Bears All-22 Lab: Rudderless Offense (Part I)

In the first of our-two part series breaking down the Bears’ offense, we look at film from Week 14, featuring two leaky guards, questionable third-down play calling and receivers struggling against man coverage.

The Chicago Bears currently rank 19th in points scored (21.1), 18th in total offense (338.2), 26th in rushing offense (91.3) and are tied for 12th in passing offense (246.9). The offense has failed to score 30 or more points in any single contest this year and most of the production has come in garbage time.

It’s truly astonishing how ineffective Marc Trestman’s offense has been this year. The Bears in 2013 finished second in scoring, fifth in passing and ninth in total offense. At times they moved the ball at will, yet this year it’s been a struggle for every yard.

So what has gone wrong?

The best way to answer that question is by thoroughly analyzing the game tape. With that in mind, let’s begin our quest for answers by evaluating the film from the Week 14 contest against the Dallas Cowboys.

PLAY I

Here we have a third-down play in Dallas territory. The Bears bunch three receivers (yellow) to the left side. On the right side, TE Martellus Bennett (blue) is one-on-one against safety Barry Church. The free safety (red) is occupied by the trips left and will pay no heed to Bennett, who will release down the sideline on a go pattern.

This play is well designed, with three receivers to the left freezing the free safety. Bennett gets a clear release outside and the Bears have the one-on-one matchup they are looking for. The problem is that Church is right in Bennett’s hip pocket. In no way is Bennett open, yet Jay Cutler lobs the pass to him anyway, which falls incomplete.

Here we see Cutler as he’s about to throw. Notice Alshon Jeffery (yellow) running a drag across the middle of the field. He has a step on the linebacker and the nickelback, with room to run in front of him.

Analysis: In this offense, which features tall receivers across the board, one-on-one matchups are akin to gold. Whether the pass catcher is covered or not, if he has single coverage out of the safety’s range, Cutler is going to throw it up.

Throughout the year we’ve seen Cutler ignore open receivers on short and intermediate routes, instead choosing the deep option to a covered player. Trestman gave him a good play, the offensive line gave him time to throw and Cutler didn’t execute.

PLAY II

The Bears line up four receivers (blue) on a third-down play. The Cowboys will shift into Cover 1 underneath, with just a single safety (red) over the top. The rest of the linebackers and secondary will form a wall along the first-down marker.

The red line is where Chicago needs to go for the first down, yet all four receivers run short of the marker. Not a single player has filled the huge open area beyond the first-down line.

Analysis: The Bears have receivers who are hard to bring down. Jeffery, Bennett and Brandon Marshall are big-bodied pass catchers who fight hard with the ball in their hands. Bennett especially is one of the toughest players in the league to tackle.

Yet Trestman is far too dependent on yards after the catch. When you have 3rd and 8 and you run four receivers seven yards or shorter, something is wrong. The Cowboys ran a shell zone, yet they left the safety on his own deep. A well-designed play could have exploited the safety and opened room for a receiver beyond the first-down marker.

PLAY III

RB Matt Forte (blue) will take the handoff running up the A gap. The key on this play is LB Rolando McClain.

As Forte receives the handoff, notice the hole the line created, sealing off the defensive line. Yet McClain is unblocked because LG Michael Ola (yellow) decided not to block him. Ola is the lead blocker on this play, yet he’s completely out of position to pick up the linebacker.

McClain attacks the hole (a technique lost on Chicago’s linebackers) and drops Forte for a loss. Notice the great view Ola has of the play.

Analysis: The Cowboys split their defensive linemen on this play, which immediately created a wide lane up the middle. All Ola had to do was move forward and block the linebacker. Instead, he slides outside for some reason and lets McClain into the backfield.

PLAY IV

Here again we have another third-and-long situation. The Cowboys will use press-man coverage on all four of Chicago’s receivers, creating a lot of space in the intermediate zone. Dallas will drop just one safety (red) deep.

Despite having single coverage across the board, and a safety frozen in the middle of the field, none of Chicago’s receivers are open.

Cutler is releasing the pass to Bennett, who is covered. Because no one could get open early, the safety is able to read Cutler and is now headed toward the sideline, where he’ll break up the pass. Notice the other three receivers, none of whom have created any separation.

Analysis: Trestman’s playbook this year has been predictable and simplistic, yet at some point, the receivers need to take it on themselves to beat single coverage. This play is just a rerun of countless plays before it, which is highly disturbing considering the talent level in Chicago’s receiving corps.

PLAY V

The Cowboys will use Cover 3 on this play, with the strong safety paroling the intermediate middle. The key on this play is Marshall (yellow) who will run a fly route.

This play is well designed. The Bears run Jeffery down the near sideline, which keeps the safety in the middle of the field. As Cutler is releasing the pass, notice the safety is 20 yards from Marshall (yellow) who has a step on the cornerback. A good pass here results in a big gain, yet the ball falls 10 yards short and out of bounds.

DT Terrell McClain (red) is the reason this pass falls short. At the snap, he uses a quick inside step and immediately gains leverage on RG Kyle Long.

McClain drives inside, which forces C Roberto Garza to help. At this point, the Bears have two blockers on the pass rusher.

McClain rips right through the double team and is in Cutler’s face as he’s trying to throw the pass. Because Cutler is unable to step into the throw, he can’t get enough on the pass to find Marshall, who is open deep.

Analysis: This was a play that should have gone for a touchdown. Trestman dialed up a beauty, one that sent a receiver down each sideline against man coverage and a single safety. Yet the pass protection, which has been horrible during the second half of the season, didn’t allow the play to 670 thedevelop.

Don’t let anyone fool you, Chicago’s problems on offense are truly a team effort.

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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.

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