The Chicago Bears rushed for 80 yards as a team in Sunday's loss to the St. Louis Rams. It was the run game's second lowest single-game total of the season. The Rams came into the game ranked 18th against the run, so the 80-yard output was disappointing to say the least.
The offense did some really nice things with Matt Forte between the 20s, yet things got ugly when the Bears neared the goal line.
Let's break down a six-pack of run plays from Week 12 to find out what was and wasn't working in St. Louis.
Chicago spreads the field with three receivers and QB Josh McCown in shotgun. Take note of where McCown and Forte are in relation to the left hash mark.
McCown takes a full five steps to make the handoff, while Forte basically stands there surveying the defense. By making McCown do all the work, Forte doesn't have to worry about footwork or deal with limited vision due to forward momentum. In this way, he sees the play develop in front of him. To his left, Forte sees the nickelback blitzing, something he may not have noticed had he been moving with a full head of steam.
Forte makes another jump cut away from Long, leaving the defender in his dust. Notice the free linebacker at the top of the play looking to make a play.
Forte quickly cuts to the outside, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake. He then outraces the safety to the sideline for a 26-yard gain.
This is similar to the last play, only to the left side of the formation. Again, McCown will come to Forte for the handoff.
Here we see the other advantage of keeping Forte still before the handoff. It gives the defensive linemen the chance to penetrate up the field, which leaves Forte a big lane through which to run. It also gives two blockers time to get to the second level.
After allowing Long to take himself out of the play, Mills peels off to the outside cornerback, giving Forte three blockers at the second level.
Forte's catch and run brings the ball to the seven-yard line, giving Chicago 1st and goal. Notice the great downfield block by WR Alshon Jeffery.
For the third time, the Bears spread out the Rams and use a delayed handoff to Forte from shotgun. Again, McCown will bridge the gap between him and the runner.
Here's the danger in this play. RG Kyle Long completely whiffs on his block and Mills clears to the second level way too early. Because Forte hasn't moved before the handoff and thus has no momentum, he's primed for a big loss with two defenders closing in.
Yet Forte throws down a spin move that leaves a pair of would-be tacklers at his heels.
He then cuts across the face of the pursuit and sprints outside, leaving five defenders in the middle of the field.
Forte then outraces the safety to the end zone. Unfortunately for the Bears, WR Earl Bennett is called for a block in the back just as Forte turns the corner, which nullifies the touchdown.
The Bears choose to go for it on 4th and goal from the 1-yard line. RB Michael Bush is deep in the backfield, with two blockers directly in front of him. It will be an off-tackle run to the left with Long pulling from the backside to lead the play.
At the snap, LT Jermon Bushrod is immediately driven backward. On a short-yardage play that requires a guard to pull, this is not good.
Long ends up slamming into Bushrod's backside, which doesn't allow him to turn the corner and pick up LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who fills his gap hard.
As Dunbar brings Bush down for a four-yard loss, resulting in a turnover on downs, you can see Rosario also caught up in the pile created by Bushrod and Long.
Here again we have goal to go from the 1-yard line. Bush will run off-tackle left, with Slauson pulling behind the line to lead the play.
TE Martellus Bennett gets driven back at the point of attack and Slauson collides into him.
Bush takes the handoff but is immediately stuck behind Slauson, who struggles to keep his balance.
Slauson attempts to get out in front but he begins falling forward as he approaches the defender. At this point, Bush has the linebacker set up to the outside. An inside cut and plunge likely results in a touchdown.
Bush, a 245-pound running back, instead chooses to bounce the play outside, resulting in a loss. Notice Slauson on his face.
Our final goal-line play, with Bush running right up the back of Mills and Long, who will attempt to double-team DT Kendall Langford at the point of attack.
As you can see, Long falls flat on his face and Mills gets easily pushed aside.
At this point, Long and Mills are both on the ground, with Langford poised to make the play. Slauson is there to clear out Langford but …
… he chooses to pass up the defender, allowing Langford to stop Bush for another loss.
The use of Forte out of shotgun formation during this game involved well-designed and mostly well-executed plays. The play design allowed Forte to use his outstanding field vision to dissect the play before, and not after, he got the ball. Against attacking 4-3 defenses, ones that ask their defensive linemen to fire upfield at the snap, the Bears can have a lot of success with this strategy going forward.
Yet the goal-line plays stunk. The Bears have used pulls and traps all year in short-yardage situations, which can be effective when the offensive line gets movement off the ball. But, as we saw repeatedly, a pulling guard can completely blow up a play if the defense penetrates. As good as the team was dialing up and executing between the 20s, they were equally as bad trying to get one yard.
Finally, by lining up with two lead blockers, two tight ends, three offensive tackles and Bush in the backfield, you take Forte, Jeffery and Brandon Marshall off the field. In the absolute most-crucial points in the game, it makes very little sense to repeatedly leave your top three playmakers on the sidelines.
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.