X-and-O Show: Bears vs. 49ers

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 for the Chicago Bears from Thursday's 37-30 preseason loss to the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field.

Bears on Defense
First quarter. 1st and 10 on the San Francisco 36-yard line. The 49ers start in a three-wide receiver set, with QB J.T. O'Sullivan under center. Two wide receivers are on the left side, with TE Vernon Davis split 5 yards off the right side of the line. FB Zak Keasey and RB Frank Gore are in the I-formation in the backfield. The Bears show a base 4-3, with LB Hunter Hillenmeyer covering the slot receiver. SS Brandon McGowan walks his way up to the left end of the line of scrimmage until he is standing directly behind DE Adewale Ogunleye.


S Kevin Payne
Warren Wimmer Photography

At the snap, the San Francisco offensive line blocks hard left, as O'Sullivan turns and hands the ball off to Gore. Keasey leads Gore off the right edge and blocks Ogunleye. McGowan rushes the backfield but flies right into the back of Ogunleye. Gore follows his pulling guard off the right edge, past a flailing McGowan, before making two cutback moves that make LBs Hillenmeyer and Brian Urlacher as well as DT Tommie Harris look silly. Gore then crosses the field and runs along the opposite sideline before being taken down by CB Charles Tillman. The play goes for a 28-yard gain.

Throughout training camp and the preseason, McGowan and second-year S Kevin Payne have been battling for the starting strong safety spot. In the Cover 2, the strong safety needs to be equally adept at stopping the run as he is at stopping the pass. On this play, McGowan steps up in run support then gets anxious and flies right into the back of Ogunleye, basically taking himself out of the play. This allows the pulling guard to get outside on Tillman, which then opens up a huge hole. What follows is an example of weak tackling and poor pursuit angles by the stalwarts of this defense. If McGowan can't support the run and if bad tackling like this continues, this defensive unit will be hardly any better than the one ranked 28th overall last season.

Bears on Offense
First quarter. 3rd and 8 on the San Francisco 21-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-wide receiver set, with QB Kyle Orton in shotgun formation. RB Matt Forte is standing to his left, and TE Greg Olsen is on the left side of the line. Split left is WR Devin Hester, with WR Brandon Lloyd wide right and WR Rashied Davis in the slot. The 49ers counter with their nickel package. The four down linemen are backed by LB Patrick Willis, who is over seven yards deep from the line of scrimmage, and LB Larry Grant, who lines up outside the left end. No defender is covering Davis in the slot, which means the defense will be running zone coverage.


WR Rashied Davis
Warren Wimmer Photography

At the snap, Orton takes a three-step drop as Forte leaves the backfield on a pass route. The line picks up the four-man rush perfectly, and Orton has plenty of time to throw. The defense does employs zone coverage, with Willis dropping deep down the middle of the field. Lloyd runs a shallow crossing route, which freezes Grant. At the same time, Hester runs a quick stop-and-go pattern, which forces SS Mark Roman to step up and allows Davis to run free down the hash mark. Orton fires a pass just over Roman's head and just seconds before Willis and CB Nate Clements get to Davis, who jumps up and makes the touchdown grab.

This play showed three good signs for the offense. First was the pass protection by the line, which has looked surprisingly competent this preseason considering the circumstances. The second was Orton's ability to read the play and throw a pass that had nice touch and good velocity at the same time. It is very questionable as to whether or not Rex Grossman could have made that same pass. The third is the continued development of Davis as a slot receiver. If he stays on his same path of improvement this season, he could turn into a highly-productive third receiver who could churn out the best numbers of any Bears pass catcher this season.

Jeremy Stoltz is a staff writer for The Business Ledger, the business newspaper for suburban Chicago. He contributes frequently to Bear Report and BearReport.com.


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