It's early in the second quarter, and the Bears are driving. They have a 2nd-and-5 at the Houston 35. Two plays earlier, QB Brian Griese had hit WR Mark Bradley on a deep-in route for a 15-yard gain. After a first-down run, the Bears line up single-back strong right with FB Obafemi Ayanbadejo in the right wing spot. Bradley is isolated wide left, with CB Fred Bennett in his face.
At the snap, Griese takes a three-step drop and lobs a high fade pass down the left sideline. Bradley, who stutter-stepped and released left without a bump from the cornerback, is streaking to meet the ball. His speed allows him to beat the defender deep and catch the pass over his shoulder before being pushed out of bounds at the 2-yard line, giving the Bears a 1st-and-goal.
This 33-yard completion was set up two plays earlier by Bradley's deep-in pattern, which was still fresh in Bennett's mind. Because of this, the cornerback lined up on Bradley's inside shoulder, allowing the speedy receiver a free release to the outside. Without getting a hand on the receiver, Bennett had to try and run stride for stride with Bradley – an almost impossible task for even the best defender.
What really made the play successful though was the perfect toss by Griese. The ball was thrown with outstanding touch and accuracy, just out of the defender's reach and into the waiting hands of Bradley. Like my old high school coach used to say, he "dropped it down the chimney."
BEARS ON DEFENSE
The Texans, in their first offensive series, line up in a four-receiver set with two receivers on each side. The left slot receiver motions right, and nickelback Ricky Manning Jr. follows – essentially showing the offense it'll be man-to-man coverage. LB Hunter Hillenmeyer and SS Adam Archuleta line up side by side behind the left defensive tackle. They're both leaning on their front foot, indicating a blitz. LB Lance Briggs is on the right side, about five yards off the ball in his regular stance showing no signs of blitzing.
But at the snap, Hillenmeyer, Archuleta, and Briggs ALL blitz. The four linemen also fight to the quarterback, giving the Bears an eight-man pass rush. The Houston line does a good job of picking up the blitz, but they just don't have enough bodies to contain the charge.
The Texans' running back stuffs Hillenmeyer at the line of scrimmage, but that allows Archuleta, who is coming through the same hole, to fly free at the quarterback. With Archuleta barreling in on him, Houston QB Matt Schaub forces a hurried throw off his back foot to his receiver, Kevin Walter. Walter, having recognized the blitz, runs a quick out and actually gets his hands on the football. But CB Charles Tillman comes over his back and rips at the pigskin with his right hand, knocking it loose for an incompletion. This pressure and aggressiveness, from both the front eight and the secondary, results in a fourth-down punt for the Texans.
What's interesting about this play is that the Bears gave away the blitz before the snap. Hillenmeyer and Archuleta showed blitz, and Manning revealed the man-to-man coverage. Yet through solid execution, Houston failed to curb the call's effectiveness. Fans shouldn't expect this type of all-out blitz very often as Lovie Smith likes to stick with his base Cover 2 the majority of the time, but it's exciting to see new defensive coordinator Bob Babich let his players loose in only their first preseason game.
Jeremy Stoltz is an Associate Editor for Chicago Sports Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.