks ago.
Mirror routes are those when receivers run the same route on both sides of the formation. That cuts down the learning process between wideouts and the quarterback, helping eliminate miscommunication.
Tennessee’s 21 ace mirror Z X out Y flat is a play that takes advantage of Mettenberger’s strong arm but also cuts down on the mental aspect of the game.
Mirror routes allow the quarterback to go through presnap reads quickly because he is aware the routes are the same, which allows the quarterback to focus on half of the field after the snap.
One way the Titans use a mirror route is with two tight ends and two receivers with a single set back.
Both receivers run deep outs, and the tight ends head into the flat as the running back circles out of the backfield.
The deep out is a difficult pass pattern to throw because the quarterback has to throw the ball across the field with velocity to keep the cornerback from making a play. Only strong-armed quarterbacks can throw it with success.
“He’s got a real strong arm,” Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said.
The Titans line up receivers Justin Hunter to the left and Kendall Wright to the right — both on the line of scrimmage.
Tight ends Delanie Walker and Richard Gordon are tight to the left and right but are set off the line of scrimmage. Running back Bishop Sankey is lined up in a traditional single-back formation behind Mettenberger, who is under center.
At the snap, both tight ends crack down on the outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense before heading into the flat — Walker to the left and Gordon to the right.
Wright runs an 18-yard deep out to the right, while Hunter runs the same route on the other side of the formation. Sankey checks for blitzing linebackers before circling out of the backfield as a checkdown.
Mettenberger makes his presnap reads and decides where he’s going to throw before the ball is put into play.
It is a play that can take advantage of Mettenberger’s big arm without it being overcomplicated for a young quarterback.