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Bowen: Don't blame Brown, it was Hamilton

October 14, 2008

Editor's note: Former NFL veteran Matt Bowen is a Glenbard West grad who earned a degree in journalism from Iowa. He frequently analyzes Bears games for suntimes.com/sports.

The last offensive play by the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday's shocking 22-20 win over the Bears is getting a lot of play in the media this week, and by the fans as well, but don’t put all the blame on Bears safety Mike Brown.

He doesn’t deserve it.

With less than 10 seconds to go in the ball game, Falcons rookie quarterback Matt Ryan hit Michael Jenkins on the sideline with only one second remaining to set up the game-winning field goal. But the completion never should have happened.

As we know, the Bears are a Tampa 2 team, and this play was no different, except that there are different requirements when the call shifts to “Loose 2,” which the Bears called at the end of the game.

“Loose 2” is a staple in any Tampa 2 arsenal for third-and-long, end of the half, or end of the game. In reality, it is Tampa 2 with a few wrinkles that allow the safety to play over the top of any route, and the corner to sink abnormally deep, which didn’t happen on Sunday.

This is the same coverage I ran during my last year as a pro in Buffalo. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, a former Bears defensive backs coach under Lovie Smith, called the same coverage in similar situations.

In “Loose 2,” the corner (who was Marcus Hamilton for the Bears on Sunday) sinks at a 45-degree angle towards the sideline, providing a cushion for the safety, thus making the quarterback put air under any 7 — or flag — route. The safety (Mike Brown for the Bears) aligns at 18 yards in depth from the line of scrimmage and keeps everything in front of him. On any throw to the sidelines he drives downhill and makes a play on the football, but only if the corner has dropped deep enough to make the quarterback alter the height of his throw. Some coaches still believe it is the corner’s play to make.

Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. Give Atlanta credit for calling the right play at the right time, but it still shouldn’t have worked. Atlanta came out and aligned Jenkins to the weak — or open — side. Jenkins stemmed his route inside on the snap and ran vertical up the field before breaking off to the sideline on a 7 route. The key to the play was Hamilton. Instead of sinking to give Brown enough cushion on the play, he bit up on the flat route. In a situation like this, a corner in any Tampa 2 scheme has to know that when there is a flat route in front of you there is most certainly a Dig (15-yard square in) or a 7 Route behind you. Atlanta couldn’t run the dig route with the amount of time left on the clock, so the only thing they had in that play was the hope that Hamilton would chase a flat route that had no bearing on the outcome of the game.

And he did.

One thing that separates NFL players from college players is their preparation and understanding of the situation. Hamilton has to know, as a pro, that there is only one route that Atlanta can run in hopes of getting to the sideline with time left to spare. It might look like Brown was too deep on that play, but Hamilton left him out to dry at the most inopportune time. Given the depth Brown aligned at due to the requirements of playing “Loose 2,” he has no chance to make that play. If the corner doesn’t sink, this is an easy pass to throw, and Ryan threw a rope.

However, this game was different than the losses to Carolina and Tampa. The Bears gave those games away, but Sunday, they were outplayed. I can sit here and write all I want about the final route combination that put them away, but Matt Ryan didn’t look like a rookie going against one of the league’s top defenses. He played with confidence and he played without fear of Urlacher, Briggs, Harris, etc. Minus the two-minute drill orchestrated by Kyle Orton, the Atlanta Falcons were the better team on Sunday in a game I thought they had no chance to win. This loss won’t kill the Bears, but it will put them on notice that Atlanta was a couple of plays better.

Especially when it counted.


Kudos INDEED!!! ........ B)

Well, that's probably it for me guys. Enjoy the rest of your season. I hope there are no more nail-biters like that one! LOL!!!

Again.....Congrats on a GREAT GAME.

Time to go harass the Viqueens! ........ :lol:


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