X-and-O Show: Threat of the Run

We go to the film room to break down Brandon Marshall's 24-yard TD reception against the Jags, a play in which the threat of the run opened up a lot of space down the field.

The Chicago Bears pounded the rock 33 times on the ground against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 5, racking up 214 rushing yards as a team. Throughout the season, OC Mike Tice has consistently stuck with the run, never bailing on the ground game when the offense is struggling to rush the ball. In only two games has Chicago rushed for more than 4.0 yards as a team, yet Tice has stayed committed to the run.

Some may wonder why an NFL team would keep calling rushing plays when running room is scarce. One play against the Jaguars shows exactly why an NFL coordinator should never abandon the run.

The Formation

3rd down and 10 from the Jacksonville 24-yard line.

The Bears line up in a running formation. A tight end is lined up on both sides of the formation. Jay Cutler is under center and Matt Forte is alone in the backfield. To the top side of the diagram, you see Brandon Marshall lined up one-on-one with cornerback Derek Cox in press coverage.

The Jaguars counter by putting both outside linebackers on the edges of the defensive line. The middle linebacker and both safeties are also creeping into the box as the ball is snapped. The deep zone is entirely uncovered.

The Play

At the snap, the Jaguars bring the kitchen sink. All three linebackers blitz, as do the two safeties. The Bears use max protection and pick up the blitz. Cutler pump fakes to Marshall, forcing Cox to hesitate in his backpedal.

Marshall then releases downfield and gets a step on Cox. Cutler lays a beautiful pass over the top of the defender, right into Marshall's hands. The play goes for a 24-yard touchdown.

Why it worked

The Bears were gaining big chunks of yards on the ground in the second half of this contest. On this play, the Bears knew that, even though it was third and long, if they lined up in a power set, the Jaguars would stack the box. At that point, the threat of the run was too much for Jacksonville's defense to ignore.

As a result, the Jaguars were left with no safety help deep. From that point, it was an easy pitch and catch between Cutler and Marshall.

This play doesn't work without Tice's commitment to the run. At this stage of the game, the Jaguars were sick of getting run on and were willing to do whatever it took to not let Forte get the first down, even if that meant rushing nine players. This left them naked on the back end and the Bears took advantage.

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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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