X's & O's: Busted Coverage? Maybe Not

"Paul Ott Carruth", an anonymous former player and coach, breaks down the Bears' 32 yard touchdown pass to Kellen Davis.

Regular Cheesehead TV reader (and all-too-infrequent commenter) "Paul Ott Carruth", a former player and coach who wishes to remain anonymous, breaks down different aspects of the Packers and their opponents from an X's and O's standpoint. Today he breaks down the Bears 32 yard touchdown catch by Kellen Davis and tells us how what looked like a busted coverage - most likely wasn't.

Two man coverage seems pretty self explanatory.  You have two deep safeties playing zone help over the top of 5 coverage men playing man to man underneath.  In other words, the 5 guys playing man coverage follow their man anywhere and everywhere on the field.  In basic terms…yes, this is true.  However, as I’ve said many times in the past, the game at the professional level is all about match-ups.   If we stick to the hard and fast rule of the basic description of two man then this is what we should have seen on this particular play.

On the right side of the formation Woodson is man to man on the 2nd receiver from the boundary.  Shields is man to man on the first man to that side with inside leverage.  The deep safety to that side is Burnett.  Two man allows the 5 underneath coverage men to play what is called “trail” technique on any vertical route by their man.

In this case, Shields played trail technique on his man since he went vertical.  It allows him to play any inside breaking route underneath (dig, post) without worrying about getting beat deep.  The safety, Burnett, will “apex” between the two receivers at the snap.  This means he will get in his back pedal and split the difference between the two receivers.  Because Woodson’s man runs a shallow cross (mesh route) Burnett will then hug the remaining vertical route, helping out Shields.   Woodson is playing his responsibility of man coverage underneath by following his receiver across the field.

So, according to the strict definition of two man, this holds “true to form.”  However, because the Bears’ offense runs through Matt Forte, the Packers are forced to compensate for any potential mismatches created in the passing game.  Let’s see what is happening on the other side of the formation.

To the left we have Kellen Davis (blue receiver ) aligned in a compressed or “nasty” alignment from the offensive tackle.  Additionally, we have a flanker closely aligned just outside of him.  In the backfield we have Forte in an “off set position” aligned perfectly for an outside release to the flat.  Because the ball is on the left hash (GB point of view) and due to the tight splits of Davis and the flanker along with Forte’s alignment, the tip off is that some type of rub is coming to free up Forte in the flat and some type of inside breaking route is coming from either the flanker or from Davis.

Notice where Tramon is aligned.  He is outside of the flanker (green receiver). By strict definition, Tramon should have run with his man just as Woodson did.  He doesn’t.

So is this a “busted” assignment?  In my opinion…..hardly.

Remember, the issue is Forte.  He is the Bears’ best offensive weapon as both a runner and receiver.  According to two man rules, Bishop would have had to cover Forte man to man.  This is the mismatch.  Bishop does a nice job of staying on top of Forte’s release.   Tramon is there to provide insurance.  By definition,  and alignment, Hawk should then have run with Davis.  But this leaves the crosser (green receiver open on a short route.

Instead, Hawk plays the short crosser and gets some assistance from Walden, who was serving as a spy on Cutler, by closing down the first available window for Cutler to throw to.

So what was Tramon doing?  As I said, I believe Tramon was there to provide insurance on Forte based on alignment.  Secondly, after Bishop stayed on top of the route, Tramon looked to jump the crosser that Woodson was chasing.  Therefore, instead of playing trail technique on Davis, Tramon took a calculated risk but jumping the potential short throw and passing Davis off to Peprah.

Remember…the deep safety will apex vs. two vertical routes and hug a lone vertical.  Davis was that lone vertical.  Peprah was simply late “getting to the party.”  Should Tramon have gotten under Davis?  Maybe……but much of what the Capers system relies on is flexibility and risk taking.  To that point in the game, the intermediate middle routes were not working for the Bears.  My guess is that Tramon knew the situation, saw the alignments and knew the coverage enough to take a shot at jumping a route, gambling that Cutler would not throw to the middle of the field, given his paltry success.

The touchdown by Davis only looks bad because of the horrendous tackling.  The coverage was sound.  Davis was not running free.  The next time someone says “it must have been a busted coverage” check to see if the receiver is open by 10 yards and where the defense is leveraging.  The first touchdown by the Saints in week 1…..now that was a blown coverage by Tramon and Collins.  This one…..not so much.

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Comments (18)

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Jersey Al's picture

September 27, 2011 at 09:33 am

I'd love to see a similar analysis of the pass over the middle to Forte.

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Bearmeat's picture

September 27, 2011 at 10:18 am

Great stuff Paul Ott... Explains the play a lot more to us who don't spend our lives on football - just our "free time"... :)

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Brian Heitz's picture

September 27, 2011 at 10:22 am

Excellent post. Thank you.

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PackersRS's picture

September 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

Absolutely amazing.

It is just so hard to figure out assignments in football, moreso in a scheme like Capers' who loves to use man-zone concepts.

Fantastic job POC.

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Derek's picture

September 27, 2011 at 10:57 am

Great piece. If Peprah makes that tackle, no big deal, maybe a 10 or 15 yard play, not a 32 yard TD.

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redlights's picture

September 27, 2011 at 11:00 am

This why I seldom comment on individual plays. There is so much about this that I'm unaware of, its pointless.

Good job.

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ay hombre's picture

September 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

Wow...great stuff. Post some more please.

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Doug In Sandpoint's picture

September 27, 2011 at 11:31 am

I'm not worthy!

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Chazman's picture

September 27, 2011 at 11:48 am

Thank you for translating this into English so I could understand it. Well done!

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Arodg's Mustache's picture

September 27, 2011 at 01:02 pm

Apparently POC is not hurt and is as good as we think he is. :P

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Nerdmann's picture

September 27, 2011 at 01:18 pm

I don't worry about the defense at all.

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FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

September 27, 2011 at 01:48 pm

Good shit POC, now reveal your true identity. Brett favre? In an attempt to win back your fans?

GBP 4 LIFE

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Spiderpack's picture

September 27, 2011 at 08:16 pm

Paul is Brett. Or he could be any number of ex-Packers who want to help us & shed light! Regardless Paul, thank you that was so enlightening.

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WisconsInExile's picture

September 27, 2011 at 08:35 pm

Whenever the Cornheisers, Bucks, and Dilfers get me down, Paul Ott Caruth is there to restore my faith in humanity and NFL football analysis (him and Matt Bowen).

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Mojo's picture

September 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm

And I thought it was a simple pass play.

Great work POC.

Here's a hint at the masked man POC. The actual POC was born in Hattiesburg Miss. Sound familiar?

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FITZCORE1252's EVO's picture

September 28, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Oh snap!

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bmglines's picture

September 28, 2011 at 04:33 pm

Great post. Would love to see more X's and O's type posts. A weekly tape breakdown would be an awesome treat.

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Paul Ott Carruth's picture

September 29, 2011 at 08:01 pm

Sorry guys. I'm not Brett Favre. And while the real POC was from Mississippi, I am not. Thanks for the kind comments on the analysis. I'm glad you enjoy it. It's just nice to be able to bring a more intricate look at the game to the fans. If you have any suggestions on analysis, either from the Packers, or football in general, don't hesitate to ask. Thanks again.

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