Cover 2 is hit-and-miss for Vikings

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 27, 2013 - 2:41 AM

The Vikings once again struggled in their base defense.

hide

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green caught a 29-yard touchdown pass against Vikings cornerback Chris Cook in the first quarter, one of four touchdown passes the Vikings allowed Sunday.

Photo: Mckenna Ewen, Mckenna Ewen

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

With a three-and-out possession and a takeaway that led to a 7-7 tie, the Vikings defense was outstanding through the first 13 minutes of Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

But then things began to unravel when defensive coordinator Alan Williams dialed up a coverage that’s been a Vikings staple through good, bad and ugly times since Mike Tomlin arrived as Brad Childress’ defensive coordinator in 2006.

With the Bengals facing their first third-and-long situation — third-and-10 from the Vikings 49-yard line — Williams called for the Cover 2 zone. From above, Cover 2 looks like an umbrella, with two deep safeties splitting the field, three underneath defenders dropping left, right and middle, and two corners dropping short left and right.

“The old cliché is it’s a rush-and-cover type of scheme,” linebacker Chad Greenway said.

“You get back to your spot and read the quarterback. Your rush has to win up front and you have to force the check-down throw in front of you. Then you have to run up and make that tackle before they get the first down.”

No team just sits in a Cover 2 scheme for an entire game. But teams that trust the philosophy as much as the Vikings do are said to be “Tampa 2” teams, a tip of the helmet to former Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy, who used the scheme as a way to contain Randy Moss’ freakish speed when the Bucs and Vikings were NFC Central Division rivals.

Current critics of the defense make two primary points: 1. It’s outdated because quarterbacks are better and more accurate than they were when Dungy made the defense popular more than a decade ago; and 2. Hall of Famers are likely to represent every level of those Tampa Bay defenses. Tackle Warren Sapp was selected this year, outside linebacker Derrick Brooks is expected to be a first-ballot selection in two months, and safety John Lynch could be announced as a finalist next month. Cornerback Ronde Barber is yet another possibility when he becomes eligible.

Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton enjoyed Williams’ first Cover 2 call and a few more after that Sunday. On the first one — the third-and-10 — Dalton found a gaping hole and delivered an 18-yard strike to Marvin Jones. Two plays later, the Bengals took a 14-7 lead on a 29-yard pass to A.J. Green.

Pressure gone

The third-down conversion — the first of six on the day that came on third-and-7 or longer — turned a punting situation into a lead the Bengals never relinquished. A review of the play revealed a number of issues that worked in Dalton’s favor.

First, the pass rush was nonexistent. In fact, the Vikings actually rushed only two defenders, dropping Kevin Williams 5 yards and left end Brian Robison to his left to cover running back Giovani Bernard.

Second, with no pass rush, Greenway didn’t drop far enough, which created a gap behind him. And, third, safety Harrison Smith, whose turf toe injury was bothering him, didn’t close fast enough.

“If you play any coverage right, you’re going to play well,” Smith said. “There’s always going to be gaps in every coverage. So as a player, you just got to make plays.”

Without a strong four-man pass rush, the Cover 2 scheme is doomed. On Sunday, it was as doomed as doomed can be, especially with a secondary overwhelmed by injuries.

“We haven’t been as consistent rushing the passer as we have been in the past,” Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. “And that definitely affects what we try to do systematically, without question. A lot of what we do revolves around being able to rush with four.”

Dalton preyed on Cover 2 zones during two other significant third-and-long situations in the first half. First, he threw a 17-yard pass to Green on third-and-11. Then, five plays later, he beat Cover 2 again with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham on third-and-10.

Rodgers ruled

At 4-10-1, chances are the Vikings will be making significant changes after the season. One of them could include a different defensive core philosophy for the first time since 2005.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Miami
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Carolina
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Rice
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Syracuse
Tulane 11:30 AM
Duke
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Colorado
Marshall 1:00 PM
Akron
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
SMU
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Navy
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Kansas
Utah 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
FIU
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Wyoming
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Minnesota
Texas State 3:00 PM
Illinois
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Washington
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Arkansas
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Memphis
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Toledo
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
Vanderbilt
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
Houston
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Arizona
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
Miami-Florida
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Winnipeg
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Calgary
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close