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More Tampa 2: Lovie's Answer To Everything

In the Week 17 meeting between the Packers and the Bears, Bears head coach Lovie Smith and his right hand man and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli sent a blitz at Aaron Rodgers on a bit more than 20 percent of his dropbacks.

I expect that number to be even lower on Sunday.

While he wavered a bit at the beginning of the year, Rodgers is back to his blitz-beating ways, especially when presented with pressure off the edge. His ability to see/feel the cornerback or linebacker coming free outside is unlike anything I've seen. He put on an absolute clinic on Saturday night and you can bet Lovie and Rod have reviewed that tape and decided they want no part of that.

The Bears will undoubtedly lean on their favorite defensive set, the Tampa 2 (you can find an excellent overview of the principals involved here from Matt Bowen, who played for Lovie in St. Louis) for the majority of the time. The entire idea of Lovie's defense is to make the opposing offense execute their offense on long sustained drives.

In the first matchup, Rodgers was absolutely brilliant at this. He played a textbook game, taking what the defense gave him and repeatedly got the offense into scoring position. (Where they continually shot themselves in the foot)

In the Week 17 rematch, Rodgers started well but began to press as his receivers kept letting him down. He reverted to holding the ball waiting for things to develop downfield (one sack came on a play where he held the ball for over 5 seconds) and when he wasn't holding the ball he was darting around for no reason, much like the game against Miami earlier in the year. I have no doubt McCarthy, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and Rodgers have addressed this - Rodgers simply has to play his game, regardless of mitigating factors.

Of course, just because the Bears show a two deep safety look doesn't mean they're locked in to their Tampa 2 - and when they have tried to surprise Rodgers by bringing guys from the slot, Rodgers has made them pay. Look at the play below - you see the safety charge down at the snap of the ball to cover the area vacated by the blitzing corner (picked up by Brandon Jackson). Rodgers focuses on the other safety rotating into the center of the field. By keep his eyes on the safety he is holding him there - knowing he can then turn and hit Jennings on the "In" route. (Interestingly enough, if Rodgers looks back he could have probably hit Driver for a touchdown, but these things are always easy to diagnose after the fact looking from the vantage point of the eye-in-the-sky)

One way to get the Bears out of that two deep shell is to run the ball. The Packers were abysmal at it the first time and weren't much better the second - although I think McCarthy didn't really give the running game much of a chance. (If it doesn't work early, he rarely does.) A healthy does of James Starks might be in order Sunday but only if the interior of the Packers' offensive line can make anything happen on the second level in the zone blocking scheme. Too many times against the Bears we've seen Urlacher and Briggs running free to the ball carrier. (Which is why McCarthy has utilized so much roll out stuff for Rodgers early in these contests).

The key to Sunday's game on offense will be patience - from both McCarthy and Rodgers. No matter how the game begins, if they can both stay patient and work the offense into a rhythm, they should come away with plenty of scoring opportunities - they then, of course, will be to capitalize on them.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (6) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

PackersThad's picture

I love this video supported articles. Reading this in addition to Bowen's article really helps me to understand what Chicago wants to do to stop Green Bay.

Chad Toporski's picture

After the Atlanta game, I have to believe the offense learned some patience. They ate up the clock, controlled the drive, and didn't force much.

They will definitely be facing a stiffer challenge on Sunday, but this latest performance should have helped them.

Bearmeat's picture

A couple 1st down runs by Starks and down comes crashing da Burrs beloved Tampa 2! All of a sudden playaction brings down the safeties and LB's. And then the deep kill shot... :)

Keith's picture

An important difference between the 1st meeting and the 2nd meeting: the absence of JerMichael Finley, who had 9 catches for 115 yards. One of the most effective ways to shred the Tampa 2, in addition to running the ball, is exploiting the middle of the field with an elite TE. I'm really interested to see if McCarthy and Rodgers will have enough confidence in Quarless to feature him on Sunday, because the kid definitely has the ability to have a big impact on this game. Otherwise, I expect Driver to play a big role in this game playing in the slot.

Paul Ott Carruth's picture

This video shows the Bears employing a fire zone blitz from the field. The slot defender (nickel back) blitzes off the edge and Urlacher loops around as an edge contain blitzer to the same side. The safety rotating down is what is called a “seam” defender and he is looking to jump in front of a quick pass to the slot (Driver) should Rodgers throw the ball there. QBs need to throw “hot” to account for an unblocked defender. The problem the Bears have are two fold. First, the protection is a 7 man protection and the Bears are rushing 5. There are no unblocked defenders. Advantage: Packers. Second, the deep in breaking route by Jennings to the boundary is the perfect route against the 3 deep 3 under zone coverage. Briggs is what is called the “final 3 player” as he looks for a 3rd receiver releasing to the 2 receiver side. Notice how he “leans” to the side of Jackson and Quarless. On the boundary side, you can see Peppers assuming the role as the other “seam” defender. Because there is no immediate threat, he adjusts his drop to get under the #1 receiver who happens to be Jennings running the deep in/dig route. The safety to Jennings side rotates to the deep middle and the corner maintains leverage on top of Jennings. As it is with the Bears Tampa 2, this fire zone follows the same principle as all zones……..”Don’t get beat deep!” This was the ideal protection and route for this defensive call. As much as I respect Peppers’ athletic ability, there is no way he is going to be able to influence the throw on a route that deep.

The other thing I like about this video is that it shows something I believe can cause HUGE problems for the Bears. ……personnel. The Packers are in 11 Personnel (1 back, 1 TE, 3 receivers). What it does is turns the Bears 7 man front in to a 6 man lighter front to account for the 3 receivers. Also, if the Bears decide to stay in their 2 high shell they will be less likely to come down hard on the run because of the threat of 3 speedy receivers instead of the traditional 2 that you have with 21 personnnel (2 backs, 1 TE, 2 receivers). The key will be the Packers being able to produce a little in the run game out of these personnel groupings. If they can be slightly productive then I believe it will be a long day for Chicago because it puts the safeties in a bind. Do they start to come up and support on the run leaving the 3 receivers 1 on 1 with the Corners and Nickel back or do they hang back and hope the Bears front 6 can beat the Packers front 6? This is where the chess match will take place. From the perspective of offense and defense, I have loved using 11 and 12 personnel groupings to stretch a defense both horizontally by alignment and making them defend 4 vertical threats without losing much in the run game. The final thing to notice in the video is the location on the field. The Packers are across the 50. I believe the Bears will run more fire zone schemes in these situations. Frankly, Tampa 2 doesn't work so well when a team only has 40 yards to get in the endzone. Most teams will bring pressure in these situations. This is why a short field will essentially neutralize how much Tampa 2 the Bears will use.

This game will come down to 5 things: Turnovers, Field Position, 3rd Down & Distance, Explosive Plays Offense, Explosive Plays Defense. If the Packers win these areas, It’ll be on to Dallas.

Tommyboy's picture

I just got schooled by Paul Ott Carruth.

...that needs to be a t-shirt, by the way.

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