When quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears move the ball into the red zone Sunday against the Saints, they should prep for some combination man looks (bracket coverage) from Rob Ryan's defense.
Using the All-22 coaches film, let's breakdown how Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan beat the Saints coverage scheme and targeted Julio Jones for a touchdown in Week 1.
The Falcons are running the tare concept out of their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a Doubles Slot formation. The Saints bring their dime package (six defensive backs) on the field and play Cover-7 (combination man) with rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro showing a single-high pre-snap alignment (looks like Cover-1).
- Bio | Recent columns
- Coach and QB on same page in drawing offense together
VOTE: Who wins on Sunday ... Bears or Saints?
Halas Hall, Washington Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045, USA
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
The Saints use a "cut" call (bracket outside receiver) to the open (weak) side of the formation to take away receiver Roddy White. Inside, the defense is playing a "triangle" call (three-on-two) versus tight end Tony Gonzalez and slot receiver Harry Douglas. However, that leaves cornerback Corey White matched up with Jones in a one-on-one situation with no inside help.
Ryan's initial read is to the two-level tare concept (flat-out combo) to the closed (strong) side of the formation. However, with safety Roman Harper sitting to the inside on the "triangle" call versus Gonzalez, and Vaccaro driving to the upfield shoulder of the tight end on the out cut, the Falcons quarterback has to get his eyes back to No. 1 (Jones) and target the dig route (square-in).
Any time you play combination man calls based on field position — as the Saints have done here versus Gonzalez and White — that leaves a defensive back in "solo" coverage. With the middle of the field now vacated, Jones can pin White to the outside and beat the defender's leverage on the dig route for a score.
The Bears should expect some combination man from the Saints in the red zone as they look to bracket Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery or Martellus Bennett. Because of that, someone has to win a one-on-one matchup to give Cutler an opportunity for six points.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.