Bears

Breaking down the play that sums up how good the Bears’ defense has been in 2017

Breaking down the play that sums up how good the Bears’ defense has been in 2017

The Bears’ defense proved to be a stout bunch through the first eight games of 2017, with major contributions coming from every unit within it. But there’s one play that stands out when evaluating just how good Vic Fangio’s group has been this year:

Midway through the third quarter of the Bears’ 17-3 win over Carolina on Oct. 22, the Panthers lined up to try to convert a fourth-and-two at the Bears’ 25-yard line. This was a pivotal point in the game: Carolina was down, 17-3, but was driving after 10 plays covering 51 yards. A first down could’ve begat a touchdown, which would’ve changed the entire complexion of a game in which the Bears were struggling to mount anything offensively.

So the Panthers called for a bread-and-butter play: QB power, with Cam Newton running behind the right side of his offensive line as well as a running back and a tight end. The 6-foot-6, 260 pound Newton is averaging 3.8 yards per carry on third/fourth-and-short downs in his career; only 28 of his 133 attempts (21 percent) in those situations have not gone for first downs. This was one of them, and it had everything to do with how good the Bears' defense -- specifically Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman -- played the call. 

This is right as Newton received the snap. Goldman is the blue arrow, blocked by right guard Trai Turner (70). Hicks is in the red circle and immediately draws a double team of tackle Daryl Williams (60) and tight end Ed Dickson (84). Leonard Floyd is the yellow arrow, coming from the edge, with running back Jonathan Stewart (28) identifying his rush. 

Goldman (blue arrow) quickly beats Turner to his inside shoulder, while Hicks takes on the double team and Floyd is met by Stewart. Danny Trevathan (black arrow) doesn't over-pursue and stays on his assignment. 

Goldman is free of Turner, Hicks doesn't give ground against the double team and Floyd beats Stewart to his outside shoulder. The play is quickly blowing up for Carolina. 

The purple circle is where Turner wound up after being beat by Goldman, who's ready to meet Newton at the 26-yard line. Carolina had to get to the Bears' 23-yard line to convert a first down. Floyd, too, now has an opportunity to get to Newton, even after Stewart gets his hands on him. And there's nowhere for Newton to push forward because Hicks proved to be immovable. 

Scene. Goldman (1) is credited with the tackle, but Floyd (2) is contributing. Adrian Amos (3), Trevathan (4) and Hicks (5) make sure there's no chance Newton can power his way forward for two yards. It officially goes as a one-yard gain and a turnover on downs. 

Here's how defensive line coach Jay Rodgers explained the play:

“(Goldman) was playing a left side shade,” Rodgers said. “Their right guard blocked down on him, he recognized the key read right there and knocked that guy back. He’s supposed to fit on the right side of that guard, but here comes Cam to the left side of that guard, he just gets rid of them and go makes the play. Now, that doesn’t happen unless Akiem anchors the double-team, and that’s what he had to do first. So those are two guys who are playing off of each other right there in a positive way.”

Here’s what Hicks saw on it:

“It was a heavy set to our side,” Hicks said. “Then they pull the guard from the back side, they take the running back through the hole and then they send Cam last, so it’s just a lot of meat coming through one area. I would say that’s a great play for their offense. That wasn’t the only time that they ran it, but we did a great job of shutting it down. Taking on those first two blocks that I did allowed guys to come around the sides and stop him before he got to the first down.”

The point here: The Carolina Panthers, a 6-3 team with a good chance of making the playoffs, ran one of its most effective offensive plays in a high-leverage situation, and the Bears stopped it. This was Carolina's best against the Bears' best. The Bears won. And that's what Fangio's defense can do. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who might be the next Bears head coach?

john_fox.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Who might be the next Bears head coach?

Hub Arkush (Pro Football Weekly/670 The Score), Teddy Greenstein (Chicago Tribune) and Danny Parkins (670 The Score) join Kap on the panel. Fox Watch continues. Is his dismissal a foregone conclusion? And how many other coaches will be fired after this season? Plus, the guys discuss Jerry Jones vs. the NFL and the latest installment of “As The Bulls Turn.” 

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With matchup against Golden Tate looming, Bears need Kyle Fuller to have a short memory

11-16kylefuller.jpg
USA Today

With matchup against Golden Tate looming, Bears need Kyle Fuller to have a short memory

A couple of relevant stats on Detroit Lions receiver Golden Tate: Passes toward him average 6.5 yards in the air, the second-lowest average among NFL receivers this year (via NFL Next Gen Stats). Tate, though, leads receivers with 315 yards after the catch, and is ninth in the league with 659 total receiving yards. 

The point: Matthew Stafford gets Tate the ball quickly, and when he gets the ball, he’s a dangerous weapon. 

“He’s kind of built like a running back and runs like one,” Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “Once he gets the ball in his hands, he’s a double threat – not just catching it but then after he catches it what he does with it. He’s good on the low routes but yet he can get deep balls also, too. He’s kind of a complete receiver with really good running ability after the catch.”

This is especially relevant for Kyle Fuller, who whiffed on a third down tackle attempt on Green Bay’s first drive last weekend, resulting in a 38-yard gain for Randall Cobb. Fuller went on to have his worst game of the season, allowing 127 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets and missing five tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Fuller was one of the Bears’ best defensive players in October, and with free agency looming after this year looked like he could be setting himself up for a sizable payday. But he’ll need a short memory to move on from his struggles against the Packers. 

“I hope (he has that),” Fangio said. “You need to at that position in this league.”

If Fuller’s tackling issues re-surface this weekend, Tate could be in for some gaudy numbers. Or Fuller could find his starting spot in jeopardy, with Marcus Cooper — who signed a three-year, $16 million contract in March but has only played 14 defensive snaps in the last three weeks — in position to play if coaches make that call. 

“Anything but your best effort in tackling, both from a mindset and technique stand point, is going to be needed when you are going up against a guy like this,” Fangio said.