The Chicago Bears lost 31-23 to the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season opener yesterday. The Bears are now 0-1 in 2015, yet they kept Pace for three quarters with the Packers - Chicago led 13-10 at halftime and trailed by just one point entering the fourth quarter - a team most consider a favorite to represent the NFC in this year's Super Bowl.
The Bears did not resemble their limp-noodle predecessors from 2014, putting forth a solid performance against one of the NFL elites. It was an outing this club can build on going forward.
With that in mind, we went to the film room to dissect the Week 1 performance of Chicago's offense. Here's what we found.
Langford and Rodgers combined for 11 total snaps, compared to the 69 of Forte, whom the Bears appear willing to run into the ground.
*All snap counts per Pro Football Focus
-On the first offensive series of the game, the Bears used a three-tight-end set on six of the first seven plays called. Those are "scripted" plays, used by teams to set a foundation for the offensive attack. Obviously, offensive coordinator Adam Gase wanted to establish the run early and he did that by stacking players on the edges and running the ball on three of the first four plays of the game.
Gase never backed off the run game either. Even with six minutes to play and the Bears down by eight at midfield, Gase called two straight run plays to start the drive. RB Matt Forte had 24 carries, which would have been second most in a single game last year, and 141 rushing yards, his most in a single game since Week 4 of the 2011 season. Gase's commitment to the rushing attack, as well as its overall effectiveness - Forte averaged 5.9 yards per carry - signals a much more balanced offensive attack this season.
-The Bears had a 36/33 pass/run ratio in the game, yet that number was skewed in the red zone. On 14 snaps inside Green Bay's 20-yard line, the Bears threw the ball 10 times compared to just four runs. That includes four straight passes in the fourth quarter when the Bears had 1st and goal from the Packers 6-yard line down by just one score.
The only touchdown the Bears scored in the red zone came on a Forte run, while all 10 passes failed to put the ball in the end zone. Those are hard numbers Gase can't ignore. The next time the Bears have first down inside the opponent's 10-yard line, it's unlikely he'll be as eager to throw the ball.
-One of the red-zone runs was a read-option play in which QB Jay Cutler kept the ball and turned the corner. He didn't take a big hit but he did take a shot, which seems like an unecessary risk.
-The Bears called two plays in which both Forte and rookie RB Jeremy Langford were on the field together. On the first play, Forte lined up in the slot and the handoff went to Langford in the backfield. The second play was an option call in which Cutler could either hand the ball off to Forte or throw it to Langford running a swing pass with two blockers in front. Cutler chose to hand the ball off.
-Gase used two inverted wishbone formations against the Packers. Those formations included a tight end lined up three yards behind either offensive tackle and Forte deep in the backfield. Both were A-gap handoffs to Forte for 5- and 20-yard gains.
The inverted wishbone, while still popular at some of the lower levels of football, is rarely used in today's NFL. Gase's playbooks is obviously very deep.
-On two separate 3rd and 3 plays, the Bears ran a pitch play to Forte from shotgun, once to the right and once to the left. Both times, the offensive tackle swung outside and led the play. Both times, Forte picked up the first down.
Gase obviously isn't afraid to put the ball in Forte's hands out in space on crucial downs. A coordinator who runs the ball on third and 3 twice is setting a baseline of unpredictability going forward. All future opponents must be aware of both the run and pass on 3rd and 3 or shorter, which will keep opposing defenses honest.
-Early in the 2nd quarter the Bears ran Forte on a stretch run left from the Green Bay 14-yard line. Forte was able to turn the corner yet was chased down from the backside by Clay Matthews, saving what would have been an easy touchdown.
Notable on that play was RG Vladimir Ducasse, who pulled left and kicked out. On film, you see Ducasse line up his block, then he shifts into gear and explodes into a pile of defenders. At impact, Packers players explode out of the hole like bowling pins, which clears the edge for Forte.
Overall, Ducasse had a very up and down game but he flashed on more than a few occassions. If the Bears can get him to move his feet better in pass protection, he can be serviceable next to Kyle Long.
-On Forte's one-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter, the Bears stacked two tight ends on the left edge. The key block on that play came from TE Martellus Bennett, who turned and sealed DE Julius Peppers inside. There aren't many tight ends in the NFL, let alone one who caught 90 passes last year, who can hook a future Hall of Famer like Peppers.
-The Bears used an old-fashioned counter trey in the third quarter, pulling both Ducasse and C Will Montgomery. It was well executed and Forte picked up 20 yards on the play.
-RT Kyle Long had a few very bad snaps at his new position, the worst of which came against Peppers, who flew right past Long with an outside rush that nearly resulted in a turnover. Obviously it's going to take Long a while to settle in at right tackle, where he's never before played, but there's no doubt he can play at a high level on the right edge.
Late in the game there were two snaps that demonstrated Long's potential as a pass blocker. On both he was beat inside at the snap, yet he had the quickness and athleticism to stay with the defender and ride him through the front side of the pocket. Long's ability to move in space should allow him to eventually excel as a tackle.
-Overall, the offensive line did a very good job in blitz pickup. The only missed block came against a kitchen-sink blitz on 4th down at the goal line, in which Long and Ducasse laid out the red carpet for the blitzing linebacker. Otherwise, against a 3-4 defense led by a creative coordinator in Dom Capers, the Bears' new front five, who never before played together as a unit, showed good communication and execution against the blitz.
Case in point: On Marquess Wilson's 50-yard gain, that play only happens because the offensive line picked up a fairly exotic blitz package and gave Cutler room to step up into the pocket and make a play.