This story appeared in ESPN The Magazine's 2017 Thanksgiving Issue. Subscribe today!
You know what really takes the edge off on National Simmering Family Tension Day? Giving a good, old-fashioned football beatdown before dinner. Our X's and O's guru draws up the plays that will help you bury your loved ones in the backyard.
The Home Run
Down by a score and need a sure-fire touchdown? This vertical home run route will help you take a shot over the top. Send your sister and best friend down the field on the outside post routes with your brother-in-law -- the one who was an all-conference receiver in high school -- on the wheel route. That's going to create a natural pick situation for the coverage. Underneath, your 50-year-old uncle -- the all-time center, of course -- releases on a quick checkdown. With a "5 Mississippi" rush, you have time for the wheel route to come open. Set your feet, and drop a dime for the score.
This quick-hitting gadget play allows you to expose an overaggressive defense. Align your cousin and best friend in a stack look, and put your sister in the backfield. At the snap, the lead receiver blocks the first defender on the line with your best friend running the rocket screen, a high-percentage throw. That's where the fun begins. Once your best friend catches the rock, he flips it to your sister releasing from the backfield. With the defense playing out of control and driving on the screen, the sideline is wide open. Secure the ball, and make a house call for six.
This is a true run-pass option. Out of the gun alignment, your brother-in-law takes the snap from your uncle and runs the speed option with your sister at tailback. This creates a 2-on-1 against the first defender outside of the box. Make the read, right? Keep or pitch. That's it. But don't forget about the option to throw it with your best friend on the outside fade and your cousin working back on the deep crosser. If the outside coverage player reads run, your brother-in-law can take a shot down the field. Hey, this is modern football -- in the backyard.
Goal-Line Follow Route
Dial this up when you need to score at the goal line. This play creates a traffic jam to get a receiver open on the goal line. Aligned in a bunch formation, your best friend clears out on a corner route with your sister coming underneath on the crosser. This allows your cousin -- the one with real route-running skills -- to release outside and break back on the pivot. If the defense somehow makes it through the wash, the pivot should still be there. Gotta sell the release. As a last resort, you can always target your uncle on the backside corner route. Put it up high. And let him climb the ladder to finish.