X-and-O Show: Giants vs. Bears

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 Saturday's 17-3 win over Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants at Soldier Field in the second preseason game.

Bears on Offense: Forte's Scamper
First quarter. 1st and 10 at the New York 32-yard line. The Bears line up in a two-tight end set with QB Jay Cutler under center and RB Matt Forte alone in the backfield. WR Devin Hester is wide right, and WR Earl Bennett is wide left. The Giants counter with a base 4-3. Three linebackers are four yards deep of the four-man defensive line. Both cornerbacks are three yards off the receivers.

Forte was never touched on his way to paydirt.
AP Images: John Smierciek

At the snap, Cutler turns and hands the ball off to Forte, running off tackle left. C Olin Kreutz crosses NT Barry Cofield and seals him to the right side. On the backside, RT Chris Williams cuts the legs out from DT Jay Alford. TE Desmond Clark then pushes DE Justin Tuck into that pile. At the same time, the play-side linemen use a zone-blocking technique. Each blocker begins his movement on a track to the left. RG Roberto Garza gets immediately to the second level, taking out weak-side LB Clint Sintim. TE Greg Olsen stands up left end Osi Umenyiora, as LT Orlando Pace swings to the outside and brings LB Gerris Wilkinson with him. LG Frank Omiyale applies a crushing kick-out block on LB Chase Blackburn, and Forte busts through the gaping hole. The tailback then cuts back across the middle and runs 32 yards untouched for the touchdown.

Chicago does not often use zone-blocking schemes in its rushing attack, but after the success of this play, one has to wonder why not. This overhauled offensive line, which includes three new starters, showed a collective agility on this play not seen by Bears blockers in quite some time. In a zone-blocking scheme, each player must react immediately to what the defense gives him and pick up defenders on the fly. This veteran unit was able to pick off the Giants one at a time, with Omiyale's lead block the highlight. Stretch runs like these with a zone-blocking scheme could be very successful for this offense in the regular season.

Bears on Defense: The Zone Blitz
Second quarter. 2nd and 6 at the New York 49-yard line. The Giants line up in a power-I set with two receivers on either side of the line. TE Michael Matthews is lined up in the fullback spot with RB Brandon Jacobs stacked behind him. TE Kevin Boss is strong left. The Bears counter with a 4-3. The three linebackers are shifted right, with LB Pisa Tinoisamoa lined up a yard behind DE Alex Brown. Just before the snap, left-side WR Steve Smith motions toward the line. At the same time, LB Brian Urlacher steps into the gap between Brown and DT Marcus Harrison, showing blitz.

Harris and Co. are doing some different things.
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

At the snap, QB Eli Manning drops back to pass. Urlacher's blitz is well-timed, and he breaks through the line untouched before being slowed up by a block from Jacobs. Tinoisamoa waits one second after the ball is snapped and then blitzes behind Urlacher. On the other side of the line, DE Adewale Ogunleye fakes a pass rush and then drops into short-zone coverage. Boss runs a 5-yard in pattern but is picked up by LB Lance Briggs, who passes the tight end off to Ogunleye once he clears the zone. FS Kevin Payne steps into the zone vacated by the two blitzing linebackers and the corners drop deep, indicating a cover-3 zone. The zone blitz puts immediate pressure on Manning, who throws the ball into a vacant spot 10 yards down the left sideline. The offense is penalized 15 yards with a loss of down for intentional grounding.

As with the zone-blocking scheme on offense, Chicago is not known for its zone blitzes on defense. The blitz by Urlacher, followed by Tinoisamoa's delayed blitz, overloads the left side. Manning is forced to get rid of the ball quickly, but because of the zone coverage, there is no one-on-one matchup to exploit. Had he decided to check down to Boss across the middle, he most likely would have thrown it right to Ogunleye sitting in that zone. The beauty of the zone blitz is its ability to confuse a quarterback to the point where he thinks the whole team is coming after him, when in actually it is only a four- or five-man rush. Manning falls right into the trap, and it costs his team 15 yards. This type of creative play-calling can make up for any perceived lack of skill in the secondary, as a zone blitz doesn't put safeties or corners on an island against quicker receivers.

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Jeremy Stoltz is the editor-in-chief of The Business Ledger, the business newspaper for suburban Chicago. He is a regular contributor to Bear Report and BearReport.com.

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