Packers Play Study: Bears Singleback

A one-back, four-receiver set provides a staple in the Mike Martz offense — how can Dom Capers counter? Eric Huber returns with the film study and breakdown.

Welcome to the second installment of Packers Play Study. The objective 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 Bears run on offense, and a crazy defensive scheme the Packers have run and should run to slow the Bears' offensive rhythm. Let's roll.

In 1999, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz surprised the NFL world and transformed the St. Louis Rams in to the No. 1-ranked offense using an offensive strategy that looks so simple and safe to the naked eye. A deeper look, though, reveals a more complex, big-play-oriented playbook that begins with one "single" formation.

The Singleback look has defined every Martz-led offense, but how well has it worked in Chicago? What play do Jay Cutler and the Bears' offense run the most effectively? And can it outlast the blitzing and creative Packers' 3-4 defense?

This is a play the Bears run quite often. It's a three-receiver, one-tight end set that features probably the simplest routes spaghetti mapped into one complex mish-mash.

Bears Singleback


The flanker to the right side of the formation runs a deep post route, hoping to the draw the strong safety to the middle-right side of the field. On the opposite side, the split end runs a 10- to 15-yard post to keep the free safety deeper but will have the option to go post-corner to draw the free safety toward the left sideline.

In the middle, the slot receiver and tight end have the option, based on defensive formation, to run short out/flat routes or straight fly routes. They are the primary targets Jay Cutler will be looking to with his first two reads. If the post-corner is run by the split end, the slot receiver will run the out and the tight end will run the fly. Cutler will look to the tight end first to see if he has a step on the safety. If a blitz is coming, Cutler most likely will opt to call the short routes.

Here's a video from the Bears' win over the Cowboys that illustrates how dangerous this play can be, even when the slot receiver and tight end run the out routes.

If the offensive line holds up and Cutler can stand in the pocket, this play is one of the hardest plays in the Bears' playbook to defend. However, the Packers have creative defensive mastermind Dom Capers calling plays, so don't be surprised if Cutler is seen slamming his helmet on the sideline a few times in this game, especially if he sees this formation, my favorite.

Packers Dom Capers Special


I call it the "Dom Capers Special" because, at first glance, it just doesn't make sense and just looks odd. That's the idea, though. It's also a formation that can be flipped and altered with different personnel as shown in the first play of this video, when Desmond Bishop decks Michael Vick.

There are three key ingredients. The first is A.J. Hawk, who is the dark circle to the left of the formation in the diagram and is floating back in coverage. He's the bait. In other words, the idea is to entice the quarterback to throw the flat or out route due to a believed mismatch. If the receiver breaks to the out or flat right away, the safety will follow behind Hawk on an angle looking to intercept or make a big tackle. If the receiver doesn't break, the safety will drop into coverage.

The other two key ingredients are Clay Matthews on the outside left, and Charles Woodson's option on the right side (Cutler's left). Matthews has to stay on the right tackle's inside shoulder to prevent Cutler from stepping up into any gaps in the formation. Meanwhile, Woodson (Bishop in the video), in this scenario, must come on the blitz and force Cutler to roll to his right. Why?

Within Cutler's split stats and after watching plenty of game highlights there is one revealing truth — he makes more mistakes when he can't step up in the pocket. All 16 of his interceptions were thrown to the left or right, and not to middle of the field.

Flustering Cutler out of the pocket will force him to make a throw he doesn't want to make to either a well-covered receiver or a defender baiting him, as is the case with the "Dom Capers Special." Either way, a defensive formation like this should produce a big defensive play or a wasted down.


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Eric Huber is a contributing writer for OnMilwaukee.com. E-mail him at eric.huber@worldfantasygames.com


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