-3rd down. The Bears line up with two receivers to the left: Roy Williams on the edge and Earl Bennett in the slot. Devin Hester motions from right to left and ends up between Williams and Bennett at the snap. The far-side corner does not follow Hester, indicating zone coverage. Jay Cutler drops back to pass. The Falcons blitz nickelback Chris Owens off the left edge but he's picked up. Bennett runs a quick out, which pulls the strong safety up. Hester and Williams both run parallel to each directly at the free safety. At 15 yards, Williams break left to the sideline. Hester stays on his fly pattern, taking both the free safety and the cornerback with him. Williams is left wide open. Cutler hits him near the sideline. The play goes for 23 yards and a first down.
This was a well-designed play that overloaded the left-side zone. When Atlanta CB Brent Grimes did not follow Hester across the field, Cutler knew instantly it was zone coverage. Hester ran off the safety and took the corner with him, leaving a big open area for Williams to sit in.
-2nd down. Strong-right formation with Cutler under center. Receivers shift to a bunch-left formation, with WR Dane Sanzenbahcher in the wing position. At the snap, Sanzenbacher turns right and crosses behind the offensive line. Cutler turns and pitches him the ball running wide right. Yet no one blocks the backside linebacker or defensive end. Sanzenbacher has nowhere to go and is dropped for a 4-yard loss.
Coordinator Mike Martz runs these types of reverses and quick misdirections every day in practice and they never seem to work. RT Gabe Carimi seemed lost on this play and crashed down on the inside linebacker instead of taking out the outside guy, Sean Weatherspoon. In some cases, Martz overthinks things, which can make life even more difficult for a rookie like Carimi who was playing in his first NFL game.
S Chris Conte
-4th down. Bears punt the ball. Five guys are up front with a gunner on either side. Two players sit on the wing and S Chris Conte is the deep man, closest to P Adam Podlesh. At the snap, Conte doesn't hesitate for a second and breaks around the line to the left and downfield. No one blocks him and he's the first man to meet the returner. He misses the tackle but it slows up the runner enough for the rest of the special teams unit to get there.
From a strategic standpoint, this was a great play call design from special teams coordinator Dave Toub. By releasing Conte right away he has, in essence, a built-in third gunner. Yet while the outside gunners both have two guys in their faces, no one is expecting Conte to release right away, with most assuming he'll stay in to block, which allows him a free release downfield.
-1st down. Cutler drops back to pass. Atlanta DE John Abraham rushes off the left edge. LT J'Marcus Webb is slow in his kick step and is immediately beat. He tries to push Abraham out of the way but fails to move his feet. Cutler is sacked.
This was the first of many mistakes by Webb during this game. He allowed three sacks and also had three holding penalties. The rest of the line played above average. If this offense is going to succeed, Webb needs to figure things out quickly.
-For an in-depth breakdown of Forte's 56-yard touchdown catch-and-run, click here for this week's X-and-O Show.
-2nd down. The Bears run a quick screen to WR Roy Williams that picks up a few yards. RG Lance Louis gets pushed back right from the snap and in trying to hold his ground, twists his right ankle and goes down. He was in a walking boot after the game. Had he exploded off the ball into the defender, instead of trying to catch him, he would have never put himself in a position to get hurt.
-3rd and 1. Cutler rolls right and hits TE Kellen Davis, who did a good job of clearing the first level and finding a soft spot in the zone, for the first down. On the backside, DE Ray Edwards comes hard off the edge. Webb slides back, then pauses briefly, before diving and rolling at the defender's feet. He leg whips Edwards and trips him, somehow avoiding the penalty. This was by far one of the worst blocks I've ever seen from a left tackle in pass protection. Believe me, this is not a technique Mike Tice teaches in practice. Never once have I seen any tackle on this team use such a block before. I have no idea what he was thinking but I'm guessing he's going to get an earful in the film room for that one.
-1st and goal. Cutler drops back to pass. DE Kroy Biermann comes off the right edge. RT Gabe Carimi gets good position yet falls back on his heels opens up his outside shoulder. Biermann gives a quick shove then cuts inside and Carimi ends up with his back to the offensive line. Biermann takes Cutler down for the third of five sacks he endured on the afternoon. Carimi showed a lack of lateral quickness and balance for most of the afternoon in pass protection, with this play being just one example. He needs to work on keeping his shoulders square to the defender and keeping a good base.
-2nd down. Cutler turns and hands the ball to Forte up the middle left. DE John Abraham shoots the gap between Webb and LG Chris Williams. Webb swings outside to pick up the linebacker and Williams crashes down on the tackle. Yet C Roberto Garza is already blocking the tackle. Williams quickly realizes his mistake and tries to step back and pick up Abraham, but it's too late. Abraham takes Forte down for a three-yard loss. This was a straight blown assignment by Williams.
-2nd down. RB Kahlil Bell runs off-tackle right. At the point of attack, DE Ray Edwards stands up TE Kellen Davis and drives him two yards into the backfield. Edwards then sheds the block and makes the tackle. Davis is just too big for this to happen. Both he and TE Matt Spaeth were mediocre in run blocking against the Falcons. Both need to start getting their pads lower and getting off the ball quicker.
For what is surely the first time in his career with the Bears, Cutler only overthrew one pass - the misdirection play to Davis near the goal-line. Otherwise, Cutler was on target all day and as comfortable as he's ever been in a Chicago uniform.
-Roberto Garza had a rough day at the second level. He had no problem locating linebackers but did not take proper angles to get in front of them. Many times, he had no option but to dive for their legs, which hardly ever got the job done.
-2nd and 10. The Bears line up in a two-tight end set with both Davis and Spaeth stacked on the left edge. At the snap, all seven guys on the line block right. Forte take the handoff running up-the-middle right. The lines seals down the left side and Forte cuts back behind them. He then jukes CB Dunta Robinson out of his jock and rumbles down the left sideline for 27 yards. This was a designed cutback play that utilized an off-balanced formation to seal the left side. It was a good play call by Martz to take advantage of the Falcons' aggressiveness against the run.
WR Devin Hester
-1st down. Cutler fakes a stretch-left handoff to Bell, then turns and fires a pass to WR Devin Hester running a bubble screen in the right flat. Hester gets a good block from Roy Williams, who completely takes out the cornerback, then cuts inside and takes off across the field. As he's moving toward the left sideline, he cuts behind G Chris Spencer, who is 30 yards down the field. Hester moves farther left and gets blocks from Clutss and Bell, who were part of the play fake at the beginning of the play. Hester scrambles 53 yards before being knocked out at the 1-yard line. This was just outstanding effort in blocking by nearly everyone on the field. Williams sets up the run with a good block, Spencer gets 30 yards downfield to lead the way, and Clutts and Bell race down the far sideline to make the blocks that nearly spring Hester for a touchdown. A great overall effort.
-On the next play, Cutler hits a wide-open Matt Spaeth on the corner of the end zone after a play-action fake. Spaeth is being covered one-on-one by Kory Biermann and does a great job of taking a false step inside, which freezes Biermann and offers Speath a free release into the end zone.
-There was a lot of talk this preseason of Spaeth and Davis being put on an island against opposing defensive ends, as both were believed to have the blocking ability to pull it off. Yet repeatedly in this contest, both were unable to keep either Abraham or Edwards out of the backfield. That's a strategy Martz may want to rethink.
-Overall, the passing game against Atlanta was not a very complicated one. The Falcons ran a lot of zone and Chicago's receivers simply found the soft spots over and over. This demonstrates well the group's increased comfort level in Martz's offense.
-The Bears ran two bubble screens to Roy Williams and both times he was able to make the first guy miss. As long as he stays healthy, expect Martz to continue running these same screens to take advantage of Williams' size and elusiveness.
-The only Wildcat run went for no gain. It might be time to shelve that experiment.
-1st down. Cutler hands the ball to Bell running off-tackle left. RG Chris Spencer pulls and puts a great kick-out block on the cornerback. Bell breaks inside of Spencer and races down the right sideline for 18 yards. The play was called back on a J'Marcus Webb hold but it demonstrated the speed and agility of Spencer, who was able to easily clear the line and get out in front of the runner. Every member of the offensive line, except for maybe Webb, has this ability. As a group, their biggest strength is their capacity to pull, trap and lead effectively.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.