Noots' Notes: Game 9

The Bears won their 3rd game in a row in stunning fashion Sunday in Tennessee. Even though their offense only managed 3 points, their defense and special teams rose to the occasion as they defeated the Titans (3-6) 19-17 on a game-winning safety in overtime. Let's take a closer look at how the different personnel groups performed.


OFFENSE

Quarterbacks

Craig Krenzel (10-28-116, 2 Int, 1/9, 2 fumbles) had another game that can only be measured in handfuls of hair that were pulled out by Bear fans who were witness to this spectacle of futility. He held the ball far too long on just about every passing play. It's as though he sees nothing develop early, and is waiting for players to get more open than is possible. The first of his interceptions was on a ball that Desmond Clark should have held on to. The seldom looked for tight end must have been surprised as the ball caromed off his fingertips for an interception in the red zone. The second pick was a deep route up the middle to Bernard Berrian that sailed outside instead of inside. A microcosm of Krenzel's game occurred when he was nearly intercepted on an early pass that skipped on the ground in the seam between Bobby Wade and Bryan Johnson. Both were open, there were 10 yards between them, and he "split the uprights." Krenzel wasn't alone in his ineptitude. He faced a ton of pressure up the middle, and there were at least 4 passes dropped. When you add his propensity for holding the ball too long with the poor blocking, it's a recipe for disaster. Krenzel also fumbled the ball away as well. On the bright side, he's 3-0 as a starter. He has a strange capriciousness about him that delivers the goods when the game is on the line. Krenzel appears to have been sprinkled by magic dust from some long forgotten magical sprite…maybe it's Doug Flutie. Somehow he was able to compose himself and lead the offense on its lone scoring drive at the end of regulation. His passes to Bobby Wade and David Terrell on the drive were excellent. The throw to Terrell on 4th down was one of the key plays of the game. There are a number of areas Krenzel must get better at quickly, and those include getting rid of the ball faster, being more accurate, seeing the field better, and knowing when to throw the ball away to avoid a sack. He's a smart kid, here's to hoping he gets over the hump quickly. GRADE: F+

Running Backs

Anthony Thomas (29/72, 3-10) played the entire game at halfback and found the going tough. He was faced with would-be-tacklers in the backfield on most of his handoffs, and struggled to make any of them miss. He had an excellent stiff-arm on Keith Bulluck (13 tackles, _ sack) for the earliest of the Bears' first downs. Late in the game he carried a tackler on his back for a first down. In between, he was whistled for a false start and tripping. He had a tackle on a turnover but committed a facemask penalty. Thomas had an up and down game in pass protection. It was a difficult game for Thomas, and his inability to make a big play in spite of 29 carries had Bear fans longing for the return of Thomas Jones. Thomas couldn't break any tackles, and at times didn't appear to have good vision for the hole. Adrian Peterson saw one play of action with Thomas in the backfield, went to the slot before the snap, and wasn't seen on offense again. Bryan Johnson played the entire game at fullback, and made some good blocks, but wasn't a factor in the passing attack, although he was open several times. GRADE: D

Receivers

David Terrell (1-11) was open on several plays, although Krenzel rarely found him. When he did, it was disaster. Terrell dropped the first two slants thrown to him. He later added a drop on a deep throw from Krenzel after a scramble to buy time. But it was Terrell who secured the ball on a slant route on 4th and short on the game-tying drive at the end of regulation. Bobby Wade (3/21, 4-63) had a strong game. He helped the running attack by taking 3 end around plays for good yardage. Wade also made two long catches, snagging a pass with arms outstretched shortly after Terrell's key grab. He absorbed a huge hit and still held onto the ball. He also took a short pass and made a tackler miss before picking up some good yardage after the catch. Bernard Berrian (1-8) and Justin Gage were not factors. Dustin Lyman played a good deal but was rarely an option in the passing game. Desmond Clark (1-24) had his number called a couple of times. After he mishandled an early one leading to an interception, he came up with a key 24-yard reception at the end of regulation. He too was occasionally open, but Krenzel was not able to accurately put the ball on him. There's only so much your receivers can do if the quarterback cannot get them the ball. Four drops is not acceptable, and is doubly bad when this group should be stepping up to help the struggling rookie quarterback. GRADE: D

Offensive Line

Rex Tucker got another start at right guard, and still looked like he wasn't ready. Unfortunately for him, he was so overmatched this week against the Titan's defensive line that he was lifted in the second quarter for the steady play of Steve Edwards. Edwards had some rough moments as well, but was a vast improvement over Tucker. Kevin Carter (11 tackles, 3 sacks) and Albert Haynesworth (5 tackles) were running over Tucker like a welcome mat. Edwards was a key part of some of the better runs by Thomas with his pulling, as well as the end around runs from Wade. Edwards was beaten by Randy Starks for a sack and forced a fumble of Krenzel. He was aware enough to jump on the ball to retain possession. Olin Kreutz had a struggle as well. He was getting blown 3 yards deep into the backfield by Haynesworth on running plays, which disrupted anything Thomas was trying to do. He also allowed a sack. Titans defensive linemen were coming off the ball so fast they were able to knock down or beat the pulling linemen they were lined up over. John Tait had this happen to him, and could very easily have been credited with a tackle as he fell headlong into Anthony Thomas' legs. Tait was beaten for a sack and forced fumble at the end of the half. Ruben Brown was no bargain either, as his matchup was faster than him to the point of attack when he pulled. On the play, Haynesworth beat Brown to his right to nail Thomas for a 4-yard loss. Qasim (another false start) Mitchell probably had the best game of the group, but that would be like calling him the largest jumbo shrimp as he was matched up with Travis LaBoy (subbing for the inactive Carlos Hall). The Bears allowed 5 more sacks. Overall, there was too much pressure up the middle in both the run and pass. This was their worst game of the season. GRADE: D-


DEFENSE

Defensive Line

Adewale Ogunleye (7 tackles, sack, FF) had his best game as a Bear. He had a well-balanced performance, making several key tackles against the run, getting good pressure on Billy Volek (27-44-334, 2 TD, Int, 1/5, fumble), and combined with Alex Brown (7 tackles, sack, FF, FR) to come up with the game-winning play. In overtime, on 3rd and 14 from the 5-yard line, Ogunleye forced a fumble on Volek in the end zone for a safety. It was only the second time in NFL history that an overtime game was decided by a safety. Alex Brown had a quieter game than he did the previous week, but was disruptive nonetheless. Brown had a forced fumble and fumble recovery on the same play against Chris Brown (20/62, 2 fumbles, 2-6). He had several good pressures, and was held repeatedly although it wasn't called. Brown had Volek in his grasp and was on his way to taking him down in the end zone when Ogunleye stripped the ball out. Left tackle Brad Hopkins left the game early with an injury. Michael Haynes played very sparingly, but his impact was game-changing nonetheless. With time winding down in the first half Haynes came in for Ogunleye. Volek threw a screen pass that Haynes snared out of the air and rambled with for 45 yards and a touchdown. It was a huge play, since the Bears were down 7-0 at the time, and were showing no signs of being able to put any points on the board. They went into halftime 7-7 and were getting the ball back after the break. Tommie Harris (4 tackles, FF) forced a fumble, had a pressure that led to an incompletion, and also had a knockdown on Volek. Ian Scott (4 tackles, PD) was a force against the inside running plays, stuffing Brown several times. He also had a key pass deflection in overtime that nearly led to an interception. Alfonso Boone wasn't as much of a factor, and had an encroachment penalty declined. Tank Johnson added some pressure up the middle. Overall, the pressure was only average, but run defense was excellent against a tough runner, and the turnovers forced cannot be emphasized enough. GRADE B+

Linebackers

Brian Urlacher (6 tackles, PD) and Lance Briggs (14 tackles, 2 PD) combined to stop Chris Brown on a 4th and less than a yard. Urlacher had a very steady game. He appeared to have an interception and fumble at the beginning of the 4th quarter. Replays appeared to support it; although the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass (referees believed he never had possession). For whatever reason, the Bears chose not to review it, and the Titans kicked a field goal on the next play to make the game 14-10 in favor of the Bears. Urlacher and Briggs combined again to make a key stop on Antowain Smith on a 3rd and 5 near the end of regulation. Lance Briggs was all over the field and racked up a slew of tackles. He was caught running past the play against some of Brown's cutbacks. But when he wasn't making mistakes of aggression, he was laying some heavy lumber on Chris Brown. Hunter Hillenmeyer (5 tackles, sack) had his most active game since being moved to the strong side. Hillenmeyer made some key hits in the hole and at the line of scrimmage on Brown, and made a sweet open field tackle on Brown on a reception in the flat. He was credited with a sack in overtime as well. Although they didn't force any turnovers, the linebackers played the run well, although coverage was a bit uneven. GRADE: B+

Secondary

R.W. McQuarters was heavily involved in the Bears' turnovers. He recovered a fumble, and then later made a good block on Haynes' interception return for a touchdown. He was exposed a bit in coverage as a go-to defender when the Titans needed 15 to 25-yard gains. Jerry Azumah (9 tackles, PD) made two early tackles on 3rd down to prevent Titan tight ends from reaching the first down marker. He was later beaten for a 29-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly thrown ball from Volek to Derrick Mason (7-91, TD). Mike Green (4 tackles) stood up Chris Brown so Alex Brown could peel the ball out for a forced fumble. Green bit on a fake and was beaten for a touchdown deep over the middle to Drew Bennett (6-148, TD). Todd Johnson (4 tackles) had a quieter day, and appeared a step or two slow getting over to help on several of the deeper routes. Nathan Vasher was held without an interception. In fact, he got turned inside out for a 26-yard gain by Eddie Berlin. Overall, the defensive backs didn't have a strong game. Several missed opportunities by the Titans kept them from looking worse than they did. Billy Volek and company made it look far too easy to pick up big chunks of yardage. They seemed to suffer from the decline in pass rush pressure. GRADE: C-


SPECIAL TEAMS

Paul Edinger missed a 39-yard field goal, but connected on a 29-yarder at the end of regulation to tie the game at 17. His kickoffs were short, even for him. Brad Maynard was superb. He continually punted the Bears out of trouble and pinned the Titans deep into their territory. His kicking kept the Bears in the game, and his punt in overtime to the Titan's 9-yard line set the stage for the game-winning play. R.W. McQuarters was unbelievable on punt returns. He returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown, and then followed that up with an 86-yard return for another score. Unfortunately, the second kick came back on a penalty. Joe Odom made a nice block on McQuarters' touchdown (the one that counted). Jerry Azumah didn't break off any huge kickoff returns, but was good for 25 yards on most. Bernard Berrian had a few looks in both kickoff and punt returns but wasn't a factor. The Titans lined up for a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. Marc Columbo, getting his first game action in two years, was in on the interior of the defensive line. He stretched out his giant frame and deflected the field goal to send the contest into overtime. Coverage was shoddy on kicks. Thankfully, the Titans committed some penalties to erase the yardage. The net pluses the Bears provided in terms of return yardage and the punting far outweighed any minor lapses in coverage or Edinger's miss of a 39-yarder. GRADE: A-


COACHING

There are a lot of things wrong with the offense (40 yards of offense at halftime). In this game, the Titans' defensive line was quicker and stronger than the Bears' offensive line. Additionally, Krenzel was too slow to get rid of the ball. Offensive Coordinator Terry Shea was supposedly weaned at the knee of West Coast Offense guru Bill Walsh. The West Coast Offense is a name branded to myriad schemes in the NFL, but if there's one thing it's known for is timing. Usually it's typified by 3-step drops and the football being released as soon as the quarterback hits that third step. Where is the 3-step drop? It was used very few times, and when it was, it actually looked like a professional offense. When Krenzel takes 5 or 7 steps, he holds the ball too long. Perhaps he could use a few passes where he's throwing the ball to an area on timing after 3 steps. The 3 step drop would not only give the offense better timing, it would also allow the line to fire out or cut block and keep the rush off Krenzel. Ron Rivera's defense had another strong game, although the pass rush was only average against a banged up Titans' offensive line. Perhaps they allowed this in order to stop the running of Chris Brown, and they succeeded at that. Lovie Smith not electing to review a possible interception by Urlacher was very questionable, especially since the offense was consuming time outs like they were going out of style. Perhaps the play was not reviewable. Smith elected to review whether or not a defender was down by contact on an interception thrown in the direction of Bernard Berrian. It turned out to be a good review for the Bears, although most watching had their doubts. The play of the special teams cannot be ignored, and truly showed up as a deciding factor. It's said that special teams is one third of the game. This game was an indication of why. GRADE: B-


GAME BALLS

Michael Haynes
R.W. McQuarters
Hunter Hillenmeyer
Lance Briggs
Brad Maynard
Adewale Ogunleye
Alex Brown
Bobby Wade

HORNS

David Terrell
Craig Krenzel
Olin Kreutz

HARDEST HITS

Hillenmeyer on Brown
Briggs on Brown
Thompson on Wade



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