MIAMI BEACH -- Brian Urlacher-Dallas Clark. The game within a game. This morning, Lovie Smith, the architect of the Bears' vaunted Cover Two defense -- two deep safeties splitting the field, rangy middle linebacker -- implied that Urlacher's athleticism and speed could make a big difference against an offense concentrating more on hitting tight end Clark up the seam.
Mentor vs. pupil comes into play here too. Ten years ago, Tony Dungy, the new coach of the Bucs, hired Smith out of UCLA as a defensive assistant, and taught him how to tighten up the Cover Two, using a more athletic middle linebacker and less of a run-stopper.
"The weakness of [Cover Two] is the deep, middle area,'' said Smith. "I thought what Tony was doing with the mike linebacker made sense, getting him a little deeper. With Brian Urlacher running down the middle, it's hard to get a lot of passes there.''
In other words, watch for Urlacher to blanket Clark. And the kid from Iowa, who has exploded in the postseason with 17 catches for 281 yards, knows it's coming. Clark knows it's not only Urlacher. He knows the quick outside linebacker, Lance Briggs, could also be in coverage because he occasionally plays the middle with Urlacher shifting outside.
"It's going to be tough for us,'' Clark said. "They pose a big challenge for us. They're not going to give us the big plays. We just have to take little chunks here and little chunks there and try to move the ball. Brian is one of those guys who I have to put a good move on or have to run a really good route if I want to get open.''
My guess is Urlacher will shut down the middle most often, but not every play, and that Marvin Harrison emerges as the big player in this game when Clark's covered up.
Five Things I Think I Think
1. I think the photo of the Super Bowl -- and I don't care what happens at the game -- came at 8:57 this morning, when Lovie Smith and Tony Dungy, the first two black coaches in the 41-year history of the Super Bowl, spent 70 seconds posing for pictures behind the Vince Lombardi Trophy. "Talk about a picture that says 1,000 words,'' whispered Andrea Kremer of NBC. "That's a goosebump moment.''
2. I think it was big for Tony Dungy. "Very big. Not just because of the impact of African-American coaches and to the nation. But it's a very proud moment for me. An awesome moment [in part] because of who I was standing with and the type of person he is.''
3. I think you should go to the New York Times Web site and read the story today about former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson, and the chilling tale of post-concussion trauma that has plagued him since he retired. Doesn't make Bill Belichick look very good, with Johnson's charge that Belichick played him when he was still suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Asked about it today, Smith said: "It's a violent sport. There will be some sad stories that come out of football.'' This story is Exhibit A for that.
4. I think this was the best question of the week, from an international reporter at this morning's Lovie Smith news conference. "Do you allow your players to read the paper and watch TV?'' Smith didn't know quite what to say, other than no, he doesn't dictate what they read or watch, but he hopes they don't read or watch very much because the media is fairly negative.
5. I think I'm getting barraged with Hall of Fame questions, a day before the annual selection meeting. And I say the same thing to everyone: I don't know. There are no locks this year, folks. Can't say it enough.