Tales from the Tape: Defense

The Bears defense was strong on Sunday but gave up one too many big plays. We got to the film room to discuss what the tape reveals about Chicago's defensive performance.

First quarter

-1st down. QB Carson Palmer fakes a handoff to RB Michael Bush. WR Darrius Heyward-Bey releases from the left slot and down the seam. He clears the linebackers and turns to his quarterback. Palmer lobs the ball to his receiver, who catches it in front of the safeties for a 19-yard gain.

The Raiders did the smart thing by using play action to open their first drive. Urlacher bites on the play fake, which opens up the deep middle zone. The Bears have decided, after getting beat deep on a handful of occasions early in the season, that lining up the safeties 20 yards off the ball is the best way to stop the deep pass. Yet when you put you the safeties that far from the line of scrimmage, a huge gap opens between the second and third level. If Urlacher is late in his drop, receivers will be open all day in front of the safeties.

-The following play, the Raiders run TE Brandon Myers down the left seam. At the same time, they run Bush right at Urlacher, who steps up to cover the running back. Myers runs right into the same deep middle zone and Palmer finds him for 24 yards.


RB Michael Bush
Ezra Shaw/Getty

Again, Urlacher delays and the zone behind him is wide open. The safeties were lined up in New Jersey for two straight plays, resulting in 43 yards for the opposing offense.

-The following play, Oakland uses an inverted wishbone in the backfield. Palmer hands to Bush off-tackle left. LB Lance Briggs blitzes through the line, yet Myers, who was lined up in the backside fullback spot, is able to take out the linebacker's legs. Bush reaches the corner and picks up six yards.

This was a throwback formation that was executed flawlessly. By placing two fullbacks in front of the tailback, the Raiders were able to clear out the backside pursuit. It's amazing what a little creativity can do for an offense.

-2nd and 4. The Raiders shift FB Marcel Reese from the backfield out wide left. LB Nick Roach follows him. Palmer drops back and fires to Reece running a go route. The pass is overthrown and it falls incomplete.

We talked about Reece in our keys to the game as a dangerous weapon for the Raiders. He's as athletic as they come and can do things other fullbacks can't. Yet Roach does a nice job sticking with him on this play. Over the past month, Roach has shown considerable improvement in coverage, despite being taken off the field on passing downs.

-2nd and 7. Michael Bush runs up the B gap on the left side. DT Matt Toeaina lines up in that gap and is able to extend his arms and keep separation against C Samson Satele. Toeaina thin rips through the blocker and makes the tackle on Bush for no gain.

DT Anthony Adams was a healthy scratch this game. It wasn't so much because Adams has played poorly, it's just that Toeaina, who has been nursing a hamstring injury for about a month now, is a much better player. He's healthy now and he showed on this play, and for most of the contest, how effective he can be as a run stopper on the interior. He uses great leverage and arm extension, and then brute strength to make the play. He needs to stay healthy going forward.

-On a 2nd down run, Bush runs right at DE Israel Idonije. TE Kevin Boss locks up with the defender, turns him inside and drives Idonije to the ground. Bush picks up the first down. A starting defensive end with Idonije's size should not be getting manhandled like this, especially when being blocked by a tight end.

Second quarter

-DT Amobi Okoye picks up his fourth sack of the season by splitting through a double team. It was an outstanding effort for Akoye, who had a very good overall performance. I'll say it again, he and FB Tyler Clutts are the team's best free agent acquisitions this year.


DT Henry Melton
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty

-3rd and 19. Palmer drops back to pass. Both Idonije and DE Julius Peppers get pressure, flushing the quarterback out of the pocket. At the same time, Melton drops into shallow underneath coverage. He then picks up Reece running into the flat. Palmer hits Reece but Melton runs the ball carrier out of bounds before he can pick up the first down.

This play happened with 14:19 left in the second quarter and it was already the third time the Bears dropped Melton into coverage on third down. We talked earlier about the safeties playing deep. Chicago's coaches are making up for that gap in the middle by dropping back Melton, meaning Urlacher doesn't need to worry about the underneath pass and can immediately sprint back to the deep zone.

-1st down. CB Charles Tillman lines up on the line of scrimmage just outside of Peppers. At the snap, Tillman blitzes off the edge. He uses a quick stutter step and swim move to get around Bush, forcing Palmer to step up into the pocket. At the same time, Peppers uses an inside rip move and drives his way past T Jared Veldheer and into the backfield. He takes down Palmer for a 9-yard loss.

This was a rare blitz by Tillman yet he did a great job of getting pressure. It was good to see the Bears mixing it up and getting Tillman involved in the blitz packages. For Peppers, this was his second sack of the day. He worked over Veldheer all day along against both the run and pass. Last week, Veldheer held Jared Allen in check, yet Peppers had his way with him on Sunday.

-CB Tim Jennings cuts off a Louis Murphy slant pattern and is in perfect position for the interception, yet he drops the pick. Later in the game, he drops another sure turnover. Jennings played well, but in a defensive battle, those have to be interceptions.

-Click here for an in-depth breakdown of CB Corey Graham's interception.

-1st down. Oakland runs a screen pass to Reece in the left flat. The play is blocked well. S Chris Conte is the only guy with a real shot at making the tackle. He flies up to the ball carrier out of control and ends up diving at his legs. Reece steps around the tackle attempt and races 47 yards into Chicago territory.

This cannot happen. Conte must make that tackle. He's the last line of defense and his inability to bring Reece down led to a huge gain for the Raiders.

Third quarter

-Too many times defending the rush, Nick Roach runs himself out of the play. He is so anxious to fill at the point of attack that he flies past the running lane. He must start exercising more patience if he's going to be consistently effective against the run.

-On the Raiders' fourth play of the half, Reece lines up in the left slot with Roach across from him. At the snap, Palmer drops back and finds Reece just as he clears the linebackers for a 29-yard gain. Here was one more example of the safeties being too deep to support the intermediate middle zone. Additionally, Chicago's linebackers, as they did most of the day, failed to drop back quick enough to get into the passing lane.

-DE Corey Wootton got a lot of reps in this game. He made a few nice plays but overall he looks tentative. He might still be worried about re-injuring his knee. If that's the case, he needs to get over it. He's not being aggressive on the field and, as such, hasn't had much of an impact. Right now he's in a battle with newcomer Chauncey Davis for the team's No. 3 defensive end spot. If Wootton is going to win that competition, he needs to kick it into third gear and stop playing scared.


LB Brian Urlacher
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty

-A few plays later, Reece takes a handoff up the middle. Urlacher blitzes and comes flying through the line. He forces Reese to bounce the play outside, where Chauncey Davis is waiting for him. He brings the ball carrier down for a 3-yard loss.

Against the run Urlacher and Briggs were outstanding in this game. Both were making plays between the tackles and chasing down runners near the sideline. Davis also did a nice job in his first game with the team, keeping contain on this play and wrapping up Reece for a loss.

-Two plays later, Palmer fakes a handoff and drops back to pass. LG Stefen Wisniewski pulls right on the play fake. C Samson Satele tries to reach block Melton in the gap vacated by Wisniewski. Yet Melton explodes into the backfield, through Satele's arm block and picks up the sack. This was just Melton again demonstrating his quickness off the ball and his potential as an under tackle.

Fourth quarter

-1st down. The Raiders line up with Bush alone in the backfield. Roach is lined up to the play's right. Just before the snap, Urlacher and Briggs both slide next to Roach, showing blitz. At the snap, Briggs and Urlacher blitz. Roach swings around the two blitzers toward the inside of the play. Oakland pulls TE Brandon Myers to the left to kick out on Davis. Yet Davis drives the blocker into the ground and jumps over him, wrapping up Bush in the process. Roach cleans the play up.

I like the blitz here of Briggs and Urlacher, while at the same time swinging Roach inside. It overloaded one side and allowed Roach to roam free in the middle. Davis makes an outstanding individual effort here, fighting off the block and making the play. After one game, Davis has pulled ahead of Wootton on the depth chart.

-3rd and 5. Palmer is in shotgun. WR Louis Murphy is wide right with Jennings across from him. Palmer drops back to pass. Murphy begins to run a three-yard slant pattern. Jennings steps across the receiver's face and into the passing lane. Murphy than breaks off the pattern and takes off down the sideline, leaving Jennings in his wake. Palmer lobs a strike to his receiver. The play goes for 47 yards.

Jennings nearly had an interception earlier in the game cutting off a slant pattern. He tries it again on this play but the Raiders are ready for it and hit him with a double move. Jennings can't make up the ground and the Raiders move into the red zone. A few plays later, they would score the game-winning touchdown. It was a bad time for Jennings to make such a costly mistake.

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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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