And that disparity in production often happens all within the course of a 60-minute contest.
The last two weeks, the Bears have looked like world-beaters in the first half, scoring 38 points combined in the first two stanzas. In the second half, things got ugly, with a total of 3 points scored against the Packers and Panthers combined.
So what is the problem? Where do the inconsistencies lie and what can be done about it?
To answer those questions, let’s break down the All-22 game film from last week.
Here we see Forte catching the pass. Notice Slauson and de la Puente both in position to clear out Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly.
The first block on Kuechly comes from de la Puente, who pushes him laterally in front of Slauson.
Slauson pushes Kuechly back to de la Puente, who is now too far out of position to make a clean block. Kuechly ends up being pushed toward the sideline, the same direction in which Forte is headed.
Kuechly splits both blockers and takes Forte down for a minimal gain.
Analysis: Here we see the first of many missed blocks by de la Puente. Overall, the offensive line played very poorly on Sunday, with Slauson actually weighing down the front five in his return from an ankle injury. LT Michael Ola struggled on the edge and Pro Bowler Kyle Long was very inconsistent in the run game.
Yet de la Puente outshined them all, missing numerous blocks in both pass protection and the run game. On this play, he does little more than play patty cake with Kuechly before watching the linebacker tackle Forte.
This was a crucial 3rd-down-and-1 pitch play in the 3rd quarter. WR Brandon Marshall will crack down on the defensive end at the snap, with Ola clearing to the outside to serve as lead blocker. On the backside, Long is tasked with securing LB Thomas Davis.
As Forte receives the pitch, Marshall seals the inside and Ola swings wide. Notice that Long cannot get in front of Davis and immediately loses leverage on the linebacker.
Ola cannot get a good kick-out block, with the defender, a cornerback, able to dip his shoulder and set the edge. This forces Forte to cut up inside, right in the direction Davis is headed. Notice Long now staring at Davis’ back.
Forte jump cuts inside as Ola falls to the ground. At this point, Davis has a clear shot at the ball carrier.
Because of the jump cut inside, Forte is in no position to put a move on Davis, who buries the runner for a 1-yard loss.
Analysis: Because of the missed blocks by Long and Ola, the drives stalls at the Carolina 27-yard line and the Bears are forced to kick a field goal. It was the last points they scored the entire game.
The Bears used zone blocking almost exclusively against Carolina, running only a handful of trap plays, which includes this snap. Slauson will cross behind the line and kick out on the defensive tackle. Long and RT Jordan Mills are responsible for picking up the two linebackers at the second level.
Forte hits the line of scrimmage, running through a nice hole created by the Slauson/de la Puente cross block. Yet notice both Mills and Long are unable to lock up the linebackers.
Forte gets smacked by both linebackers for a negligible gain.
Analysis: Again, the failed execution up front cost the Bears a big opportunity on the ground. If Mills and Long occupy the linebackers, Forte runs for a big gain. Instead, he’s stuffed after just a yard on the ground.
This is QB Jay Cutler’s first interception. The Panthers show blitz and will bring four pass rushers, as well as the nickelback off the right edge. Brandon Marshall (blue) is the hot read on this play.
The nickelback comes around the corner untouched, with Long apparently enjoying the view. Marshall has 1-on-1 coverage with a linebacker, Davis, which is typically a juicy mismatch. Cutler sees it and locks on.
Notice the yellow arrows indicating three defenders in Marshall’s area. With two deep safeties and Marshall running down the seam, he’s essentially triple covered. Also notice WR Santonio Holmes, who is also matched up on a linebacker and creates immediate separation out of his break, yet Cutler isn’t paying attention.
As Marshall goes up for the grab, both safeties converge and Davis gets right in his face. Notice Holmes underneath with no on around him.
The ball is tipped in the air and results in a Panthers takeaway.
Analysis: Isolating Marshall on a linebacker was the ideal scenario here. Yet this play was designed for Holmes underneath. Marshall had cleared out the middle of the field and Holmes crossed to that area, creating a yard of separation out of his break. It should have been an easy pitch and catch, yet Cutler was so locked on to Marshall, he didn’t even see Holmes.
Additionally, neither of the wide receivers occupied the deep zones of the safeties. They both ran short routes, which allowed both of Carolina’s deep defenders to converge on Marshall.
The Panthers left themselves mighty vulnerable on this blitz yet the Bears did everything wrong and could not take advantage of it.
The Panthers show blitz before the snap but rush only three. Kuechly immediately clears to the left side of the field, leaving a huge swath of grass in the middle-right.
Holmes is again matched up on a linebacker and runs a crossing pattern into the open area. Notice the linebacker and safety bunched together on the left, which signals a blown coverage. Up front, Slauson and de la Puente are tasked with double-teaming the defensive tackle, yet both are getting pushed into Cutler’s face.
Because de la Puente cannot hold his ground – notice the pile of players directly in front of the quarterback – Cutler is forced to release the ball early and cannot step into his throw. With the ball in the air, the defender falls down and Holmes has nothing but green grass in front of him. All he needs is a good throw …
The ball sails a good three yards over the head of Holmes and right into the arms of the defender for the interception.
Analysis: Very rarely do you see a double team get pushed back five yards, yet that’s what happened to de la Puente and Slauson on this snap. Had they kept the defensive tackle at bay, Cutler could have waited one more second, allowing Holmes to complete his break and separate from the linebackers, and stepped into his throw.
Instead, Cutler tosses a wild pass off his back foot for a turnover that led to Carolina’s game-winning touchdown.
Forte is going to run off-tackle left with TE Dante Rosario at H-back. At the snap, Rosario will slide behind the line of scrimmage to kick out the defensive end on the backside.
The front five seal the defensive line, giving Forte a wide cutback lane. Notice that Rosario’s movement behind the line draws both linebackers with him, leaving no one at the second level for Carolina.
Forte goes into the second level untouched, with both linebackers out of position.
Analysis: These are the types of details that mostly go unnoticed but the play design here was exceptional. The blocking up front was top notch, giving Forte a wide backside lane. Rosario sliding to the weak side was key, as it brought the linebackers out of the hole, resulting in an 11-yard gain.
On our final snap, we’ll focus on two different techniques by the offensive tackles: Mills (blue) will aggressively attack the defender, while Ola (white) will drop back using classic pass-protection technique.
Immediately after the snap, Mills is on DE Wes Horton, initiating contact outside of the pocket. At the same time, Ola is still working his kick step.
Ola finally comes in contact with DE Charles Johnson, yet he’s already just a few feet from Cutler. If he moves back at all, the pocket will collapse. Yet on the other side, Mills has created eight yards of cushion for Cutler.
As Cutler releases the pass, notice where Horton is compared to Johnson.
Analysis: Mills has improved dramatically this season as a pass blocker and on this play his aggressiveness keeps the defender at least five yards from the quarterback throughout the snap. It’s a technique Ola might want to employ, especially if Jermon Bushrod continues to miss time.
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