X's & O's with Eddie Mason

The thing I liked the most was the fact that they tried to get Clinton in space. They were trying to get him outside and get him in one-on-one matchups with defenders where he does the most damage. And they did it all game and in different ways. In the fourth quarter they ran a pitch play, where they faked to the fullback and pitched it quick to the tailback.

They got away from the typical stuff they had done in the past. They used even more zone blocking instead of running the counter trey a lot. They ran it outside on pitches and tosses, where he starts in a direction and then makes his cut using the vision he has.

I don't understand why Chicago didn't say, 'If you're gonna beat us deep, then beat us deep. But you're not going to run.' To me the Redskins spread them out because they knew the Bears would do like everyone else and put eight or nine in the box. But the Bears didn't do that. I guess they felt their front four could handle the Redskins' front five. That didn't happen. They couldn't handle our guys. They won it because they get a guy out of the box. From a linebacker's perspective when you run tosses and pitches, you get a guy in space. For a linebacker, that makes a play more difficult on a back like Clinton unless you're a sure-tackle guy.

The Redskins got a lot of matchups on a safety where they were one-on-one in a hole. Clinton was able to juke and miss and get extra yardage. He didn't get tackled by defensive tackles or linebackers. He was getting hit by safeties, so he's getting positive yardage and running over guys.

Using that play was great coaching. When you go against an overpursuing, aggressive defense like Chicago -- everyone knows that Lovie teaches them that you only have to play one gap -- then the backside guy has to make that play. The safety or the outside linebacker and those backs were reading it. You had guys pursuing with the toss and the pitch. The linemen would block to their right and hold their block, waiting for an open lane. The linebackers are thinking he's going to the front side, but that back is thinking cutback. As soon as he makes the cutback, he's one-on-one with a safety and you want your million-dollar running back to beat one person. When he does, he gets 12, 14, 18, 20 yards.

The backside linebacker has to be disciplined. The Bears are one of the youngest teams in the NFL, especially at linebacker. They have a great one in Urlacher, but even he's young and sometimes guys don't know all the nuances and adjustments and understand that, 'Look, they've run that play on you 14 times, when are you going to get the backside linebacker to make that play?' In 1998, we were playing the Steelers and they ran that same play with Bettis. They'd run a toss and he'd look for a cutback. They beat me two or three times and my coach said, 'Maintain backside support!' If the outside backer stays home and protects backside, that play is dead.

But they overpursued every time and Clinton smashed them. The line also did a great job getting on their blocks and staying on them.

One subtle defensive play was the difference in the game and it was made by Fred Smoot, one of my unsung heroes of the game. It was third and 11 in the fourth quarter around the six-minute mark. Fred had torn up his shoulder a couple plays earlier against Thomas Jones. Then he comes back in and they throw a quick receiver screen, putting him in a one-on-one position against Fred. The Redskins were in zone coverage and Fred was reading the quarterback as he backpedaled. He's reading his eyes and the Bears also had a receiver running upfield trying to pull Fred out. But Fred didn't bite. He was probably supposed to go with the other receiver, but he read the quarterback. The Bears had been driving and if they scored a touchdown on that drive it's a different game. But Fred made the play.

Editor's note: Eddie Mason is the co-founder of M.A.S.E. Training, along with James Thrash. They seek to train athletes spiritually and physically. For more information, go to masetraining.com.


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