Bears on Offense: Before-the-Half Touchdown
At the snap, Cutler drops back to pass, while the two down linemen and two outside linebackers all rush. Burnett does not blitz but instead swings to the left flat. In the middle of the field, Collins steps up to double-team Knox, but he slips and falls. This leaves the middle of the field wide open. Olsen releases from the line and cuts to the inside. Chillar is late to respond and immediately trailing the tight end. Cutler sees the open part of field and fires the ball to Olsen. Chillar makes a diving attempt to disrupt the pass, but the ball flies right past his fingers. Olsen makes a diving catch and slides into the end zone for the touchdown.
Of all the big plays by the special teams in this game – one of which was a 28-yard punt return to give the Bears good field position on this drive – this was the most important play of the game. The Bears' offense had a rough first half, and had this drive stalled, they would have gone into the half down 10-0. Instead, they scored on this momentum- shifting drive just before the half that got them right back in the game. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz put Knox in the right slot and split Forte out wide. This forced Green Bay to cover Knox with a linebacker. As a result, Collins had to focus all of his attention to supporting that mismatch. This five-receiver set also leaves Olsen one on one with a linebacker. Both he and Cutler recognized the room in the middle of the field, and the QB threw a strike just out of Chillar's reach. The touchdown was due to a smart formation that facilitated two mismatches, coupled with great execution.
Bears on Defense: Urlacher's Late-in-the-Game Strip
At the snap, Rodgers looks to pass and the Bears do not blitz. The protection is good. Jones runs a 5-yard hitch pattern and is wide open. Rodgers steps into the pocket and hits Jones along the right sideline. Jennings comes up to make the tackle, but the receiver sidesteps him and takes off upfield. From the middle of the field, Briggs and Urlacher pursue the ball carrier. They both reach Jones at about the 50-yard line. Briggs grabs the runner by the waist. Urlacher then reaches around and punches the ball out. The ball rolls back along the sideline until Jennings can recover it. The play results in a turnover.
For almost the entire game, Chicago played a Cover-2 zone that conceded the short pass. This bend-but-don't-break strategy forces the opposing offense into long drives – as evidenced by Green Bay possessions of 13 and 15 plays in the second half. This leaves a lot of opportunities for turnovers. It hadn't worked all game. But on this play, with just more than two minutes left in regulation, the two Pro Bowlers made it happen. Rodgers had been moving the ball consistently, and the Packers were driving toward a possible game-winning score. It was this team's biggest takeaway since 2006. Not many teams have a linebacker that can chase down a wide receiver along the sideline, let alone two. Urlacher and Briggs are playing some of the best football of their careers right now, and this play was just another example.
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Jeremy Stoltz is the editor-in-chief of The Business Ledger, the business newspaper for suburban Chicago. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.
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