Despite the dull performances on Monday Night Football by the Jaguars and Ravens, Week 7 of the NFL season was a thriller filled with big plays, and for the Chicago Bears, none of them were bigger than D.J. Moore’s interception in the final seconds of the Buccaneers-Bears game.
Moore is an interesting player because he has very good ball skills and ball awareness. These two traits were commonly seen on Saturdays when he was Vanderbilt’s starting cornerback. However, his size and speed limitations dropped his stock in the 2009 NFL pre-draft process. He checked in just over 5’8″ and ran a 4.56 40-yard dash. These two weaknesses really took a toll on Moore’s stock, dropping him to the fourth round despite a very impressive collegiate career.
Despite all of this, he’s had success for the Bears at times and has found the ball. Last season, Moore had four interceptions, despite zero starts in 16 games. Through seven weeks of this season, he’s had one start and three interceptions. This week was no different, as he made the most of his opportunities by making the biggest play of the game and intercepting Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman in a crucial situation.
On the play, the Buccaneers came out with 11 personnel, which is one running back and one tight end. By going to this personnel grouping, it means that there are three Buccaneers wide receivers. The Bears countered this by going to their 40 Nickel package, which is four down linemen, two linebackers and five defensive backs. Their four defensive linemen were in an Even front, which means the center on the offensive line is uncovered. Their two interior defensive tackles were aligned at three techniques while the two defensive ends were aligned in five techniques. Defensive end Julius Peppers — aligned to the left — is in a traditional five technique in a four-point stance, while the end to the right is in a loose five technique in a four-point stance. The Bears’ two linebackers are showing blitz by aligning in each of the A gaps while Moore is showing the same by potentially threatening from the outside.
What’s interesting about this is that the Bears showed a 2-high safety shell in the pre-snap phase. The Bears often show a 2-high safety shell in the pre-snap phase before going to their desired coverage post-snap. Sometimes they will roll, or rotate, their strong side safety (to the right) to cover the tight end in Man-Free coverage while the free safety (to the left) rolls over to the middle of the field. Other times, they will simply play two high safeties and play Tampa 2 coverage, which they did here.
At the snap of the ball, the Bears linebackers and Moore, the nickel back, dropped to their landmarks in the Tampa 2 coverage. Landmarks are designated areas of the field that the defenders drop to while reading the quarterback, which is crucial in the Tampa 2 coverage. Former head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin stressed this in practices when they were teaching it in Tampa Bay.
The three underneath defenders ran to their landmarks while getting in position to defend the pass. As you can see, the Bears have their middle linebacker Brian Urlacher dropping down the middle as a deep third defender while the outside linebacker and nickelback have Hook responsibilities. The two cornerbacks at the ends of the image are flat defenders, while the two deep safeties split the field into thirds with the middle linebacker dropping down the middle.
The Bucs attacked this by running two Spot routes — also called a Scat concept — by their receiver on the right and the tight end to the left and in the middle. The Spot route ran by the two pass-catchers is intended to draw up the three underneath defenders so quarterbacks can make the throw to the Post route on the right or Slant route on the left behind the underneath defenders. This throw would require Freeman to make a touch pass to get it over the seam dropper, which in this case is the middle linebacker. However, two things went wrong for the Bucs here.
The first problem the Buccaneers encountered was that the Spot routes didn’t draw the attention of the defenders. Instead of coming up on the Spot route, Moore dropped deeper. He did this because, as he was dropping, he read Freeman’s eyes, which were staring down his intended target.
The second problem they ran into was the pressure by the Bears’ front four. On the strong side, the Bears called an ET stunt, which is also known as an end-tackle stunt. The defensive tackle, who was aligned in a three technique, gets across the offensive tackle and into the C gap from his original alignment at the snap.
Meanwhile, the defensive end then takes an inside path through the B gap, which is the area between the guard and tackle, to get to the quarterback. On this play, the Buccaneers’ left guard got too far outside when the defensive tackle stunted, leaving an inside path open for Peppers. Because of this pressure, Freeman was unable to step forward, and consequently his throw lacked the velocity and touch required for the completion.
Freeman delivered a ball that went past the outstretched arm of Urlacher, but into the hands of Moore, who did a great job of not attacking aggressively downhill on the Spot route on the right, instead continuing to drop back and reading the eyes of the quarterback.
Despite its critics, the Tampa 2 coverage is still effective today as it continues to allow limited athletes to make plays on the ball.
The epitome of this is Moore, who continues to make plays when the ball is in the air despite his lack of size and top-end speed. Moore has good instincts and does a good job of being disciplined, which is very important in the Tampa 2 coverage. I look forward to watching him continue to grow as a defensive back.