When the Lions move get inside the red zone, Mel Tucker's defense has to lean on its core Cover-2 techniques to limit the production of Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush based off alignment and scheme.
Here the Lions have their Posse (or 11) personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a Doubles alignment with Bush offset to the closed (strong) side of the formation. The Bears counter with their base nickel front (five defensive backs) playing Cover-2 in the secondary. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will look to target Johnson on the inside seam route or come back to Bush underneath on the angle route.
- Bio | Recent columns
- Tempting fate with QB's possibly premature return
VOTE: Who ya got ... Bears or Lions?
Who wins Sunday's game at Soldier Field?
Bears win big (331 responses)
Bears win close (1259 responses)
Lions win close (386 responses)
Lions win big (215 responses)
Tie tie tie (12 responses)
2203 total responses
(Results not scientific)
This poll is closed to voting.
Halas Hall, Washington Road, Lake Forest, IL 60045, USA
Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
To the closed side of the formation, the Lions align receiver Kris Durham (Z) in a bottom of the numbers split (pre-snap alert to the out route) with Bush (R) in a chowed set (aligned on the outside leg of the tackle). This allows the Lions to release Bush on the angle route with Durham on the quick out and tight end Brandon Pettigrew (Y) on the 7 (corner) route. To the open (weak) side, Johnson (H) moves to a slot alignment to release on the inside seam route with Kevin Ogletree (X) running the smash.
The Lions do an excellent job of varying Johnson's pre-snap alignment to create matchups versus both zone and man coverages. That's the key here with Johnson aligned inside of the numbers to target Cover-2. The wide receiver will take a vertical release off the line of scrimmage and stem this route inside to the deep hole in the zone coverage. With Mike Backer Jon Bostic (M) running the inside vertical seam in his Cover-2 drop and free safety Chris Conte (FS) driving top down, Stafford can throw to Johnson's upfield shoulder.
Bush on angle route
Stafford can look up Bush on the underneath angle route with Pettigrew running off the top of the coverage and Durham widening cornerback Charles Tillman (RC). To defend this route, Sam Backer James Anderson (S) has to stay square in his seam-hook drop and drive downhill at an angle that allows him make a tackle in space to keep the running back out of the end zone. That's not easy versus with Bush's lateral ability.
Johnson at point of attack
Watching the tape, there's no one in the NFL who plays the ball at the point of attack better than Johnson. With his blend of size, speed and power, the Lions receiver consistently climbs the ladder to "high point" the football in traffic. Even if the Bears get a solid break from Conte in the deep half, Johnson still can create leverage on the seam route and shield the defender to make the play. It's a tough matchup for the Bears regardless of the coverage scheme because of Johnson's talent.
Keep eye on run game
Don't forget that in the teams' first matchup of the season in Detroit, Bush produced big numbers on the ground out of the inside zone scheme. And that could show up again in the red zone if the Bears want to sit in two-deep coverage (as it creates a soft run front). The defensive line has to play with gap responsibility, and both Bostic and Anderson must fit the run to limit Bush with both safeties removed from the front.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.