Tales from the Tape: The Turnovers

The Detroit Lions turned the ball over six times against the Bears on Sunday – four interceptions and two lost fumbles. We go to the film room to break down in detail each takeaway.

TURNOVER #1
First quarter. 2nd and 11 at the Detroit 48-yard line. The Lions line up WR Calvin Johnson wide right with WR Nate Burleson in the slot. Bears DE Julius Peppers is lined up across from RT Gosder Cherilus.

At the snap, QB Matthew Stafford fires a bubble screen to Johnson. Peppers rushes and Cherilus actually uses a swim move to get around the defender. Peppers recognizes this as a screen, then stops his rush and turns toward the sideline just as Johnson is catching the ball. The receiver tries to cut inside but Peppers grabs him across the chest and throws him down on his back. Johnson, who was holding the ball loosely in his left hand, fumbles the pigskin. LB Brian Urlacher picks it up and returns it 17 yards to the Detroit 30-yard line.

Why it worked: Chicago's defense typically has trouble stopping quick slants and bubble screens when the cornerbacks play off the receivers. The cushion allows the opposing offense an easy completion the majority of the time. The Bears' answer for this on Sunday was to punish the player catching those quick passes. This was true on this play, in which Peppers just destroyed the player they call Megatron, and also on the wicked hit LB Lance Briggs put on Johnson in the fourth quarter. It was great awareness by Peppers to get his body turned back toward the play and freakish athleticism to force the fumble.

The result: The Bears would score their first TD of the day four plays later, giving them a 7-0 lead with 10:29 left in the first quarter.

TURNOVER #2
First quarter. 3rd and 7. The Lions use a three-receiver set with Stafford in shotgun. Burleson is wide right with CB Tim Jennings across from him in press coverage. The Bears blitz Briggs and Urlacher up the middle. Burleson runs a 10-yard hitch and Stafford fires a bullet right as his receiver is coming out of his break. Burleson makes the catch and then breaks up the sideline. Jennings tries to push him out of bounds, yet the receiver stays on the field. S Chris Conte comes over to make the hit but Burleson cuts inside, leaving the defender in his wake. S Major Wright then comes up to make the tackle. As Burleson looks in Wright's direction, Jennings comes from behind and punches the ball out of the receiver's hands. It bounces twice before Jennings is able to recover it at the 38-yard line.

Why it worked: This was actually a very good pitch and catch by Stafford and Burleson and a great play call to beat Chicago's third-down blitz. Then both Jennings and Conte missed their tackles. Had Jennings not gotten lucky on his punch, this play could have gone for a touchdown. As it was, the ball came loose, killing another Lions drive.

The result: The Bears kicked a field goal eight plays later, giving them a 10-0 lead with 4:47 left in the first quarter.

TURNOVER #3
Third quarter. 2nd and 8 from the Detroit 22-yard line. The Lions use a four-receiver set with two on either side of the formation. TE Tony Scheffler is in the left slot with no one across from him. At the snap, Scheffler runs a five-yard out pattern. Major Wright flies up from his safety spot to cover the tight end. Stafford throws a pass well behind Scheffler and right into Wright's chest. The defenders intercepts the pass and returns it untouched for a touchdown.

Why it worked: The Lions caught the Bears in a base 4-3. They had mismatches all over the field, particularly in the right slot where LB Nick Roach was lined up across from RB Maurice Morris. Yet Scheffler was the only player without a defender directly across from him. He ran an out pattern, so Stafford felt he had an easy completion. Yet Wright, who started the play 15 yards down field, comes out of nowhere and Stafford never sees him.

The result: This play put the Bears up 27-6 with 13:16 left in the third quarter.

TURNOVER #4
Third quarter. 3rd and 2 at the Detroit 42-yard line. The Lions line up with Stafford in shotgun and two receivers to the left of the formation. Calvin Johnson is wide left. The Bears corners are showing press coverage on each receiver. At the snap, Johnson runs four yards upfield then tries to break inside. Tillman chucks the receiver and won't let him inside. Stafford throws the ball in their direction. Johnson stops fighting inside but the defender doesn't. The ball is thrown right Tillman, who returns it 44 yards for a touchdown.

Why it worked: Tillman puts forth an outstanding individual effort on this play, not allowing Johnson a lane to cut inside. This forces Johnson to give up on the route. Yet Stafford thought his receiver would keep breaking inside and fired it right to where he thought the receiver would be. Unfortunately for Detroit, Tillman, who worked over Megatron for most of the contest, was right in the passing lane.

The result: The Bears went up 34-6 with 11:24 left in the third quarter.

TURNOVER #5
Fourth quarter. 3rd and 5 at the Chicago 17-yard line. The Lions use a three-receiver set with Stafford in shotgun. WR Rashied Davis is wide right. At the snap, Davis runs a five-yard in route. Across from him, CB Tim Jennings breaks on the cut. Stafford throws it Davis' way but Jennings is able to outmuscle the receiver and cut in front of the play. He makes the interception and is eventually ruled down by contact at the 17-yard line.

Why it worked: The Bears did not use a lot of Cover 2 on Sunday. Instead, they chose to play the corners up and let them work one-on-one with the receivers. Such was the case on this play. Jennings never allows more than a two-yard cushion between him and the receiver, which gives him the angle to make the play. Stafford, as he did most of the night, stared down his receiver. Jennings recognized the play and flat out wanted it more.

The result: For the first time in the contest, the Bears were unable to score off the turnover, going three-and-out the next possession. But at that point, the game was well out of hand.

TURNOVER #6
Fourth quarter. 3rd and 10 from the Chicago 13-yard line. The Lions line up with three receivers and Stafford in shotgun. Calvin Johnson is in the left slot, with CB Corey Graham giving him a five-yard cushion. The Bears are showing blitz with Urlacher, Briggs and Conte. At the snap, Conte blitzes, but it's a zone blitz, with DE Mario Addison covering TE Brandon Pettigrew 15 yards down the field. Johnson clears Graham and is open for a brief second. S Brandon Meriweather takes a false step away from Johnson. Stafford doesn't realize it's zone coverage and he believes he has Megatron wide open in the back of the end zone. He lobs up a pass and Tillman, Meriweather and Graham all converge on the ball. Graham gets in the passing lane and pulls down the interception, while Meriweather rocks Johnson in the end zone.

Why it worked: Bears coordinator Rod Marinelli did an outstanding job of mixing up the defensive looks all game. This was one more example. It was a zone blitz disguised to look like man coverage. Stafford is completely fooled and throws up another bad ball. Meriweather's hit on Johnson was a helmet-to-helmet, again. It was this play that knocked Megatron out of the game. Don't be surprised if the Bears' safety is fined again this week.

The result: Bears win.

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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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