In a must-win game to keep playoff hope alive Sunday in Detroit, the Bears will have to lean on their offense inside of the red zone to play productive football. Think of vertical concepts that test the Lions secondary with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall as primary targets.
As shown here, the Bears have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a Doubles Vice alignment (two stack looks). The Lions counter with their base nickel sub package (five defensive backs) playing a two-deep shell in the secondary. The Bears will look to attack the top of the Lions defense and use the size of their wide receivers to get the ball in the end zone.
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From a defensive perspective, the Vice formation tells you to play for the Flat-7 concept. That's what the Bears are showing here to the open side of the formation with Earl Bennett (H) on the quick flat route and Brandon Marshall (X) pushing up the field on the 7 cut (corner route). To the closed side of the formation, tight end Kellen Davis (Y) is running the underneath smash route with Alshon Jeffery (Z) stemming his route to the corner and then breaking back to the post on the sting concept. Cutler and the Bears want to put some stress on the Lions and take a shot here at the end zone.
Attacking Mike backer
This is no different than the Cover-2 scheme the Bears run under Lovie Smith. The Lions will ask the Mike backer, Stephen Tulloch (M), to open, get depth, flip the hips and match to Jeffery on the sting route. That's tough work in the red zone where a false step can lead to six points. Tulloch will get some underneath help from the Sam backer (S) dropping to the closed side seam-hook and in the deep half with the strong safety (SS) driving the route, but at the point of attack this is his play to make.
Marshall versus Cover-2
With free safety Louis Delmas (FS) —listed as questionable with a knee injury — cheating inside to play the Vice alignment, Marshall has some room to work with on the corner route. The Lions are counting on Jonte Green (RC) to gain depth from his soft squat alignment (no jam, sink at the snap) to provide some cushion to Delmas on the corner route. However, with Bennett in the flat to set some bait for Green, the Bears could get Marshall matched up against the safety on an outside breaking route.
Size and length
Both Marshall and Jeffery have the skill set to make plays in the red zone because of their ability to climb the ladder and attack the football. Remember, the field shrinks in the red zone and quarterback Jay Cutler could be throwing into some tight windows. If Cutler wants to target Jeffery on the sting route or come back to Marshall on the corner, both receivers have to finish the play for their quarterback in possible traffic.
Don't force ball
I can draw this up every time to be successful on the chalkboard, but it is never that simple come Sundays in the NFL. If the Lions get Green to sink under the corner route and Tulloch is able to run with Jeffery in the middle of the field, Cutler has to look at other options. Take the flat, throw the smash to Davis or hit the check down. The Bears need to get on the plane home with a victory. But if they turn the ball over in the red zone, this season could be over before the Packers and Vikings even kick off later Sunday.
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.