Scouting the Bears
10:56 PM EDT, August 24, 2012
On Brandon Marshall's 21-yard touchdown reception Friday night, the Bears had their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one back, one tight end) on the field in a "Doubles Slot" formation.
How did the Giants counter?
They called for their base nickel front (four defensive linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs) with Cover-2. It was a smart and conservative call given the field position and the down and distance (third-and-8). They rushed four, dropped seven into coverage and tried to force the ball to go underneath.
Breaking down the Bears' route concept, this a "Double Smash-Seam" with a backside, isolated 9 (fade) route to Marshall (X).
GRAPHIC: Bowen's breakdown
To the closed (strong) side of the formation, tight end Kellen Davis (Y) ran the inside vertical seam to occupy and push the Mike linebacker (M) down the field with both Earl Bennett (W) and Devin Hester (Z) on the underneath "Smash" schemes.
To the open (weak) side, Marshall took a hard, outside release stem vertical up the field and looked for the soft zone between the deep half safety (FS) and the sinking corner (RC). With running back Matt Forte (R) on the swing route, the Bears used a five-man protection scheme up front.
The technique issues on the Giants' defense started with the right corner. In Cover-2, cornerbacks are taught to jam, re-route and force an inside release to take some stress off the safety. Here, Marshall got a clean release and the corner "squatted" in his zone when Forte flashed to the flat. That left the safety in a tough spot to break and drive on the throw from a top-of-the-numbers landmark.
If the Giants forced an inside release and the corner dropped with some depth, Cutler might have had to look to the closed side at Bennett or Hester on this play.
However, with Marshall getting off the line and into his route stem with speed, this was too easy for Cutler and the Bears. They targeted the new wide receiver, put the ball up and allowed him to make a play in the end zone.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.