Fantasy owners across the nation mourned Sunday, along with every Lions fan, because Calvin Johnson failed to score a touchdown or reach 100 yards receiving.
The Bears were able to contain “Megatron” in a 37-13 win over the Lions, limiting him to seven catches for 81 yards on 19 targets. That’s a success rate of less than 37 percent on passes from Matt Stafford to his 6-foot-5 target.
The question of the week — from Marcus Baskin on NFL Network’s Facebook page — is how did the Bears do it?
Was it a particular player or a scheme that allowed the Bears to hold Megatron in check?
From what we saw on tape, it was a combination of the play of Bears CB Charles Tillman and the defensive scheme. Tillman, nicknamed “Peanut,” shadowed the Lions’ towering wide receiver but varied his pre-snap looks. He gave cushion one snap, played press the next or lined up tight and then immediately dropped.
At the same time, the Bears were conscious to roll extra help toward Johnson. They lined up with two high safeties before the snap on 19 pass plays, but rolled to a single-high Cover-3 on 18 of those snaps. That means the safety to Johnson’s side moved underneath to take away short and intermediate crossing routes while the safety opposite of Johnson worked to the center of the field.
Even on the five occasions where the Bears ran with one deep safety, Tillman rode Johnson deep knowing safety help would be over the top. Regardless of their coverage, Chicago was conscious to “high-low” Johnson, as have many teams around the league. Defenses have gone so far as to drop a down lineman into the middle of the field to guard against his crossing routes. Chicago did that, too, but probably picked up their overall strategy of rolling coverage from watching tape of the Lions’ losses to the Falcons and 49ers.
The end result was that Johnson was double and even triple-teamed on every play.
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