Bears on Offense
Second quarter. 2nd-and-10 at the Chicago 45-yard line. The Bears line up in a four-receiver set with QB Kyle Orton under center. WR Muhsin Muhammad and TE Desmond Clark are spread right, with WR Rashied Davis and WR Bernard Berrian split left. RB Garrett Wolfe is alone in the backfield. The Packers counter with a 4-3 defense. The corners are playing tight on the two receivers split wide. The outside linebackers are playing seven yards off the slot receivers. No one is showing blitz.
RB Garrett Wolfe
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
At the snap, all four receivers release straight down the field each taking a defender with him. Orton takes a seven-step drop as the pass rush from the four down linemen creeps up on him. Wolfe steps into the pocket to pass block but quickly releases through the offensive line into the right flat. At the same time, C Olin Kreutz races into the flat ahead of Wolfe. Orton lobs a pass over the heads of the rushing defenders and hits Wolfe just outside the hash marks. The running back then turns upfield and follows a nice block by Kreutz, who pushes LB A.J. Hawk right out of the play. Wolfe then puts a highlight-reel juke on CB Will Blackmon before taking off downfield. The speedy back then races toward the end zone before being caught from behind by CB Charles Woodson. The play goes for a 33-yard gain and sets up the game-winning touchdown for the Bears.
This isn't the first time the Bears have attempted to run a screen with Wolfe this season. During the earlier attempts, the diminutive back has gotten lost in the crowd of mammoth bodies at the line of scrimmage and the plays have not been successful. Yet on this play, Wolfe releases freely from the line and is in clear view of the 6-4 Orton, who has no problem dropping the ball over the heads of the defenders. Once he has the ball, the rookie follows his blocking before making a beautiful cut and racing downfield. It is this type of play the Bears envisioned when they drafted Wolfe this past offseason. If Ron Turner and Co. can figure out a way to consistently utilize the speed and elusiveness of the Northern Illinois product, then the Chicago offense could take a big step up in 2008.
Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter. 1st-and-10 at the Chicago 14-yard line. The Packers line up in a four-receiver set with QB Brett Favre in the shotgun. Two receivers are split to his left with two more bunched on the right end of the offensive line. RB Ryan Grant is positioned to Favre's right. The Bears counter with their nickel package – three down linemen supported by linebackers Brian Urlacher and Hunter Hillenmeyer. DE Adewale Ogunleye is standing up on the left edge of the line next to nickelback Ricky Manning Jr., both of whom are charged with pass coverage on the two bunched receivers. Just before the snap, Hillenmeyer creeps up to the line of scrimmage on the right side showing blitz.
DL Israel Idonije and LB Brian Urlacher
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
At the snap, Hillenmeyer blitzes off the right edge with Urlacher blitzing up the middle. Favre recognizes the blitz, as does slot receiver Donald Driver. Driver runs a quick slant into the area vacated by Hillenmeyer. Favre takes one step back and fires a bullet toward his receiver. But Urlacher sees the pass, breaks off his blitz, and steps into the passing lane. He gets a hand on the ball, which briefly pops into the air. The linebacker corrals the pass and takes off down the field. No opposing players are in front of him, and Urlacher strolls into the end zone to finish off an 85-yard interception return.
It's been a rough season for Urlacher, who has dealt with back issues for most of the year. Yet on this play, No. 54 looked like his old self. Not many linebackers in the league would have had the wherewithal to get a hand on the ball, pull down the tipped pass, and then outrace the opposing team for 85 yards. It just goes to show that even when he's not 100 percent, Urlacher is still one of the smartest and most athletic linebackers in the league.
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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