Inside breaking pass routes can hurt Rams

Bears and McCown can exploit single safety look just as Panthers did with Newton

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The Bears and quarterback Josh McCown will have an opportunity Sunday in St. Louis to attack the Rams' pressure schemes with inside breaking routes that target man-coverage.

Using the All-22 coaches tape from the Rams matchup with the Panthers, let's break down how quarterback Cam Newton beat Cover-1 pressure on the Hi-Lo opposite concept.

The Panthers have their Posse (or 11) personnel on the field (three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back) in a slot open formation with Steve Smith as the No. 3 receiver to the open side. The Rams bring in their nickel sub package (five defensive backs) and send linebacker Alec Ogletree off the edge with middle linebacker James Laurinaitis adding to the blitz front.

With the Rams showing a single-high safety (Cover-1), Newton can target the Hi-Lo concept. Smith takes a hard inside stem and works to the opposite hash versus cornerback Janoris Jenkins with tight end Greg Olsen on the shallow drive route for a possible pick situation.

Jenkins works over the top of the underneath crossing route from Olsen, but the cornerback still is stuck in a trail position (versus an inside breaking route) because of his initial leverage.

This allows Smith to stem his route outside of the numbers to give Newton a clear target. The Panthers quarterback steps up in the pocket and delivers this ball on the intermediate crossing route with pressure in his face.

After the catch, Smith breaks back inside and forces Jenkins to overrun the play. And with the free safety taking a poor angle to the ball, the Panthers wide receiver wins the one-on-one matchup in the open field on his way to six points.

The Rams will play some Cover-2 because of the pass rush ability of defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. However, the Bears and McCown can find the right matchups inside the numbers when the Rams bring pressure out of their defensive sub packages.

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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