Scouting the Bears
6:03 PM CDT, September 29, 2012
The Cowboys and quarterback Tony Romo can create big-play opportunities Monday night with wide receivers Dez Bryant and Miles Austin using max-protection schemes up front. They will keep eight blockers in on protection and test the top of the Bears defense.
As shown in this graphic, the Cowboys have their "Ace" personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends, one running back) on the field in a "Unit" alignment. The Bears have their base 4-3 personnel (four defensive linemen, three linebackers, four backs) in an "Over" front playing Cover-2. The Cowboys will use play action and target the "Yankee" route down the field.
Both Bryant (Z) and Austin (X) will have reduced (or "nasty") splits inside of the numbers (run splits). With the ball near the 40-yard line, the Cowboys will be looking to take a shot down the field. They will align both receivers tight to the formation, use run action to the closed (strong) side of the formation and sell the play fake to force the second level defenders to the line of scrimmage.
With the amount of pressure the Bears defensive front has shown on tape, the Cowboys will use max protection (eight-man protection) to form a clean pocket for Romo. Both tight ends, Jason Witten (Y) and John Phillips (U), will stay in on the protection scheme with running back DeMarco Murray (R) "check releasing" to the closed side flat once he has eliminated any pressure off the edge.
The "Yankee" route is a two-man scheme designed to beat Cover-2 and Cover-1 (man-free). Austin (X) will take a hard inside release, push up the field and break at a depth of 12 to 15 yards on the deep 7 (corner) route. Bryant, (aligned in his reduced split) will release inside and carry his crossing route back to the open side of the formation. Working versus Cover-2, Austin will clear out the free safety and create a deep hole for Romo to target Bryant down the field.
Free safety Chris Conte (FS) has to play with depth and open his hips to Austin once the receiver breaks his cushion down the field. To the closed side, strong safety Major Wright (SS) must "top" his coverage with underneath help from Mike Backer Brian Urlacher (M). However, if Urlacher attacks the line of scrimmage on the run fake, Bryant will be free to work the middle of the field and can sit down in the vacated zone for a positive gain.
The corners in coach Lovie Smith's scheme will sink (no jam) at a 45-degree angle versus a reduced split. With no threat in the flat for Charles Tillman (RC), he can increase his depth with a zone turn technique (back to the sideline) and look inside for any route breaking back across the formation. With Conte occupied and removed by Austin's route, Tillman can play under Bryant. The goal is to force Romo to come off of his deep read, dumping the ball to Murray in the closed side flat.
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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