Bears on Offense
2nd quarter. 1st-and-10 at the Washington 31-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set with WR Devin Hester split wide right. TE Desmond Clark is wing right, with QB Brian Griese under center and RB Adrian Peterson behind him. Washington counters with a 4-4 defense. Before the snap, all four linebackers creep up toward the line of scrimmage showing blitz. CB Shawn Springs is giving Hester a 7-yard cushion.
CB Shawn Springs
Evan Vucci/AP Images
At the snap, all four linebackers blitz. Clark and Peterson stay in to pass block, and the blitz it picked up very well. Griese recognizes the blitz and feels pressure, when in reality all the pass-rushers are blocked. Because of this Griese takes a quick three-step drop and fires a pass to Hester, who has run a five-yard hitch. Springs never moves on the play and just sits in the zone seven yards off the line of scrimmage. As soon as the ball is thrown, Springs sprints forward and jumps in front of Hester for the interception. He then races downfield for 53 yards before being pushed out of bounds. This gives Washington a first down at the Chicago 20-yard line.
This play initiated one of the biggest swings in the game. The Bears started the drive with great field position due to a forced turnover by the defense and looked to be heading into halftime with momentum on their side. Instead, Griese throws an ill-advised pass that is read perfectly by the Washington cornerback. The Redskins went on to score a touchdown on the very next play, capping a potential 14-point swing. To his credit, Griese should not have expected the under-performing offensive line to pick up the all-out blitz as well as it did. But if he would've recognized how much time he actually had he could have found WR Muhsin Muhammad, who was open ten yards further down the field. It has been mental mistakes like these that have killed the Bears all season.
Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter. 3rd-and-11 at the Washington 42-yard line. The Redskins line up in a three-receiver set with QB Todd Collins in the shotgun. RB Ladell Betts is to his right, while TE Chris Cooley is stationed on the left end of the offensive line. The Bears counter with their nickel package. The four down linemen are backed by LB Brian Urlacher and LB Lance Briggs. The cornerbacks are up tight on the wide outs with nickelback Ricky Manning Jr. playing seven yards off the slot receiver.
TE Chris Cooley
Win McNamee/Getty Images
At the snap, all three receivers plus Cooley release downfield. Betts stays in to block the four-man rush of the Bears, which is picked up well by the offensive line. The Bears employ their base Cover-2 zone with Urlacher and Briggs immediately dropping into the deep middle of the field, yet Cooley flies past both linebackers ten yards down the seam. Collins lobs a pass over the outstretched hand of Briggs and hits his tight end in stride. Cooley then bounces off a half-hearted tackle from S Brandon McGowan and picks up another ten yards before Urlacher brings him down from behind. This 33-yard gain gives the Redskins a first down at the Chicago 25-yard line.
The Bears' first mistake on this play was to let Cooley release freely at the line of scrimmage. A quick chuck by DE Mark Anderson would have thrown off the timing of the play and given the linebackers extra time to get deep. At the moment the pass is thrown, McGowan is less than 10 yards deeper than Cooley but doesn't anticipate the throw and breaks late on the ball. This allows the tight end plenty of room in the middle of the field to make the catch. McGowan missed an opportunity to make a game-changing play, but it wasn't his fault Cooley was wide open. It was the fault of the two linebackers who couldn't get to their zone quick enough. Urlacher is touted as one of the fastest players at his position, but on this play he's nowhere near the receiver when the catch is made. This shows just how far the Pro Bowler has regressed this season because of his back issues. This play, which proved pivotal in propelling the Redskins to victory, would have never occurred last year with Urlacher at full health and proves again how injuries have decimated a once powerful unit.
Jeremy Stoltz is an Associate Editor for Chicago Sports Weekly. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.
All of that plus much more in the January issue of ...
BEAR REPORT, the only publication exclusively dedicated to your Chicago Bears ... CLICK HERE to subscribe today