Think of these as
the Five Commandments of Tampa Two.
1. The front four
must be able to rush the quarterback, because that allows the linebackers
freedom. "If you get four men who can rush the passer, you can play Cover
Two, Tampa Two, all day," says Jack Ham, Pittsburgh's Hall of Fame outside
linebacker. "But you can't play it without a pass rush. It's a zone
defense, and there are lots of holes if the quarterback can sit back and
wait." The Steelers applied the rush with Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood,
the Buccaneers with Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice; the Bears are doing it with
Tommie Harris, Alex Brown and a deep posse of solid defensive linemen. (Here
Carroll adds, "Any defense works a lot better when you pressure the
2. The middle
linebacker must be able and willing to drop deep into coverage, filling the
crossing zone between the safeties and leaving the glamour plays to the outside
linebackers or the nickelback. "My primary purpose in that defense,"
says Urlacher, "is to run back to the huddle and congratulate somebody for
making a play while I was running down the field with the tight end."
Urlacher has redefined the role played by Lambert, Del Rio and Tampa Bay's
Shelton Quarles. At 6'4" and 258 pounds but with the speed of a running
back (he was a college safety at New Mexico), Urlacher sits on the line of
scrimmage longer than most Tampa Two middle linebackers, allowing him to read
running plays before bailing out. Yet he is still able to drop 30 yards into
coverage and disrupt pass plays. "He's a freak," says Chicago
quarterback Rex Grossman. "Trust me, I play against him every day, and I
test him. You can't throw over him in the middle."
3. The outside
linebackers must be smart and athletic enough to cover receivers in the middle
zone or rally to runs at the line of scrimmage. "You're not looking for
your old-fashioned linebacker who makes tackles in a phone booth," says
Dungy. "You're looking for an open-field tackler and athlete." They
also have to jam tight ends and slot receivers to keep them from releasing into
the middle zone vacated by the dropping middle linebacker.
cornerbacks must be physical enough to jam wideouts at the line and also tackle
ballcarriers. In Tampa Two the corners are not expected to run down the field
with receivers but rather to disrupt them and pass them along to the safeties.
"One of the big reasons Tampa Two developed was to take pressure off the
corners in terms of coverage," says ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback
Yet disruption is
vital. "Our job is to get our hands on the receiver and knock him off his
route," says Bears cornerback Charles Tillman. "That little bit of a
bump can change the whole play." Mel Blount, the Steelers' 6'3",
205-pound Hall of Famer, was the prototype in the '70s. It's hard to imagine a
more perfect Tampa Two corner.
5. The safeties
must be smart and quick enough to break properly on balls in the air and
physical enough to create--and survive--violent collisions with wide receivers
or backs after running as much as 25 yards from a deep starting position.
"This defense is the reason you see so many penalties on safeties like [the
Broncos'] John Lynch," says Ham. "They're out there to create
IV HOW TO BEAT
Two ways. First,
with the running game. "You've got to be able to run the football against
it because there are two defenders [the safeties] that are 15 yards off the
line of scrimmage," says Al Saunders, the Redskins' associate head coach.
"If you can't run the ball, you're in for a long afternoon." If you can
run the ball, the defense is forced to bring a safety closer to the line of
scrimmage, sitting in a gap and helping tackle ballcarriers. From this position
the safety cannot play Tampa Two.