The injury bug continues to deteriorate the Chicago Bears defense. This week starting defensive tackle Stephen Paea, who re-aggravated a turf toe injury, is the victim. He'll sit out Sunday's contest against the St. Louis Rams.
This is a big loss, as Paea is by far the team's best interior run stopper. The Rams have flourished on the ground recently, rushing for 500 yards the last three games combined. On the flip side, Chicago is ranked 30th against the run and has allowed 518 rushing yards the past three games.
So it's safe to assume the Rams will be running the ball early and often during Sunday's tilt.
"It's definitely something that has been a cause of concern, especially starting out the game," Corey Wootton said this week. "As the game goes on, we do better, but that's something that you can't spot a team 10 points right away like we did with the Ravens. Against some of these teams we have coming up, you're not going to be successful every week like that. So, we've got to start faster, fit gap to gap, and really force them and make them one-dimensional."
With the expected return of Shea McClellin, as well as the recent emergence of both David Bass and Cheta Ozougwu at defensive end, Wootton will likely slide back to defensive tackle, giving the Bears a bit more depth inside. But the DT rotation will also include heavy doses of both Landon Cohen and Christian Tupou.
Cohen has been a part of the rotation all season and got his second start last week against Baltimore. He played 60 snaps, which was 22 more than his previous single-game high of 38 (Week 4 vs. the Giants). He'll again get the starting nod inside and will likely get just as many reps.
Tupou was on Chicago's training camp and preseason roster, and was signed in Week 6 after Nate Collins was placed on IR. Tupou was inserted after Paea was felled last week and played 18 snaps, which doubled his season total for snaps (9) to that point.
Let's break down the game film from Week 11 to find out what these two can bring to the table this week against the Rams. With that in mind, we'll look at every run snap during Baltimore's final drive in regulation, when the game was on the line.
Cohen is in the A gap. The Ravens will run Ray Rice on a draw up the middle.
Cohen is double-teamed at the point of attack.
Cohen is easily driven away from the play, allowing the inside lineman to peel off to the second level for LB James Anderson. The play goes for a 13-yard gain.
Cohen is in the A gap. Rice will get the ball on a play intended to go up the gut but he'll bounce it to the far B gap.
Immediately, the offensive lineman is able to turn Cohen away from the play.
Even when Rice bounces the play right to Cohen, the defensive lineman is unable to get off his block and lets the runner go right past him for a gain of 6 yards.
Tupou (yellow) is in the A gap, while Cohen (blue) is in the far B gap. Rice will again run right up the middle.
This is a trap play, with the guard pulling and kicking out Cohen. At the point of attack, Tupou holds his ground 1-on-1 with the center.
Tupou sheds the block and helps Anderson take Rice down after just a 3-yard gain. Cohen is nowhere near the play.
Cohen in the A gap; Rice up the middle.
Cohen loses leverage immediately and is tossed to the ground on his back. Rice picks up 11 yards.
Cohen squares up man-to-man with the opposing guard on an inside run.
Cohen is driven on his back.
Cohen (blue) is in the left A gap and Wootton (red) is in the right B gap. The Ravens will double Wootton at the point of attack and then attempt to trap him with the backside pulling guard.
In a 1-on-1 matchup, Cohen is driven away from the play, yet Wootton fights off the double team and the trap, and is able to get penetration into the backfield. This disrupts the play, allowing the cavalry to take Rice down before he scores.
I had no intention of making this a piece that just bashes Cohen. I wanted to see how he performed when the game was on the line, so it made sense to break down the final series of regulation. What I found was something much uglier than I could have imagined.
Cohen was entirely worn down at this point in the game and the footing on the muddy field was atrocious. It may not be fair to judge him solely on this drive. That said, everyone out there was dealing with the same conditions, yet no one was getting tossed around like Cohen. Wootton played more snaps than Cohen yet he fought through three players to keep Rice out of the end zone during the goal-line stand, so fatigues is no excuse for Cohen.
Earlier in the game, Cohen made a couple of solid plays, but it's the fourth quarter than counts and he sat this one out. A repeat performance on Sunday could lead to the Rams running wild.
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.