Breaking down Martz's route scheme vs. the Lions

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Let’s get back to the NFL and talk X’s and O’s as they apply to Mike Martz’s offense in Chicago. Today, the “Rail Route.” A scheme that Martz ran in St. Louis when he was my head coach—because it gave him an opportunity to get the ball to RB Marshall Faulk.

No different here, as we will see from the TV Tape on opening day vs. Detroit from last season. Create a matchup for QB Jay Cutler to exploit. Chicago is in their Posse (or 311) personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) vs. Detroit’s base Nickel Cover 1 (man-free). Check out the replay and then we will discuss some detailed coaching points.

Coaching Points:

1. Working vs. Cover 1: Ideal coverage scheme to run the “Rail Route.” Detroit has their DB aligned in a press-look and that puts LB Julian Peterson in a man-to-man situation vs. Forte out of the backfield. One key to look at: Forte’s pre-snap alignment. This is called a “chowed” position with the RB on the outside shade of the offensive tackle. This allows Forte to release without getting chipped by the rushing DE. From a defensive perspective, this should tell you that the back is a part of the route scheme. Have to see that in your pre-snap read, because the RB isn’t going to stay in on protection with that alignment.

Jay CutlerICONCutler has options to work with in this route scheme.

2. The “Rail” concept: With the ball on the near hash, the Bears want Forte to press the numbers and stem his route up the field. With WR Devin Hester using pre-snap motion to form a “bunch” alignment, the LB in coverage has to take an inside-out angle to the cut off point on Forte. Now, the Bears RB is working against a defender in a trail position. Very similar to a “wheel route” where the receiver can stack the coverage and turn the route into a vertical steam.

3. Five-man route: What else are we seeing here? A Hi-Lo Crossers concept that is often found in west coast offenses (think Andy Reid and the Eagles). Get the Y, Greg Olsen, on the 10-yard dig with Hester and the No.2 receiver to the open (weak) side running opposite underneath crossers. Again, vs. Cover 1, this is a tough route to stop when you have DBs playing outside leverage. To complete the route, the X receiver, Johnny Knox runs the 7 cut (corner route) to the open side. The point here? The “Rail” is the No.1 read for Cutler, but if Peterson can fight through the mess of the bunch alignment, the Bears QB will have other options.

4. The “Cut” call: Take a look at the closed (strong) side CB and the Mike backer on the replay. In Cover 1 schemes, the defense will make a “cut” call vs. bunch alignments. Once the CB sees the WR break on an inside route scheme, the Mike backer will “cut” the coverage and jump the underneath crosser. This allows the CB to drop off (almost as a “rover”) and break on any route coming back across the field. The problem here? The Lions have a FS deep in the middle of the field, and the CB should react over the top of Forte to provide help. However, we can all see the result when Cutler hits the game winning TD down the sideline.

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