In close NFL contests, one or two plays either way can be the difference between a win and a loss. One missed tackle, one whiffed block, one failed assignment could send a club to, or out of, the playoffs.
Such has been the case with the Chicago Bears during their recent 1-5 skid. In every loss but one, the Bears had ample opportunities to make plays and pull out the victory. In each case, they failed to step up to the plate.
Rewind to Sunday's contest, when Chicago was set up for an easy score late in the third quarter. With the Green Bay Packers up 21-7, WR Alshon Jeffery was interfered with on a deep pass down the middle. The foul occurred at the Green Bay 5-yard line. The ensuing first-down run gave the Bears the ball with a 2nd and goal from the 1-yard line.
In two straight attempts, RB Matt Forte was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. We use coach's film to break down in detail the 3rd down attempt, a play that cost Chicago four points and gave momentum back to the visiting team.
3rd and goal from the 1-yard line. This is going to be a run to the right A gap. There are two defenders lined up in the gaps to either side of C Roberto Garza. LG Edwin Williams and RG Chris Spencer will crash down on the inside linemen, while Garza will step behind Spencer and lead the hole, attacking play-side LB A.J. Hawk. Back-side LB Terrell Manning will go untouched on the play, sliding behind the line to make the tackle.
At the Snap
Spencer and Williams seal off the line to the left, while T Jonathan Scott and the tight ends seal the play to the right. This leaves an alley for the runner. Yet right in front of Forte is Garza, who gets stood up at the point of attack by Hawk. This forces Forte to step inside, which allows Manning time to fill the hole.
Here you see Manning making the tackle on Forte, who had no momentum due to having to side-step Garza at the line of scrimmage. Manning is able to drive the ballcarrier to the ground before he can reach the end zone.
The Bears ended up scoring a touchdown on the next play but it was nullified by a pass interference call on WR Alshon Jeffery. They then kicked a field goal, which kept it a two-score game in favor of Green Bay.
On this play, one has to wonder why the Bears were using a trap play when all they needed was one yard. Garza having to lumber behind his teammate and then into the hole, with no room to pick up speed, creates a wall into which Forte runs. Having to side step Garza gives Manning enough time to make the play. With so little room to work with, a straight man blocking scheme makes more sense here.
But Garza still should have made the play. He met Hawk at the perfect moment. If Garza drives the defender to either side, Forte walks in. Yet Hawk gets leverage and stands up the blocker, destroying the play. This is just one in a never-ending list of examples in which Chicago's offensive linemen failed to win the one-on-one battle.
Questionable play calling and poor execution – that pretty much sums up Chicago's offense under OC Mike Tice all season.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.