Bears on Offense: Olsen in the End Zone
At the snap, Cutler drops back to pass. All five receivers release downfield. The two outside receivers run to the back corners of the end zone, while the two slot receivers run short patterns. On the right side, RT J'Marcus Webb slides back to pass block DE Ray Edwards, who drives upfield and uses a spin move to the inside. Webb gets turned around and has his back to Edwards, yet he stays with his block and is able to keep his body in between the defender and the QB. The rest of the defensive linemen are blocked well. At the same time, Olsen runs straight downfield seven yards and briefly stops in front of LB E.J. Henderson. Olsen then breaks back upfield and around the LB to his left. Cutler, who has plenty of time, fires the pass to Olsen. Both safeties break on the pass, as does CB Antoine Winfield, yet the throw is a bullet and reaches the tight end at the goal line. Olsen goes up and makes the catch before being hit by three Minnesota defenders. The play goes for a touchdown.
On the previous play, a penalty by C Olin Kreutz nullified an Olsen touchdown, so it was great to see the offense go right back to him, considering he's the best receiver on the team. Earlier in the year, reversing a touchdown would have almost assuredly taken the wind out of the offense's sails. The fact it didn't showed a sign of group maturity. Additionally, this line is improving weekly, especially in pass coverage. Cutler's great numbers were due in large part to the time he received in the pocket. On this play, the Vikings gave away zone coverage immediately, so Cutler knew there would be space between the linebackers and safeties. Olsen runs a perfect route right to that area, giving Cutler a window to throw through. It was a great pass, but also a very dangerous one, as Henderson plus both safeties and Winfield were circling the ball as it was caught. If the pass had been off at all, it almost surely would have been picked – similar to Cutler's boneheaded interception in the red zone late in the third quarter. As it was, though, this was a solidly executed play that gave the Bears their first lead of the game.
Bears on Defense: Adams, Toeaina Wreaking Havoc
At the snap, Favre turns and hands the ball to Peterson running a stretch play to the left. The front five linemen all shift down the line in a zone-blocking scheme. DT Matt Toeaina immediately breaks through two linemen and into the backfield. He gets a hand on Peterson, slowing up the runner, before being pushed out of the play. LT Bryant McKinnie attempts to block DE Julius Peppers, yet Peppers just holds his ground and slides down the field in front of the runner. At the same time, DT Anthony Adams easily sheds the block of RG Anthony Herrera and moves down the line. Peterson realizes he can't get to the outside due to Peppers and attempts to cut back inside. Yet Adams is right there and takes the runner down for a three-yard loss.
The defense held one of the best runners in the game to only 51 yards on the day due to the outstanding play of the front seven. While Toeaina and Adams only tallied four official tackles between them, they made plays like this all day against both the pass and run. We all know Peppers is going to be a beast, as will Urlacher and Briggs, but it was the play of these two inside defenders that really gave a spark to the defense. They got pressure on Favre, made plays on Peterson and ate up linemen so the linebackers could roam free. On this play, Toeaina's ability to bust through the line broke the play up immediately, forcing a negative-yardage play. Most of the defense was stacked on the right side, leaving only the two tackles and Peppers to stop the left-side run. With Toeaina and Adams playing at such a high level, Tommie Harris may never see the starting lineup again.
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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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