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September 13, 2009

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Pre-Season Indications: The Pass Rush Is Back

September 2, 2009

While most fans and analysts agree that the pre-season isn’t a great indication of how things will go, I’m going to step up and disagree with that assessment. Having seen all three of the Bears’ pre-season games to this point I can clearly say without much hesitation that the pass rush is back.

The Bears’ defense struggled last year against the pass, and it was the main reason they missed the playoffs. Meanwhile in 2009 the CB situation is far from settled and most fans would prefer to see a ball hawking free safety back there, the bottom line is thee success of this defense starts with the front four.

The top off-season priority was to find a way to fix the pass rush and to do it without overhauling the current crop of defensive lineman who were so successful in 2006 together. Enter Rod Marinelli one of the preeminent defensive line coaches in the league, if not the last couple decades. Marinelli’s resume speaks for itself although most Bears fans see only 0-16 and the coach of the Detroit Lions.

However Lovie Smith knows Marinelli well and knew that he was just the guy to fix the front four. There was a reason Smith called him the biggest free-agency acquisition of the 2009 off-season. Marinelli is a motivator of men, and is all football all the time. Toss in that he may be one of the best teachers of the game and is a disciple of the Tampa-2 defense and the choice was an easy and obvious one.

I predict and can say that it has already paid huge dividends for the Bears’ defense. While most fans remain skeptical the fact of the matter is the Bears’ pass rush has improved and it has improved drastically. The Bears currently rank eighth in the league with a pre-season total of 11 sacks. So? It’s the pre-season come the naysayers, fine but consider the opponents the Bears’ pass rush has looked the best against, the Giants and the Broncos.

Then the naysayers come with “the Broncos only allowed one sack the entire game”. Yes I’m aware of the stat, but the Broncos’ offensive line was also the cause of numerous holding penalties. A sign that the Bears’ defensive line was particular aggressive and dominating to the point that they had no choice but to grab and hold.

The Broncos mind you were the best offensive line in the league in pass protection last year. The Broncos only allowed 12 sacks on the season which good for first overall. Part of this has to do with Jay Cutler’s ample mobility and the other part would be they simply were good. Considering how many pass attempts the Broncos and Cutler attempted last year you can certainly see just how well they were in protecting the passer.

Cutler attempted 616 passes last year and was sacked the aforementioned 12 times. An average of 1 sack every 51 pass attempts. A phenomenal stat in pass protection for the Broncos. Yet the Bears’ offensive line did well to attack that well protecting front.

Not only are the sack totals up during the pre-season the intensity level is up. The D-Line seems to never quit on the pass rush and it shows. If one player gets the penetration forcing the QB to step up or move around in the pocket, typically someone else is there to make the sack. The front’s motor never seems to stop where as last year if they were stopped on their initial moves they seemed to just stop.

There is a clear difference in motivation along the front four. A never ending collective effort to get pressure and they have been successful. What also is a healthy indication is it’s not just the starters that have performed well. The backups have been just as intense and just as focused. Add on that the Bears will use a healthy rotation among the 11 members of the front four they could keep and the future looks bright.

There seems to finally be an intense focus as well as a realization of how important the “rush men” are to the success of the defense. The line has bought into what Marinelli is yelling, but more importantly they are learning from what he is teaching. The improvement to this point, has been visible to the untrained eye and that has the makings of what could be a very exciting season of Chicago Bears football.

Looking Forward to Denver?

August 27, 2009

To be honest I’m not the type of guy to buy into a ton of hype, especially manufactured media hype about a particular game or situation. It’s nice to hear initial news about something, but after the initial pop of the story wears off, unless something else major happens I could honestly care less.

Which brings me to the Denver vs. Chicago pre-season game and the Kyle Orton Jay Cutler hype. I don’t care if Orton or Cutler get booed and I honestly don’t care if one out performs the other in the game. I don’t think Orton will out perform Cutler, if for no other reason the situation he’s in in Denver.

Let me be frank, I wasn’t a big Mike Shannahan fan, but I didn’t let a bias get in the way of respect and admiration for him. Mike Shannahan was and still would be one of the best head coaches in the NFL. The fact that the Broncos fired him boggles my mind, the fact that they did it in favor of Josh McDaniels makes it even more confounding.

All you need to know about Mike Shannahan is that he could take just about ANY running back, plug that back into his system and get production out of him. Very good to great production on a near annual basis, that says it all right there. Yes the Broncos struggled on defense especially in recent years. But none of this takes away from the fact that Shannahan won two Super Bowls and made Jake Plummer look like a good QB in Denver after being horrible in Arizona.

Now beyond Shannahan you break into the Josh McDaniels saga. Going beyond what happened with the whole Cutler fiasco you now get into the Brandon Marshall fiasco and then questionable idea of drafting Knowshon Moreno. Moreno may end up being a great ‘back in this league but prior to this you had Shannahan getting more production out of lesser talents there by putting himself in a better position to address other needs.

To say that the Broncos have other needs may be a complete understatement. Their defense is deplorable and seems to be getting worse. Adding to the pressure Broncos fans and media will never be happy until they find someone that is as good or better than John Elway, which will likely never happen.

With all this in mind I suspect the Broncos will probably be worse off this year than they were last year. They are in for a big shock in Denver and it wouldn’t surprise me to see them battling the Raiders for cellar dweller supremacy in the AFC West. As my thoughts wander towards the Bears’ pre-season game I tend to think this game won’t matter even more than a regular pre-season game.

With a nod towards the cocky side of me, I think the Bears should fully dominate this game. There should be some pretty obvious game planning going on against Kyle Orton. Now on the flip side the Bears should not lose this game and I’ll be pretty disappointed if they do. You might get a pretty awful taste of nastiness if the Bears do in fact lose this game. Because as with tradition most teams get ready for the regular season in their third game of the pre-season and do so by playing their starters for most of three quarters.

I suppose the most interesting aspect of this game will be watching the Bears’ defensive line go up against the starters on the Broncos offensive line. Their offensive line is one of the youngest and best in the NFL. They get the job done in pass protection and I’m assuming they can still run block adequately even without Shannahan’s scheme.

I’d like to believe that Kyle Orton is capable of playing at a high enough level to present a challenge to the Bears’ defense but after some of his most recent pre-season play even that’s questionable.

So what is there to focus in on? Focus in on the Bears playing well, not getting injured showing a good rhythm in the passing game. I’d like to see more from Devin Hester than what we have seen the first two pre-season games. I’d like to see continued improvement from Kevin Jones showing he’s ready to be an ample back up to Forte. All this plus the battle in the trenches should really make this a fun game to watch.

If you can cut through the drama of it all there are things that we should as fans focus on more intently than just the media hype and drama of it all.

Bears vs. Giants Film Review

August 25, 2009

In keeping with the weekly tradition I’m wrapping up the pre-season game from the weekend with a film session. We’re going to go over the tape (hopefully in a smaller more readable format this time) and do our best to evaluate the game in a fair and balanced manner.

The starters are the usual, Cutler, Forte, Bennett, Hester, McKie, Olsen, on the line it’s Pace, Omiyale, Kreutz, Garza and Williams. The T.V. got something wrong when they had Beekman starting at the right guard spot. Garza started at RG and Omiyale at left guard. Beekman has yet to make a career start at right guard nor do I ever foresee him making such a start.

The Bears receive the opening kick off and Cutler brings them out starting at the 24-yard line.

First Drive

Frank Omiyale badly misses a block and Forte is stopped for no gain on the play. Second play run blitz, Forte shows quick feet gets to the outside and makes something out of what should have been nothing. Third and eight the Giants blitz and bring more than the Bears can block, Forte makes his block and Cutler RIFLES IT, a play that Bears fans are not used to seeing to Earl Bennett between two defenders. Hester with a nice block Bears gain 27 on the pass play. Nice bit of run after the catch by Bennett as well.

Hester gain of 10, Olsen split wide catch and a run off a down the line pass. Pace struggles with some run blocking Forte makes some moves and gains positive yards. Omiyale misses his second block of the game on a run play. Olsen drops a pass after Forte empties the back field. Pass blocking has been good to this point, third and long, pass wide of Hester. Willliams held his ground pretty well in pass protection, but did get set up late in the rush on an inside move.

Negatives two missed blocks by Omiyale on the opening drive. He seems to be getting beat pretty consistently in run blocking. This would be why Beekman should be the starter since he performed at a higher level throughout camp. This drive could have stalled a lot earlier based on Omiyale’s run blocking. Only the big catch by Bennett, saved this drive from no points. Disappointing opening series for Frank Omiyale who the Bears paid a lot of money to come in and be the starter at LG.

Result is a field goal, drive may not have stalled were it not for Omiyale’s poor run blocking.

Bears first drive on defense with the usual starters. Harris, Adams, Brown, O-Gun. Urlacher, Briggs, Tiniosamoa, Trumaine McBride, Vasher, Payne and Afalava. Bears do their typical blitz look that they ran a lot last year, Quick drop by Manning completed pass to Steve Smith. Tommie Harris double-teamed on the play, with Manning out of the shot gun.

Bears again with their blitz look from the linebackers, double team on Harris to a scrape to the linebackers, Giants run at Tommie Harris. Jacobs breaks a lot of tackles on third and two including bowling through Urlacher and gains a first down. Tommie Harris got good penetration on the play, Jacobs slipped to the other gap where Urlacher should have made the play. If Urlacher makes this tackle the drive stalls right here.

Good jump by Alex Brown another good run by Jacobs up the middle, Tommie Harris again getting good penetration to disrupt things. Jacobs bounces it to a hole where Harris was, and gains some yards. Overall Harris looks explosive and disruptive though the holes he’s choosing aren’t the right ones. Jacobs is making the Bears look bad but he’s the biggest running back in the NFL, he makes everyone look bad.

Defensive line does a good job thommie Harris looks ineffective because the guard gets a way with a hold to slow him down and get a better lock on him. The rest of the pass rush gets some pressure, Manning steps up and fires a dart that’s beautifully broken up by Kevin Payne. Payne rolled his hips perfectly into the receiver’s route and breaks it up.

Result is a punt

Second Drive

Fake toss, Cutler rolls out and fires a completion to Earl Bennett, Bennett does a great job of shielding the ball from the defender while making the catch. Bears go no-huddle hurry up offense, Cutler looks things over audibles to Forte who springs forth for his first big run of the game. Excellent audible call well communicated by Cutler to the entire offense and Forte does the rest. Good run blocking by everyone, well executed scrape block and then getting to the second level by Omiyale. Next run is a bad one, no real blocking up front and Forte is dropped for a loss.

Cutler out of the shot gun, Bears in a two TE set, Olsen split wide, a little pressure but Cutler makes another great throw to Olsen. Cutler being able to see down the field over his lineman and the collapsing pocket in front of him makes this play possible. Had this been Rex Grossman back there, it would have likely been picked or he would have been sacked for not being able to see his receiver and make the throw.

Near perfect blocking up front on Forte’s touchdown run. This play is superbly executed all the way around and it makes Forte’s job ridiculously easy. Lots of emphasis on the extremely good run blocking on this play for the Bears.

Second defensive drive

Two complete passes to start this drive. First pass has a good inside move pass rush that gets a hit on the QB by Alex Brown. Superb pass rush here by Brown, it really looks like he’s coming on. Next pass Tommie Harris is double teamed and it’s a quick out pass to the receiver.

Bears do a good job of string out this run play again, but Jacobs makes something out of nothing the only way he can. He absolutely trucks through another big hit without a wrap up by Urlacher. Urlacher is getting there but as usual he’s having trouble against big power backs. Urlacher does show great pursuit on the play and if it wasn’t Brandon Jacobs making this run the tackle would have been made.

The next run Idonije gets blown up at the point of attack, but does a good job of driving wide to string the play out. Brown gets good back side pressure and Jacobs picks through the linebackers to make a gain out of nothing. Again great run defense by the Bears here overall, just frustrating that they have to attempt to tackle the biggest RB in the NFL so he makes EVERYONE look foolish.

Next run play is good technique and drive up front by the defensive line. They attack their gaps well and why not making plays in the backfield give the linebackers ample room to roam and attack and make plays. Urlacher and Tiniosamoa attack Jacobs high and low and drop him quick. Two linebackers combining to make a tackle as Jacobs enters the hole just shows good gap control by the D-Line.

Next play is a quick pass to Ahmad Bradshaw, good pressure by the D-Line it’s just a quick pass play that doesn’t give them time to get to Manning. Only a gain of three and Briggs swoops in and makes a solid tackle. Third and 11 play Alex Brown just uses a speed rush past the LT and swipes at the ball. Fumble on the play is recovered by the Giants, but just an excellent pass rush by Alex Brown on a third and long. Good twist between O-Gun and Tommie Harris, springs O-Gun free as well. He gets a hit on Eli after Brown knocks the ball loose. Superb pass pressure all the way around here. Results in a punt.

Bears’ third offensive drive

Chris Williams struggles a bit in run blocking, well executed play everywhere else but the play doesn’t really go anywhere. Next play is the play fake roll out where Cutler shows off his sick arm strength by launching the ball to a wide open Devin Hester. Hester misjudges the ball and it’s incomplete. Next play is a good pass play, that could go complete were it not for the absolute mugging of Earl Bennett. They’re used to people in New York so I guess this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I hate to see drives kept alive by penalties, but when it’s this obvious of a call you just laugh at the defender.

More good pass protection for Cutler on a slant, Bennett should run the perfect route or shield the defender who breaks up the pass. Bennett could have been more effective in this route than sort of just nonchalantly doing what he did. Forte with a nice catch out of the backfield, he was wide open on the play so Cutler made the right throw in just getting the ball to him.

Cutler on a roll out play, comes back to Hester who lays a block on his side of the field to which the roll out was going. Hester slips into the open after the block and makes the first down grab. Forte picks his way for a gun of four off of an average run play. Some good blocking but some good pursuit by the Giants.

Cutler feels some pressure on the next play in which the Giants blitz, overall the pass protection is good. Orlando Pace particularly gets a good set, the blitz was just good. Greg Olsen gets jammed up at the line of scrimmage. He let the defender get up deep into him it was almost as if it was a block. Olsen was trying to get into his pass route and never did. Disappointing on this play to see Olsen not get into his route and not beat the jam. A lot of times last year this is what took him out of games.

Cutler from the shot gun out of an empty backfield. He sees the wide open middle of the field steps up and with some speed gets 12-yards on the play. Great pass protection on the next play Cutler easily sets his feet and makes a superb throw to Aromashadu. The 38-yard gain on the pass play is well-executed and is a great catch by Aromashadu.

Well execute play fake Cutler his a wide open Desmond Clark for the touchdown. Just good execution on this drive and there is joy in the City of Big Shoulders.

Bears on defense

Probably the worse play of the game here for the Bears. The play-action fake by Manning stops a run blitz and Manning hits a wide open Steve Smith for a big gain in the middle of the zone.

Again good solid run defense at the point of attack. The D-Line holds their gaps well, keeps their ground, Jacobs makes something out of nothing but not for much of a gain here. Al Afalava coming up into the box to make a tackle on Jacobs on this play for a gain of four. Good to see the rookie step up and make a tackle low on the big man. Good blitz on this play, Manning is pressured and throws an intentional grounding ball away. Good execution on the blitz here sets up this play.

A great rush by Adewale Ogunleye on this play he sets up the tackle with a strong move to the outside but then slides back and sacks Manning. Another double team on Tommie Harris on this play. The result is another forced punt by the defense.

Defense Dominates as the Bears Win 17-3

August 22, 2009

The Chicago bears looked like they were in dominant mid-season form. The offense looked as good as it did in the early stages of 2006 when the Bears made their Super Bowl run. Nearly 300-yards of total offense, a 92-yard touchdown scoring drive, big runs from Matt Forte including a big touchdown run. Complete destruction of a Giants team that is a Super Bowl contender out of the NFC.

Yes we need to reel it in and realize it’s only the pre-season but the flashes of excellence are there by the starters. Both offensively and defensively the Bears stepped up and made plays. Their execution was top notch with only a few shaky plays here and there in what was overall something that made the Bears look like a Super Bowl contender.

If there was a way for the Bears to play like this against for 18-games this team will not lose a lot of games. Sure they had some trouble tackling the big Brandon Jacobs, but they swarmed to the football and stopped the Giants cold.

Some brief criticisms would be Devin Hester misjudging a deep pass, one questionable pass by Cutler on a slant and Frank Omiyale missing a major block on a linebacker that led to a run only gaining one yard.

On the flip side Hester did make plays, Cutler made great throws and was able to use his athleticism to roll out and make throws and Omiyale made a big block later on that sprung Forte for a touchdown. On defense Urlacher had trouble squaring up on Brandon Jacobs, but later dropped him for a loss once he got low on him. Kevin Payne made a huge pass break up on a third and long and pressure come consistenly from the defensive line. Alex Brown caused a fumble, and Adewale Ogunleye got a sack.

If this is a sign of things to come the Windy City will be buzzing with excitement well into January 2010.

The second half was more of the same for the Chicago Bears, at least on defense. The offense didn’t get anymore points on the board but they did play well. Caleb Hanie solidified himself as the backup to Jay Cutler.

The defense all the way around dominated the New York Giants getting consistent pressure on their QBs. Whether it was Mark Anderson or Henry Melton the Bears got after the QB. If you were to point to an example of Rod Marinelli’s influence it would be tonight in this game for four quarters the line played and played hard.

Dusty Dvoracek stood out and made plays in a game he likely needs to stake his spot on the roster and did as much playing through to the whistle on one sack he made. There was just a mentality on the defensive line that had been lacking for the past two seasons that is back in full effect now.

The defense finished with five sacks on the night, but that doesn’t even begin to cover the amount of carnarge the “rushmen” caused in the backfield. Time after time Giants QBs had lineman in their face and were unable to set their feet or make even a good throw to their receivers. Knockdowns, pressure, QBs with happy feet it was just an all around exciting game.

Overall this is the type of game the fans of the Monsters of the Midway have been waiting to see, and must be happy to witness. Optimism will only get stronger after tonight as the Bears march forward to what will hopefully be a great 2009 season.

Bears versus Bills Game Review Film Session 1st Quarter

August 17, 2009

Well it’s time to look at the Bears versus Bills game a little bit differently than a lot of people do. Sorta like the coaches do, but I’m no where near the level of an NFL coach. We’re going to go back and look at the tape and diagnose positive things from this game and negative things from this game. Sizing up how things went and what needs to be improved upon.

I’m going to try and go over each position and point out things that I like and things that I don’t like. I think I’ll have a much better feel for the game after I re-watch it and learn more from watching it the second time around. There’s nothing like modern technology to help make you a smarter football fan.

Anyway as we all know the Bears started their opening drive from the 40-yard line after the kickoff went out of bounds. I’m going to break down the first series and each series there after on defense as well. I’m going to try and dive into the intricacies of how each series went. What went well what didn’t go so well.

By no means am I an expert, I simply have a big mouth and a big opinion and a strong desire to watch and learn and become a better and smarter football fan. I’m going to do my best to be fair and balanced in my approach to the film session, and we’ll see what happens. By no means is this the end all be all, but I hope to generate more discussion and even more insightful debate among Bears fans. Hopefully like me everyone will be a little more football savvy after going through this.

The first series with a starting line up of QB Cutler, RB Jones, TE Clark, TE Davis, WR Bennett, WR Hester, OT Pace, LG Omiyale, Center Kreutz, RG Garza, RT Williams.

The Bears’ first offensive play is a three wide set with Desmond Clark lined up in the slot, but it’s twin TE formation out of the single back so it has the flexibility of run or pass. I love the flexibility of the twin TE set because if both TEs can block and catch really well, it gives you a lot of options and causes a lot of mismatches. Especially since most FBs now a days can’t run the ball very well so they’re just a blocker anyway and usually aren’t as good of a receiver as your TE. There’s a lot more versatility with this set so it’s a good offensive set for the Bears to run. I know I’m blabbering on and perhaps oversimplifying the two TE set, but I am doing this because I don’t think Ron Turner gets enough credit as an OC. This little two TE set is one example where Turner has a distinct advantage in personnel IMO.

First Offensive Series

So we see Cutler take a five step drop and rifle a pass to Devin Hester on a little button hook pattern. Cutler didn’t make any reads on the pattern he just set and fired. The play seemed to take a while to develop so it only went for a gain of two yards. The blitz came from the safety spot and Kevin Jones picked it up nicely and the protection was good.

Second play is a two back formation off-set I with McKie in the backfield, it’s a nice call a screen to Kevin Jones that goes for a gain of seven. If it’s the regular season I’d say it’s a little early in your game plan to be calling a screen, but it was effective in it’s execution. Good call by Turner here.

Third play three wide set pass is behind Hester it really looks like there was a route communication problem on this play.

Fourth down Bears punt and Maynard booms one and pins the Bills deep inside at their own five yard line.

First Defensive Series

The Bears come out with DE Anderson, NT Adams, DT Idonije, DE Brown, WILL Briggs, MIKE Urlacher, SAM Tiniosamoa, CB Vasher, CB McBride SS Afalava, FS Payne.

Traditional 4-3 look with the LBs shifted to the weak side of the formation, CBs up in press coverage. Lynch takes a counter hand off squirts through the right side of the line for a gain of six on the play. The success of this play was the counter-motion of it, the line collapsed down and there was a big hole on the right side. Mark Anderson came down to hard rather than maintaining his gap. Tackle by Afalava on the play he came up good in run support. He was a little hesitant which was why he didn’t make the tackle quicker. Still a good overall tackle and read by Afalava.

Second down and four, Bills try to run left with a simple off-tackle play and Alex Brown gets penetration up the field and into which causes havoc. The linebackers come into clean it up barely a gain of a yard if not a loss on the play.

Third down and three is the disaster play by Vasher that every has been mad about from the get go. The key to this play is the look the Bears give on a third and relatively short. The Bills have a three WR set with Edwards working out of the shot gun. The Bears are in a Cover-1, with a blitz fake on by Afalava who takes the TE in coverage man to man. Payne back deep in center field coverage. The nickel package here with a Cover-1 is a bad defensive call. Payne should maybe get over to defend the ball better, but for that to happen he has to make the perfect read. The Bears are up in press coverage on this third and short, but with the Bills working out of the shot-gun the read should be to move some players out of press coverage. Vasher bites on an out and up and gets burned by Lee Evans. It’s a good route by Evans, poor defense by Vasher but a good call on the out and up. Vasher bites on the route that would get Buffalo the first down, which is a good percentage read for him to make. However his poor fundamentals lead to the big gain on this particular play.

The pass rush is decent, but there isn’t a lot of time for it to get going because it’s out of the shot gun and Edwards makes one read and one throw. This eliminates the time for the pass rush to work.

First down run at Alex Brown out of a hurry up offense, doesn’t give the Bears much time to substitute. Run for a gain of five but the defensive pursuit was pretty good. No huddle play again, single back three WR set by Buffalo. Second down run towards the weak side again, trying to go at Lance Briggs. Briggs slips the blockers comes in and makes one of those tackles that makes you proud he’s a Bear. He has done really well in run support his entire career and this is just another example.

Third and six the Bears go with the SAM lined up on the line and fake a blitz, Corey Graham brings the blitz, the pass rush overall is good, with Graham flushing Edwards from pocket to his right. Edwards makes a dump off to the RB and Afalava comes up and makes a solid tackle short of the first down.

Fourth down is a punt for a fair catch.

Second offensive series

Bears line up in a straight I-formation hand off up the gut through the one hole, Jones cuts back at the line through an opening and makes a solid gain out of the play. Frank Omiyale looked lost on this, he missed his block so that’s why Jones had to make the cut back. On the flip side Omiyale gets down field and does make a block rather than quitting on the play. Sure he missed his initial block but it was good hustle to see him get to the next level after missing that block.

The Bears line up with a single back two TE formation, Bills up in strong press coverage eight men in the box expecting run all the way. Bears go strong protection, with only three options on the pass patterns. Hester runs a great route a deep hook play. Excellent pass and catch between Cutler and Hester, that shows a good level of chemistry between these two.

First and ten Bills come with a blitz that is picked up the pass protection is there. Cutler tries to float one out there to Hester but he’s swallowed up in double coverage. A better read may have been a check down or something with a higher percentage of success written on it. Going to Hester one too many times, is my call here. But if you want to take a positive look at it the Bears want to give Hester as many chances to make plays as he can. The more chances he gets the more complete and better he’ll become. Better to work on this in the pre-season. If this were a real game I’d be frustrated they’re singling in on Hester so much for their throws.

The next play is the other play that has caused nightmares and PTSD not to mention media stories. The INT where Cutler goes to Hester yet again. Cutler really sits on this play to long and the pressure gets to him because of him sitting on the play too long. He makes an awkward throw as he’s stepping up in the pocket trusting his arm strength to get the ball to Hester. Hester isn’t a jump ball kind of guy and he doesn’t even try to make the play because the ball is severely under thrown in the first place. Hester could have done more to try and make some sort of play on the ball whether it was defensive or otherwise. Both players are at fault here, but the story has been Cutler shoveling the blame onto Hester. I don’t think it was shoveling the blame so much as a bit of coaching and encouragement for him to say he needs to make a play on the ball.

First down and ten for the Bills and the Bears drop into a zone and run a stunt with Anthony Adams, Idonije gets solid pressure up the middle but gets pushed down from behind. The effort to get to the QB is there on this play and it forces Edwards to throw to the only option he has, a back out of the formation. Trumaine McBride makes a nice tackle on this play. No gain, on the play. Three seconds to throw the ball is about average for a QB.

Second down Corey Graham on the blitz, nice sack for Corey Graham. The D-Line gets good movement in the pocket which causes this blitz to be successful. The back makes the wrong read trying to help with the four man front and Graham comes free. Excellent call, made successful by a solid effort from the DTs to get into the backfield. Idonije again with good pressure, Bears have everything down the field covered. It’s another check down to Marshawn Lynch who gains eight after breaking a tackle by Trumaine McBride. The Bears went with a nice zone defense got adequate pressure which made the defense work.

Third offensive series

A run to Kevin Jones to the right side. Good gap defense by Buffalo Bears manage just four yards. A break down in the blocking on the left side not sure if it was Omiyale, Pace or Kreutz, but it was ugly. Part of it was the CB up in the box shot the gap hard and made Jones stop and stutter. From there it was just garbage and a broken down run play. Third down is the next ugly play Cutler. Out of the shot gun three wide he sorta hesitates when he sets to make his throw. The hesitation lets the DB really get into position to make the play. From there it’s almost picked off, you wish Cutler would have just trusted his read the first time rather than hitched it just enough to give the DB a chance to make a break on the ball.

The fourth down play is a muffed punt that the Bears recover. Primarily because their punt coverage is so good and always so well executed. A tip of the hat to Dave Toub here once again.

Kevin Schaeffer checks in at LT in place of Orlando Pace.

First and ten and what a pass and catch between Cutler and Desmond Clark. This is why it’s great to have a two TE option because Clark can still get down the field, get open and catch the ball. What a nice catch in classic Clark fashion, just an all-around great call here. Good pass protection on the whole and Clark runs a good route and it’s just a devastating play. First down again, Cutler with a quick out to Earl Bennett, good pass protection. Bears wanna get Cutler in a rhythm so they do so by throwing the ball around. Jones with nowhere to go up the middle stopped up the run play. Olin Kreutz just got man handled on the play and with the DT sliding down into Jones’ path it stuffed what was an otherwise good running play. Kreutz just got man handled at the point of attack and it just threw off the entire run play. They took a second shot of the play from behind the Bills in back from the end zone and you can clearly see Kreutz getting washed right into the play.

Third and three from the six Bears call a time out just as Cutler was going to throw a slant that looked like it might have been caught for the touchdown. Although it was thrown slightly behind Brandon Rideau so there is no guarantee that he would have made the catch. The next play is a throw into double coverage, Cutler’s gunslinger mentality evident on this one. Trying to squeeze it into Hester where the ball couldn’t go, incomplete pass fourth down Robbie Gould chip shot field goal.

Third defensive series

Bears come with an all-out blitz and it’s a quick slant to Lee Evans, no press coverage, Urlacher just missed getting a hand into the throwing lane.

Next play I don’t get to see because the production is slow to get back to it. It’s a run play that gets snowed under after about two yards. Next play is a quick hitch to the WR for a small gain. Bears play off in coverage which is why the quick hitch works well.

First and ten on a pitch to the ‘back the Bears get good pursuit and Al Afalava just misses another tackle. He slows up the back though and the back side pursuit catches up and finishes up the play. Good pursuit to the football here.

Another short pass play with the Bears in Cover-3. A stop route right in front of the CB that goes for another first down. Bears play off, Bills dink and dunk which is the story of the game to this point.

This is the play that Urlacher makes on first down here. An off-tackle play Urlacher reads perfectly storms through the tap and makes the tackle. In classic Urlacher fashion he’s moving so fast the O-Lineman doesn’t have time to block him. Read and react, make the play great stuff from number 54.

Second and nine Anderson gets pressure off the edge, but it’s a little late getting there. Edwards makes another short quick throw that BARELY gets to the TE. The rhythm of this play was clearly thrown off by the pressure Anderson applied. He cleanly beat his man on the left side. Just a speed rush to the outside by Anderson throws off the timing of the play.

The Bills going with a lot of hurry up offense here trying to wear down the Bears, trying to exploit a mismatch. To this point it hasn’t really happened as the Bears still lead 3-0. Brown gets a little bit of a pressure, everything covered down the field, another dump off to the back. He makes a few tacklers miss and storms his way forward for a gain he never should have gotten. Good pursuit by the defense, but horrible tackling. This play should have been stopped right where the ball was caught.

The play where every fan in Chicago was screaming at the T.V. The Mark Anderson play where he collapsed down so hard on the line of scrimmage on fourth and one. Kept absolutely no contain, good naked boot leg play for Edwards. Anderson looks like a dip shit on this play. Another pass no pressure on the QB here although it’s yet another stop route by the WR. The Bears should by now do a better job of jumping this route, but by now it’s a bunch of roster slobs out there in coverage anyway. Yes the starters along the front seven are still mostly out there but the back ups are in more in the secondary at this point.

First and goal, Freddie Jackson with the run towards the four hole and he’s stuck and dropped by Afalava. What a read and a superb tackle by this kid. Completely as advertised nothing critical to say about him to this point. He’s showing why he’s moving up the depth chart in such a hurry and why he should start. Second and goal empty backfield for Buffalo, out of the shot gun. Bears in zone coverage, outstanding pass rush here, Edwards is flushed from the pocket here on second and goal right into the waiting arms of Alex Brown. A clutch pass rush here by Alex Brown who gets a solid pass rush inside, and then Idonije’s pass rush up the middle gets Edwards moving right back into Brown. The pass rush by Brown did this as well as a good rush from Idonije.

Bills run the ball on third and goal from the 14 yard line and the Bears stuff it up. Field goal attempt is good just into the second quarter. We’ll finish the second quarter later in another blog.

Absurd Level of Criticism After Bears Lose to Bills

August 17, 2009

The reasons why I chose to start this blog came into full view after the Bears’ pre-season loss to the Buffalo Bills on Saturday. The media, and some members of the fan base have a major problem when it comes to watching football games and have a short memory when it comes to watching a game. People tend to focus on the negative and completely gloss over the positive.

So I have to come in here with my platform and add my knowledge and analyze the facts and try to make those as clear as possible for Bears fans and Chicago media types alike. You won’t often get a fair and balanced approach and the media usually likes to stir up crap when nothing exists.

Example would be the Urlacher Cutler story on the first day of camp to the now Jay Cutler putting the blame on Devin Hester for not making a play on the INT that happened in front of him. The media especially in Chicago like to make mountains out of mole hills. We have a mountain and molehill situation right now after this loss.

While the Bears didn’t play a perfect game versus the Bills, it’s important to note a few things.

1) The Bills started practice a week before the Bears did

2) This was the Bills’ second pre-season game

3) The Bears were without three of four starters in the secondary

4) Struggles in the secondary were expected even before Trent Edwards complete 10 of 10 passes, most of the dump off variety.

To hammer home some of my points with the non-believers and the negative nancys already out there, I’ll back up my points.

Trent Edwards’ 10 pass completions out of 10 attempts performance that was good for 79 yards in the game. Edwards had a completion to Lee Evans for 36 yards. Take away Nathan Vasher getting burned, and say it’s 9 out of 9 for 43 yards. Nine completions at 43 yards is an average of slightly less than five yards per completion. There is why Edwards was so accurate in his throws and why it looked like the Bears were getting blitzed via the pass the same way as last year. If Edwards had only completed nine out of nine for 43 yards I don’t think everyone would be as upset as they are now.

Another point of focus, the fourth quarter when the Bills won the game by scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter against the Bears’ scrub defense. Hamdan and Fitzpatrick were a combined 17 out of 24 the previous week against the Tennessee Titans. Against the Bears the pair combined for 18 out of 28 and in both games the Bills made their run in the fourth quarter.

Now would a Bears fan look at that game and that performance by the Titans and level the same amount of criticism towards the Titans? Most certainly not because the Titans have always had a consistently good defense and they get a golden ticket pass go card the old “it’s just the pre-season” excuse.

What we do know by looking through just the stats is that the Bears’ defense did very well against the Bills. Trent Edwards completed many passes of the dink and dunk variety, through a pretty good pass rush. A pass rush the Bears didn’t mount much of last year was evident in this game. The Alex Brown sack came from a great collapse the pocket rush from Israel Idonije up the middle. The move forced Edwards to step to his left right into the waiting arms of Alex Brown. The intensity level of the defensive line was also on another level. Last year the line looked lackadaisical and almost like it didn’t care. The motivation to get a rush and to be aggressive wasn’t there.

Now you can tell that there is Marinelli’s intensity there. From Anthony Adams to rookie Jarron Gilbert and Dusty Dvoracek in between, the line is ready to rock and get pressure.

Also we saw Brian Urlacher shoot a gap and make a tackle the way Urlacher used to. He was also pretty aggressive in coverage as well.

The player of the game on defense was likely Al Afalava. The rookie stepped up early and often in the game and made four tackles overall. His astute instincts and aggressive tackling style looked reminiscent of Mike Brown. All positive signs the direction the defense is heading in for 2009.

Bears versus Bills What To Watch For

August 15, 2009

Well I’d like to say there is more that Bears fans should watch for in this game as far as the Bears being able to compete against the Bills’ strengths or weaknesses. However it’s the pre-season and there wasn’t a lot to observe last week in the Bills’ pre-season game.

The Bills looked pretty bad in the game that’s for sure. They didn’t execute well and the Titans’ starters had their way with them. Then when the Titans put their back ups into the game they started working their way down the depth chart the execution of non-NFL level talent had a lot of trouble executing. Things began to fall apart for both teams with the Titans victimizing themselves with a lot of momentum killing penalties in the fourth quarter. They also victimized themselves with a fourth quarter interception return for a touchdown.

The touchdown return off of the INT was the ONLY touchdown the Bills scored during the game. While I don’t expect the Bears’ defense to shut out and shut down the Bills’ offense, you hope that they will. Buffalo may have a slight advantage in this game since it will be their second pre-season game so they’ll have a better feeling for game rhythm and flow. Plus the Bills have been in their pre-season camp longer and practiced more than the Bears.

So what we’ll be watching for is the Bears’ execution. They should be able to execute like a well-coached football team just like the Titans were able to do with their starters in. The Bears should be able to run the ball pretty effectively. I’d like to see Kevin Jones show some of the burst and see the success he has had in camp translate over. Especially if the Bears see it fit to take it easy on Matt Forte and his hamstring.

Obviously you want to see if the front four can generate a pass rush. Most of what we want to see is fairly obvious so there should be no real surprises in this game.

Going outside the box I’d like to see how Al Afalava performs in the game at safety. If he has good instincts in the zone coverage and he understands his responsibilities in the Cover-2 better than what Danieal Manning did as a rookie and better than he seems to understand at this point. Afalava is a rookie so you don’t expect him to be perfect, but you’d like to see instincts in the game that Manning has never seemed to have.

Trumaine McBride, Corey Graham and how they’ll look in pass coverage. They will likely be the TWO back up CBs to Vasher, Tillman, Bowman etc. Hopefully they have a good game against some lackluster Bill receiver talent.

There is an argument that can be made however even though it is a pre-season game. The subtle signs that the defense was going to be bad reared it’s ugly head in week one of the pre-season against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs marched 91 yards on the Bears’ starters for a touchdown. Even after they shot themselves in the foot with 10 penalty yards the Bears’ defense was still unable to stop the Chiefs. It was the starters and the starters seemed to struggle on defense throughout the entire pre-season. Additionally it seems that a lot of the players that were backups in that game are important starters or players who’ll need to step up for the Bears in 2009.

Against the 49ers where the starters played for most of the game, the Bears made J.T. O’Sullivan look like Joe Montana guiding the 49ers offense down the field almost at will. O’Sullivan was seven out of eight for 126 yards and a touchdown in a pre-season game against the Bears’ starting defense.

So yes there is the importance of seeing the Bears’ defense perform well. Usually at this time of the season defenses are ahead of offenses so the Bears defense should be able to stop the Bills in this game fairly regularly. Especially with Terrell Owens out of the game.

So while everyone will have their eyes on Jay Cutler and his receivers the main point of focus should be the Bears’ defense and can they slow down a team. This is a team that is built on defense so the Bears should show signs of being a good team based on how their defense performs.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Bears versus Bills Key Matchup

August 14, 2009

Doing some of the advanced scouting work that I did of the Buffalo Bills I came across some interesting aspects of the game that will be fun to watch for Bears fans.

The match up that should most intrigue Bears fans is the match up of Buffalo Bills rookie offensive guard Andy Levitre versus Bears rookie defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert. Levitre a second round draft pick struggled mightily in the game against the Titans. He was thoroughly worked over by veteran DTs that seems to over power and dominate him for most of the time he was on the field.

A rookie versus rookie match up seems to be key just for Bears fans to figure out the depth going which is the primary point of focus during the pre-season. Yes we will get a read on the first team defense but it won’t come for much more than a quarter or even a series or two for the first team players.

Gilbert matching up with Levitre will be interesting. Levitre was drafted in the second round by the Bills, who were so high on him they traded their third and fourth round selections to move up back up into the second round to land him. He’s a converted offensive tackle who was shifted inside to left guard from left tackle where he played in college. Thus far the experiment did not appear to go well for him.

Noted in some scouting reports on Levitre is he didn’t have a lot of power or strength in his upper body and had really short arms. Gilbert should be able to stand out against Levitre, given that he has performed well in camp up to this point. Gilbert hopefully will get a push against the run and be fairly explosive in his pass rush. While it won’t be key for Gilbert to dominate him, there should be the subtle signs that Gilbert can handle a rookie versus rookie match up.

This should be a match up that should last throughout most of the game since both players will benefit from lots of playing time as rookies. Getting used to the speed and the complexity of the pro game when you’re a rookie that is fighting for a starting job is completely necessary.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated

Analyzing the Chicago Bears Depth Chart

August 13, 2009

As expected the Bears released their official depth chart yesterday. Really there is not a real surprise on the depth chart after what we have seen this far in camp. Most all the players we figured would be where at their slots are where you thought they would be. There’s no real surprises in the depth chart at this point in camp.

The only intriguing thing is rookie safety Al Afalava who is running with the second team at strong safety. Afalava was barely around for OTAs but that hasn’t stopped him from showing up in camp and proving he may just be an NFL ready safety. Afalava will be one player to watch during the pre-season game tomorrow night against Buffalo. The rookie is once again proving that Jerry Angelo and his team of scouts know how to find very talented NFL ready players in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Afalava fits Angelo’s pedigree to a T and he has the versatility to play free or strong safety although the roles in the Bears’ defense between free and strong aren’t very different.

Elsewhere Mark Anderson’s solid training camp has led to him being listed as a starter at both of the DE positions. The major hope that Anderson would take to Rod Marinelli’s tutelage has been realized to this point. Anderson is yet another player who will be watched during the pre-season game to see what kind of pass rush he can generate. Although Anderson is unlikely to play long given his status as a starter.

At left guard Josh Beekman has thoroughly held off the challenge of free agent signee Frank Omiyale. Beekman was good enough last year and looks like he may be even better this year. Bears fans may have a lot of unfair disdain for Beekman but he just seems to be unfazed by any of it. He’s taking it in stride and competing at a high level right now.

On defense at nose tackle it’s still a three man race between Anthony Adams, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison, with none of the three giving ground to the other. All three seem to realize that the third team loser of this battle is likely to be cut so they are performing well up to expectations.

The game against Buffalo will tell some about this team but I think the real keys to follow will be with the depth that we are counting on, and the rookies playing like they could be starters some day.

For more in-depth discussion on the Chicago Bears’ training camp go to Midway Illustrated