Offense: Evading the rush
Second quarter. 3rd and 6 at the Detroit 20-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set with QB Jay Cutler in shotgun. Two receivers are bunched to either side. RB Matt Forte is to Cutler's right. The Lions use a nickel package. CB Eric Wright is showing blitz off the right edge. LB DeAndre Levy is showing blitz from the left side. The rest of the secondary is playing off the receivers.
QB Jay Cutler
Andrew Weber/US Presswire
At the snap, Levy blitzes and then Wright also comes on a delay. Cutler drops back to pass, with Forte crossing in front of him to pick up Levy. Yet Forte barely gets a hand on the blitzer and Levy swims by him into the backfield. On the right side, DE Cliff Avril blows right around RT Frank Omiyale, who was a second slow getting out of his stance. On the other side, LT J'Marcus Webb gets beat to the outside by DE Kyle Vanden Bosch on a very slow, mediocre edge rush. Yet Webb just watches him go by, throwing him a half-hearted shove. And no one picks up the blitzing Wright. Within two seconds of the snap, Cutler has four Lions in his face. Yet he takes a quick step backward and all four defenders run into each other. Cutler then rolls out to his right and finds WR Devin Hester on the sideline for an 11-yard gain and a 1st down.
I chose this play because it not only demonstrates how awful the tackles played but also how well Cutler did in avoiding the rush. All night long, Omiyale was late off the ball. He obviously couldn't hear Cutler at the line, as Ford Field was cacophony the entire night, so he was going on the first move of RG Lance Louis. Yet it didn't work all night. On most plays, by the time Omiyale saw Louis moving, Avril was already a step into the backfield. Webb didn't have the same problem positioning himself, he just flat out blew his block. Vanden Bosch didn't even come that hard and Webb barely made an effort to stay in front. The pass protection situation on the outside is becoming perilous. Luckily, Cutler wasn't prepared to just lie down. He was conscious of what was going on around him and moved well in the pocket. He kept countless plays alive with his feet and was accurate on the move. This type of fire-drill offense won't work for a full season though. T Gabe Carimi's return in the next few weeks should provide a boost up front. The Bears just better hope they're not out of playoff contention by then.
Defense: Career Best
Third quarter. 1st and 10 at the Detroit 12-yard line. The Lions line up in a two-tight-end set with QB Matthew Stafford in shotgun. To his left is RB Jahvid Best. A receiver is split wide to either side. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. Linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are a few yards deep of the four defensive linemen, while Nick Roach is lined up on the right edge. The corners are up tight on the receivers with safeties playing deep.
S Chris Harris
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
At the snap, Stafford hands the ball to Best running in the A gap. LT Jeff Backus and LG Rob Sims double-team DT Henry Melton, while C Dominic Raiola and RG Stephen Peterman double up DT Matt Toeaina. RT Gosder Cherilus seals DE Israel Idonije to the right side. TE Brandon Pettigrew does the same to Roach. On the backside, TE Tony Scheffler does not block DE Nick Reed. He instead breaks directly to the left flat. The Bears are in man coverage, so Briggs takes a few steps away from the play to follow Scheffler. At the same time, Urlacher breaks forward to fill the hole but he swings too far outside. Peterman breaks off Toeaina and picks up Urlacher. S Chris Harris flies up to the point of attack but takes an awful angle and gets stuck behind Urlacher. Best bursts through the line untouched and outraces everyone for an 88-yard touchdown.
This play sealed the game for Detroit. Before last night, Best had never rushed for more than 78 yards in a game. He eclipsed that total on this run alone and finished the game with 163 yards on the ground. Urlacher and Briggs both misread this play and got caught completely out of position – a recurring theme all season. Harris also takes a very poor angle to the ball. He was the last line of defense and should have been more aware of where Best was running. The defensive tackles were both double-teamed, so it's hard to blame them on this play. Yet for most of the night, Melton, Toeaina, Amobi Okoye and Anthony Adams were pushed around at will by Detroit's offensive line. Idonije also was easily blocked on this run. He has not played well at all defending against the run and is not showing any improvement. Once the blocker locks on, Idonije is through. If these down linemen cannot get better at stopping the run, the Bears defense will continue to struggle mightily.
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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.