X and O Show: Marshall deep middle

We use All 22 coaches film to analyze a 24-yard strike from Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall in the deep middle zone against Cover 3 from Sunday's preseason opener.

Early in the second quarter of Sunday's preseason opener between Chicago and Indianapolis, the Bears took possession following the first of two Tim Jennings interceptions. Chicago led 14-7 at that point and the ensuing play put the club in field goal range.

We use All 22 coaches film to analyze that first down snap, which resulted in a 24-yard strike from QB Jay Cutler to WR Brandon Marshall

The Play

The Bears line up in a two-receiver, two-tight end set.

WR Devin Hester (yellow) is wide left and Marshall (blue) is in the left slot. TE Kellen Davis (white) is on the right edge and TE Kyle Adams (red) is on the left edge. Cutler is under center.

Before the snap, Hester motion inside of Marshall, into the left wing spot. CB Jerraud Powers (black) does not follow Hester, indicating zone coverage.

Following the snap, Marshall, Adams and Davis all release straight up field. Hester runs an underneath crossing route into the right flat.

Both Adams and Davis, 10 yards down the field, break to the right. This pulls linebackers Kavell Connor and Jerrell Freeman, as well S Tom Zbikowski, into the intermediate zone. Underneath, Hester has drawn the attention of two defenders. This leaves poor S Antoine Bethea all alone against Marshall.

Marshall stems inside, away from the outside corner, then breaks hard back to the quarterback. Cutler fires a high pass to Marshall, who has no one within five yards of him. Bethea comes up and makes the tackle after a 24-yard gain.


This play is designed to clear out the second level of the secondary and isolate Marshall on the safety. With Adams and Davis flooding the right zone, three defenders are forced to follow, which included one of the deep safeties. At the same time, Marshall just kept running down the field, forcing Bethea to turn his hips into a full sprint. Once he does that, Marshall stops and sits, and he's wide open in the deep middle zone.

The design of this play was perfect against Cover 3, or three-deep zone coverage. It takes attention away from Marshall by occupying the outside safety with two tight ends. Cutler had time to throw and fired a bullet for a big gain. Whether it was Mike Tice or Jeremy Bates that designed this play, the creator deserves kudos.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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