Cam Newton’s “Pin” Concept for an 86 Yard Touchdown in NFC Championship

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers slaughtered the Arizona Cardinals in a game that many predicted to be a toss-up. One play in particular stood out to me was how Newton and Panthers’ offensive coordinator, Mike Shula, used Corey Brown and the “Pin” concept to attack the Cardinals’ defense. Let’s take a look at this play that happened at the end of the first quarter.

Situation: 3rd and 8 at CAR 14
Description: (0:49 ­ 1st) Corey Brown Pass From Cam Newton for 86 Yrds G.Gano extra point is GOOD.
Score Before Play: Panthers 10 – Cardinals 0

Offensive Formation: Shotgun Trips Right Near w/ Twins Bunch in Slot
Offensive Personnel: 11 (1 RB: Mike Tolbert, 1 TE: Greg Olsen, 3 WR: Corey Brown, Jericho Cotchery, Ted Ginn)

Defensive Coverage: Cover 3 w/ three underneath zone defenders
Defensive Pass Rush: Stunt on the offense’s right plus delayed blitz by #22 Tony Jefferson


  • Cam Newton lines up in shotgun trips right near with twins bunch in the slot. Mike Tolbert is in the backfield.
  • The Cardinals rush five and use a Cover 3 shell defense with #26 Rashad Johnson as the middle deep zone safety. This leaves only three underneath zone defenders.
  • After the snap, Jericho Cotchery runs a deep-in route, while Corey Brown runs a post-route over the middle of the field.
  • Newton’s offensive line neutralizes the stunt and the delayed blitz (more on this later), which gives him a clean pocket to step into and throw the ball.
  • After Brown catches the football, he slips Johnson’s tackle and runs up the sideline for the 86 yard score.



Post-In “Pin” Concept and Brown’s Footwork

First, the route combination that Newton and the Panthers are running in this play is called a “Pin” concept. Pin, which stands for “post-in”, is a route combination that is traditionally used to attack Cover 4 defenses in an effort to isolate the outside deep defender. The in-route serves as bait for the deep inside zone safety, which allows the post-route to be run against a defender in outside technique. While the Cardinals are in Cover 3, not Cover 4, the effect is largely the same as this puts Brown against a single high safety who gets crossed over in the middle of the field.

This concept has other names: “Mills” was used by Steve Spurrier, while “Crossing” concept is also used in the football community. Take a look at this concept and other similar concepts in our Beginner Series.


Second, take a quick look at Corey Brown’s footwork at the top of his route in the image above. He plants his foot and then drives back across the field taking advantage of Johnson who commits to the corner-route due to his initial positioning over the middle of the field.

Cardinals’ Stunt Fails to Produce Pressure on Cam Newton

The Cardinals run an exotic blitz package with #92 Frostee Rucker and #54 Dwight Freeney looping around the right side of the offensive line, while #44 Markus Golden attempts to penetrate through the strongside A-gap between the left guard and the center. #22 Tony Jefferson executes a delayed blitz in an attempt to attack the weakside A-gap between the center and the right guard.


The intent of the stunt is to create a hole between the center and the right guard. Unfortunately, Rucker/Freeney and Golden don’t pull them apart. Jefferson initially reads the hole between the right guard and the right tackle, but this quickly closes as the right guard blocks out his man. Tony Jefferson hesitates and gets stopped in his tracks, which neutralizes the entire pass rush.


The offensive line deserves a lot of credit for this pass protection and for the communication between right tackle #74 Mike Remmers and right guard #70 Trai Turner seen above. They both pick up their looping defenders which does not allow Jefferson a free pass at Newton in the pocket. Earlier in the season I took a look at the Cardinals’ pass rush versus Andy Dalton and the Bengals. Click here to see just how effective the Cardinals’ stunts were in that game. Hint: They were super effective!

Overall, this game can be summarized by this one play. Cam Newton had a clean pocket to work with, a common theme during the game, while Mike Shula, put each of his offensive weapons in a place to succeed with Corey Brown running the deep post using excellent footwork while Cotchery stutter-stepped to get free on the dig-route underneath. Leading up to the Super Bowl, I’ll be looking at other plays from this game for things you should watch for against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.

Samuel Gold

Sam founded NFL Breakdowns after working his way through the journalist farm system and is enjoying life in the big league. Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Sam didn’t choose the Redskins, the Redskins chose him. Out of a love for the game and an insatiable curiosity to determine why his beloved team was underperforming, Sam turned to studying film in NFL Breakdowns.