Bears on Defense: Best Bested
At the snap, Stanton hands the ball off to Best running toward the right A gap. Harris crashes into the middle of the line, driving LG Rob Sims into the backfield. On the right edge, DE Israel Idonije does the same thing, creating a massive pile of bodies where the hole should be. Best runs up to the line and has to stutter-step to his left to get around the mess of linemen in his way. At the same time, LT Jeff Backus attempts to block Peppers on the left edge. Yet Peppers just sort of brushes off the block attempt and holds his ground. He then grabs Best in the backfield before Urlacher comes up and helps him finish the runner off. The play goes for no gain.
This play set up a 4th and 1 that the Lions did not convert. The Bears would go on to score the game winner on the following drive. On this play, Peppers demonstrates once again that he's a man among boys, completely disregarding the block of a 6-5, 300-pound linemen as if he were swatting away a fly. But what truly made this play successful was the penetration by Harris and Idonije. Apparently, being benched earlier in the season has lit a fire under Harris. His play has improved dramatically the past month. On this snap, he uses brute strength and determination to drive the opposing lineman right into the hole, forcing Best to cut outside. This front seven is already dangerous, but a resurgent Harris could take it to another level.
Bears on Offense: Big Man Ices It
At the snap, Cutler turns and fakes a handoff to Forte up the middle. The five linemen all rush. The four on the left side are picked up right away, and Forte, after completing the play action, is able to pick up DT Corey Williams coming off the right edge. All three linebackers bite hard on the play fake. Olsen then runs into the right flat, and the three 'backers all follow him. At the same time, Manumaleuna runs right past the linebackers into the middle of the field. Cutler finds his blocking tight end running across the middle and fires a strike. Manumaleuna then rumbles 8 yards for a 16-yard gain and a first down.
This play sealed the game for the Bears, who were attempting to run down the clock late in the fourth quarter. The offense received the ball with just more than five minutes to play and was able to gain four first downs, forcing Detroit to use up its timeouts. This play call exploited the fact that the entire Lions defense was looking run. Eight defenders were in the box, and each one bit on the play action. All Cutler had to do was flip the ball over the middle to his tight end to seal the game. The fact offensive coordinator Mike Martz had faith enough in his quarterback to call a pass play here demonstrates his ever-growing trust in a maturing Cutler. Also, Martz did an outstanding job moving Manumaleuna around all game. On multiple plays, including this one, he motioned the big tight end, who has just enough athleticism and plenty of size, to create mismatches for the opposing defenses. This earned Manumaleuna his first TD of the season, while also putting him in position to make crucial blocks and game-sealing catches like this one.
Jeremy Stoltz is editor-in-chief of the Business Ledger, the business resource for suburban Chicago. He is a frequent contributor to both Bear Report and BearReport.com.
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