The Bears can attack the Vikings Cover-2 scheme Sunday by aligning wide receiver Brandon Marshall out of position and targeting the middle of the field when the ball is in the strike zone (20- to 35-yard line).
The Lions have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) on the field in a Doubles slot alignment (3 x 1 formation) versus the Vikings nickel sub package (five defensive backs). With Johnson aligned out of position (slot wide receiver), the Lions are looking to create a matchup against Vikings Mike Backer Jasper Brinkley. In Cover-2, the Mike Backer has to read his run/pass keys, match speed down the middle of the field and carry the inside vertical. It's a tough job against a top-tier wide receiver.
Johnson takes a slight outside stem on the release, pushes the route vertically up the field and breaks back to the hash marks to target the deep hole in the zone coverage. With both safeties playing on their landmarks (top of the numbers in Cover-2), the Lions have the matchup they want: Johnson versus a linebacker 20 yards down the field.
In Cover-2, the safeties are coached to overlap on any throw to the middle of the field. However, this is the Mike Backer's play to make. With Johnson climbing the ladder to finish the play, the Lions picked up an explosive gain that put them in scoring position.
For the Bears, the opportunity will be there Sunday to feature Marshall in multiple alignments and target their top playmaker against the Vikings zone coverage.
Special contributor Matt Bowen, who played at Glenbard West and Iowa, spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. You also can find his work at nationalfootballpost.com.