Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter. 3rd-and-goal at the Chicago 8-yard line. On the previous play, Minnesota's starting quarterback, Tarvaris Jackson, left the game with a cramp in his leg. Backup QB Brooks Bollinger, a journeyman at best, lines up under center with two receivers to his right. RB Adrian Peterson and FB Tony Richardson are stacked in the backfield, with TE Visanthe Shiancoe on the left edge of the line. The Bears counter with a base 4-3. LB Hunter Hillenmeyer splits left to cover the slot receiver, leaving only linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs behind the four defensive linemen. CB Trumaine McBride is positioned on the right edge of the defensive line.
RB Adrian Peterson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At the snap, Bollinger turns from center and attempts to hand the ball off to Peterson, but there is some miscommunication and the two players nearly run into each other. Yet somehow, Peterson is able to get the ball from his signal-caller. DEs Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye both penetrate deep into the backfield, but the offensive tackles slide them away from the ball. Briggs shoots the center gap but is met by Richardson, who makes a crushing block. Urlacher fills the gap on the right side, but Peterson cuts left. The interior line locks onto the defensive tackles, as Shiancoe drives McBride towards the sideline. This leaves only S Brandon McGowan unblocked. McGowan flies up to meet the running back at the line of scrimmage, but Peterson makes a quick cut to his left and lets the safety run right past. The rookie from Oklahoma then makes another cut inside the block of Shiancoe and strolls into the end zone.
The Vikings do a good job of spreading the field out with twin receivers to the right side. This forces Hillenmeyer out of the box, leaving only the rookie McBride to help in run support. Even so, did anyone on the field not know a running play was coming? Bollinger was in for his first play of the game, and it should have been obvious to the defense that Minnesota would not put the game into the hands of a backup quarterback who hadn't thrown a pass all night. He was so rusty that he nearly blew the handoff. Yet the Bears defense, instead of penetrating into the backfield and disrupting an already broken play, could not get off a single block. The only player who had a chance at Peterson was McGowan, but he was out of control and used an awful angle of pursuit. This touchdown, along with the subsequent two-point conversion, sealed the game for the Vikings.
Bears on Offense
Fourth quarter. 3rd-and-9 at the Minnesota 39-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-receiver set. WR Devin Hester is split left, with wideouts Rashied Davis and Muhsin Muhammad to the right. QB Kyle Orton is in the shotgun, with RB Garrett Wolfe to his right. TE Desmond Clark is stationed on the left edge of the offensive line. The Vikings counter with a nickel package – four down linemen are supported by two linebackers. The secondary is giving the receivers a big cushion. Just before the start of the play, linebacker Ben Leber shows blitz by approaching the line of scrimmage over center.
QB Kyle Orton
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At the snap, Leber blitzes up the middle along with S Dwight Smith off the left side. Smith is picked up by the tight end. C Olin Kreutz initially blocks Leber before the linebacker breaks off the block and swings outside. Wolfe steps into the pocket to pick up DE Brian Robison, who is rushing up the middle on a defensive line stunt. This leaves Kreutz, left guard John St. Clair, and left tackle John Tait to block DT Kevin Williams. As Orton drops back to pass, Kreutz and St. Clair get their feet tangled up and are plowed over by Williams. As both players lay on their backs, Tait makes a half-hearted effort to pick up Williams, who stumbles into Orton's leg as the QB releases the ball. Because of this, the pass flutters 15 yards short of Davis, who is wide open down the middle of the field. Chicago is forced to punt.
This was a well-designed defensive blitz that involved a defensive line stunt along with a blitzing linebacker and safety. The offensive line does a decent job of picking it up initially, but the play falls apart as soon as Kreutz and St.Clair are run over by Williams. If the two of them can keep their footing, Orton would have had time to hit the open man 25 yards down the field for a potential game-tying touchdown. At this point in the season, offensive linemen should not be tripping over each other. It's understood that St.Clair is a converted tackle, but that doesn't explain how three offensive linemen can get steamrolled by one defensive tackle. This was a crucial play late in the fourth quarter, and the offensive line, as has been the case most of the season, failed miserably.
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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