Up next for 'Megatron?' The Bears Cover 2

What is the game plan to limit Calvin Johnson's production in the red zone? Man-coverage has been a bust (around the league) vs. the Lions due to the one-step fade. And playing a three-deep shell (think Cover 3) isn't going to cut it vs the Lions.

Up next for Johnson: Cover 2. The core coverage he will see from Lovie Smith's squad on Monday night at Ford Field in Detroit. A scheme that relies on landmarks, run-pass keys and technique in the secondary.

Let's break it down vs. Johnson...

Calvin Johnson ICONMan-coverage has been a bust vs. Johnson in the red zone. Let's see how the Bears' Cover 2 shell works on Monday.

Re-route is a must: Force an inside release vs. Johnson. Align with an outside shade and funnel him back to the inside. That allows the safeties to stay on their landmarks (top of the numbers) and cut down on the amount of field they have to cover. Not easy vs. the size and strength of Johnson, but this is a must for both Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

Play for the 7 cut: After the re-route, both CBs have to sink hard (at a 45-degree) angle and protect the safety on the 7 (corner) route. What comes with the 7 cut? A flat route designed to pull that CB back down to the line of scrimmage. Let Matthew Stafford throw the flat—because that will lead to FG attempts.

Read the formation alignment: Key for the safeties. What is the pre-snap alignment telling you when you are playing the deep half? You will see different route concepts vs. a 3x1 formation compared with a 2x2 look. How about personnel? The Lions like to use their Ace (or 221) personnel (2 WR, 2 TE, 1 RB) , but when Titus Young comes on the field to give them Posse (or 311) personnel (3 WR, 1 TE, 1 RB) in the huddle, how does that impact Johnson? A lot of tape study needed this week for the Bears.

Routes you have to play for: There are three top concepts vs. Cover 2 in the red zone: Flat-7, 4 Verticals and “999.” When breaking down the “999” scheme, think 4 Verticals from a 3x1 set with No.3 to the closed (or strong) side working back across the ball to the opposite hash. It is the same route concept Carolina ran for a big play in Week 4 that led to a Steve Smith reception vs. Brandon Meriweather.

Read you keys: Play action vs. Cover 2 in the red zone. You know its coming. Plus, if the Lions want to align Johnson inside of the numbers, he is going to work the middle of the field vs. the safeties and MLB Brian Urlacher. Read “Hi-Hat” (pass key) vs. “Low-Hat” (run key) and play the technique of the defense. Cover 2 can open up and be exposed when you take a false step to the line of scrimmage vs. play action.

The Bears won’t sit in Cover 2 on every snap inside of the 20-yard line and they will show some single high-safety looks (Cover 1 and pressure). But given the matchups in man-coverage on the outside vs. Johnson, playing the 2-deep shell is the best chance they have to at least limit the production of the Lions’ WR.

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