Some notable statistics before we get into the breakdown.
Tampa Bay ran a cover 1 defense 27 times, which was 48.2% of their plays. They gave up 7.70 yards per play from those sets, but gave up 13.25 yards per passing play from those sets. Tampa Bay also allowed 17.50 yards per passing play from cover 2 man sets, and the 3 times they ran cover 2 zone, they gave up 115 yards, which was 38.33 yards per play.
This play starts off out of a pretty standard formation for the Bears, they have 3 receivers, a tight end and a halfback in the game. However Chicago motioned Trey Burton over to a fullback position.
Chicago ran a very similar play last week against Arizona, however it was a delayed handoff (basically what would’ve happened if Jordon Howard followed the blue line). It appears Tampa Bay studied this play, and was ready for another delayed handoff, and as you can see, the Buccaneers free safety Justin Evans came rushing in to stop a run.
(This is the aforementioned delayed handoff against Arizona)
However Chicago was one step ahead, this was an option play. Trubisky made a relatively easy read to realize that he should keep the ball and run with it, and it was clearly the correct decision, as he was given a huge hole with blockers who helped him pick up a big gain.
When I first saw this play, I just thought it was a great throw and catch to beat good coverage. But looking at it more closely, there was something else I noticed.
Trubisky threw it to the endzone, but he didn’t have to. It looks like Buccaneers linebacker Kwon Alexander was supposed to cover the flat on the top of the screen, but after seeing the receivers head towards the endzone, he made a decision to help cover them, which left Jordon Howard wide open. Tampa Bay cornerback Brent Grimes had also gotten beat pretty badly, leaving another Bear open at the bottom right corner of the screen. However despite this, Trubisky decided to throw it to the endzone, and Allen Robinson made a great catch for a touchdown.
Tampa Bay is set up here in what’s essentially a cover 2 zone. They also have a man off screen. This play call was a really odd choice by Tampa Bay, the only time it’s really effective is when the opposite team’s in a short yardage situation. However on a first and 10 it was really a head scratching call.
This is a pretty easy coverage to beat, and what really made this play work for Chicago was the route’s they ran. Tampa Bay’s taking away everything short, so Chicago sent 4 receivers deep. As you can see, I’ve circled 3 Buccaneers defenders. If they were playing man coverage or a modified zone (or really if a Tampa Bay defender just abandoned their route) Chicago would have nobody open.
Instead, they all stay in their zone. As you can see, there’s 4 Tampa Bay defenders in front of that light blue line, with only one eligible receiver for Chicago in front of it. That essentially leaves 4 Tampa Bay defenders on Jordon Howard. To Kwon Alexander’s credit, he realized what had happened and started running back, but at that point it was too late. Also has to be mentioned that Chicago’s offensive line did a great job of pass blocking on this play, which really helped the play develop.
With 4 Bears deep, and only 3 Buccaneers deep, somebody was bound to get wide open.
Tampa Bay’s in another zone coverage here, which makes sense, as Chicago’s Looking to pass the ball in a red zone situation.
As you see here, Allen Robinson Started off in Tampa Bay cornerback Robert McClain’s zone. However he moved into another zone. McClain abandoned his assignment, which led to 2 Buccaneers on Robinson.
At this point it became a foot race. And a halfback in a footrace with a linebacker is a matchup you’d take all day if you’re a quarterback, which led to a relatively easy touchdown.
This is another modified cover 2 zone, also getting used in an odd spot. You might notice that nobody’s covering the flat on the top half of the screen, but I’ll get to that in a second.
This play has a similar result at last time, Tampa Bay finds themselves quadruple covering a tight end. Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis III actually makes a pretty good read on this play, and despite being out of position due to the zone coverage he was in, he breaks downfield. Chicago also had a tight end in who’s blocking, so unlike last time, Tampa Bay should still be in decent position, with 3 men already downfield to cover 3 receivers, and Davis breaking downfield to apply some help.
However looking at this picture, You might be wondering what that Buccaneer who’s circled in black is doing. Why is he running towards seemingly towards nobody?
The reason is because for some odd reason, it was his job to cover the flat. Clearly Tampa Bay’s trying to trick Trubisky into thinking that he’ll have an open part of the field, but in actually it just leaves everyone out of position. And it looks even worst when you factor in the fact that nobody even ran a route to the flat on this play.
So with only 3 Buccaneers who could help make a play, it still looks like they could have a chance to make a play if all of Chicago’s receivers continue to run the routes they appear to be running. However I actually think the Bears were aware that Tampa Bay was going to be running the play that they did. The reason I believe that is best illustrated below.
These routes were basically designed for a cover 2 zone. In a man coverage there wouldn’t be a reason to have receivers cut this drastically this far down the field, however if there’s only 2 men in position it works out perfectly, as it essentially takes anyone who’s not deep out of the play (in this case Carlton Davis III)
Trey Burton was a little bit open.
This one’s not quite as fancy as the last one, but still interesting. Chicago has 3 receivers in a bunch formation, which can be used for screen passes. Chicago likes to used screens, and so Tampa Bay was expecting one.
Trubisky looks towards his halfback Cohen, which causes two Tampa Bay defender jumped forward to prevent a screen, but there wasn’t a screen that came. The Bears fooled the Buccaneers, leaving only one defender to cover two Bears, which led to a pretty easy touchdown for Chicago.
This one’s nothing too fancy from Chicago, they went out in a 5 wide set. As you can see on the bottom of the screen, they clearly had routes to attempt to get a favorable one on one coverage, but they’d have to get the ball out quickly because you’d expect Tampa Bay to move over and create a cover 2 man coverage. This coverage is the clear way to defend against a 5 wide set, as it basically guarantees at least 2 defenders to be in the area of a pass.
Instead, Both Tampa Bay defenders not playing man stay in the middle of the field (their Safety moved offscreen). This allows Chicago to throw to a favorable matchup, and they don’t have to try and get the pass in before a safety arrives.
So most of these other plays were successfully largely through good schemes by Chicago, but this one was something different. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say this might’ve been the dumbest play to happen in NFL history. You can’t really tell from here, but Chase Daniel is lined up as a halfback. That’s right, backup quarterback Chase Daniel. Maybe the least athletic professional athlete in the world, is lined up as a running back. I mean, just look at him, he still has him arms out like he’s ready to take a snap. This should tell Tampa Bay that Chicago isn’t going to be running the ball up the middle. This should be the least convincing play design ever, it’s the football equivalent of saying you have a supermodel girlfriend who lives in Canada. Tampa Bay should be fully aware that Chase Daniel will not be running up the middle, and they should be ready to stop plays on the outside. Instead, for some reason literally every Tampa Bay Defender is inside the box.
This is a pretty simple play really. Tampa Bay’s in a cover 1 set, and with Chicago having two tight ends in the game, Tampa Bay seems ready to stop the run.
However Trubisky drops back to pass, leaving a lot of guys on one on one coverage. Both Tampa Bay’s defensive backs do a pretty good job in coverage, but the Bears offensive line once again does a great job, Which gives Trubisky time to wait until his running back can get going, as he’ll have a favorable matchup with against a linebacker.
Okay so in this play, Allen Robinson is going to motion to his left.
As you can see, Tampa Bay’s defender follows him, which let’s him know that they’re in man coverage. That’s important because Chicago’s going to run a pick play, which wouldn’t work if they were playing zone.
So the pick works perfectly. Tampa Bay’s defenders probably should’ve shifted assignments (much like a pick and roll in basketball). They clearly weren’t ready for this play, which isn’t really a surprise, they weren’t ready for a lot of these plays. Watching these play calls was sort of like watching an adult playing chess against a 10 year old, I don’t want to take anything away from Trubisky, he played really well, but the MVP of this game clearly goes to Matt Nagy.