X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Saints

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 27-24 overtime victory over the pass-happy New Orleans Saints in Week 15 at Soldier Field.

Bears on Offense: Yet Another Davis Drop
Third quarter. 3rd and 9 at the New Orleans 49-yard line. The Bears employ a three-receiver set. QB Kyle Orton is in the shotgun, with RB Adrian Peterson to his left and TE Desmond Clark to his right. WR Brandon Lloyd is split left, with WR Devin Hester split right and WR Rashied Davis slot right. The Saints counter with a nickel package. All three cornerbacks are showing tight bump-and-run coverage. Two linebackers are three yards deep of the four down linemen.

WR Rashied Davis
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

At the snap, Orton steps back to pass. The Saints only rush the four linemen, using the linebackers to man up on Clark and Peterson, who both swing into the flats. Lloyd and Hester both run fly patterns, holding the safeties deep. Davis uses a quick stutter step at the line to release freely inside of CB Randall Gay. When Davis reaches 15 yards downfield, he turns and breaks left. At the same time, Orton, who is under no pressure, fires the ball over the middle. The pass is a bullet right to Davis, who for some reason is not looking for the ball. He finally sees the ball just as it reaches him, but at that point it's too late. The ball flies off his back shoulder and up into the air, where S Josh Bullocks is able to intercept it. Bullocks then returns the ball 23 yards to the Chicago 45-yard line.

The Bears were up 21-7 at this point, and a completed pass would have put them near field goal range. If Davis makes the catch, Chicago would have most likely had an insurmountable 24-7 lead with less than two minutes to play in the third. Instead, the Saints get a turnover and score two plays later. Davis has made an awful habit of dropping passes this year, seemingly at the worst moments of the game, and this one was no exception. The biggest question is: Why was he not looking for the pass? On a crossing pattern, a receiver should be looking for the ball as soon as he makes his break. Otherwise, what is he doing crossing the field if he's not there to catch the ball? It was just another mental lapse by Davis on a well-designed, well-executed play that nearly cost the Bears the game.

Bears on Defense: Stuffed on Fourth Down
Fourth quarter. 4th and 1 at the Chicago 38-yard line. The Saints use a two-tight end, I-formation package. QB Drew Brees is under center, with FB Mike Karney and RB Pierre Thomas stacked behind him. TE Jeremy Shockey is on the left edge of the line, with TE Billy Miller in the left wing position. WR Marques Colston is just a few yards outside of the right offensive tackle. The Bears counter with a tight 4-3. LBs Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach are a few yards deep of the four linemen. CB Charles Tillman is two yards across from Colston. CB Corey Graham and S Mike Brown are up on the right edge of the line, across from the tight ends. Just before the snap, Miller motions across the field until he's just outside of the right tackle. Graham follows him.

LB Nick Roach
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images

At the snap, Brees turns and pitches the ball to Thomas on a sweep right. The right side guard and tackle, as well as the center and Miller, all sprint right to get out in front of the runner. Colston blocks down on Graham and is able to take him and Urlacher out of the play. On the edge, OT Jon Stinchcomb attempts to block Tillman, yet the defender fights through it to the outside and is able to get into the backfield. At the same time, Miller tries to block DE Adewale Ogunleye but is driven four yards into the backfield. This creates a wall on the outside and forces Thomas to cut back inside. This does not work because Roach has already weaved his way through the mass of blockers and is able to get a good hit on the running back. Thomas spins away but is brought down by Tillman for 5-yard loss.

While Roach made a great read and fine tackle, the credit on this play goes to Tillman and Ogunleye. On a pitch play like this one, the cornerback and defensive end are responsible for containing the edge and forcing the runner back inside. Tillman sprints outside, gets leverage on Stinchcomb and wills his way three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Ogunleye uses brute force to drive Miller back, creating a mass of bodies that no running back not named Barry Sanders can get through. This forces Thomas to slow up, which makes him a sitting duck for Roach.

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

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