The Chicago Bears' offense – despite only scoring 14 points on Sunday, seven of which came in garbage time with just over two minutes left in the game – was able to move the ball against the Minnesota Vikings. Turnovers and penalties stalled a number of promising drives but by game's end, the Bears racked up 438 yards of offense – the second highest single-game total of the season.
Carimi on the move
Chicago rushed the ball just 18 times, due in large part to going down by two scores within the first six minutes of the contest. Yet they had success on the ground, averaging 6.6 yards per rush as a team. RB Matt Forte carried 13 times for 85 yards, yet much of his total came on a 36-yard scamper in the second half. Other than that, it was tough sledding for Forte. The majority of his positive runs were due to him making defenders miss at the line of scrimmage, defenders that should have been blocked.
Gabe Carimi, making only his second start at right guard, was the culprit on a number of plays. Particularly on runs where he was asked to pull and trap, Carimi struggled. At right tackle, his former position, he wasn't often asked to pull behind the line and kick out on the play side. It's a skill at which he needs much improvement.
Here are two examples of Carimi missing blocks as a pulling guard.
The Bears will run a counter to the left side. The three linemen on the play side will crash right, sealing the defensive line. Carimi will pull left, attempting to kick out on DE Jared Allen. The play is designed for Forte to slide between the play-side seal and the kick-out block.
Despite running right at Allen, Carimi comes in far to shallow. Allen makes an outside move and Carimi does not have the necessary balance to change directions. He ends up reaching for Allen, who slides right past him.
Allen makes the play on Forte in the backfield, while Carimi is lying flat on his face.
The Bears will run another counter, only this time to the right side of the formation. Again, the play-side tackle and tight end crash down to the inside. Carimi and LG Edwin Williams will both pull right to lead Forte around the right side.
Carimi again approaches the defender off-balance and out of control. He swings out too wide on DE Brian Robison, who steps inside of the block and penetrates into the backfield.
Robison ends up crashing into Williams, essentially taking out both blockers in the process. This allows Forte the opportunity to sidestep the defenders and get around the edge. Despite the run going for positive yards, Carimi gave a very poor effort and was lucky the play didn't go for a loss.
It's obvious that pulling and lead blocking are not natural elements of Carimi's game. He didn't have to do much of it at Wisconsin or in the pros while playing tackle. Going forward, it's an area of his game that must improve if the Bears are going to be able to run the ball consistently and take pressure off the passing game over the final three games of the season.
Edwin Williams was making his second start of the season at left guard. He did not last the entire game, being replaced in the second half by James Brown, an undrafted rookie out of Troy. For those wondering why the switch was made, here is one play that encapsulates Williams' play the past two weeks.
Chicago will run a counter right, with LT J'Marcus Webb pulling behind the play to kick out. On the backside of the formation, all Williams has to do is block DT Christian Ballard.
Here you see Williams lock up with Ballard. He has a wide base and sunken hips. The technique is there but the strength is not.
After initially locking up, Ballard just chucks Wiliams to the side. Williams cannot keep his balance and falls to the side, allowing the defender a free run into the backfield.
Ballard forces Forte to bounce the play outside to the right, which gives the linebacker enough time to scrape the edge and make the tackle for no gain.
This was a simple block for Williams, a one-on-one matchup on the backside. All he had to do was keep his body stationary and he would have done his job. Instead, he loses balance and let's the defender fly right past him. It was a horrible effort that got him benched a few plays later.
Williams was replaced by James Brown, who was activated off the practice squad two weeks ago. Brown did an adequate job, considering he had never before played extended snaps in an NFL game. What was most impressive was his awareness at guard, considering he played tackle in college. Here is one play that demonstrates Brown's ability to read pressure.
Brown is at left guard, with a defensive tackle to his left (Ballard) and right (Kevin Williams). At the snap, Webb will slide inside and pick up Ballard.
Here you see Brown with his left hand on Ballard, giving a complementary block until Webb can gain leverage. Yet even though he's blocking Ballard, Brown has his eyes on Williams, who is rushing hard around C Roberto Garza's right shoulder.
Williams beats Garza, throwing him to the ground, yet Brown is able to slide back in the pocket and get a hand on the defender. Brown pushes Williams past Cutler, who is able to step up into the pocket and extend the play with his feet.
For an undrafted rookie, Brown showed veteran-like awareness on this play. His ability to feel the block to his left, yet still make the play to his right, is a great sign for the youngster going forward.
"You make changes when you feel like you need them. If you're making a change and you feel like you have a good [backup] option that's not necessarily a bad thing," Lovie Smith said yesterday. "Yeah, you want to keep same starting group together in all three phases, but it never happens that way. I thought James Brown went in yesterday and did some good things. So as long as you feel you're looking at guys that might give you a little boost, I just think that's a good thing."
Right tackle Jonathan Scott, in his third start of the season, gave up six pressures according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). That gives him 11 pressures in three games. While Carimi was horrible on the right edge in pass protection, Scott hasn't been markedly better. Here is one play that demonstrates Scott's issues on pass plays.
On the right edge, there is Scott (blue) across from Robison (white). Cutler is in shotgun and will be looking to pass the ball after the snap.
Robison comes off the ball to Scott's right, yet he quickly cuts inside. Scott allows the defender to cross his face, which throws him off balance. Robison is then able to get inside leverage.
Robison drives into the backfield until he's right in Cutler's face. This forces the quarterback to let go of a quick pass off his back foot. The ball sails high and off WR Brandon Marshall's hands, into the waiting arms of S Harrison Smith, who makes the interception and returns it for the game-clinching touchdown.
On at least three of Scott's pressures allowed in this game, he allowed the pass rusher to cross inside and drive into the backfield. While he's decent at pushing defenders outside of the pocket, Scott has serious problems with inside moves, a problem that, on this play, cost Chicago a chance at victory.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.