Bears on Defense: Jennings Does it Again
At the snap, Fitzpatrick takes a five-step drop and looks to pass. LB Brian Urlacher blitzes up the middle, yet the rush is picked up well. Martin releases from the line and runs an eight-yard hitch. Fitzpatrick looks his way but sees the tight end is covered by Manning. At the same time, Johnson runs a five-yard hitch, then immediately takes off deep. Jennings bites on the hitch but is able to recover and trail just behind the receiver. Fitzpatrick lets fly a deep pass to Johnson. S Chris Harris comes over the top as the ball is in the air, yet it is underthrown and Jennings is able to tip the pass to himself and make the interception. He then returns the ball 39 yards, giving the Bears first down at the Buffalo 23-yard line.
The Bears used the ensuing field position to score the game-winning touchdown, making this the biggest defensive play of the game. This was a Cover-1 defense, with man coverage and one safety over the top. The corners both played up on the receivers, taking away the short pass. Jennings bit on the stop move, but he knew he had help deep. Because Fitzpatrick never looked left, Harris slid all the way across the field and would have been able to make a play on Johnson had the ball been on the mark. Additionally, Jennings was in a great trail position for the underthrown pass and made an outstanding interception. On top of that, he led the Bears in tackles and passes defensed in the game. It's safe to say former starting corner Zack Bowman is an afterthought at this point and that Jennings will be lined up across the field from Tillman for the foreseeable future.
Bears on Offense: Forte's Jaunt
At the snap, Cutler turns and hands the ball to Forte running off-tackle left. The entire offensive line uses zone-blocking technique. C Olin Kreutz locks up DT Torell Troup. LG Chris Williams and LT Frank Omiyale double-team DE Dwan Edwards initially, then Williams scrapes off and heads for LB Reggie Torbor. Manumaleuna leads into the hole and seals off Troup, as well as LB Akin Ayodele. As Forte hits the hole, he uses a quick stutter step. This brings Edwards inside of Williams. Forte then cuts outside, just behind Williams, who is able to seal Edwards to the inside. Forte then breaks toward the sideline and scampers 22 yards to the Buffalo 4-yard line, leading to Chicago's second touchdown.
It's amazing what can happen when the five guys up front aren't being shifted around constantly. In zone blocking, it is crucial each lineman works together, or else the play has no chance. This can only happen when all five guys can get enough reps together on the practice field. On this play, the front five and Manumaleuna are in synch, leaving Forte a nice hole through which to run. The left side of the line was especially cohesive, with Williams and Omiyale able to decipher which defenders to block as the play developed. Yet what made the play work was Forte's cut at the line of scrimmage. He drew Edwards in, waited for the defender to move inside and then broke to the outside. Forte has always had the field vision and shiftiness to be top-notch runner. If this line can develop any sort of chemistry together, he could reach that potential.
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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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