Each week, I’ll take a closer look at the Bears game, after the fact, and try to figure out why they won or lost. We’ll start with the nearly disastrous win over the Detroit Lions. While the Bears have a 1-0 record according to the standings, many (including me) feel that the Bears should be 0-1. We’ll talk about that controversial play a little bit later, but we’ll start with the…
When you look at Cutler’s numbers after the game, you’d probably think they were pretty impressive. He was 23-of-35 for 372 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Not a bad display for the first real game in Mike Martz’s new offense. A guy like Cutler should thrive in a system like this, though we’ll see just how much he’s thriving when he plays against a real defense next week. His QB rating of 108.3 is well above his career average.
He didn’t play a perfect game, however. On the interception, the Bears had 3rd and 20 in their own territory. Cutler dropped back, and so did the back seven of Detroit. Instead of hitting the wide open Devin Aromashodu in the flat for a safe gain, Cutler threw into blanket coverage over the middle of the field, and the ball was tipped up and picked. He also held onto the ball way too long on a couple of different occasions, resulting in a sack and a lost fumble.
That being said, he was in a really nice rhythm in the first half, and was doing a really nice job of moving with the pocket and scrambling when he needed to. He recognized pressure well, getting the ball out of his hand to hot reads more than once.
RUNNING BACKS–Matt Forte and Chester Taylor
Who said the running backs couldn’t succeed in Mike Martz’s pass-happy system?
Both Forte and Taylor did a great job catching passes out of the backfield in Sunday’s game, with Forte taking a screen pass 89 yards for a touchdown. It’s a very encouraging sign to see that Forte doubled up Aromashodu for leading receiver by yards with 151 and two touchdowns.
When it comes to the running game, however, the entire team needs work. If you take out Cutler’s rushing stats, the backs carried 26 times for just 79 yards. That’s an average of 3.03 yards per carry. Even in this offense, you must be able to run the ball effectively, especially on the goal line (we’ll get to that situation a little later as well).
Forte did fumble the ball twice, and lost one of them. Turnovers could be what kills this team, between Cutler’s INT count and everyone else’s fumbles.
WIDE RECEIVERS/TIGHT ENDS
For the most part, the receivers did a nice job in Sunday’s game. There were a couple of instances where there seemed to be some confusion as to who was running what route. One time Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu ended up in the same place, and another time Knox broke his route to the outside and Cutler threw deep. On the latter, if that was an option route, then I thought Knox made the right read, and Cutler threw the ball to the wrong place. Knox lined up in the slot with the safety over him. Knox released vertical, and the cornerback bit on Aromashodu’s (I think it was him) hitch route. The safety had a big cushion on Knox, so there was little chance Knox was going to get over the top. The sideline was open, and Knox broke to the corner. Cutler threw deep to nobody. Of course I can’t put it past Knox that he ran the wrong route, because it seems that if anyone’s going to mess up a route, it’s going to be Knox.
I did have a problem with the run blocking by Brandon Manumaleuna. I thought he was supposed to be good at blocking. The Bears have to get good blocking from their entire offensive line, including the tight ends. We all know that blocking isn’t Greg Olsen’s favorite thing, so someone has to step up.
Speaking of Greg Olsen…HANG ON TO THE DAMN BALL!!!
Oof. We knew it. This is going to be the Bears’ downfall this season. My mother told me not to say anything if I didn’t have something good to say, which I actually do…before I rip into them.
They pass protected relatively well. Even when Cutler needed to let a play develop, more often than not, he had time. To me, the four sacks the Lions put up is a deceiving number. Ndomukong Suh had a sack, but that’s only because he chased Cutler out of bounds. Kyle Vanden Bosch actually gave the Bears more fits than Suh did.
Now for the bad. Four (at least) holding penalties. No push in the running game. Lineman standing around, after getting beat, while the running back is tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. Imagine what the Cowboys defense will do.
There’s absolutely no excuse for not scoring a touchdown when you have the ball first and goal on the one yard line. Sure, some of that is coaching, but the play calls reflect the coach’s confidence in the line. It was like the Bears were trying to stuff vegetables down the throat of a five year old, and the little tyke wasn’t having it.
No question about it, the line must be better next week and all season, or the Bears won’t have a chance.
This unit played pretty well, constantly getting penetration and stopping the run. Julius Peppers had a great game, and knocked out Matthew Stafford in the process (I actually feel bad for Stafford, he’s a good player). When the Bears were able to get the Lions in an obvious passing situation, Peppers teed off and wreaked havoc, one time blowing by the Lions’ left tackle while barely being touched. The guy had no chance.
There were times, however, when they weren’t able to get a pass rush, and the Lions were able to move the ball with ease. Credit the Lions for getting the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly.
What a game from #54. This is supposed to be the old guy, the guy who’s lost a step, the guy who’s rusty. Are you kidding me Brian Urlacher? He ran around like a kid out there, filling gaps, blitzing, and pursuing the ball all over the place. Someone on the radio made a great point last week leading up to the game. He said that while he missed almost all of last year with that wrist injury, the time off gave his neck and back time to heal up, and it looked like he was feeling just fine.
Lance Briggs had a nice game too, with his most notable play setting up the Bears’ not-so-finest moment. Briggs timed a blitz perfectly, confusing the Lions’ O-Line, knifing right through untouched, and getting to Shaun Hill as he was handing off. He stripped the ball, then fell on it at the one.
The only negative to come out of the game was Hunter Hillenmeyer was placed on Injured Reserve, ending his season. He was your Brian Urlacher Insurance Policy, so if you’re Lovie Smith, you’d better hope 54 stays healthy.
It’s hard to get a great idea of how the secondary played from just watching the television broadcast. I’ll give it a shot anyway. We actually saw a lot of press coverage from the corners and nickelbacks, which we haven’t in the past. Early on, it looked as though Matthew Stafford looked confused and uncomfortable, a sign he wasn’t getting a great read on coverages. Either the Bears were disguising their looks well, or they put in something that Stafford hadn’t seen on tape.
From what I could see, it was clear that Zack Bowman needed help over the top on Calvin Johnson. Sometimes he got it, sometimes he didn’t. The Bears learned their lesson after Johnson was oh-so-close to beating them with 24 seconds left in the game.
They actually played a good amount of Cover 3, probably to provide run support
As a whole, I thought the defense did a great job of swarming to the ball and making the tackle. They didn’t miss too many tackles, which was good to see. That’s been their trademark for awhile now.
You’ve heard of Belichik’s 4th and 2? I’ll get to First and Goal in a minute.
Mike Martz’s debut was rather impressive. The Bears managed to rack up 463 yards of offense (while holding the Lions to 168). The only thing they were lacking was the scoreboard. They should have had at least 7-10 more points, making the final outcome not in doubt in the last few minutes. As it were, the Lions had a chance to win the game, but more on that in a minute.
I think Martz did a great job spreading the ball around, especially with the screen pass. In Bears’ lore, third and long as always meant a screen pass that maybe went for five or six yards. Martz seemingly knew exactly when to call the screens, and all of them went for positive yards. Of course, they had that long one to Forte, but even Greg Olsen had a productive one. There was much more unpredictability in this offense, a total reversal from years past. They were running out of 3-wide sets, and passing out of 3 tight sets.
I also liked the Bears’ 3rd down package on offense. Save for a couple of times, they had themselves in 3rd and manageable, and they used quick timing routes and crosses to convert.
Oh, and a great play designed on Forte’s second touchdown. He ran a wheel route from his tailback position and the corner totally forgot about him, leaving him wide open.
Now, for First and Goal (I’m determined to brand that phrase). Down 14-13 at the time, the Bears took over, first and goal at the 1 after Lance Briggs’ fumble recovery. On first down, Forte was stoned at the line of scrimmage. On second down, Cutler ran play action, rolled to the right, had pressure right away and threw it out of the end zone. Nobody was open anyway. On third down, I have a sneaking suspicion someone messed up. I saw someone pull to the left, suggesting that’s where ball was going. But Cutler handed the ball off to the right, and with two hands, as if he was saying “Oh crap, I screwed up.” Either way, Forte was stopped short again.
Now they’re facing 4th and goal inside the one yard line. Again, they’re down by one with about nine minutes left. What does Lovie do? He calls another running play, and again Forte is stopped. On this one, he ended up bouncing to a hole outside. That hole quickly closed. Turnover on downs. No points.
After the game, Lovie said he just wasn’t comfortable taking three points there. WHY THE HELL NOT? According to Lovie, the defense was playing great, and worst-case scenario, they didn’t get the TD and had the Lions backed up. True, and the Lions did go three and out on the next series, but shouldn’t that even more strengthen the cause of taking the points there? I mean, who wouldn’t want to play with the lead? At that point, the only thing he could count on was his defense, so why not use one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, take the lead, and leave it up to that dominant defense? It just doesn’t make sense.
Either way you spin it, the defense was playing a great game. Wouldn’t you rather them be playing a great game while in the lead than trailing? I mean the object of the game is to score more points than the other team, right? I mean, just ask John “Captain Obvious” Madden.
Somehow, the Bears were able to come out with a win in this one, and they had to survive a fluky rule interpretation that will be debated for the rest of the season, or at least until the Bears fall out of contention. Here’s all I’ll say on the Calvin Johnson catch-then-no-catch: The Bears should be 0-1. That’s all I’ll say.
That’s it, 2000 words later, I’m going to bed.