Bears on Offense: Bad Timing
At the snap, Cutler takes a five-step drop, looking to pass. The line does a good job up front, with Forte even throwing in a chip block on DE Calais Campbell in support of LT Chris Williams. Cutler looks right immediately. Olsen runs a drag pattern across the field, and LB Joey Porter follows him. Clark runs a fly pattern, while behind him, Hester runs a 3-yard slant. Wilson and LB Daryl Washington bracket Hester, and CB Greg Toler runs deep with Clark. Cutler then turns left and looks downfield to Knox, who has run a 15-yard out pattern. The ball is delivered toward the sideline, but CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie undercuts the pass and picks off the ball. He runs for a few yards before being taken down by Olsen.
This was actually a well-designed play that was defended equally well. On the right side, Olsen's drag coupled with Clark's fly was designed to clear the area for Hester's slant. Yet the Cardinals executed a perfect zone coverage against it, something the offense should have recognized when Hester went in motion and no one followed him. This left no lane for Cutler to fit the ball into on the slant. His next option was Knox, who was running a timing pattern to the sideline. There's one thing that will kill a timing pattern: bad timing, obviously. By the time Cutler turned left, it was already too late. The pass should have never been thrown. Mike Martz's system is known for these types of patterns. Cutler should have recognized the zone coverage at the line and realized the slant would most likely not be there. He then could have turned his attention more quickly to Knox and delivered the ball to him on time.
Bears on Defense: Harris Exposed
At the snap, Anderson turns and gives a half-hearted play fake to Wells, who then picks up DE Israel Idonije off the edge. LB Hunter Hillenmeyer blitzes up the middle but is picked up well, as is the rest of the defensive line. Anderson has time to throw. On the left side, Williams runs seven yard downfield, with Tillman on his outside shoulder the whole time. Harris starts to drift left toward Williams. The rookie receiver then breaks inside and is wide open. Anderson delivers the ball to his receiver in stride. Harris can't get back into position and takes a horrible angle at the tackle. Williams runs right by him and goes in for the touchdown.
With three safeties hurt – Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks and rookie Major Wright – Harris is about all that's left at the position. That cost the team mightily on this play. Harris had deep zone coverage. He had no man to cover, per se, so his job basically was to not let any pass go for a touchdown. Instead, he gets caught drifting and is unable to react quickly enough to the receiver's inside move. He then takes a bad angle and doesn't even get a hand on the ball carrier. The point of trading for Harris this offseason was so he could come in and provide veteran leadership at a thin position. Let's hope he's providing said leadership in the locker room, because he's not providing any of it on the field.
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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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