X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Cowboys

Jeremy Stoltz, our very own Prince of the Playbook, goes to the film room once again and breaks down one offensive snap and one defensive snap from Sunday's debilitating loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

3rd-and-11 on the Cowboys' own 8-yard line. After a holding penalty, Dallas is pinned back in its own end of the field. They line up in a three-receiver set, with WR Terrell Owens isolated on the right side. TE Jason Witten is positioned on the left side of the line with QB Tony Romo in the shotgun. The Bears counter with their nickel package. LBs Brian Urlacher and Jamar Williams both show blitz in the middle of the line. CB Ricky Manning Jr. lines up opposite the slot receiver on the left side but quickly slides inside, showing blitz himself.

QB Tony Romo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At the snap, Urlacher, Williams and Manning Jr. all drop into coverage, leaving only a four-man rush. The Cowboys block the play well, forcing the defensive linemen toward the outside of the field and opening up a huge passing line in the middle. Witten releases immediately and runs a shallow drag pattern across the field. Chicago chooses to defend the play with its base Cover-2 zone. Williams and Urlacher drop back into coverage but both step up when they see Witten crossing the field. Even the far cornerback, rookie Trumaine McBride, moves forward in the vicinity of Witten. Owens separates from McBride and runs a 15-yard in-pattern in the area just behind the linebackers. Romo, who is under no pressure at all, steps up in the gaping pocket and delivers a strike to the wide-open Owens. T.O. then runs across the field, utilizing a crushing block from fellow WR Sam Hurd on SS Adam Archuleta for a 35-yard gain and a first down.

The Bears' inability to put pressure on Romo with their four-man rush allowed this play to happen. The QB had all day to throw the ball out of his own end zone. Getting players in his face could have forced a bad decision or possibly a safety, but he wasn't hurried in any way. It doesn't matter who the quarterback is. In the NFL, if you give a signal-caller all day in the pocket to throw, he's going to find an open receiver.

Besides not blitzing, Chicago made another crucial error on this play: forgetting about Owens. Both linebackers and the far cornerback were so worried about the tight end dragging across the field, they let Owens slip right behind them into the Cover 2's most vulnerable area. There wasn't a player within five yards of him when he caught the ball, and he was able to run for another 15 yards.

1st-and-10 on the Bears' own 13-yard line. Chicago comes out on its first play of the drive with two receivers to the right – Bernard Berrian wide and Muhsin Muhammad in the slot. TE Greg Olsen motions out of the backfield into the wide receiver spot on the left side, just outside of TE Desmond Clark. QB Rex Grossman starts under center with RB Adrian Peterson alone behind him.

QB Rex Grossman
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At the snap, Grossman drops back to pass. The Cowboys bring a four-man rush that is picked up perfectly by the offensive line, so there is no pressure on the QB. Berrian runs a 10-yard curl, while Muhammad runs a 15-yard out-pattern. Grossman chooses to throw the ball to Muhammad, even though he's covered well by CB Anthony Henry and in spite of the fact that the safety is also in the vicinity of the pass. Henry undercuts the route and makes the interception in front of Muhammad. The corner then weaves his way into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.

Grossman's tendency to lock onto one receiver throughout the duration of a play is well documented – see Super Bowl XLI for more examples. On this snap, he focuses solely on Muhammad and throws the pass into double coverage. Grossman was not being hurried by a blitz, yet he forces the ball to a receiver who is well covered. His inability to see the entire field and make correct decisions absolutely killed a team that had played very well up until that point. The Soldier Field crowd was completely deflated, knowing the defending NFC champions would be starting the season 1-2.

Jeremy Stoltz is an Associate Editor for Chicago Sports Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.

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