The Bears defense will have to be disciplined with their run-pass keys against quarterback Robert Griffin III to limit the multiple play-action concepts in the Redskins game plan off the read-option backfield action.
As shown here, the Redskins have their Regular personnel on the field (two wide receivers, one tight end, two running backs) in a slot formation with a two-back Pistol alignment. The Bears counter with their base 4-3 front playing Cover-3 (three-deep, four-under) in the secondary. With free safety Chris Conte rolled down to the open (weak) side of the formation, Griffin will look to target the slant-flat combination off play action.
Setting up play action
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The Redskins will run the read-option out of the Pistol alignment, diamond formation (three backs in the backfield) and the shotgun with an offset back. Coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense will give the Bears multiple pre-snap looks and work the option game to set up play-action opportunities for Griffin to target the middle of the field. No one in the NFL hides the ball better through the mesh point (running back-quarterback exchange) than Griffin, so the ability to play with eye discipline is key for the Bears defense.
Selling play fake
The Redskins are showing the read-option action out of the two-back Pistol with the fullback (F) on the arc block (scrape to open side of the formation) and Griffin riding running back Alfred Morris (R) through the mesh point on the inside zone fake. Griffin wants to force the underneath defenders to the line of scrimmage to open up second-level throwing lanes. And that will happen if the Bears linebackers stick their eyes in the backfield instead of reading the helmet level (high hat means pass, low hat means run) of the offensive lineman.
This route has multiple reads built in for Griffin off the play action. To the open (weak) side of the formation, Pierre Garcon (X) runs the slant/skinny post with slot receiver Santana Moss (Z) on the bubble action to the flat (looks like a bubble screen). It's a high-to-low read for Griffin based off the depth of Conte (FS) in his curl-to-flat drop. To the closed (strong) side of the formation, rookie tight end Jordan Reed releases down the field on the seam route and can bend this back to the post to create some separation versus cornerback Tim Jennings (LC).
Conte's role in Cover-3
Griffin will look to Conte as his initial read to the open side of the formation on the slant-flat combination. As a curl-to-flat defender in Cover-3, Conte has to hold off (or close) the throwing window to Garcon on the slant. However, he can't let Moss out-leverage him to the flat. Griffin will read Conte's drop and either target the flat or throw the slant versus cornerback Charles Tillman (RC).
Don't give Griffin free one
After watching the Redskins-Cowboys tape from last week, I believe Griffin is playing faster at the position and displaying a quicker burst to escape pressure than he showed earlier in the season. However, his footwork and overall technique in the pocket still are an issue as he continues to progress from a torn ACL last year. The Bears defense has to force Griffin to stay in the pocket and make throws into tight windows within their zone schemes. If they take the bait of the play action and fail to read their basic keys, Griffin can light them up with quick, high-percentage throws in the middle of the field that lead to explosive gains.
Special contributor Matt Bowen spent seven seasons in the NFL as a strong safety. He covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.