Offense: Williams drops another one
Fourth quarter. 1st and 10 from the Kansas City 13-yard line. The Bears line up with Caleb Hanie under center and RB Kahlil Bell alone in the backfield. Tight ends Matt Spaeth and Kellen Davis are both on the left edge of the line. WR Johnny Knox is wide left and WR Roy Williams is tight right, about five yards outside of RT Lance Louis. The Chiefs counter with a base 3-4. CB Brandon Flowers is shading Williams' outside shoulder. Before the snap, Bell motions wide right. This brings Flowers out wide to cover the running back. OLB Justin Houston then slides outside until he's on Williams' inside shoulder.
WR Roy Williams
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
At the snap, Hanie drops back to pass. Both Spaeth and Davis releases into the left flat, taking both play-side linebackers with them. On the other side, Williams uses a nice stutter step to cut inside of Houston. He then breaks on a slant behind LB Derrick Johnson. Hanie releases the pass just as Williams clears the linebacker, and just out of the reach of Johnson. The pass hits the receiver in the hands at the 3-yard line, yet Williams bobbles the ball. S Kendrick Lewis then collides with Williams, popping the ball into the air. Johnson tips it again to S Jon McGraw, who makes the diving interception in the end zone. Touchback Chiefs.
This play was set up for Williams from the very beginning. When Bell motioned outside, no one followed him, indicating zone coverage. The two tight ends cleared left, taking two linebackers away from the middle of the field. Williams does a great job of clearing the linebackers yet staying shallow enough where the safety had no play on the ball. Hanie throws a beautiful pass, where only his receiver can catch it. From a design and execution standpoint, this was a perfect play, up until the moment Williams bobbles the ball. Honestly though, did this surprise anyone? No one drops passes like Roy Williams. No one. Earl Bennett, who wasn't even on the field during this play, wouldn't have dropped that pass. Why was he not the intended receiver, instead of a player that has dropped more passes the past three years than anyone else in the NFL?
The Bears would have tied the game up with four minutes left had this play gone for a touchdown. Hanie was in the midst of his best drive of the day. He had completed four straight passes and was on the verge of leading Chicago to a fourth-quarter comeback. Yet Williams can't hang onto the pass. If the Bears don't make the playoffs, we'll be able to look back at this dropped pass as a play that not only cost Chicago this game but also a postseason birth.
Defense: Big 3rd-down conversion
Second quarter. 3rd and 9 at the Kansas City 26-yard line. The Chiefs line up in a two-receiver set with QB Tyler Palko under center. The backs are stacked offset left in the backfield. TE Leonard Pope is on the right edge of the line. WR Steve Breaston is split left and WR Dwayne Bowe is wide right. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. Two safeties are deep on either side of the field. CB Charles Tillman lines up a yard across from Bowe, yet before the ball is snapped, Tillman drops back, giving Bowe a seven-yard cushion.
WR Dwayne Bowe & CB Charles Tillman
Rob Grabowski/US Presswire
At the snap, Palko drops back to pass. The Bears use man coverage. S Craig Steltz steps up into the box to position himself for man coverage on Pope. Yet Pope doesn't release and instead stays in to block. On the outside, Bowe runs straight up the field 10 yards. Tillman then begins to turn his hips so he can run with Bowe. Yet at that very second, Bowe breaks down and turns back to the quarterback. Palko throws a strike on time and Bowe makes the reception for a first down.
Chicago's use of man coverage here is highly questionable. On third and long, the Bears typically run a Cover 2 shell that takes away the deep pass. By using man on this play, Tillman has no safety help over the top, as Steltz had to step up to cover the tight end. This forces Tillman to give Bowe a big cushion. Knowing he has no safety behind him, Tillman has to respect the deep pass, so he's quick to come out of his backpedal. Just as he turns his hips though, the receiver breaks down and the pass is completed. This was max protection by the Chiefs with only three routes being run, two of which were short patterns. Had the Bears just used their base Cover 2, Tillman could have played underneath Bowe and taken away this pass.
This play was chosen for its eventual impact on the game. The Chiefs started this drive deep in their own territory with just more than four minutes to play in the first half. The Bears had used timeouts after the two previous plays to stop the clock, with the hope of getting the ball back before intermission. Had the defense not allowed a first down here, Chicago's offense would have had a chance to build on the 3-0 lead the team had at that point. Yet, by allowing the first down, Kansas City was able to take advantage of the time saved by the Bears' timeouts. They ended up driving the ball into Chicago territory, setting themselves up for the game-winning score on a Hail Mary.
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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.