Defense: Jennings beat deep
Third quarter. 1st and 10 at the Chicago 46-yard line. The Seahawks line up in a power-I set with QB Tavaris Jackson under center. Tight ends bookend both sides of the offensive line, with a receiver split wide to either side. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. No player is showing blitz. The corners are lined up a few yards across from the receivers, showing press coverage. Both safeties are 12 yards off the ball just outside of the hash marks. Before the snap, TE Zach Miller motions from the right edge to the left edge. The three linebackers all shift with him.
WR Ben Obomanu
At the snap, Jackson turns and fakes a handoff to RB Marshawn Lynch. SS Craig Steltz rushes up to the line from his deep right position. LB Lance Briggs also bites on the play fake and blitzes into the trenches. Jackson then turns and looks to pass. Out wide to the play's right side, WR Ben Obomanu uses a quick stutter step off the line and releases cleanly to the outside of CB Tim Jennings. With Steltz shooting up to the line, there is no safety to help on Jennings' side of the field. Obomanu gets a step and Jackson drops in a perfect touch pass over the top. Obomanu is pushed out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
This was Seattle's first drive coming out of the half. On the following play, Lynch plunged in for the game-tying touchdown. It was all downhill from there. The Bears had a 3rd and long the play previous, yet Jennings allowed the receiver to catch the ball over the middle for a first down. These three plays wiped all of the momentum Chicago had attained in building a seven-point first-half lead. The team could never recover.
This was a well-timed call by Seattle. They had been running the ball on first down all day. The Bears had countered by sending Steltz into the box and were doing a good job stopping Lynch on first down. Sure enough, as soon as the Bears saw a power-I set, they sent the safety up to the line. Yet it was play action and Steltz was caught entirely out of position – a risk you take when loading the box. Jennings had to have known that he had no safety help over the top – as there was no way Brandon Meriweather could have helped from the opposite side of the field – yet Jennings could not even get a hand on the receiver to jam him at the line. Obomanu used one quick move and he was gone. Jennings is good in zone coverage but really struggles in man sets. This was a risky move putting him in press coverage with no safety behind him, and it cost Chicago dearly.
Offense: The season-ending interception
Third quarter. 2nd and 7 at the Chicago 28-yard line. The Bears line up in strong-right, two-receiver set with QB Caleb Hanie under center. TE Kellen Davis is on the right edge, with TE Matt Spaeth wing right. RB Marion Barber is alone in the backfield. The Seahawks counter with a 4-3. LB K.J. Wright is up on the right edge of the line, across from Spaeth. The corners are showing press coverage with two deep safeties.
DE Red Bryant & QB Caleb Hanie
At the snap, Hanie turns and fakes a handoff to Barber on a stretch play to the left. RG Chris Spencer pulls left, followed by Speath. After the play fake, Hanie then turns to rollout to the right. Spencer, Speath and Barber form a backside wall so that Hanie won't be pressured from behind. This leaves Wright unblocked. Additionally, no one blocks DE Red Bryant on the front side. Davis fakes a block on Bryant and then releases into the right flat and is wide open. Wright realizes it's a pass and rushes into the backfield. He hits the quarterback just as he turns back to the line. Hanie sees Davis open and, instead of taking the sack, tries to complete the pass. Yet Wright's hit doesn't allow him to get anything on the ball and it flutters right into Bryant's breadbasket. He returns the interception 21 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
This happened two plays after the Seahawks had tied the game up. In less than a minute of game time, Chicago went from being up 14-7 to being down 21-14. These two quick scores to start the second half knocked the wind out of the entire Bears roster. The team folded after that.
First off, why was Bryant not blocked? On a naked bootleg, you typically leave one player unblocked. That should have been Wright. The Bears were trying to force him to come up and leave Davis open in the flat, which they accomplished. Spaeth, instead of pulling behind the play, should have crashed down on Bryant. Had the play been designed that way, Bryant would not have been in a position to make the pick.
Also, why did Hanie even bother throwing the ball? It was only second down. If he took the sack, the Bears would have had a 3rd and 15. They very likely would not have picked up the first and punted, but that's better than a pick-six. These are the types of boneheaded decisions that have plagued Hanie throughout his career. Over and over, he fails to make the right call when under duress. A quarterback that can't think on the fly should not be running an NFL offense. It's no surprise he ended this crucial four-game stretch as a starter with three times as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns (3).
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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.