Don’t buy too much into the hype of the Chicago Bears using the Tampa-2 defense, made famous by the Buccaneers of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, according to Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
“Well I think that’s sort of a misnomer there with the Bears,” Mornhinweg said. “They do play that very well, that’s a big part of their scheme and they’re very disciplined within it. However, they play an awful lot of some other coverages as well. It might be a little of Tampa, way back when, ’cause they’ve got the players.”
The Tampa-2 is a Cover-2 defense in which the middle linebacker drops back deep into zone coverage, mimicking a Cover-3. The defense forces the offense to throw the ball underneath, then uses speedy linebackers to close and make a play. Even if the Bears mix up their coverage schemes, their defensive philosophy is the same.
“They’ve got such great players that if they’re disciplined, which they are, in their two-deep scheme, what they do is they try to force you to throw it underneath and it’s reasonable to say, ‘OK, you throw it underneath, boom, you run for the first down,’ let’s say on a third-and-eight or ten,” Mornhinweg said. “But they’ve got such great players, man, and they are fast and they run to the football and they tackle you before you get to the first down. I mean you see it on film time and time again so they are very good that way.”
If the Bears are successful in keeping passing plays in front of them, it could severely limit the Eagles offensive attack. Philadelphia is tied for second in the league with 10 passing plays of 40 or more yards. Chicago has given up the second fewest, with just two. Chicago also leads the league with only 14.6 points allowed and sits third with 290.4 yards given up per game. They’re at or near the top in every important defensive statistic except sacks, where the Bears are just 21st.
“They do pressure the quarterback big time, sacks are a little cyclic too,” Mornhinweg said. “Some quarterbacks you play and they get the ball out and throw the ball away, [it is] almost as effective. They’re number one in giving up points and that’s the key.”
Nevertheless, Bears head coach Lovie Smith says his team’s goal will be to keep Vick in the pocket and force him to make plays with his arm, not his legs.
“We’re saying that each week about being disciplined in your lanes,” Smith said. “That will definitely be the case. Of course he’s a great thrower, but we still feel like for us to have the most success we need to keep him pinned in.”
That’s one area where the Bears defensive strategy naturally fits the Eagles offense. By playing mostly zone coverage, each defender’s eyes are towards the quarterback the vast majority of the time, making it much harder for Vick to exploit players with their back to the line of scrimmage by busting a big run.
“We probably play more zone coverage than we do man,” Smith said “One of the benefits of playing zone coverage is we have everybody looking at the quarterback, but whether we spy or not we’ll know where he is most of the time. It’s not really hard to know where he is, but again he’s a great player and our guys are looking forward – we’ll have a plan our guys will feel pretty comfortable with.”
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If the Eagles offense can move the ball against the Bears a week after beating another of the top five defenses of the league in the Giants, confidence should be soaring heading down the stretch.