Tales from the Tape: Defense

JS spends some quality time in the film room and breaks down what the tape reveals on the defensive side of the ball from Chicago's 30-12 season-opening win against the Atlanta Falcons.

First quarter

-1st down. The Falcons run RB Michael Turner off-tackle right. DE Israel Idonije pushes T Tyson Clabo into the backfield, then sheds the block and makes the tackle for a short gain. Idonije had issues in the preseason against the run, often getting swallowed up inside. This was a good way for him to start off the game.

-1st down. Turner runs up the middle. DT Matt Toeaina is heads up on C Joe Hawley. Toeaina gets good leverage at the snap then sidesteps the blocker to the outside. He sees Turner heading to his left, so he grabs Hawley and yanks him right. Turner then cuts outside, so Toeaina again sidesteps Hawley and throws him to the ground. He makes the tackle for no gain.

After a strong preseason, Toeaina started on Sunday in place of Anthony Adams, who has been dealing with a calf injury. This may end up being a permanent roster change. Rod Marinelli has spoke highly of Toeaina all offseason and this play demonstrates his ability to anchor in the middle. He makes Hawley look stupid, tossing him left and right like a rag doll, and finishes off the play by making the tackle. Outstanding work.

-3rd down. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is in shotgun with two receivers on either side of the line. The Bears rush just four and use man coverage on the receivers. DT Henry Melton gets off the ball and uses his quick hands to swim right past G Garrett Reynolds. He's in Ryan's face in two seconds, forcing a quick throw. S Chris Harris is matched one-on-one with TE Tony Gonzalez in the slot. Gonzalez runs a five-yard out. Harris can't keep up and Gonzalez catches the pass for a first down.


DT Henry Melton
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire

On this play, Melton earned the first of his seven quarterback hits on the day, which is an amazing number. He penetrated consistently all afternoon, working over Reynolds play after play. Yet this was the second-straight play Harris wasn't quick enough to keep up with the receiver, allowing completions both times. He's good in his two-deep zone and is great in run support, but when he's asked to man up on a pass catcher, he can be a liability.

-1st down. The Falcons run RB Jason Snelling on a trap play to the left. LG Justin Blalock pulls left and tries to kick out DE Nick Reed, yet Reed gets up field immediately and lowers his shoulder around Blalock's block. He is able to get a hand on the ball carrier, tripping him up and allowing LB Lance Briggs time to fill and tackle. Reed demonstrates his quickness on this play and shows why the team chose to activate him instead of rookie Mario Addison.

-Pro Football Focus ranked nickelback D.J. Moore one of the most effective secondary blitzers in the league last year. In the preseason Moore struggled in coverage but against the Falcons he showed why the team continues to use him as the third cornerback. He was able to get pressure on nearly every blitz Sunday, forcing a turnover on one play. Therein lies the value of Moore and why he'll continue to play nickel all year.

-For an in-depth look at one of Moore's blitzes and how it led to LB Brian Urlacher's interception in the first quarter, click here to view this week's X-and-O Show.

-1st down. Atlanta runs Turner off the left side. His line does a good job up front and he goes untouched until about 10 yards downfield, where S Major Wright lays a hit on him. As Turner is being hit, CB Charles Tillman, who was still fighting off a block from WR Julio Jones, punches at the ball and forces a fumble. DE Julius Peppers recovers.

Wright missed a number of tackles in the preseason, yet he took a good angle and made a nice hit on this play. Tillman's penchant for creating turnovers never ceases to amaze. Even when he's being blocked, he still finds a way to get a hand in the play and knock the ball out. It's in his DNA apparently.

Second quarter

-3rd down. Falcons are on their own goal line. Ryan drops back to pass. Peppers rushes off the left edge and bulls his way around T Sam Baker. On the other side, Idonije crashes down hard and essentially wipes out the entire right side of the line, driving linemen into Ryan's face. Melton swings outside and has a free shot at the QB. He earns the sack, with a little help from Peppers, but Idonije was the one who put all the pressure in Ryan's face. A great play from the entire defensive line.

-Lance Briggs only had three combined tackles on the afternoon. The tape shows him being far too aggressive against the run, often running himself out of plays. It's possible he was trying too hard to show the front office his worth in light of his recent request for a raise. We'll continue to monitor him and see if he can curb his impatience.

-The defensive coaches put Charles Tillman in the face of WR Roddy White for most of the afternoon. Instead of allowing a cushion, on most plays Tillman was just a few yards off. This took away the majority of those quick slants that killed Chicago's defense last year.

Third quarter

-3rd and 1. The Falcons line up in a power-I set with three tight ends and a fullback. The Bears counter by placing 10 guys in the box. Only CB Tim Jennings is out wide. Turner runs up the middle. The Atlanta line clears a hole and Briggs runs too far to the right, taking himself out of another play. Urlacher for some reason swings wide right and Tillman runs right across the play. Because everyone else ran away from the ball, Chris Harris is the last line of defense, but he has a defender on his back and is unable to take the runner down. Turner sprints 53 yards before Jennings tracks him down.

If there was one knock on the Bears' defense Sunday,it was the fact they gave up too many big plays. Every second-level player on this play misread the run and allowed the Falcons a huge gain. Only Jennings' hustle and speed stopped Turner from scoring a game-changing touchdown.

-3rd and 10. Atlanta lines up in a five-receiver set with Ryan in shotgun. The Bears run their Cover 2. On the right side, Roddy White clears the front line of defenders and heads straight toward Major Wright. The receiver then slows up and turns back to his quarterback. Ryan delivers the pass before Wright can get there. The play goes for a first down.

White used a quick head fake as he made his break but was slow to turn back to his QB. Wright had plenty of time to break forward and make a play but instead sat on his heels and allowed the completion right in front of him. It's to be expected a second-year player will go through some growing pains but mistakes like these could compel the coaching staff to give Brandon Meriweather more looks at free safety.

-On more than one occasion during the game, Toeaina was able to fight through double teams and make plays. It was a very impressive outing for him.


DE Nick Reed
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

-3rd and goal. The Falcons line up in a four-receiver set with Ryan in shotgun. RB Jason Snelling is to Ryan's left in the backfield. The Bears bring Urlacher and Moore on an overload blitz from the right side. DE Nick Reed is on the left side and rushes forward at the snap. He then stops and picks up Snelling who is breaking into the flat. Ryan throws it Snelling's way but Reed is all over him and the pass falls incomplete. Atlanta is forced to kick a field goal.

This was just one more example of Reed's quickness. A defensive end that can cover backs out of the backfield is an asset to any team. On the opening play of the Falcons' next drive, Reed fights off a double team and is able to knock down Ryan's pass. Even when Corey Wootton returns to action, Reed should still see plenty of time on the field.

-3rd down. The Falcons have a bunch formation to the left. Ryan drops back to pass. The Bears clog up the bunch and surround Roddy White with Urlacher, Moore and Tillman. Ryan stares White down and, when he realizes he's not open, has to pull the ball down to avoid the rush put on by Peppers. Yet when Ryan turns, he drops the ball. Urlacher picks it up and runs it in for the score.

The Falcons went to White on nearly every third-down play up to that point and it was a great call to surround the receiver on this 3rd down play. Ryan had nowhere to go with the ball, allowing Peppers time to get in and create havoc.

-1st down. The Falcons run Turner on a sweep to the left. Melton is off the ball like a gunshot and splits the linemen. He's in the backfield immediately and takes down the ball carrier after a one-yard gain. This play further demonstrates Melton's development as a defensive end. Not only can he get after the QB but his ability to penetrate allows him to disrupt the run game as well.

-2nd down. Falcons use three receivers, with Julio Jones lined up across from Tillman. Jones runs a fly pattern. Tillman is on his outside hip but Ryan throws a ball to the inside that Jones is able to grab just outside the left hash for a 32-yard gain.

Another big play given up here. This time it was the fault of S Brandon Meriweather. No other receivers are anywhere near him, yet he allows a deep pass to be complete in his half of the field. Meriweather obviously still has a lot to learn about his new defense.

-LB Nick Roach had a rough game in coverage. He had a hard time picking up defenders in his zone and was too easily turned around and confused.

-1st down. Ryan tries to find WR Harry Douglas in the left flat but D.J. Moore has him blanketed. Ryan rolls right to the sideline but Peppers chases him down and takes him down for the sack. Not many 6-7, 270-pound defensive ends could make that play. He's a special player.

Fourth quarter

-3rd and 10. Ryan drops back to pass. Melton rushes forward and then hesitates as if he's going to swing outside. This buckles G Garrett Reynolds' knees. Melton then screams past him with a quick burst and takes down Ryan for his second sack of the game. It was an unorthodox rush but very effective to say the least. If the front four can consistently get pressure this season, allowing the linebackers to drop into coverage, this defense will continue to be extremely effective.

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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.


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