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How did Tebow beat the Vikings' Cover 2?

Going to the chalkboard to talk Broncos' Xs and Os. Matt Bowen

Print This December 06, 2011, 11:00 AM EST

Click here for the entire Inside the Playbook series.

Cover 2 in the red zone. A topic we have discussed multiple times here at the NFP. A solid call inside of the 25-yard line (and one I would carry in my game plan), but there are route concepts designed to attack the deep half safeties and the Mike linebacker.

Today, let’s talk Denver vs. Minnesota from this past Sunday, take a look at the Broncos’ "4 Verticals" route shceme and break down why this coverage was a bust that led to Tim Tebow's TD pass to Demaryius Thomas.

A quick set up: Denver has their Posse personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) on the field vs. Minnesota’s base Nickel package (5 DBs). The Broncos align in a 2x2 “Orange” formation (spread look) with reduced splits from the WRs (on or inside of the numbers).

Let's check it out on the chalkboard:


The Route

- As you can see, even with the reduced splits, all four Broncos' WRs will work to create separation and test the top of the defense. A standard Cover 2 beater inside of the red zone and out in the field.

- We talk about matchups all of the time and this route scheme is no different. With Thomas (X) getting a free release vs. a rolled-up CB to the open side of the formation, the Broncos have created a 2-on-1 situation vs. the FS in the deep half. Test his discipline to stay square in his backpedal to play over the top of two vertical routes.

- Foucs on Eric Decker (W). Straight vertical release from the slot, stem to the post and work the FS in the deep half. Why is this a key for Thomas running the 9 (fade) route outside of the numbers? Decker's route puts two vertical schemes on the FS in the deep half and will test the discipline of the defense. A false step from the FS or a poor read and it will lead to points.

The Coverage

- Both CBs will play what is called a “soft squat” in the red zone. Take the stress off the safety, protect on the 7 route (corner) and carry the vertical from a trail position—reacting back to anything in the flat. However, to the open side, Thomas gets the free release (no re-route) and the CB doesn’t sink with enough depth underneath the 9 route.

- Have to trust your eyes as a FS (highlighted in orange). Even with a post route breaking in front of your face, stay square and drive downhill only when the QB declares to throw the football. You can’t jump routes as a deep half safety in Cover 2.  Let the Mike Backer handle Decker on the post and overlap to the middle of the field if Tebow wants to throw the ball inside of the numbers.

- What do we have now? A busted coverage due to the route concept. With the FS driving to the middle of the field, the open side deep half (highlighted in white) is wide open. Too easy for Tebow and Thomas. Can't let that happen in the NFL. 

Want to see it all play out? Check out the replay...

Follow me on Twitter: @MattBowen41


Add a Comment
Tebow Fan
Dec 06, 2011
11:10 AM

Tim Tebow is a man.

Dec 06, 2011
11:21 AM

Great stuff Matt. Whilst I understand that the FS (Jamarca Sanford) can't bite on the post route from Eric Decker, how much credit should we give to Mike McCoy for calling a play that makes the young Vikings Secondary make these decisions? As a Bronco fan, I loved seeing us go back to this route concept throughout the game, resulting in more breakdowns such as this for big plays in the passing game.

Dec 06, 2011
11:56 AM

how did time tebow beat the vikings cover-2?? i can answer that with one sentence w/o even reading the article: the vikings have a pee-wee league (at best) secondary. its really not that tough to figure out.

Dec 06, 2011
12:03 PM

One thing I saw, is the middle linebacker was a good 5 yards behind Decker on his route (they fall off the screen as it is happening, LB still backpedaling, Decker streaking on a post to the middle of the end zone), the safety had to make a choice of which guy breaking open he was going to cover. He wouldn't have been as open as Thomas, but should have been open enough to make the catch easily still. Tebow made the read on which WR to get the ball to based on which guy the safety was covering. The safety it seems had to make a choice or he would have been in no mans land stuck playing over the top on Decker and Thomas who were 80 feet apart.

The fun of the Tampa 2, asking your Mike to cover deep middle and stick with a slot receiver 30 yards down the field. If the safety doesn't think that guy will be in coverage where he needs to be, it really slows him from getting to that sideline.

I have always been a big EJ Henderson fan, but do you think he is quick enough (Urlacher, Hardy Nickerson, Shelton Quarles, etc) to play that deep middle coverage? With all his leg injuries, and not having great speed to start with should he be a tampa 2 Mike with those kinds of zone responsibilities?

Dec 06, 2011
12:59 PM

Matt Thanks for the article. Is it a coaching issue with the Viks secondary. I hate when I see db's letting receivers get a free release. If the nickel get a jam on the open side slot, there would be levels and allow the mike more time to gain depth and make it easier for the safety to stay over the top. 2 verticals to the open side and the CB squats to cover air. Leslie needs to coach those boys up!

Dec 06, 2011
03:16 PM

No reason for the corner to sit, no Bronco challenged his flat he should have stayed on the vertical. Your HC teaches defense, and you left him out to dry. Looks like the offseason started early for that player.

Dec 06, 2011
05:01 PM

Great stuff once again Matt. You need your own tv show. Thanks.

When are you guys going to get someone to break down defensive game plans though?

Salty Dog
Dec 07, 2011
09:24 AM

I think the big problem is Tebow as a run threat. The CBs and OLBs have to stay shallow to contain Tebow in case he takes off. If it's Rex Grossman, they can drop a lot deeper and play the man when he gets into their zone. Perfect illustration of how a mobile QB changes things. Have to play a lot of zone coverages; the offense knows this and can draw up plays to attack the zone without the OC and QB having to worry about the D switching to a man to man look.

I love this but it would be super awesome if we could somehow get the type of footage teams get - i.e. like the ones on NFL Matchup. Coaching videos that show the whole field.

Dec 08, 2011
03:55 AM

"I think the big problem is Tebow as a run threat."

Good point salty dog - was trying to diagnose this when it happened live - as thomas broke obviously into a deep open pocket, and got the feeling that the vikes had "nervous feet" that were wanting to attack the QB as despite their better knowledge of the play - their instincts with this guy in the game is he can attack a seam, or head up the rail...he really does add a lot of pressure onto a "normal" NFL defensive scheme for damn sure...thx bowen as well, great diagrams on the X's and O's board as well to let us all see the play formation from a designed perspective without the intuitive thought process going thru our head live as it's going on

Dec 09, 2011
01:52 PM

Salty Dog,
That's exactly the problem every team facing Tebow. To cover Tebow, team has to have LBs like Urlacher or Ray Lewis. And that makes the next game very interesting of how Denver offense will change.

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