Look for Saints to exploit matchup issues

Inside red zone, Brees will have many opportunities to test Bears' Cover-2 defense

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Saints coach Sean Payton will have a game plan designed to target and expose the Bears' Cover-2 defense inside the red zone. Based on personnel and alignment, look for Payton to use his matchup players to give quarterback Drew Brees scoring opportunities.

As shown here, the Saints have their Posse personnel on the field (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a 2-by-2 Doubles Orange Exchange alignment (No. 2 receivers on the ball) with running back Darren Sproles offset to the closed side of the formation. The Bears counter with their base nickel sub package (five defensive backs) playing Cover-2 in the secondary versus the Saints "rail" route. The idea is to run off the top of the defense and target Sproles outside the numbers.

Saints pre-snap alignment

With both Marques Colston (X) and Jimmy Graham (Y) aligned inside of the numbers, the Saints shift Sproles (R) to a chowed split (outside leg of the left tackle). That allows the running back to get into the route scheme quickly and avoid a possible chip from defensive end Julius Peppers (RE). Plus, with the tight splits of Colston and Graham, this can create a pick situation if the Bears show some man coverage. There's a lot of traffic to work through for a linebacker with two inside vertical releases.

Breaking down rail route

To the closed side of the formation, the Saints are running a double post concept with Graham working to the hash marks and Colston stemming his route inside of the deep half safety. Sproles bursts to the flat and then works vertically outside of the numbers on the rail (similar to the wheel route). To the open side, the Saints are running the smash-7 (corner) concept with Nick Toon (Z) on the 7 cut and Kenny Stills (H) on the inside smash.

Tillman's technique

In Red-2 (red zone Cover-2), Tillman (RC) will sink at the snap and gain depth in his drop. His job is to cushion safety Major Wright (SS) and protect against a possible 7 route from Colston or Graham. However, with Sproles working outside of the numbers, Tillman has to maintain some width in his drop and read through to the quarterback. If the veteran defensive back squeezes hard to the inside on the post, Brees will have a throwing window to target Sproles on the rail route.

Can't forget Colston and Graham

This scheme is designed to target Sproles on the rail route, but Brees can look inside to the double post concept. In the Bears sub package, Mike linebacker James Anderson (M) has to match/carry Graham on the inside post with Wright driving to Colston on the throw. Underneath, linebacker Lance Briggs (S) can close the throwing lane to Colston by gaining depth in his seam-hook drop.

Expect more Cover-2 beaters

This is just one concept the Saints could run in the red zone to target the Bears two-deep shell. Payton will mix his personnel and alignments to create matchup issues within the zone scheme. Look for Graham and Colston to align in the slot (inside seam) with Sproles removed from the core of the formation to run the option route underneath.

Twitter @MattBowen41

Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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