X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Falcons

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 22-20 heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6 at the Georgia Dome.

Bears on Offense
Fourth quarter. 3rd and 10 at the Atlanta 17-yard line. The Bears line up in a four-receiver set, with QB Kyle Orton in the shotgun. Two receivers are bunched together on either side of the line, just outside of the offensive tackles. WR Rashied Davis is wide left, with TE Greg Olsen to his right in the slot. RB Matt Forte is to Orton's right. The Falcons use a dime package, with four down linemen and six defensive backs. The nickel and dime backs are in the outside linebacker positions, each face to face with the slot receiver. The other four DBs are all at least 10 yards off the ball.

QB Kyle Orton
Scott Cunningham/Getty

At the snap, Orton takes a two-step drop and looks to pass. Olsen blocks down on the defensive end before releasing into the flat. Forte slides through the middle of the line and runs an 8-yard hitch between the seams. Davis releases straight down field, and at the 5-yard line he makes a slight hesitation move. The two deep defenders, CB Chris Houston and S Erik Coleman, are on either side of Davis employing bracket zone coverage. As Davis makes his stutter move, Houston stops his back pedal and makes a move toward the receiver. Davis then breaks toward the corner of the end zone behind the cornerback. Orton, who is under no pressure, throws a nice touch pass over the head of Houston and right to Davis, who makes a leaping grab and gets both feet in the end zone. With only 11 seconds left in the game, the Bears score the go-ahead touchdown.

This play was successful because of three factors: The first is the offensive line giving Orton plenty of time to find the open receiver and release the ball without any defensive linemen in his face. The second is a great route and catch by Davis. His stutter step freezes Houston and gives the receiver a clear path to the back corner of the end zone. Davis then jumps and catches the ball at its highest point, a fundamental of any good receiver, and has the wherewithal to get both feet in as he's being driven out of bounds. The third is an awful coverage scheme by the Falcons. It is common knowledge that in the red zone, defenses should not employ zone coverage. Instead, four defenders should have used man-to-man coverage on the four receivers, with two safeties playing over the top. If they had, Davis would have had a man already on him with a deep safety providing support. It was great execution by the offense and an awful play call by the defense.

Bears on Defense
Fourth quarter, six seconds left to play. 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 44-yard line. The Falcons use a three-receiver set, with QB Matt Ryan in the shotgun. Running backs are on either side of the quarterback, with two wide receivers to the right and WR Michael Jenkins wide left. The Bears counter with a prevent defense, which uses four down linemen, six defensive backs and LB Brian Urlacher in the middle. A front wave of defensive backs is stationed 10 yards off the ball, with the two safeties playing 25 yards deep.

K Jason Elam and P Michael Koenen
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

At the snap, all three receivers release straight down the field, and both RBs run swing routes. DT Tommie Harris uses a stutter step to immediately get past the offensive guard, and within two seconds he is in the quarterback's face. The Bears use a zone coverage, which allows Jenkins to fly right past CB Marcus Hamilton. The receiver then breaks toward the sideline, a good 10 yards in front of safety Mike Brown. Ryan releases the ball just before Harris hits him. It's a lofted pass that finds Jenkins wide open along the left sideline. Jenkins makes the 26-yard catch and falls out of bounds with just one second left to play in the game.

This play cost the Bears a win, as it set up the game-winning field goal. I really have no explanation as to why Brown was almost 40 yards downfield at the moment the ball is thrown. The only play in this situation that could have gotten the ball into field-goal range in less than six seconds was a deep out. Instead, it looks as if Brown is defending against a hail mary. Yet because of the pressure Harris applies on the QB, the ball is released just a few seconds after the snap. Brown should have known there was no way the only receiver on that side of the field was going to get deep enough for a hail mary in just two seconds. As a result, he allows Jenkins to make a wide-open catch along the sideline, and it flat out cost the Bears their fourth win of the season. One receiver versus three defensive backs and only one route that can beat them, and they all just watched it happen. There isn't a word to describe how pathetically awful the defense executed this play, which could come back to seriously haunt this team down the road.

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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