The Chicago Bears were much improved defensively in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. After a sub-par performance in Week 1 against Buffalo – one in which the Bills racked up 193 yards on the ground – the Bears last week took strides forward defensively during a tough road contest.
The 49ers racked up 127 rushing yards on 27 carries, yet much of that (64) was scramble yardage from quarterback Colin Kaepernick. San Francisco’s two-headed rushing attack of Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde gained just 64 yards on 13 carries, with no touchdowns.
The defense forced four turnovers – three interceptions, one forced fumble – and sacked Kaepernick three times.
As an 11-man unit, Chicago’s defense put forth an effort they can build on going forward. Yet after dissecting the All-22 game film, it’s clear the defensive line still has a lot of room for improvement.
For reference, here are the defensive line grades from the Week 1 contest against the Bills.
As you can see, the defensive line had a strong overall performance against Buffalo, despite the less-than-ideal returns.
Here are the Week 2 defensive line grades.
The drop off between the two games is significant. Overall, the defensive line graded 19 points fewer than Week 1, 11 fewer against the run and eight fewer against the pass.
The only players to grade in the positive against San Francisco were defensive ends Willie Young and Lamarr Houston.
Young had easily the top performance of all Chicago’s down linemen. He picked up two sacks and was once again solid against the run. Young is the only Bears defensive lineman to grade positively against both the run and pass in each of the first two contests. His snap count jumped from 22 to 38 last week and if he continues to play at a high level, he’ll earn even more playing time going forward.
Houston has been silent on the stat sheet, with zero sacks and one total tackle the first two weeks combined. Yet overall, he’s been Chicago’s most consistent defender in the trenches. He had three hurries and a QB hit in Week 2. Of his 54 snaps against the 49ers, Houston played 11 at defensive tackle and graded +2 overall at the position.
Jared Allen graded 0 overall, yet that is a marked improvement over the -5 he tallied last week. Still, Allen left a lot of plays on the field, particularly against the run. He has struggled the first two weeks defending the read-option. Allen, the NFL’s active leader in career sacks, still has yet to log a sack as a Bear but he partially made up for that with an impressive forced fumble on Kaepernick.
Jeremiah Ratliff took a step backward against the 49ers, going from +10 in Week 1 to 0 in Week 2. He was far too easily moved around against the run and got little pressure as a pass rusher. Ratliff will sit out this week due to a concussion he suffered in the third quarter.
Stephen Paea showed good quickness and strength as a pass rusher, twice throwing the opposing blocker to the turf. Yet he struggled mightily at the point of attack, which left a few gaping holes up the middle. Paea is a crucial component to Chicago’s rush defense, so he’ll need better performances going forward.
Will Sutton played 35 snaps in Week 2, most of which came after Ratliff went down with the head injury. He started off strong and got good penetration on a pair of snaps, yet he faded substantially down the stretch.
Ego Ferguson is an immovable object against the run. He’s too big and powerful to run past and when he stays low off the ball, he has serious playmaking potential on first and second down. Yet he’s useless as a pass rusher, grading a team-low -6 against the pass. Ferguson is a weapon against opposing rushing attacks but at this point in his career, that’s the limit to his value.
It’s worth noting that, despite holding Gore to just 63 yards on the ground, he gained it on just nine carries, at 7.1 yards per carry. He also had a 57-yard touchdown run called back on a questionable holding call in the secondary. The numbers look good on paper but the Bears had four of their seven defensive linemen grade 0 or worse against the 49ers’ rushing attack.
The Bears blitzed 15 times against the 49ers, which was nearly double their Week 1 total (8). San Francisco gained 67 yards on Chicago’s 15 blitzes (4.4 yards per blitz).
Here is breakdown of who blitzed and the yardage gained by San Francisco against each blitzer.
|BLITZER||# OF BLITZES||TOTAL YARDS ALLOWED||YDS. PER BLITZ|
Lance Briggs led the team with 10 blitzes, four of which were double blitzes in conjunction with the nickelback. Of those four dual blitzes, three were zone blitzes – two in which Young dropped into coverage and one in which Allen dropped into coverage.
Shea McClellin was much more effective as a blitzer than he was against the Bills. McClellin rushed six times, picking up a QB pressure and a sack, his first of the season. Unfortunately for McClellin, he won’t be able to build on this strong performance, as he’s been ruled out this week due to a hand injury.
Brock Vereen was inserted at nickelback because of injuries to both Charles Tillman and Sherrick McManis. He came off the edge twice, nearly picking up a sack on his first blitz, although he was unable to bring Kaepernick down.
Here is the combined blitz efficiency through the first two contests.
|BLITZER||# OF BLITZES||TOTAL YARDS ALLOWED||YDS. PER BLITZ|
8 IN THE BOX
Including plays erased by penalty, Chicago’s defense was on the field for 68 snaps against San Francisco. The Bears placed a safety in the box on 43 of those snaps, or 68 percent. Ryan Mundy was in the box on 31 of those 43 reps.
The Bears ran five stunts with their defensive linemen, two of which were in conjunction with blitzes. So far this season, coordinator Mel Tucker has used nine total D-line stunts in two contests.
Through two games, here are the grades for each of Chicago’s defensive linemen.
Houston (+10) and Ratliff (+11) are the club’s top two defensive linemen through two weeks. Ratliff leads the team with a +6 against the run, while Houston, despite not having any sacks, has been the club’s best pass rusher (+10), which is more than double any other D-lineman on the team.
Allen has yet to prove he’s worth the investment the Bears made in him this offseason, grading worst amongst all D-linemen against the run (-2) and second worst as a pass rusher (-3).
Sutton has gotten plenty of snaps but he’s done very little with them, grading 0 across the board. Sutton will replace Ratliff in the starting lineup this week and will need to have a bigger impact against the New York Jets on Monday Night Football.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth 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.