-1st down. The Panthers line up strong right with QB Cam Newton under center and RB DeAngelo Williams alone in the backfield. Tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey are stacked on the right edge of the line. Newton hands the ball off to Williams running up the middle right. All three linebackers immediately approach the line of scrimmage but they shoot the wrong gaps and are picked up. At the point of attack, T Jeff Otah drives DT Henry Melton six yards off the ball. On the edge, DE Israel Idonije locks up with Shockey and just stands there watching Williams run by. S Major Wright comes up to make the tackle after a six-yard gain.
Carolina had been awful running the ball through their first three contests but had no issues against the Bears. They racked up 169 rushing yards as a team on Sunday. Melton and Idonije looked awful on this play, a recurring theme for both. Melton gets pushed around easily when he can't get penetration off the ball and Idonije is too easily blocked. On this play, he can't even separate himself from Shockey, one of the worst blocking tight ends in the league. Teams are going to continue to run right at these two until they figure out how to hold their ground and shed blocks.
DE Israel Idonije
-On the next play, Newton hands the ball off to RB Jonathan Stewart running off-tackle right. Both Idonije and Melton get driven inside, opening a gaping hole off the right edge. Stewart picks up 16 yards.
-Two plays later, Williams carries the ball up-the-middle left. Idonije is playing that side and he rushes himself into the backfield before LT Jordan Gross seals him to the outside. Williams slides inside and picks up 26 yards.
Again, the Panthers run right at Idonije, obviously aware that he cannot stop the run. But on all three of these run plays, the linebackers run themselves out of each play and get locked up by a blocker. The entire front seven was awful is stopping the run on this drive, and for most of the game.
-3rd and 1. Newton runs a quarterback draw and bounces the play to the right side. LB Lance Briggs comes up on the right edge and meets RB Jonathan Stewart. Stewart locks him up and drives Briggs to the ground. Newton picks up 14 yards.
Briggs led the team in tackles yet he had a number of plays like this, where he was unable to clear his block and make the play. And getting driven to his back by a halfback was just awful.
-On the next play, WR Steve Smith lines up wide left and runs a fly route. CB Tim Jennings runs with him for about 10 yards then passes him to S Brandon Meriweather. On the other side of the field, TE Greg Olsen runs a deep cross but he's covered by LB Brian Urlacher. For some reason, Meriweather steps up as if to undercut a pass to Olsen. This leaves Smith wide open on the outside. DE Nick Reed gets driven into the ground after losing his balance on a spin move and Newton has all day to throw the ball. He launches a pass down field 53 yards to Smith, who is taken down at the 1-yard line.
Meriweather had arguably the worst day of any Bears player on Sunday, this play being his most-egregious mistake. Newton did not pump fake and Urlacher had Olsen covered, so Meriweather had no reason to take a step inside. Yet his false step allows Smith to get 10 yards behind him. It was an easy pitch and catch from that point. Smith was the only receiver the Bears' secondary needed to focus on, yet Meriweather completely spaces out and gives up a bomb that brought Carolina right back into the game.
-1st down. Newton lines up in shotgun with Smith out wide to his right. CB Tim Jennings is lined up a yard across from Smith. At the snap, Jennings offers a half-hearted jam at the line. Smith sidesteps it easily and releases freely down field. Jennings passes the receiver into the deep zone. Newton fires a bullet to Smith as soon as he clears Jennings. The ball gets there before Meriweather does. The safety puts a big hit on the receiver but Smith hangs onto the ball for a 26-yard gain.
Meriweather was not at fault on this play. The zone 15 yards along the sidelines is a weak spot in the Cover 2, but only if the press corner allows the receiver a free release. Jennings hardly makes any attempt to Chuck Smith, even though he lined up just a yard across from the receiver. By using his hands, Jennings could have delayed the timing of the play and allowed Meriweather enough time to get to the sideline. Instead, it was another easy completion for the Panthers.
-Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski did a great job dialing up plays in the passing game that exploited the holes in Chicago's zone coverage schemes. The Bears played a lot of zone, yet repeatedly Newton found Smith in the areas between the second and third levels. It was very good play calling by Chudzinski.
S Major Wright
-According to Pro Football Focus, which charts every play of every NFL game, S Major Wright did not miss a single tackle last season. In this game, and throughout the season so far, he's been awful at tackling. Against Carolina, he continued his trend of taking bad angles and failing to break down. He refuses to slow down when approaching ball carriers and is easily beaten time and time again.
-At the 10:50 mark in the third quarter, DeAngelo Williams had rushed for 12 more yards in the game than he had his three previous contests combined. I cannot reiterate enough how poorly the front seven, both the down linemen and linebackers, played against the run on Sunday. The secondary did nothing in support either. In fact, the only player who consistently played well against the run was CB Tim Jennings.
-In the week leading up to the game, the Bears' defense downplayed Newton's size (6-5, 248), saying they'd played against big quarterbacks before. Yet by my count, Chicago had a chance for at least five sacks in the game and every time, Newton just shrugged off the defender and made a play. Maybe next time they face a signal caller that big the defense will be a little more conscious of wrapping up.
-CB Charles Tillman did not play well this game. He missed tackles, was beat one-on-one by tight ends and even drew a 15-yard facemask penalty. The Bears' secondary issues are growing worse by the week.
-3rd and 5. On the last play of the third quarter, the Panthers line three receivers to the left with Newton in shotgun. CB Zackary Bowman is positioned across from slot receiver Brandon Lafell. Newton throws a fade pattern to Lafell toward the front corner of the end zone. The ball is overthrown but Bowman was right there in the receiver's hip pocket. It was great man coverage, something Bowman excels in. He needs to see the field more in passing situations. He's not good in run support but he's the best cover corner on the team.
1st down. Newton is in shotgun with Williams to his left. He fakes the handoff to Williams. LG Travelle Wharton pulls right as part of the fake. C Ryan Kalil tries to step into the area vacated by Wharton and block DT Matt Toeaina. Yet Toaina bursts through the gap, dragging Kalil with him and gets a hit on Newton. The QB has to hurry his throw and the ball falls incomplete.
Toeaina was the only down lineman who had a plus game in my opinion. He did a decent job anchoring in the middle and got more pressure on Newton than any other defensive tackle. It was his teammates around him that played poorly.
-Tim Jennings had two opportunities, one in the first quarter and one in the fourth quarter, where Newton lobbed a ball right to him. Both times Jennings did a good job going after the ball at its highest point yet he dropped the interception each time. Those are the types of game-changing plays that Jennings has to make, especially in a contest where Steve Smith ate his lunch for most of the afternoon.
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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.