Tales from the Tape: Protection Breakdowns

We use All-22 coaches tape to analyze all three of the Detroit Lions' sacks from last week in an attempt to diagnose what went wrong for the Bears and how the protection can get better.

The Chicago Bears' offensive line had its worst outing of the year against the Detroit Lions last week. It was a performance that played a substantial role in the team's 40-32 road loss. Quarterback Jay Cutler was pressured 22 times, per Pro Football Focus, and sacked three times. Those QB hurries and hits led to three interceptions and a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

Cutler made some poor decisions and has accepted his share of the blame but, after viewing the game film, so does the offensive line. As a group, the front five allowed the pocket to collapse all too often, many times due almost entirely to one blocker getting beat 1-on-1. Yet the Lions also were able to apply pressure with blitzes and stunts, with which the two rookies, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, are still struggling.

To get a better idea of what went wrong, and how it can be fixed going forward, let's analyze Detroit's three sacks using All-22 coaches tape.


The Bears line up in a two-tight end set with Cutler in shotgun. Lions LB DeAndre Levy is showing blitz in the A gap but he'll drop into coverage at the snap. Instead, Stephen Tulloch (55) will blitz the opposite B gap.

G Kyle Long and RB Matt Forte (yellow) are charged with picking up the blitzer and DE Willie Young, who are both occupying the same gap.

Long commits to Young and you can see Forte peaking to the outside lane where Tulloch is headed. Yet Tulloch is about to change direction and swing inside.

Long drives Young into the ground but Forte gets caught outside, which gives Tulloch a free run at the quarterback.

Analysis: This was a really strong move by Tulloch, who did a great job setting up the stunt. He rushes Long's outside shoulder until Forte commits, then swings inside where there are no blockers. It's tough to blame Forte on this one but still, he has to make sure the linebacker gets blocked.


Lions DT Ndamukong Suh is lined up over Long. He's going to get good leverage with an explosive first step, which drives Long backward immediately.

At this point, the pocket has collapsed and Long tries to use his strength to bury Suh into the ground. The problem is that Cutler is standing right behind him.

Long releases Suh backward, trying to use the defensive lineman's momentum against him, yet he throws him right into Cutler's knee.

Analysis: The Bears were extremely lucky that Cutler got up from this play. When it happened live, you saw the knee bend backward and to the side, which usually results in significant structural damage. Long compounded his first problem, getting annihilated off the ball, by throwing Suh even farther into the backfield, and it nearly ended his quarterback's season. The rookie has to anchor better and must learn how to use technique, and not brute strength, to recover.


Suh is again lined up across from Long, with Young in the Wide 9 spot on the edge. At the snap, Young will crash down and Suh will swing around behind him to the outside.

The Bears keep Forte in on this play and Garza is floating in the middle, giving them four players to block two rushers. Yet three players commit to Young, which gives Suh an open lane to turn the corner.

Garza tries to recover but he's too late and Suh is able to get to the quarterback. Notice the wall of blockers (red) Suh beat to get the sack. Also notice how low Cutler is holding the ball smack dab in the middle of the pocket, when four seconds have nearly expired from the time of the snap. Suh rips the ball out as he hits the quarterback and it's recovered by Nick Fairley, who rumbles into the end zone for a touchdown.

Analysis: Once again, a stunt takes down the right side of Chicago's offensive line. The two rookies are talented but their inexperience shows each game against cross stunts and blitzes. And Forte again chooses the wrong gap. But the biggest problem here is Cutler's ball security, which is nonexistent. This was a slow-developing play that was well covered by the secondary. Cutler had to know his four seconds were up, yet he's holding the ball like a loaf of bread with players all around him. If Cutler is using proper technique and sticking to his fundamentals, which includes holding the ball near his chin, this sack never turns into a touchdown for the Lions.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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