Reluctantly, Urlacher embraces Cover 2

Brian Urlacher isn't a fan of the Cover 2, but he acknowledges its efficiency. AP Photo/James D Smith

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brian Urlacher refuses to hide disdain for playing in Cover 2 when the Chicago Bears call that defense.

At the same time, he can’t deny the coverage’s efficacy.

“It’s not fun, but Cover 2 works,” Urlacher said Thursday. “I’ve said it every year it’s not my favorite thing but it works, man. We’re good at it. We’ve got a lot of takeaways playing it this year.”

Perhaps that’s why there’s no real consensus among teammates about playing in the coverage. Some love it, others like Urlacher loathe it. Despite the label often given to describe Chicago’s defense (it’s often called Cover 2), the team actually doesn’t operate out of Cover 2 all the time.

When the Bears do, though, deep familiarity with the coverage normally leads to precise execution.

“I love the Cover 2,” said NFC player of the month Tim Jennings, who currently leads the NFL with four interceptions. “I love the fact we can mix it up a little bit. It’s just the fact that Cover 2 makes it easier on the back end. Of course, Brian, he doesn’t want to run through the middle all the time all day. But what guy would? I think that just gives an opportunity for the D-line to go after them and get one-on-one blocks when we can bring an extra guy. Then, as a secondary (we) just read the quarterback and see that there’s pressure and we can just go.”

Urlacher admits his aversion to Cover 2 comes from a selfish place. Because of his coverage responsibilities in the middle of the field, Urlacher doesn’t always see the action he relishes as the club’s middle linebacker.

Asked what in particular he dislikes about playing Cover 2, Urlacher laughed, saying, “I’m not involved. I’m being selfish, (but) unless they attack the middle of the field, I’m not really involved in the play. I don’t get to blitz or anything like that. So it’s just kind of run through the middle (of the field) and hope something happens.”

Once big plays do take place, Urlacher knows he likely won’t be a part of them. That’s fine though, he said.

“I’m really good at congratulating people in Cover 2,” Urlacher joked. “I’m the No. 1 high fiver when someone makes a play. I’m leading the team in that.”

The truth is that because Cover 2 is a two-deep zone in which the defenders essentially keep everything in front of them, their backs aren’t turned to the quarterback in coverage, and that opens the door for the Bears to gobble up turnovers. Chicago leads the NFL with 14 takeaways (11 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries), and since 2004, when Smith implemented his system -- which employs plenty of Cover 2 -- the team has racked up an NFL high 280 takeaways, with 28 going for touchdowns.

The Bears own a 20-5 record when they score on defense (17-2 since 2005), and despite what critics say, surely Cover 2 has played a role in those takeaways.

“I like mixing it up,” said safety Chris Conte. “I like playing a little bit of everything. I’ll play whatever (coverage we cal). But as long as we mix it up, that’s when we’re playing our best.”