Bears on Offense: "Welcome to Jackass"
At the snap, the Chicago offensive line picks up the four defensive linemen. Olsen runs straight into the end zone, as Hester runs a slant across the field. On the left side, Bennett runs to the goal line and Knox runs a drag pattern three yards deep of the line of scrimmage. RB Matt Forte swings into the right flat. QB Jay Cutler shuffles right and hits a wide-open Knox in stride just a few yards outside of the right hash. LB Aaron Curry, who had dropped into the shallow right zone, comes up to make the tackle at the 5-yard line, but Knox uses a stutter step and flies right around Curry's outreached arms. The receiver then races to the corner of the end zone and touches the pylon as he's pushed out of bounds. The play goes for a 7-yard, go-ahead touchdown.
This play, combined with the defensive turnover on the previous series, completely shifted the momentum of this game, giving the Bears a lead that they would eventually relinquish and then recover. Hester, Olsen, Bennett and Forte did a great job of clearing out and occupying the linebackers and secondary, allowing Knox a free path across the field. His ability to then make a defender miss and outrace another to the end zone just might be a glimpse of something special to come from the rookie receiver. It was a simple yet well-executed play by a Bears receiving core that was vilified in the offseason.
Bears on Defense: Stripping vs. Tackling
At the snap, Houshamandzadeh stops behind Burleson and turns to the quarterback. Burleson blocks Manning as Wallace fires a pass to Houshmandzadeh, who then jukes to the outside and up the sideline. Manning breaks free of the block and grabs the receiver as he crosses the first-down marker. Tillman then comes up and puts a forearm into Houshmandzadeh's chest. His fist hits the ball, and it squirts out of the receiver's hands. The Bears recover at the Seattle 40-yard line.
This play demonstrates all that is good and bad with Tillman. In the first quarter, he used the same forearm technique on Seattle RB Julius Jones and missed the tackle, allowing the runner to scamper 39 yards for a touchdown on a harmless screen pass. Tillman is one of the best defenders in the league at forcing fumbles, but he is often so focused on the strip that it costs him the tackle. On numerous occasions, this all-or-nothing style has won or lost games for Chicago during Tillman's tenure, at once both frustrating and elating fans. On this play, though, it proved successful and helped turn the tide of the game.
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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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