X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Bucs

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 Sunday's 27-24 overtime defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3 at Soldier Field.

Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter. 2nd and 10 at the Chicago 20-yard line. Tampa Bay employs a three-wide receiver set, with Brian Griese in the shotgun. To his right, two wide receivers, Antonio Bryant and Ike Hilliard, are bunched a few yards outside of the tackle. Bryant is in the slot position. The Bears use a nickel package, with all four down linemen, both linebackers and the nickelback along the line of scrimmage. CB Charles Tillman is eight yards across from Hilliard, and S Mike Brown is giving Bryant a 10-yard cushion.

S Mike Brown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At the snap, the Bears run a zone blitz, with both linebackers and the nickelback blitzing and defensive ends Mark Anderson and Alex Brown dropping off the line to cover the flats. The Buccaneers use a max-protect scheme and are able to pick up all the rushers. At the same time, Bryant runs straight up the field and Hilliard runs a quick out. Griese releases the ball when Bryant, who has inside position on Brown, reaches the 10-yard line. The pass is high and behind the receiver, but he is able to turn around and make the grab before Brown hits him. The play goes for a 19-yard gain and gives Tampa Bay the ball at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, the Buccaneers would score the game-tying touchdown.

On this play, one has to wonder what Brown was thinking. He never puts himself in any position to disrupt the pass to Bryant, who was the only player anywhere near his zone of coverage. He stays deep off the receiver and to his outside shoulder, giving Griese a perfect passing lane through which he can throw the ball. Not only that, but the ball was thrown behind the receiver, who had to slow up and turn all the way around to make the catch. Had Brown been anywhere near the receiver, as he should have been, he could have easily broken up this crucial pass. Through the first three games, it is becoming apparent that age and injuries have taken their toll on the veteran safety. If the Bears are to avoid getting passed on at will all season long, Brown will have to start playing like he did in 2004. Otherwise, he'll soon become a liability.

Bears on Offense
Overtime. 3rd and 7 at the Chicago 47-yard line. The Bears line up in a three-wide receiver set, with Kyle Orton in the shotgun and a back on either side of him. WR Marty Booker is wide left, with WR Rashied Davis in the slot. Tampa Bay counters with a nickel package. Four down linemen are backed by two linebackers, both of whom are showing blitz up the middle. All receivers are being given a five-yard cushion.

WR Rashied Davis
Jonathan/Getty Images

At the snap, neither linebacker blitzes, leaving only a four-man rush, which is picked up perfectly. MLB Barrett Ruud drops into coverage down the middle of the field. At the same time, Davis runs 20 yards down the field and then breaks across the middle in front of the safeties. Orton throws the pass just over the out-stretched arm of Ruud and hits his wide-open receiver in the hands. Davis reaches out to make the catch but lets the ball fly right between his mitts. The pass is incomplete, and the Bears are forced to punt.

Davis does a tremendous job of finding the open zone between the safeties and middle linebacker in Tampa's Cover 2 and Orton delivers a good pass, yet Davis completely whiffs on the catch attempt. Had he caught the ball the Bears would have had first down at the Buccaneer 33-yard line, which equates to a makeable 50-yard field goal attempt. Outside of Charles Tillman's unnecessary unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, this was the biggest mistake of the game by any Chicago player. Davis, who had a fantastic preseason, has performed like a practice-squad player the last two games – and on this play he cost the team a chance at a win. I have to think that we'll be seeing a lot more Mark Bradley and rookie Earl Bennett in the future if Davis continues his poor play.

Jeremy Stoltz is a news editor for The Business Ledger, the business newspaper for suburban Chicago. He contributes often to Bear Report and BearReport.com.

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