Tales from the Tape: Safety Play

We break down the recent play of Chris Conte and Major Wright, both of whom are clearly regressing and have played a huge part in the Bear's defensive woes this season.

After a certain point in football, as in life, you have to stop blaming other people for your problems. As Ricky Roma said in "Glengarry Glen Ross": "Your problems are your own."

So after seven games of the 2013 NFL season, it's time to stop blaming the lack of pass rush for the ineffectiveness of the Chicago Bears safeties. At this point, Chris Conte and Major Wright must take accountability for their extremely poor play this year.

Against the Redskins, Conte and Wright had arguably their worst collective game of the season. Washington racked up 499 total yards last Sunday, 290 of which came through the air. The safeties made TE Jordan Reed, a rookie with 15 career catches coming into last week's game, look like the second coming of Mark Bavaro.

With that in mind, let's break down three plays from the Redskins contest that highlight the areas in which Conte and Wright must improve.

PLAY I

Reed is lined up on the right edge with Wright on his outside shoulder. Conte is alone in the deep middle of the field, just off camera. Reed is going to run a post-corner route.

Robert Griffin III turns the wrong way at the snap and it's immediately a broken play in the backfield. RGIII then turns and rolls away from the pressure. At the same time, Reed makes his first inside cut and creates immediate separation from Wright.

For some reason, Conte is paying attention to the receiver at the top of the play, the one who is blanketed by Charles Tillman near the sideline. Conte glances at Reed, who has five yards on Wright, yet Conte still turns his body toward the other sideline. When Reed makes his second break, Conte is forced to stop and turn his body back in Reed's direction, which gives the tight end all the time he needs to get open.

In this shot, Reed is just about to catch the ball. Notice both Wright and Conte are nowhere near the receiver, who picks up 38 yards on a broken play.

Using the end zone angle, we see that Wright, who is in man-to-man coverage, is looking in the backfield as the tight end makes his second cut. By the time Wright turns his head back around, Reed is already running in the other direction. What Wright is looking for here, when he's supposed to be in Reed's hip pocket, is anyone's guess.

This shot shows just how late Conte was in getting to the receiver.

PLAY II

Charles Tillman is at the top of the screen across from wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, who will run a fly pattern at the snap. Wright is in the box, leaving Conte as the only deep safety.

RGIII is under pressure on this play and launches a prayer to Robinson near the end zone. Notice Tillman is completely turned around and is actually facing the sidelines when the ball is in the air. Behind him, Conte and Robinson make incidental contact at the 4-yard line.

Tillman is entirely out of position and is not close enough to the receiver to make a play on the ball. And Conte is on his face after bouncing off the receiver.

Tillman tries to recover at the last second but he's too late, while Conte picks dirt out of his teeth. Robinson makes the catch for a 45-yard touchdown.

PLAY III

Reed is just off the left edge with Wright directly across from him. Conte is off screen in the deep middle. This is Cover 1, with Wright man-to-man on Reed, who is going to run an 8-yard in route.

Notice how easily Reed creates separation on his cut inside. Wright shows no anticipation or reaction, staying flatfooted on the receiver's outside shoulder, which instantly creates a three-yard gap between him and the receiver.

By the time the wide-open Reed catches the ball, he's created even more space from the defender, which allows him to turn and run after the catch.

Notice Conte coming up in support. He's in a great position to limit yards after the catch. All he has to do is break down and make the tackle.

And Conte flies right by Reed, who picks up an extra 10 yards. This play came during Washington's game-winning drive. It was the completion that broke Chicago's back.

ANALYSIS

Washington doesn't have great receivers, so the Bears played a lot of man coverage last week. For most of the contest, Wright was 1-on-1 with Reed, who finished the day with career highs in catches (9) and receiving yards (134), to go along with a touchdown grab. Obviously, Wright has no business covering tight ends in man coverage and is purely a zone safety.

And what else can be said about Conte, who just cannot defend the deep pass this year. He doesn't have good make-up speed and he gets knocked to the ground the minute he makes contact with a receiver. His lack of quickness and strength, as well as countless mental errors, are killing Chicago's secondary.

The worst play here is the first one, as it demonstrates a complete lack of understanding by both Conte and Wright. Neither player pays attention to Reed, with Conte looking at the wrong sideline and Wright staring into the backfield, which leaves the tight end wide open deep down the field. This allows the Redskins to turn a broken play, which typically results in lost yardage for the offense, into one of their biggest gains of the day.

Pass rush or no pass rush, injuries or no injuries, if Conte and Wright do not quickly figure it out, Chicago's passing defense is in for a long, miserable season.


Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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