X-and-O Show: Week 16 vs. Packers

The Bears were officially eliminated from the playoffs at Lambeau Field last weekend. We offer an in-depth breakdown of a pair of crucial plays from Sunday's 35-21 loss to the Packers.

Offense: Bennett for 50

Third quarter. 3rd and 5 from the Chicago 49-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set with QB Josh McCown under center and RB Kahlil Bell alone in the backfield. WR Earl Bennett is wide right, with WR Dane Sanzenbacher is in the slot. TE Matt Spaeth is on the right edge of the line. The Packers counter with a nickel package. Two down linemen are supported by two linebackers on the edges and two linebackers at the second level. CB Tramon Williams is showing press coverage across from Bennett. Before the snap, Sanzenbacher motions across the field to the left, taking CB Charles Woodson with him. S Morgan Burnett then sneaks up to the left edge of the line.


WR Earl Bennett
Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire

At the snap, Burnett blitzes, as do all four linebackers, making it a seven-man rush. The offensive line does an outstanding job picking up the blitz. Bell also helps with a chip on the left side. At the same time, Bennett breaks toward the middle of the field, then stops and cuts back toward the sideline. The rush starts to collapse the middle of the pocket, yet McCown stands in and delivers the pass to Bennett just as the blitz closes in on him. Bennett's cut forces Williams to lose his footing, leaving the receiver wide open. Bennett catches the pass near the right sideline and breaks up field. He cuts inside Williams, then inside CB Sam Shields and races across the field before being brought down at the 1-yard line.

The following play, Chicago scored a touchdown, cutting Green Bay's lead to just four points early in the second half. Had the defense held up its end of the bargain, this play could have been a game-changer.

Motioning Sanzenbacher across the field revealed man coverage, so McCown knew he had a one-on-one matchup with Bennett to the right side. The offensive line does a great job picking up the blitz, as they did all evening. The front five did not allow a sack in the game, only the third time all season they've done so. This gave McCown time to find his open man. He showed great poise in standing in the pocket and getting the ball out just before the rush reaches him. Bennett then demonstrated what he can do after the catch, making two defenders miss and racing up near the goal line. He caught just three passes for 30 yards in the four games Hanie started, which makes absolutely no sense, as Bennett is easily the team's best receiver. On this play, he showed how effective he can be when you actually throw it his way.

Defense: Wright beat again

Third quarter. 2nd and 10 from the Green Bay 45-yard line. The Packers line up in a strong-left, power-I set with QB Aaron Rodgers under center. WR Jordy Nelson is wide right, with CB Zack Bowman a few yards across from him. TE Tom Crabtree is lined up wing left, just outside of TE Jermichael Finley. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. CB Charles Tillman is up on the line of scrimmage, across from Finley. Before the snap, Crabtree motions left to right. No Bears player follows him, indicating zone coverage.


WR Jordy Nelson
David Banks/Getty

At the snap, Rodgers turns and fakes a handoff to RB James Starks on a stretch play to the left. The QB then turns and rolls out on a bootleg to his right. All eight defenders in the box bite on the play fake, including DE Israel Idonije, who gets sealed inside by Crabtree. This allows Rodgers room to roll out. He has all day to throw. At the same time, Nelson releases straight down the field. Bowman passes the receiver off to S Major Wright. Nelson breaks toward the sideline on a flag route. This compels Wright to break forward. Nelson then uses a double move and cuts back inside on a post. He flies right past Wright. Nelson is wide open and Rodgers hits him in stride for a 55-yard touchdown.

The Bears had pulled to within four at this point in the game, yet this play sucked all the life out of the team. Chicago was never able to overcome this backbreaking touchdown.

Idonije getting sealed inside gave Rodgers the time he needed to complete this pass. In fact, Rodgers had time all game to carve up Chicago's secondary. It was an amazing feat, considering the Packers were working with a makeshift offensive line. Yet there he was on this play, standing by himself in the backfield with enough time to eat a sandwich before throwing the ball.

Nelson's pattern was exactly the same as the one run by Detroit's Calvin Johnson, which helped defeat the Bears in Week 5. It was the play that essentially cost Chris Harris his job. Wright bites on the first move, just like Harris did, allowing the receiver to get behind the defense. At this point, it appears Wright may not be the answer at free safety. He's been suspect in both run support and coverage. His unreliability is beginning to wear thin on Chicago's coaches.

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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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