The Bears defense has produced in its blitz schemes throughout the first three weeks of the season. However, with a matchup versus Calvin Johnson and the Lions, the Bears may choose to play some Cover-2 to limit the deep ball in Detroit.
As shown here, the Lions have their Ace personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one running back) on the field in a Doubles Slot formation with running back Reggie Bush offset to the open side. The Bears counter with the base 4-3 personnel playing Cover-2 in the secondary. With the Lions working Johnson and Bush on the flat-7 (corner) combination, Mel Tucker's defense has to play disciplined football to prevent an explosive gain.
Lions route concept
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To the closed (strong) side of the formation, the Lions are running the levels concept (high to low read). Brandon Pettigrew (Y) pushes up the field and breaks inside on the intermediate dig with Tony Scheffler (U) and Ryan Broyles (Z) on the inside smash routes. To the open (weak) side, Johnson (X) will stem his route to a depth of 12 to 15 yards and break on the 7 route with Bush (R) releasing out of the backfield to the flat. A classic Cover-2 beater.
With Johnson in a reduced split (tight to the core of the formation) and Bush in a chowed alignment (outside leg of the left tackle), the Bears should prep for the flat-7. The Lions shorten the split of Johnson to create a free release off the line of scrimmage (cornerback won't chase inside) and widen the alignment of Bush to get the running back out into the route scheme quickly. Remember, the pre-snap alignments all tell a story.
Cornerback's role in Cover 2
Because of the reduced split from Johnson, the open side cornerback (RC) can't get a jam on the receiver. Either Charles Tillman (game-time decision) or Zack Bowman has to sink hard (45-degree angle), gain depth and protect or cushion free safety Chris Conte working versus Johnson in the deep half. If the corner squats in the flat or attacks downhill to Bush, quarterback Matthew Stafford can look up the 7 route on a matchup that puts Conte in a tough spot.
Bush in the open field
In Cover-2, the Bears want to force the ball underneath. However, the Lions opened up their wallets to sign Bush for a reason: He is a dynamic weapon in the open field. Because of his lateral speed and cutback ability, the cornerback has to tackle with the proper technique if Stafford dumps this ball to the flat. The Bears want to take away the deep ball to Johnson, but they can't allow Bush to get up the field on a simple underneath route.
Bears front four rush
I drew in a TEX stunt (defensive tackle and defensive end cross) in the diagram, but regardless of what the Bears do up front, it is crucial that they start producing along the defensive line. Cover-2 is a smart call versus the Lions, but Stafford can't have time to sit in the pocket and find holes in the zone defense. With Henry Melton gone for the season, Nate Collins will be expected to produce, plus Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton have to get home on the edge.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.