Defense: Steltz off the edge
Fourth quarter. 2nd and 12 and the Chicago 38-yard line. The Broncos line up in a five-receiver set with QB Tim Tebow in shotgun. Four receivers are to the left of the formation and one is to the right. TE Daniel Fells is the inside-most receiver on the left side. S Craig Steltz is lined up a few yards across from him. The Bears use a nickel package and line up man-to-man on the wideouts, which includes Lance Briggs seven yards across from RB Lance Ball in the left slot. LB Brian Urlacher is alone in the short middle zone.
S Craig Steltz
At the snap, Tebow drops back to pass. All receivers – except for Fells, who stays in to block – release from the line. The secondary does a great job of manning up on the wideouts, including Briggs, who shadows Ball on a 10-yard in route. Tebow stands in the pocket and can't find an open receiver. Steltz is standing a few yards in front of the left tackle. His man, Fells, never released, so Steltz has no one to cover. After about three seconds, he waits until both LT Ryan Clady and LG Zane Beadles turn their heads away from him, then he sprints into the backfield. He blows past both linemen and hits Tebow's arm. The ball hits the ground and DE Israel Idonije falls on it for the turnover.
From a schematic standpoint, the Bears didn't do a much on this play besides use man coverage against a five-receiver set. Yet the secondary, and Briggs, does a great job of not giving Tebow any open targets. The defensive line doesn't get any initial pressure and the quarterback has plenty of time to throw. Yet Chicago's defenders on this play don't allow a single player to gain separation downfield. It was great man coverage, which the team accomplished for most of the contest. It makes you wonder why, on the following series, Bears coaches called for a soft Cover 2, allowing Denver to drive down the field and score their only touchdown of the game.
Steltz had arguably his best game as a safety since donning the Navy and orange. The Bears used him and Urlacher as spies on Tebow throughout the contest. They switched it up, so Denver could never key on just one player. Both did a great job of corralling Tebow and not allowing him to pick up big chunks on the ground. On this play, Steltz realized Fells was staying in to block, so he delayed for a few seconds, waiting for the offensive line to forget about him, before sprinting into the backfield. He not only got to the quarterback but he caused a turnover, one that should have sealed the game for the Bears.
Offense: Blown chance at redemption
Fourth quarter. 3rd and 5 at the Denver 46-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set with QB Caleb Hanie under center. RB Marion Barber is alone in the backfield. TE Kellen Davis is on the right edge of the line. The Broncos counter with a nickel package. A cornerback is five yards across from each receiver. Linebackers D.J. Williams and Wesley Woodyard are three yards deep of the four down linemen. LB Von Miller is in a down position across from RT Lance Louis. Before the snap, Davis motions from right to left until he's just outside of LT J'Marcus Webb.
RB Marion Barber
Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
At the snap, Hanie hands the ball off to Barber running off-tackle right. Miller explodes into Louis and drives him two yards deep in the backfield. This cuts off Barber's running lane and he's forced to cut back inside. On the backside, Webb slides inside and tries to double-team DT Ryan McBean, inside of clearing up to the linebacker. At the same time, Davis attempt to block DE Elvis Dumervil, yet the defensive lineman drives right through the block and down the line. Barber cuts back and runs into both Dumervil and Woodyard, whom Webb failed to block. The play goes for a 1-yard gain and the Bears are forced to punt.
Everyone wants to blame Barber for running out of bounds and stopping the clock on the play previous to this one. It was an extremely dumb move that a veteran running back should never make. Yet the Bears still had a chance on this play to seal the game with a first down. Instead, the run was stuffed and the Broncos ended up getting the ball back with just less than minute to play. I don't need to tell you what happened next.
At that point in the game, there was almost no threat of the pass from Hanie. So the Broncos were able to stack the box with eight players. Had the Bears been able to pass the ball at all on third down, Denver wouldn't have been so willing to put their entire defense up on the line of scrimmage. So it was up to the offensive line to step up and make a play. Instead, Louis can't handle Miller, who forces the play inside. Webb blocks no one and allows the weakside linebacker to go free. And Davis, as he's done all season, can't get Dumervil blocked. This was a play that could have saved Chicago's season and three of the six blockers up front failed to get the job done.
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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.