Defense: Wright beat deep
Second quarter. 3rd down and 12 at the New Orleans 21-yard line. The Saints line up in a three-receiver set. QB Drew Brees in shotgun with a running back to either side of him. To the right side, WR Robert Meachem is out wide and WR Devery Henderson is in the slot. To the left, WR Lance Moore is split wide. The Bears counter with a nickel package. CB Charles Tillman is up tight on Moore. CB Tim Jennings is giving a five-yard cushion to Meachem and nickelback D.J. Moore is offering six yards to Henderson. Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs are a few yards deep of the four down linemen; neither are showing blitz.
At the snap, the Bears rush just the front four and are unable to get any pressure. Brees has plenty of time in the pocket. Chicago is playing Cover 2 with underneath coverage by all three cornerbacks. Both Meachem and Henderson run straight up field, with Jennings and Moore passing them off to the deep zone. S Major Wright gets stuck in between the two receivers and freezes for a split second, unsure of which to cover. At that moment, Henderson slants inside and gets a step on Wright. Brees steps up and launches a perfect pass, hitting his receiver in stride. S Chris Conte is also behind the play and crashes into Wright as both try to make the tackle from behind. Henderson then trots into the end zone for the 79-yard touchdown.
In Cover 2, the two safeties are each charged with covering a deep half of the field. In no circumstance should any receiver beat them deep, especially on a third down and long. They have help underneath and need only worry about the long ball. The Saints do a good job of overloading Wright's zone with Meachem and Henderson. This freezes Wright, allowing Henderson the step he needed. The front four got zero pressure, so Brees was easily able to step into the throw and deliver a perfect pass. Conte is also at fault here as he too allowed Henderson to get behind him. This play was a back-breaker for Chicago's defense, one from which they never recovered. This was a third-and-long play from deep in New Orleans territory. A stop would have given the defense its second three-and-out in the Saint's first three drives. Instead, the defense collapsed and allowed all the momentum to swing New Orleans' way.
Offense: Group futility
QB Jay Cutler
Chuck Cook/US Presswire
First quarter. 3rd and 9 at the Chicago 21-yard line. The Bears line up in a strong-left, three-receiver set with QB Jay Cutler under center and RB Matt Forte alone in the backfield. To the right, WR Johnny Knox is split wide and WR Earl Bennett is in the slot. To the left, TE Kellen Davis is on the edge of the line with WR Devin Hester out wide. The Saints counter with a nickel defense. All three cornerbacks are up tight on the receivers. Seven players are up on the line of scrimmage. Linebackers Jonathan Vilma and Jonathan Casillas are stacked over center, while S Roman Harper is showing blitz from the right side.
At the snap, Cutler drops back to pass. The two defensive tackles rush straight ahead. Harper blitzes and LE Cameron Jordan comes hard off the left edge. RE Jeff Charleston hesitates at the snap then swings inside and rushes up center, essentially overloading the middle of the line. Vilma and Casillas both take a false step back before blitzing: Casillas to the left and Vilma to the right. Forte steps up to block Harper on the right side yet lets the defender cut inside into the pocket. Davis tries to block Jordan on the backside but lets the defender gets outside leverage and drive his way into the backfield. At the same time, all three of the receivers get jammed at the line. None can work around the jam and are slowed getting into their routes. Harper and Jordan flush Cutler out to the right. He swings outside but Vilma and Charleston are both right there. Cutler lets go of the pass just before he's hit. It falls harmlessly to the ground in the right flat. The Bears are forced to punt.
I chose this play because it exemplifies how the entire offensive unit should be blamed for the number of sacks, pressures and hits they allowed on Cutler. Davis lets his man go right by him, which he continually did all game. It's obvious he cannot be put on an island against defensive ends. He's just not a good enough blocker. Forte also does a poor job, letting Harper cut inside. If anything, he should have made the defender rush to the outside. The offensive line does a decent job of picking up their guys but they each get out-leveraged and are pushed back into Cutler's face. All three receivers are one-on-one with their respective corners, yet none can make a move and beat the defender. They get pushed around at the line and by the time they get into their routes, it's too late. Let's give Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams some credit. This was one heck of a blitz that was hard to diagnose and well executed. Still, had their been some better blocking on the edges, and had the receivers been able to get open, the Bears could have exploited this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink blitz. It was a group effort by the offense, which continued throughout the game.
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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.