The Bears offense under Marc Trestman could have to lean on basic West Coast passing concepts Sunday at Soldier Field to minimize the talented Bengals defensive line. Think of three-step routes for Jay Cutler to get the ball out with a quick read underneath.
As shown here, the Bears have their Posse personnel (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) on the field in an empty alignment versus base nickel package (five defensive backs) playing Cover-2. The idea is to spread the field, run the tare/slant concept and move the sticks in third-and-medium situations.
Three-step passing game
The Bengals are loaded along the defensive line with Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. That's a tough matchup for the Bears rebuilt offensive line with two rookies on the right side — Kyle Long and Jordan Mills — making their first NFL starts. However, by running quick, three-step routes, Cutler can identify his targets quickly. Cut-block (at the knees) up front, force the defensive linemen to drop their hands and eliminate the ability of the Bengals to collapse the pocket. That's the goal here.
The tare is a classic West Coast concept run from a 3x1 or empty alignment that is paired with a backside slant. To the closed side of the formation, Brandon Marshall (Z) runs the 9 (fade) route to clear out the cornerback with tight end Martellus Bennett (Y) and slot receiver Earl Bennett (H) working the inside combination (quick out/curl-flat). To the open (weak) side of the formation, Alshon Jeffery (X) will get down the field on the 9 route with running back Matt Forte (R) running the slant from a slot alignment.
Marshall clearing space
For the Bears to utilize the tare concept, Marshall must create space on the closed side of the formation. In Cover-2, cornerbacks are taught to force an inside release and sink versus the No. 1 receiver. However, by winning at the snap and using an outside release, Marshall can widen the cornerback in his drop. That will allow Cutler to target Bennett on the quick burst to the flat if nickel back Leon Hall (N) matches to the tight end.
Trestman gave us a small sample of Forte's role in the Bears' new playbook throughout exhibitions by aligning the running back in multiple positions. That allows the Bears to remove Forte from the core formation and create inside matchups versus both zone and man defenses. Here, Forte will run the backside slant and target the hole between the Will (W) and Mike (M) linebackers. This is another quick read for Cutler on a high-percentage middle of the field throw that could produce an explosive gain once Forte gets past the second level.
Production in quick game
I expect Cutler and the Bears to take some shots down the field, but that doesn't discount the importance of producing in the quick game on a consistent basis. With the leverage Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett can create working back to the middle of the field — plus the ability of Forte to win a matchup versus a safety or linebacker — the Bears can build a game plan around the three-step route tree. And the tare/slant concept is just one way they can move the ball while keeping the heat off Cutler in the pocket.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.