The last game I watched before starting to write my scouting report of the Vikings’ offense was the Vikings’ week four Thursday Night tilt with LA. They attacked Minnesota’s defense with such a perfect game plan that Jared Goff had one of the best days of any signal caller ever.
So I designed a version of said plan, tailored to the Bears’ personnel and scheme and to exploit those of the Vikings. I’ll begin, however, with the one part that the Bears can’t replicate.
1. Slowing down Danielle Hunter should be priority number one. The Rams did this by leaving him one-on-one against tackle Andrew Whitworth, one of the best tackles in football. The Vikings made the mistake of leaving him on Whitworth’s side, where he couldn’t dominate.
They’re not making it again, which means he’ll be in a battle with Bobby Massie. And Massie will need help. The Bears have to have Hunter double teamed or at the very least chipped on every single play. This likely means leaving Charles Leno one-on-one against Griffin throughout the night, which is not an easy assignment but one that he is good enough to assume, given the help that Massie will require.
2. Everything the Rams did was based on establishing the run, but they didn’t really establish the run that much during that game, at least less than they normally do (Todd Gurley received 17 carries in that game; his average is 19.8, and the Rams led for most of this one so you’d expect him to get more than usual). Instead, they relied on a pre-established run game. They had shown an absurd amount of outside zone out of the single back on tape in their previous matchups. It’s the bread and butter of their offense.
However, defending the run is likewise for Minnesota’s D. So the Rams went and ran bootleg slides (bootleg refers to the action of the quarterback, slide refers to the action of the receiver) out of that all game long, usually having Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, or tight end Gerald Everett line up as a wing and sneak across the formation to a vast open field.
The Vikings’ linebackers keyed on the outside zone so much so that when Jared Goff pulled it and looked to throw, they had zero chance. I don’t think any call of this sort got fewer than nine yards.
The Bears’ “bread and butter” (that, of course, isn’t anywhere near as successful but they run it most out of any play) is inside zone out of the shotgun with Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen. They have used this to run boot/slides like this before – this one to Trey Burton in week two comes to mind.
Because the Vikings will be so prepared for the runs, the Bears will be able to run these boots all over them with Burton, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel. The Bears don’t even have to put in a new set, as all three have lined up as a wing or in the backfield as Burton did in the clip plenty of times this year.
3. That aforementioned run play, inside zone out of the shotgun, is not going to work against this Vikings team. This means, as I have been pounding the table for all season, the Bears have to find different ways to run the football because running the football slows down the pass rush – a crucial key to a Bears victory. And those methods of running the football are not limited to plays whose results fall into the statistical category of rushing yards.
Jets sweeps and fakes that the Bears run out of them should be integral to this, and they were with LA, whose offense requires one of those on almost every play. Gabriel had success here in that Seattle game, but the Bears haven’t done much of it with him since. Miller had a few big ones out of an orbit motion (which is similar to a jet motion, only the motion man takes a rounded path and not a flat one), in the Bills and Jets games.
Once you start to work those concepts and have success, the possibilities become endless. I’ll rattle off some of them now:
-Jet motion one way, come back with a screen to the other. This keeps Hunter and company honest while taking advantage of the linebackers. Obviously, Cohen is great for this, but I’d break this out with Howard and on third down with Benny Cunningham to add a personnel-based surprise element.’
-That same jet motion one way and then going back the other but with a pitch to Cohen. Madden junkies surely know the play in which the quarterback fakes a give to the fullback and tosses it to the running back, right? This is a version of it that should actually work.
-Use Trubisky’s running ability and break out an inverted veer concept, which is a variation of their traditional read-option, mostly run at the college and high school levels. You would see a jet motion and a read of the defensive end – once again, giving Hunter things to think about that aren’t getting after the quarterback – then either a handoff to the jet man or Trubisky keeping it and going inside.
-Building off of the veer, a third element to the read: a shovel pass to Burton or even the somewhat likely to be active Adam Shaheen for a personnel-based surprise.
-Get Howard going creatively with an orbit motion behind the formation, then a fake toss to Miller and a give to Howard. In this scenario, Howard would be lined up almost as a fullback with no halfback behind him, which is what they ran the orbit toss out of on the first play against Buffalo. Put something on tape, and then fake it and do something else.
–TIGHT. END. SCREEN. As I have discussed before on this site, this play (out of orbit motion) could be a home run if they execute it correctly. No better time to try it out than on Sunday night.
4. Finally, there is one final way the Bears can take advantage of Kendricks and Barr in coverage, and it’s to scheme the Vikings’ defense into leaving one of them one-on-one with one of the Bears’ speedy skill position players.
Your instinct is telling you that this play is perfect for Cohen, and that instinct is absolutely correct. But it would also be perfect for Allen Robinson, whose name is popping up in this article for the first time because I believe that he’ll be blanketed by Rhodes for most of the game. Not here, though.
Minnesota is in a cover two here (the goal line version that looks like cover four), but immediately there’s a problem. Woods, in the slot to the right of Goff, already has inside position on the non-Smith safety.
Goff (Trubisky) is reading Smith, who can either maintain his responsibility or help on Woods (Robinson), who has inside position on the other safety. He immediately chooses the latter, leaving Gurley (Cohen) one-on-one against Barr.
That is as close to an automatic touchdown as you can possibly get, especially because if Smith stayed to help on Gurley, it’s a pretty solid bet that Woods would be dancing in the end zone. The Bears better have something very similar planned for Cohen and Robinson because if either of them gets anything resembling a one-on-one matchup with Kendricks or Barr, game over.
Bottom line: this game will be a good one. Neither team has a clear upper hand. The Bears are probably more talented, but the difference in experience at quarterback matters. Especially in these types of games. And this is coming from a full believer in Mr. Biscuit.
That being said, the Bears’ offense can thrive if they maintain four principles: Contain Hunter. Bootleg slides. Get creative in “running” the ball. And isolate their LBs on your speed.
That’s how you beat this team. And that’s how the Bears can go to bed on Sunday night with a stranglehold on the NFC North.
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