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Breaking Down The Tape: Jay Cutler to Alshon Jeffery for the TD

The Chicago Bears had the perfect play call on against the Carolina Panthers when Jay Cutler threw to Alshon Jeffery for a 25 yard touchdown. Even the best play can go awry if the execution falters, but this was perfect execution by the Bears.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Remember during the Carolina game when we all thought the Bears were in control of the game?

Good times, good times...

After the Panthers picked up the loose ball on the Chicago punt and ran it back for a touchdown, Jay Cutler and the Bears offense made a statement by scoring three straight TDs. The third of which was this beautifully designed quick screen to Alshon Jeffery on a 3rd and 11 early in the second quarter.

That was probably the last real good thing the Bears did on the day.

The Bears put up 235 of their 327 yards in the first half and moving forward, they will have to figure out how to find some consistency on that side of the ball. They are far too talented to be muddling around the middle of the pack in total team offense.

But back to that play, here's the presnap read by Jay Cutler.

Bears vs Panthers 1

The highlighted Panther is their strong safety. He's probably creeping up to account for Chicago tight end Dante Rosario who is lined up next to Bears right tackle Jordan Mills, or to account for Bears running back Matt Forte. I want to point out that by having Rosario in that spot, rather than offensive linemen/blocking tight end Eben Britton, Carolina has to respect his pass catching ability.

Here's how Carolina ended up right before the Bears snapped the ball.

Bears vs Panthers 2

The Panthers are mugging both linebackers up to the A gaps, the strong safety is up tight and they have a single high safety. Jay Cutler sees 8 in the box and he's reading either a loose man coverage or a three deep zone. The two Panther corners are both lined up eight yards off the line of scrimmage, so theoretically they could be playing off man with the Bears needing 11 yards for the 1st down.

The Bears have trips to their left with Brandon Marshall at the X receiver, Alshon Jeffery at the Z and tight end Martellus Bennett is flexed off the line as the slot receiver. Carolina's nickelback (player 8 above) is head up on Marshall, but he's peeking in the backfield and is in good position to blitz. Cutler knows that if he blitzes (which he does) then there's a good chance that middle linebacker Luke Kuechly will drop out of the A gap to play the pass.

Cutler also knows that with the Carolina corner (10) playing eight yards off, the quick hitter to Jeffery will be there regardless of whether the nickel blitzes or not.

If the nickelback was to play Marshall, then by Marshall running straight at the free safety, it would pull him down-field. It's Bennett's job to run at the corner and shield him away from Jeffery.

The Bears fake a handoff right to Matt Forte, which momentarily freezes Kuechly (the highlighted player below). That split-second freeze is critical to the play, but more on that later. The playaction also pulls the strong safety up, and with tight end Rosario staying in to block, the strong safety attacks the Chicago backfield.

Bears vs Panthers 4

Notice how Kuechly turns to respect the playaction. He has the type of sideline to sideline speed that could thwart any short pass play. By him peeking at the playaction, it gives Chicago left guard Matt Slauson enough time to get to the 2nd level and get in Kuechly's way. Slauson doesn't get a solid block on the Panthers' Mike backer, but he gets just enough to slow him down and make him go under the block attempt. I've circled both Slauson and Kuechly in the pic below.

Bears vs Panthers 4

With Kuechly's path impeded, Carolina's nickelback blitzing and two good stalk blocks by the Bears, it gives Alshon Jeffery a clear path to the end zone.

This offense is too good to not be among the league's elite in 2014. They've had some injuries early this season, but as their overall health improves, so to should their league ranking.