Packers Play Study: Bears' Cover-2

Chicago runs its Cover-2 defense as well as any team in the league — here's one play that Mike McCarthy can turn to that will beat it.

Welcome to the first installment of Packers Play Study. The objective here is to get the uneducated, average and even highly knowledgeable fans thinking about formations, audibles and the reasons why certain plays are called.

In this study I will evaluate a play the Packers run on offense and a formation the Bears often run on defense. Let's roll.

I consider Packers coach Mike McCarthy to be an offensive mastermind when it comes to mixing in formations. McCarthy likes to use a lot of four- and five-receiver sets. Against the Bears, this will be crucial, especially if the running game doesn't gain the chunks of yardage needed to keep the defense from playing too deep.

Defensively, the Bears use a lot of Tampa Cover-2 schemes that usually feature two athletic linebackers in Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher, kind of like what you see below.

Why does this work?

One of the things they like to do is rush Urlacher or Briggs and drop the other to the middle of field, about 10 to 15 yards deep. Combating a scheme like this can be challenging and requires a patient quarterback. At the same time, I believe there is a personnel package and play that the Packers run regularly that could leave it looking like burnt toast if quarterback Aaron Rodgers makes the right read. Let's first take a look at the Bears' base Cover 2 defense.

As you can see, the Bears' primary defensive scheme is quite simple, but reliable with the right personnel and the years of running it under coach Lovie Smith. However, there are gaps in it that can be exploited with the right play-call.

The most glaring one is in the middle of the field. Yes, Urlacher and Briggs are two talented linebackers who have and can man the middle zone effectively.

The other hole is on either sideline (short). The Bears will drop their defensive backs in an effort to prevent the big play, confident in their cornerbacks' ability to make a tackle and yield only a short gain. Still, this will allow Rodgers to find receivers like Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver on slot outs to the sidelines.

Here's a look at my favorite play inside the Packers' playbook that they need to run for this type of defense.

This play looks complex, but in reality is quite simple. All five wide receivers are on the field, and all run slight slant routes except for the slot trey receiver and split end. The slot trey receiver runs a strong slant out toward the sidelines, while the split end on the far two-receiver side runs a drag slant in.

The object of this play design is simple — stay in front of the defense and find holes after the catch. The two hot reads are the two nonconforming routes. The rest are meant to stretch the defense back enough to open up the two target spots.

The Packers ran this to perfection at least twice against the Falcons; once in the first meeting, and once last week during their playoff win — Jordy Nelson's touchdown.

The beauty of this design is that the routes can be moved to different receivers and the formation can be flipped to cause defensive headaches. It's also hard to jump because Rodgers is so good at reading what the defense is going to do ahead of time and won't be afraid to pump and go down the field if the situation warrants.

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Eric Huber is a contributing writer for E-mail him at

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