Bears

Film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's most egregious sack and Brett Hundley's back-breaking scramble

Film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's most egregious sack and Brett Hundley's back-breaking scramble

The Green Bay Packers headed to Chicago on Sunday with only 13 sacks in eight games, then dropped Mitchell Trubisky five times at Soldier Field. After the game, Trubisky shouldered the blame for that total. 

“Me holding on to the ball, I have to get it out quicker,” Trubisky said. “I have to identify the coverages and we just need to execute as a whole and get better.”

One sack, in particular, stands out because the whole stadium saw an open receiver with plenty of open field around him. The breakdown of that play, which came on a first and 10 late in the third quarter:

The red arrow is Josh Bellamy, who will go in motion to his left on the play. Had the Bears run the ball on this first down, the Packers would've have eight men in the box for Jordan Howard to deal with; calling for what should've at least been an easy throw here was a good change of pace. 

Trubisky flows to his left along with Bellamy (red circle), while Packers cornerback Davon House is matched up with Dontrelle Inman (yellow circle). 

House passes off Inman to safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (yellow arrow), and identifies an open Bellamy in the flat (red circle). Bellamy isn't outrageously wide open, but House is still about 10 yards away from him. Trubisky is pressured by linebacker Nick Perry but has time to get rid of the ball. 

Here's an alternate view -- you can't see House in this frame, which makes Bellamy look a little more wide open than he actually was. 

It's too late for Trubisky to get rid of the ball, and he takes a sack for an eight-yard loss. Perhaps he was looking downfield toward Inman, but a deep throw rolling to his left with Clinton-Dix lurking would've been difficult. While Bellamy maybe only would've gained a couple of yards on the play, that would've been far better than an eight-yard sack on first down. Trubisky needed to be more decisive here in taking the easy completion. 

***

The Bears’ defense hadn’t allowed an explosive rushing touchdown since Minnesota’s Jerrick McKinnon went for 58 yards Oct. 9, and the longest run this group allowed after that was a 30-yarder to Baltimore’s Alex Collins Oct. 15. Carolina’s longest run was 14 yards (Cam Newton), while New Orleans’ was 18 yards (Mark Ingram). 

But in the second quarter on Sunday, Ty Montgomery dashed 37 yards for a touchdown. What happened?

The Packers design this run well, going away from Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks (it's worth noting Eddie Goldman was not on the field for this first-and-10). Green Bay blocks it well at the line of scrimmage, but what makes it an explosive play is happening on the right side of the frame. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (red arrow) keys on safety Eddie Jackson, while Prince Amukamara (blue circle) is the "last line of defense," as he put it after the game. 

Nelson (red arrow) pays no attention to Amukamara (blue circle) and makes a beeline for Jackson. A hole opens up for Montgomery (yellow arrow). 

Amukamara (blue circle) fills that hole, while Nelson meets Jackson in another hole the Packers' offensive line created between Mitch Unrein and Jonathan Bullard. 

Was this holding? The angles Nelson and Jackson took to meet each other may have made it look more egregious than it actually was. A quick refresher on how the NFL defines holding: 

Use his hands or arms to materially restrict an opponent or alter the defender’s path or angle of pursuit. It is a foul regardless of whether the blocker’s hands are inside or outside the frame of the defender’s body. Material restrictions include but are not limited to:

  1. grabbing or tackling an opponent;
  2. hooking, jerking, twisting, or turning him; or
  3. pulling him to the ground.

Anyways, back to the play:

Amukamara (blue arrow) is too close to the line of scrimmage to make the play, while Nelson seals off Jackson (red circle), leaving an open hole for Montgomery to run through into the open field and, ultimately, the end zone. Amukamara felt he jumped the hole he went into too early, leading to the big play. 

“That touchdown was all on me,” Amukamara said. “I just have to wait back and just fill out where the running back is cutting because I’m the last line of defense. I talked to my coach about it, I talked to (Vic Fangio) about it, and as a vet, should’ve known that, but just being aggressive and trying to make a play.

“I’m the last line of defense, so if it goes outside, that’s me, if it cuts inside I just have to be ready for wherever it cuts and I just shot my shot too early and the running back shot through.” 

***

Newton’s 14-yard run was the longest by a quarterback against the Bears until Brett Hundley ran for 17 yards on a critical third down in the fourth quarter. This was a stop the Bears’ defense sorely needed, but did not get:

The Packers line up with two receivers (Randall Cobb and Nelson) and a tight end (Lance Kendricks) at the bottom of the frame, while at the top, Nick Kwiatkoski is matched up against running back Jamaal Williams, leaving Christian Jones as the only linebacker in the middle of the field. Hicks and Unrein are the two down linemen, with Floyd and Pernell McPhee lined up outside of the tackles. 

McPhee is the key to the play for Green Bay. He's one-on-one with left tackle David Bakhtiari (blue circle), while Unrein (red circle) draws a double-team. Hicks and Floyd (yellow circle) are one-on-one. 

McPhee (blue arrow) makes a move inside, with Unrein (red arrow) continuing to soak up the double team. Floyd (yellow circle) keeps contain. The play is flowing to Hundley's right, so Floyd and Hicks do a good job of making sure Hundley can't move with the play. 

Had McPhee kept contain, and this play could've easy broken down. But as soon as Hundley recognized McPhee's inside move, he knew it would leave plenty of open field to his left. McPhee and Unrein are surrounded by three Packers' offensive linemen, and Hundley has an easy decision to make. 

Christian Jones (white circle) was flowing with the receivers and is too far away from Hundley to make a play. Hundley scrambles for 17 yards, setting up his touchdown throw to Davante Adams that put Green Bay back ahead by 10. 

There was some speculation on the television broadcast that McPhee thought Unrein would make an outside move to contain Hundley, but coach John Fox said that wasn’t what was called. 

“It was just a decision (McPhee) made to go inside,” Fox said. “We weren’t covered on that.”

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio delivers some refreshing honesty about the state of the Bears' defense

Vic Fangio took the podium at Halas Hall on Thursday after coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich fielded questions for about 30 minutes, and began his press confernece with a classic quip. 

“Alright, let’s continue this lovefest,” Fangio said. 

For a Bears team coming off a 5-11 season — the fourth consecutive double-digit loss season for the franchise — there’s been plenty of positivity pinging around Halas Hall since Nagy was hired last week. But Fangio showed up with a reality check on Thursday, at least as it relates to the defense he’ll return to coach for a fourth year. 

“There’s no doubt strides were made," Fangio said. “Not enough. I think it’s a wrong picture to paint that the defense was great and the rest of the team wasn’t. We were 5-11. 

“If we were a great defense we’d have more than five wins. There’s a lot of room for improvement there — a lot — and we need to do that.”

The Bears opted for continuity in enticing Fangio to return to coach their defense, which ranked 10th in total defense and 9th in points last year, but was 14th in defensive DVOA. This was a good, not great defense that won the Bears a few games (most notably, the 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers) but struggled at times, too. 

A great defense? That’d be the Jacksonville Jaguars, which on the back of one of the league’s best pass rushes and secondaries has vaulted Blake Bortles into the AFC Championship game. A great defense wouldn’t have let Brett Hundley post a 110.8 passer rating against it in Week 10; a great defense wouldn’t have allowed Matthew Stafford to scythe through it on two occasions. 

And that Fangio — who’s generally honest and brings a no-B.S. attitude to his press conferences — acknowledged that eight and a half months before the 2018 season starts was refreshing to hear. It’s almost been easy to forget the Bears lost their 11th and final game of the 2017 season less than three weeks ago with a new, young, offensive-minded coach stepping into Halas Hall. 

There will be plenty of turnover on the offensive side of the ball — possibly an entirely different receiver corps than was regularly on the field in 2017 — but the defense will have some consistency, starting with Fangio and extending to his defensive coaches, who he said Thursday he expects to be back. This is a group that needs more talent at edge rusher and cornerback, but Fangio is more concerned with developing the guys who are already here — and were why this was a “good” defense last year. 

“Guys like Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, Danny Trevathan, Leonard (Floyd), Eddie Jackson, I know I’m going to miss some, I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. 

“So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

And that approach — more so than his lengthy experience in the NFL — is why retaining Fangio made so much sense for the Bears. Nobody knows the strengths and flaws of the Bears’ defense better than Fangio; and keeping Hicks, Goldman, Trevathan, Floyd, Jackson etc., in the same scheme with the same coordinator and same coaches gives this Bears’ defense the best chance to go from being “good” to great. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bears use Jags/Vikes as blueprints and build an elite defense over offense?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Bears use Jags/Vikes as blueprints and build an elite defense over offense?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Schuster (670 The Score), Dan Cahill (Chicago Sun-Times) and Jordan Bernfield join David Kaplan on the panel.

The Bulls keep on winning. Should they try to make the playoffs? NBCSportsChicago.com’s Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, with Bortles, Foles and Keenum starting in this weekend’s Championship Games should the Bears prioritize improving their defense this offseason?