Bears on Defense: Stop for Loss
At the snap, McNabb turns and hands the ball to McCoy running off-tackle left. Celek locks onto Roach and pushes him toward the sideline. DE Alex Brown gets good leverage on LT Jason Peters and drives him into the backfield. Weaver leads into the hole to inside of Peters, but McCoy bounces outside. Briggs attempts to fill the inside gap but is picked up by LG Fenuki Tupou. Hillenmeyer flies to the outside gap but then stops as he gets to the line of scrimmage to take on Weaver, who is out of position having led into the wrong hole. The linebacker then watches as McCoy sprints right past his outside shoulder. McCoy then cuts inside of Roach, who never gets off his block, and rumbles to the end zone.
To say the Bears defense misses LBs Brian Urlacher and Pisa Tinoisamoa is an understatement. Brown gives a phenomenal effort on this play, driving Peters two yards into the backfield and forcing McCoy and Weaver into different gaps. Everyone did their part, and all Hillenmyer had to do was fill the outside gap and drop the runner for a loss. Instead, he slows up, throws a creampuff shoulder into Weaver for no apparent reason and watches the runner go by him for the game-winning touchdown. Additionally, had Roach made any effort to get off Celek's block, he may have had a chance to make the stop. A defense cannot succeed with linebackers afraid to make tackles at crucial points in the game.
Bears on Offense: First of Five
At the snap, the three linebackers and the nickel back blitz. The rush is picked up well by the offensive line, and Cutler has time to throw. With seven men rushing, each defensive back is left on an island with his receiver. On the left side, Knox uses a quick stutter step and then breaks outside of CB Sheldon Brown, who barely gets a hand on the receiver. Knox then sprints down the sideline and is already five yards behind Brown when Cutler releases the ball. No one is between Knox and the end zone, but the ball is overthrown and results in an incomplete pass.
Had this pass been completed, the Bears would have had a three-point lead with less than four minutes to play. Even if Knox had fallen immediately after making the catch, it would have been a first down at about the enemy 25-yard line. This was the play Cutler was brought in from Denver to make. Chicago brass coughed up multiple premium draft picks to acquire his services, but when the game was on the line, he choked. He recognized the blitz, which was picked up well, and he had his fastest receiver one on one with a defender that had a bum hamstring. But he just couldn't deliver the game-winning strike. And let's not forget, this was the third time Cutler failed to hit a wide-open receiver for a would-be score. If any of those are converted into six points, the Bears would have had a great chance at victory. Instead, Bears fans get to look forward to an NFL postseason without their favorite team and another draft void of any first-day picks.
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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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