Tales from the Tape: Defense

Chicago's defense had one of its best performances of the season in Monday night's 30-24 win over the Eagles. We go to the film room and breakdown what the tape reveals.

First quarter

-1st down. QB Michael Vick hands off to RB LeSean McCoy running off-tackle right. CB D.J. Moore blitzes from the left side. At the point of attack, DT Henry Melton and DE Israel Idonije hold their ground, forcing McCoy to cut back. But Moore is waiting for the ball carrier. He breaks down and forces the runner toward the opposite sideline. The rest of the team swarms to the ball and LB Brian Urlacher ends up taking McCoy down for a three-yard loss.

The Bears did a great job, from top to bottom, of attacking the ball the entire game. Guys were flying all over the field, overwhelming ball carriers. The Eagles are speedy and shifty, and can make players miss, but Chicago was able to counter through aggressiveness by all 11 defenders. This gave Philadelphia's skill position players little room to maneuver all game.

-1st down. McCoy runs up-the-middle right. DT Matt Toeaina explodes off the ball and drives C Jason Kelce into the backfield and in the path of the ball carrier. McCoy has to stop and sidestep Toeaina. At the same time, both guards release to the second level to pick up Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Yet Briggs just dives right between the two linemen and flies into the backfield. He loses his balance crossing the line of scrimmage, yet forces McCoy to again change direction. While the two guards watch Briggs go by them, Urlacher swings outside and takes the runner down for a one-yard gain.

Toeaina showed on this play why Anthony Adams was de-activated before the game. He comes off the ball low and hard and disrupts the play in the backfield. Briggs also had his first of many outstanding plays on the evening, occupying two blockers yet still getting penetration.

Second quarter

-2nd and 4. Vick drops back to pass. DT Stephen Paea powers off the ball and sends both Kelce and LG Evan Mathis backward. This opens a big hole on the left side. DT Amobi Okoye slips behind Paea and into the wide lane. He hits Vick just as he's releasing the ball. At the same time CB Tim Jennings is covering WR DeSean Jackson man-to-man out of the left slot. Jackson runs a hitch-and-go toward the left sideline. Jennings does not bite on the double move and is running stride for stride with the speedy Jackson. The ball is slightly overthrown and falls incomplete.

As I've said often, Paea's contributions to this team go far beyond the stat sheet. His strength inside can collapse the interior of opposing offensive lines, opening up space for his teammates to make plays. On this play, he explodes into the left side of the line, opening up a lane for Okoye to run through. Okoye then levels Vick just as he's passing the ball, forcing an overthrow. The Bears, surprisingly, used a lot of man coverage in this game and got many positive results from it. Jennings does a good job of reading the double move and not allowing Jackson to get open downfield.

-On the following play, DE Julius Peppers runs an inside stunt and drops Vick as he's releasing the pass. Chicago knocked Vick around early and often, which was key in not allowing him to get into a rhythm.

-1st down. McCoy runs off-tackle left. The Bears line LB Nick Roach in the gap between the left defensive end and defensive tackle. Before the snap, S Major Wright creeps in a few yards behind Roach. Both players blitz, one behind the other. Wright is untouched and is in the backfield immediately. He forces the run back inside where Roach is waiting to take down the ball carrier. The play goes for a three-yard loss.

This was a creative blitz package that I have yet to see the Bears use all season. They stack Roach and Wright at the point off attack and blitz both. The Eagles run play has no chance and goes for a loss. The Bears blitzed plenty in this game, with quality results. And they weren't the boilerplate blitzes the team has been using for years. These were well-disguised packages that confused Philadelphia's offense for most of the contest.

-2nd down. McCoy runs up the middle. Henry Melton lines up in the left defensive end spot. At the snap, he crashes inside and blows past the offensive tackle. McCoy has to spin away just as he's getting the ball, allowing Urlacher time to come up and finish the play for no gain.

This was a great play by Melton of using his quickness and burst off the edge. RT Todd Herremans had no chance of blocking him on this play, as Melton was across his face almost immediately after the ball was snapped. Off the edge is where Melton can truly utilize his quickness. This play is just one more reason why he should be moved to defensive end permanently.

-2nd and 10. The Bears place three defensive linemen on the right side of the line, along with Briggs in a standup position showing blitz. There is huge gap on the left side. At the snap, Vick drops back to pass. DT Matt Toeaina slides back to the left, behind DE Nick Reed, which forces Vick to scramble out of bounds for a minimal gain.

This was another unconventional look by Chicago's defense. They stacked three linemen and a linebacker on one side of the line. They used these overload packages a lot on Monday night.

Third quarter

-1st down. Vick drops back to pass. The Bears rush just the front four and use a Cover 2 zone. TE Brent Celek releases from the left edge and down the seam. As he clears the linebacker, Vick lets the ball fly. Celek makes the grab 20 yards downfield in front of the safeties for a first down.

The Bears lined up the safeties 20 yards off the ball for the majority of the evening. While this limits the deep pass, it also opens up this intermediate middle zone. I'm surprised the Eagles didn't exploit this more. Going forward, if the Bears continue to line up their safeties in New Jersey, opposing offenses are going to figure it out and will start dropping pass after pass over the heads of the linebackers.

-Henry Melton had a very good game last night. He showed good burst and aggressiveness. It appears Lovie Smith calling him out this week lit a fire under the third-year player.

-Major Wright is still having tackling issues. He missed a couple of key third down tackles in this contest. He must improve in that area of his game or one of these misses is going to severely hurt the team.

-The more I watch Nick Roach, the less I believe in him. On Ronnie Brown's touchdown that tied up the game, Roach was lined up at the point of attack. As the play was being run right at him, he chose to dive into a pile of players off the edge instead of filling the gap in the middle. Later in the game, he missed an awful tackle on McCoy at the line of scrimmage, on a run that went for the go-ahead touchdown. He needs to raise his level of play and start performing with more awareness and toughness.

Fourth quarter

-Israel Idonije delivered the biggest hit of the night on a 1st down play. The Eagles used two tight ends and ran a sprint draw to McCoy up the left side. They had used this play a number of times earlier in the game and picked up good yardage each time. On this play, however, Briggs reads it immediately and shoots the play-side gap. McCoy has to then sidestep the linebacker in the backfield. Just as he's about to cut to his right, Idonije sticks him and lays him flat with a crunching blow. The play goes for a four-yard loss and McCoy gets slowly up off the turf.

The speed draw by Philadelphia ate Chicago up for most of the game. The Bears, particularly the linebackers, will need to work on their patience and not be overaggressive on these quick hitters going forward. Other teams are going to see this tape and implement the same types of plays in future contests.

-In the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, Philadelphia's wide receivers began winning the one-on-one matchups with Chicago's cornerbacks. Yet the secondary limited the damage on nearly every completion with good tackling after the catch. The Bears' corners are not the best bunch in one-on-one situations but a good scheme and good tackling can mitigate that deficiency. The corners must start taking advantage of their opportunities for interceptions though, as both Tim Jennings and D.J. Moor dropped sure picks in the fourth quarter.

-On the final drive of the game, the Bears spied Vick on almost every play with Henry Melton out of the defensive tackles spot. On each down, Melton would lock up with a lineman and then just stand there at the line of scrimmage, shadowing the quarterback. While it's doubtful Melton could have chased Vick down to the sideline, it was a good way of limiting the quarterback's mobility inside.

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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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