X-and-O Show: Bears vs. Falcons

Jeremy Stoltz goes to the film room to break down one offensive snap and one defensive snap for the Chicago Bears from Sunday night's 21-14 defeat to the Atlanta Falcons in Week 6 at Georgia Dome.

Bears on Offense: Six Whiffs
Third quarter. 1st and 10 at the Chicago 40-yard line. The Bears line up in a power-I right set with QB Jay Cutler under center. RB Matt Forte and FB Jason McKie are stacked in the backfield with receivers split on either side of the field. The Falcons employ a 4-3 defense with the cornerbacks up tight on the wideouts.

RB Matt Forte
AP Images: John Bazemore

At the snap, Chicago runs a counter trey to the left. Forte takes one step right, then crosses back to the left behind McKie and takes the handoff from Cutler. LG Frank Omiyale completely misses his block on DT Trey Lewis, then falls to his knees and dives comically at the knees of LB Curtis Lofton, who steps right over the lineman. LT Orlando Pace then whiffs on Lewis also. At the same time, RG Roberto Garza pulls behind C Olin Kreutz, who lets DT Thomas Johnson run right by him into the backfield. Garza then tries a kick-out block on Lewis, who brushes off the attempt. From the back side, Johnson and blitzing linebacker Mike Peterson, who was untouched, both get a piece of Forte, who is finished off by Lewis and play-side DE Chauncey Davis, who steps right through the attempted block of McKie. The play goes for a 3-yard loss.

At this point in the game, with about 10 minutes left in the third quarter, Forte had carried the ball 10 times for 13 yards. The run blocking from the offensive line has been horrendous all year, and this play exemplified everything that is wrong with the unit – specifically a lack of desire. Every single lineman, as well as lead blocker McKie, makes a pathetic attempt to block, giving Forte absolutely no room to run. Two steps after receiving the handoff, he had four defenders on top of him. Not one lineman broke a sweat on this play, especially Omiyale, who put together one of the worst efforts from a guard in recent history. The counter trey is a classic run play made famous by Joe Gibbs and the Redskins in the 80s, but in order for it to work, the linemen have to at least make an effort at blocking somebody. For those that have Forte on their fantasy team, you may be in for a long season.

Bears on Defense: Out of Position
Second quarter. 1st and 10 at the Chicago 40-yard line. The Falcons line up in a five-receiver set with two wideouts on the left and three on the right. QB Matt Ryan is in shotgun. WR Roddy White is wide right with TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Brian Finneran to his left. The Bears counter with a nickel package. S Danieal Manning is showing blitz off the left edge, LB Lance Briggs is showing blitz off the right edge and LB Nick Roach is showing blitz up the middle. CB Charles Tillman and S Al Afalava are six yards deep of the three receivers on the right.

WR Roddy White
AP Images: John Amis

At the snap, Manning and Briggs both blitz. Roach doesn't blitz but instead stands at the line of scrimmage watching Ryan, who fires a pass to White on a quick screen. Gonzalez and Finneran block Afalava and Tillman out of the play. Roach sprints to the flat but is too late to take White down. The receiver clears all defenders at the 30-yard line and sprints to the end zone. The play goes for a game-tying 40-yard touchdown.

This is where not having an experienced middle linebacker can be devastating to a defense. Once the Falcons went to an empty backfield, Roach should have audibled out of the blitz, allowing Manning and Briggs to drop back and help in covering the five receivers. By blitzing, they are instead taken right out of the play. Additionally, Roach takes himself out of the play by being up in the face of the center, leaving only Afalava and Tillman to cover three receivers. I have always felt this type of pre-snap formation, with linebackers just off the ball, is counterproductive because it limits field vision and makes them run farther in coverage. On this play, the formation cost the Bears, who had been dominating up to that point, the lead for good.

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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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