Bears on Offense
Fourth quarter. 3rd-and-4 at the Chicago 47-yard line. The Bears line up in a four-receiver set, with WR Rashied Davis, WR Muhsin Muhammad, and TE Greg Olsen split right. WR Bernard Berrian is wide left, with RB Adrian Peterson alone in the backfield. New York counters with its nickel package, four down linemen supported by two linebackers. Before the snap, Olsen motion into the backfield, as Giants LB Antonio Pierce sneaks up into the middle of the line of scrimmage showing blitz.
QB Rex Grossman
Jerry Lai/AP Images
At the snap, QB Rex Grossman drops back to pass, as Olsen exits the backfield into the right flat. Grossman looks Olsen's way, but he is covered by the safety. At the same time, Pierce blitzes up the middle and LB Kawika Mitchell blitzes off the right edge. Peterson stays in the backfield to block, but he doesn't see Mitchell and ends up letting the linebacker run right by. On the left side of the line, OG Terrence Metcalf is tasked with blocking DT Justin Tuck. Metcalf reaches for his man without spreading his feet and dropping back to pass block, so Tuck just pushes his way past. Metcalf loses his balance and turns around just in time to see Tuck and Mitchell sack Grossman for a 9-yard loss.
This was a drive that could have sealed the game for the Bears. Had Chicago, leading 16-14 at the time, been able to run out the clock on this possession, then the game would have been over. Instead, New York got the ball back with just under five minutes left to score. At this point, Chicago's offensive line is a major liability. Metcalf showed awful technique and desire on this play, basically letting his man run right by him. The play never had a chance, as Grossman had zero time to get rid of the ball. I could've picked any number of plays from this contest to highlight the line's deficiencies, but this mistake was the most glaring and costly.
Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter. 3rd-down-2 at the Chicago 27-yard line. The Giants executed an 8-yard run by RB Derrick Ward on the previous play. They come to the line immediately after the play ends, no huddle, and line up their offense. QB Eli Manning lines up under center, with two receivers to his left and one to his right. TE Jeremy Shockey is stationed on the right edge of the line, with Ward alone in the backfield. The Bears attempt to shuffle two defensive linemen between plays and are completely out of position when the ball is snapped. In fact, all four defensive linemen are standing up and not in their defensive stances at the start of the play.
RB Derrick Ward
Jerry Lai/AP Images
At the snap, Manning turns and hands the ball off to Ward running off right tackle. The Giants pull left guard Rich Seubert to the right side as a lead blocker. Seubert looks for a man to block, but the Chicago defense is so completely out of position that he can't find anyone. Ward flies past his lineman and through the defense before LB Brian Urlacher takes him down after a 4-yard gain and a first down.
If the Bears could have stopped the Giants from getting a first down on this play, it would have left New York with a long field goal attempt to cut the lead to 16-10. Instead, Chicago is caught out of position while trying to shuffle in two new linemen. Players were scrambling around, trying to find their proper place on the field as the ball was being snapped. No defense can expect success on any given play when it fails to line up properly. All Ward had to do was find a tiny crease among the chaotic, confused defenders to pick up a crucial first down. This was one of the most important plays for the Chicago defenders all game, and they failed miserably. New York went on to drive the length of the field for a touchdown, then used that momentum to end the Bears playoff hopes.
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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