The Chicago Bears gave up 31 points to the Green Bay Packers in Week 1. It was shades of 2014, when the club ranked 31st in the league allowing 27.3 points per game.
Green Bay was six of 10 on 3rd down (60 percent) and one for one on 4th down. The Packers scored four touchdowns on five trips to the red zone and were two for two in goal-to-go efficiency.
I broke down game film of Chicago's defensive performance from Sunday. Here's what I found.
If you would have told me two months ago that Will Sutton would lead all interior defenders in snaps in the regular-season opener, I would have called you crazy. Yet Sutton was tasked with replacing Jeremiah Ratliff as the club's primary pass-rushing defensive tackle, as Jenkins, Ferguson and Goldman offer little on passing downs.
No surprises here.
Houston's four total snaps is surprising. With his ability to stop the run and rush the passer, I felt he would see far more snaps than Young. Head coach John Fox said Houston's limited action was due to the Packers' no-huddle offense, which never allowed them to cycle in one of their best all-around defenders.
McManis played all but five snaps against the Packers, meaning defensive coordinator Vic Fangio used his nickel package 91 percent of the game. Don't expect that to change against pass-heavy opponents this year.
No surprises here.
* Snap counts per Pro Football Focus.
-Fangio dialed up just eight total blitzes against the Packers, the majority of which came late in the game. Not a single package finished, while the third blitz resulted in an offside penalty on Willie Young. The only good to come from Fangio's blitzes came in the third quarter, when the defense elicited a falst start. Other than that, the Bears were completely ineffective when sending extra pass rushers, with QB Aaron Rodgers consistently executing a hot-route quick-pass attack for which the defense had no answer.
-The Bears did not use a single 3-4 base set in the opener. There were two reasons for this. The first is that Green Bay used three receivers or more on nearly every snap between the 20s. As such, the Bears had to respond with a third corner. Second, the Packers used a hurry-up offense for most of the game and rarely huddled. That forced the Bears to stay with the same set throughout the duration of each drive and never allowed them to rotate 3-4 base personnel on the field.
Chicago's front office this off-season added defensive players to fit a 3-4 mold, so it's doubtful the Bears will continue to run sub packages - which are, in essence, 4-3 nickel sets - the rest of the season. Yet Sunday's contest showed Fangio's willingness to adjust his defense in any way possible if he feels it gives the team an advantage.
-Will Sutton showed flashes of his potential, including a first-quarter run play in which he shot the gap and nearly dragged the ball carrier down for a loss. Sutton has quickness and explosiveness but he just cannot create havoc as a pass rusher. He was offered numerous 1-on-1 pass-rush opportunities against the Packers and did almost nothing with them. The skill set is there but at some point Sutton - who has yet to pick up his first NFL sack - needs to begin producing on passing downs.
-One of the more creative Bears blitzes came in the second quarter with the Packers near midfield. OLB Jared Allen rushed off the left edge but when he saw RB Eddie Lacy release from the backfield, Allen cut his rush short and ran into the flat with Lacy. At the same time, ILB Christian Jones came untouched on a delayed blitz. That forced Rodgers to flip the pass just over Allen's head to Lacy, who made a spectacular one-handed grab. Schematically, the Bears won the chess match on that snap, yet Rodgers and Lacy pulled rabbits out of their hats.
-Nickelback Sherrick McManis had a solid game except for one play, in which WR Randall Cobb scored a touchdown. Cobb ran a wheel route and McManis bit hard on the first cut. As Cobb turned upfield, McManis tried to grab him, which earned a pass interference flag. Despite the interference, Cobb created separation and hauled in the toe-drag reception on the left edge of the end zone.
While that was a disappointing play for McManis, his overall effort was solid, as he held Cobb to just five catches for 38 yards on the day. That's a positive McManis can build on going forward.
-Alan Ball had one of the worst outings by a Bears cornerback in recent history. The Packers picked up James Jones last week after he'd been cut by the Raidres and Giants the past year. Jones is 31 years old, yet he had his way with Ball to the tune of three touchdowns - one of which was called back by a holding penalty.
The first touchdown was a fade to the side of the end zone. Ball was in Jones' hip pocket and had great positioning but he didn't look back for the ball until Jones had already made the catch. On the second TD, the one nullified, Ball was beat on a deep out in the end zone after Rodgers bought time with a scramble. The third score came on a simple slant pattern at the goal line, for which Ball was not prepared. In addition, Ball mistimed his jump on a deep pass in the 2nd quarter, which Jones hauled in for a 34-yard gain.
Ball lacked awareness, instincts and ball skills, all against a receiver far past his prime. If Ball can't handle Jones, what is Larry Fitzgerald going to do to him this week? The Bears need to start giving Ball safety help over the top or else get him off the field.
-A curious formation came on a 3rd-and-goal play from the 19-yard line. The Bears lined up eight defenders along the goal line, with just three down linemen. OLB Pernell McPhee actually generated pressure on the play - something he failed to do for the majority of the game - and forced Rodgers to scramble out of the pocket short of the end zone. Fangio's playbook runs deep.
-Linebackers Christian Jones and Shea McClellin had solid outings. They played under control and did a good job in their run fits. The one criticism I have is for McClellin, who just didn't show enough consistent aggression when attacking holes. Yet when McClellin was aggressive, he had an impact.
For example: In the third quarter, the Packers ran B gap right and McClellin rushed the hole and exploded into the lead blocker. That clogged the running lane, forcing Lacy to cutback into Jones, who cleaned up the play after a one-yard gain. It was a play in which we can see the potential of both players, who should continue to develop.
-Late in the game, Green Bay tried to run up the gut against NT Eddie Goldman. At the point of attack, Goldman rocked his blocker backward, then shed the block and made the tackle in the backfield.
Goldman is a two-gap beast who has the potential to single-handedly shut down opposing rushing attack. Yet he needs to find some consistency, particularly against double teams. On a red-zone run earlier in the game, Goldman was buried into the turf by a double team, which cannot happen for a player whose primary job is to eat up space in the middle of the field.