Stop me if you've heard this before.
In a prime time matchup against one of the best teams in the NFC, Chicago Bears offensive tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi decided not to show up. In pass protection, they tried to out-do each other in sacks allowed, with both acting like turnstiles on the edge.
San Francisco 49ers Aldon Smith had a career day, picking up 5.5 of the 6.0 total sacks Webb and Carimi gave up. Smith did it every which way, beating them with speed and quickness to start the game, before turning to an overpowering bull rush.
On separate occasions, both Carimi and Webb were driven right onto their butts by a Smith bull rush. It was truly an exceptional display of total one-sided dominance.
"If you sense a weakness, you've got to take advantage of it," Smith said after the game.
The weakness for the Bears was at offensive tackle, with Smith feasting on the sacks Carimi and Webb served up on platters.
"It's very disappointing," said Carimi. "I feel like I had better in me, so when I talk about myself, I know my play wasn't where I wanted it to be in order for us to win this game."
The lack of protection on the edges de-railed the offense the entire night, resulting in just 143 total net yards. Quarterback Jason Campbell threw for 107 gross yards but when you add in lost yardage from sacks, Chicago ended the game with just 58 net yards passing. In today's NFL, that type of offensive futility is a guaranteed recipe for failure, no matter how good the defense.
"They were just getting pressure on him. One guy here, one guy there," said Carimi. "They were getting pressure with Smith out there."
Smith came into the game with 9.5 sacks and left the game with a league-leading 15.0. He exposed Chicago's biggest weakness, again, raising serious questions about whether these two offensive tackles are good enough to allow this offense to play at a championship level.
With Webb, we've come to expect performances like these. He's still a young player in just his third season and he's shown slow improvement this season. Yet, as happens more often than not, elite pass rushers eat him up. Last night was Webb's 38th start in the NFL. At this point, it doesn't appear he's ever going to be an elite blind-side protector. He is what he is, a former seventh-round pick trying in vain to develop into a diamond in the rough.
Carimi is the much more disappointing story here. Last year's first-round selection, Carimi missed almost all of his rookie season with a dislocated knee suffered in Week 2. Yet when he was on the field, Carimi looked very good.
Yet this season, he has regressed dramatically in pass protection. Week in and week out, opposing defensive ends have owned Carimi, beating him routinely in every which way. It's far too early to call him a bust but at this point, he's a liability to Chicago's passing attack.
"We have to start improving and improving quickly," Campbell said. "We need to use this as some form of a wakeup call."
The most damning statistic for Webb and Carimi last night: all six of San Francisco's sacks came when they rushed just four defenders. The 49ers didn't need to scheme or blitz to beat the Bears' offensive line, they just manned up and beat their heads in.
"Tonight was probably the worst nightmare," said Campbell. "It's just one game that we lost, but we got to pick it back up next week, try to get back on the winning side of things."
The schedule doesn't get any easier going forward, with elite edge rushers on the docket in every single remaining contest. That will likely carry into the playoffs as well.
If Carimi and Webb do not improve, the lack of pass protection will hold back this team all season and could be end up being the main reason the Bears fail to win a championship.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.