In close, Bears can target Marshall and Bennett

With Cutler sprinting out against blitz, defensive backs can be put in tough spot in corner and flat

When quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears move the ball inside of the red zone Sunday at Soldier Field against the Colts defense, they could see some Cover-0 pressure (man coverage with no safety help).

How do you attack the blitz? Seal the edge and roll the quarterback outside of the pocket with multiple options in the passing game.

For this play, the Bears have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) on the field in a Doubles Slot Exchange formation. The Colts counter with nickel personnel (four defensive linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs) aligning outside linebackers Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis at the defensive end positions. The Bears will look to run the Flat-7 off of sprint action and target Brandon Marshall or Earl Bennett.

Pressure scheme

The Colts will bring pressure from the secondary. Strong safety Tom Zbikowski (SS) will walk down into the front and rush to the closed (strong) side of the formation. To the open (weak) side, the nickel corner (N) will show a press-alignment and blitz off the edge. With both linebackers (M and S) rushing to their coverage ("green dog" technique), this becomes an eight-man pressure scheme for the Colts.

Sprint action

To get Cutler outside of the pocket (with a run/pass option), the Bears have to seal the edge to the play side and cut off any backside pursuit from Freeney (RE) and the blitzing strong safety. Matt Forte (R) will align in a "chowed" split (outside leg of the tackle) and pick up the Nickel corner off the edge. Forte's block is crucial and any penetration (or up the field pressure) will force Cutler to pull up.

Route breakdown

The Bears are running the Flat-7 (corner) combo to the open side of the formation. With Marshall (X) aligned inside in a reduced split, he is creating room to run the 7 cut, while Bennett (W) breaks to the flat. Devin Hester (Z) will take a hard inside release and work back across the field to give Cutler a third option, but the primary reads are Marshall and Bennett.

Marshall's pre-snap alignment

The Bears align Marshall in the slot for one reason: To get him the ball. Marshall will take a vertical release, stem to the post (create separation) and work to the corner of the end zone on the 7. The idea is to create a matchup inside of the numbers versus a safety and allow your No. 1 wide receiver to exploit it.

Defeating Cover-0 technique

NFL defensive backs are taught to align with an inside shade in Cover-0 and take away any route concepts that break back to the middle of the field. An outside breaking route? That's on the coverage called in the huddle. In this situation, both the open side cornerback (LC) and the free safety (FS) replacing the blitzing nickel corner are playing with inside leverage versus the flat and the 7. If Cutler puts the pass to Marshall or Bennett on the up field shoulder, both Colts defensive backs will be in a tough spot to make a play on the ball.

Twitter @MattBowen41

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.
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