X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Panthers

Jeremy Stoltz goes to the film room to break down one offensive snap and one defensive snap for the Chicago Bears from Sunday's 23-6 victory over the hapless Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

Bears on Offense: Forte's career-long jaunt
First quarter. 1st and 10 at the Chicago 32-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set, with QB Todd Collins under center and RB Matt Forte alone in the backfield. Two receivers are split right, and WR Earl Bennett is wide left. TE Brandon Manumaleuna is on the left edge. The Panthers counter with a nickel package. Four down linemen are supported by two linebackers. All three cornerbacks are lined up a few yards off the receivers. Before the snap, S Charles Godfrey creeps up into the box on the left side but then drops back just before the ball is hiked.

At the snap, Collins hands the ball off to Forte running off-tackle right. The offensive line employs a zone-blocking scheme, with each running on a track to the right side. The down linemen are picked up well, while RG Edwin Williams and LG Roberto Garza reach the second level to pick up the linebackers. DT Ed Johnson then drives C Olin Kreutz into the hole, forcing Forte to stop and cut back to his left. At the same time, Manumaleuna puts a block on DE Tyler Brayton. As Forte makes his cut, Manumaleuna drives the defender into the middle of the field. Godfrey steps up in run support but gets caught up behind Brayton. Bennett then gets in the way of CB Captain Munnerlyn, allowing the ball carrier enough room to slip by. There is no one else left to tackle him, and Forte sprints 68 yards for the touchdown.

The key to this play was the block of Manumaleuna. Brayton begins to slide inside when he sees the play going the opposite way, but once Forte makes the cut, Manumaleuna just blows the defender out of the play. Not only does this eliminate the defensive end, but Godfrey also gets caught up in the wash. Having watched enough bad tape of Manumaleuna, it is about time he stepped up and made a play. Additionally, Forte has some of the best field vision of any back to put on a Bears uniform. On this play, he quickly realizes Kreutz is not going to give him the block he needs, so he makes an outstanding cut and then relies on his speed to finish the run. It's a shame the offensive line has been so poor in its run blocking, because Forte is still an elite back who, with a little help up front, could make these plays regularly.

DE Julius Peppers
Geoff Burke/Getty

Bears on Defense: One-Man Wrecking Crew
First quarter. 3rd and 11 at the Carolina 32-yard line. The Panthers line up in a three-receiver set, with QB Jimmy Clausen in the shotgun and RB DeAngelo Williams to his left. TE Gary Barnidge is in the right H-back slot, with WR Brandon LaFell in the right slot and WR David Gettis out wide. Another receiver is split left. The Bears counter with a nickel package: four down linemen and two linebackers. DE Julius Peppers is on the right edge of the line. Before the snap, Barnidge motions inside and then back outside, a few yards right of the tackle.

At the snap, Barnidge and LaFell step up to block the cornerbacks. Gettis moves down the line behind them to catch the bubble screen. RT Geoff Schwartz attempts to cut the legs out from Peppers, who is rushing hard upfield. At the same time, Clausen turns and fires the ball in Gettis' direction. Peppers fights off the cut block, gets his hands up and tips the pass straight in the air. He then falls to his knees, finds the ball in mid-flight and makes a diving grab. The play goes for an interception.

This is possibly the most athletic play I have ever seen from a defensive lineman. In a bubble screen, the play-side tackle is supposed to dive at the defensive end's legs, hopefully forcing the defender to put his hands down. When done correctly, this leaves an open lane for the ball to be delivered to the receiver. Yet Peppers is so strong, the cut block barely even fazes him. He's then able to not only get his hands on the ball but also intercept it. This was just a freak athlete making an outstanding play. It has become plainly obvious that Peppers is worth every penny Bears brass paid him this past offseason.

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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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