Bears

How Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson have teamed up to solidify the Bears at safety

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USA TODAY

How Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson have teamed up to solidify the Bears at safety

Games against divisional opponents inherently are ideal for measuring progress, with straight lines able to be drawn between Games 1 and 2 against the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions.

Sunday’s rematch with the Packers — who beat the Bears, 35-14, in Week 4 — will be scrutinized heavily for signs of progress, especially for an offense that has a different quarterback under center.

The absence of Aaron Rodgers muddies things a bit for the Bears’ defense, but Sunday will mark the sixth game of the Adrian Amos-Eddie Jackson safety pairing, with those players starting together for the first time at Lambeau Field in late September. And since that rough evening in Wisconsin, the pair of Ryan Pace draft picks (Amos was a fifth rounder, Jackson a fourth) has played well.

“The ability to play together, feeding off one another,” Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson said of the improvements Amos and Jackson have made. “I think they play well down in the box, they move well in the back end. Jackson had a big game a couple weeks ago with a pick and a fumble return, so guys that are always around the pile and ready to make a play when they get that opportunity.”

Both Jackson and Amos have pick-sixes and fumble recoveries this year, with Jackson’s going for a score against the Carolina Panthers. Amos is fourth on the Bears in tackles (35) and third in tackles for a loss (four) despite barely playing on defense until Quintin Demps’ suffered a broken arm Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Jackson is second on the team with four pass break-ups.

While both made some mistakes against the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, they’ve played at a high enough level together that the Bears haven’t missed Demps, the veteran and team captain who signed a three-year contract back in March.

“You have to have a trust factor there with your partner on the back end,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “I think those guys have it.”

Amos sort of struggled to explain the chemistry between he and Jackson, beyond saying “we just work well together.” That’s not a bad thing — it just works and makes sense for the pair, and that speaks to the natural fit between Amos, who’s strong in the box, and Jackson, who’s strong in coverage.

“He’s a better tackler than I am, so he’s more in the box than I am,” Jackson said. “I’m in the field, covering receivers most of the time. We just really try to balance it out.”

The Bears liked Demps’ experience next to Jackson to begin the year, but Amos has played over 2,000 snaps in Fangio’s system at this point, which has helped the pair mesh. The Bears seem to have found the right mix at safety, and potentially without a key defensive player (linebacker Danny Trevathan, who didn’t practice this week due to a calf injury) against a scuffling Green Bay offense, will need to keep trending in the right direction for continued defensive success on Sunday.

“Amos is a smart guy,” Jackson said. “He’s been around so long, if I’m confused on something, I can look at him and he’ll give me the check real quick. And if he has a blur in his mind, he can look at me and I’ll give him the check. So it’s just, you help each other out, you can be a crutch for one another.”

Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

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Bears film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's amazing scramble, Marcus Cooper's soft coverage mistake

Had Connor Barth not missed a 46-yard field goal that would've sent Sunday's Bears-Lions game into overtime, Mitchell Trubisky's 19-yard scramble on fourth-and-13 would've gone down as the biggest play the rookie quarterback made in 2017. Instead, Barth missed the kick, and the Bears couldn't force an opportunity for Trubisky to win the game in overtime.

But that scramble was incredible in its own right, even if it didn't lead to a tie ballgame and/or eventual victory. Here's how it happened:

The Lions rush three, with linebacker Tahir Whitehead (labeled No. 3 here) defending Benny Cunningham, who initially sticks in the backfield in pass protection. Detroit has four defenders playing man coverage against the Bears' four pass-catchers -- wide receiver Markus Wheaton and tight end Daniel Brown are at the top of the image, while wide receivers Kendall Wright and Dontrelle Inman are at the bottom. The Lions have three safeties playing deep with the Bears needing 13 yards to gain a first down. 

Trubisky drops back and doesn't spy anyone open. The yellow line is where the Bears have to get to for a first down, and instead of forcing a throw, Trubisky opts for a scramble drill. 

It doesn't start very well. Trubisky is pursued by defensive linemen Anthony Zettel and A'Shawn Robinson (blue arrows) and has no chance to scramble outside. There's a window created by Wheaton at the top of the screen (purple arrow) but there's no chance Trubisky could set and make that throw across his body now. Scramble it is. 

Trubisky stops on a dime and is able to avoid Zettel and Robinson, and cuts back to the middle of the field. Defensive end Cornelius Washington (red arrow) identifies where Trubisky is going and begins pursuing him. 

A hole opens up! But Washington is now quickly closing on Trubisky, who at this point still has to run about 17 yards to get the first down. It's not looking good. 

Somehow, Trubisky sheds Washington's tackle around the 42-yard line. He still has 10 yards to go, and now safety Miles Killebrew (red arrow) is closing on him. 

Killebrew overpursues to the boundary, and Trubisky is able to cut back to the middle of the field.

"He ran to my side and cut back and then made another guy miss, and I was like, oh s***, he’s really about to get this," Inman said. 

Killebrew whiffs, and Trubisky picks up the first down. 

"That’s his mentality," running back Tarik Cohen said. "Y’all got to see his mentality. That situation, fourth and 13, he’s not going down, not taking a sack, not throwing the ball away — he’s going to find a way to make a play, and he’s going to lead us to where we need to be." 

***

One of the game's most critical plays for the Bears' defense came midway through the second quarter. The Lions were backed up near their own goal line, and Leonard Floyd had just forced a Matthew Stafford incompletion with an excellent speed rush to the quarterback's blind side. The Bears defense seemed to be locking down on Detroit, and with a 10-point lead, forcing a punt here could've turned into more points by an offense that was having success in the first half. 

The Bears rush Floyd, Eddie Goldman, Akiem Hicks and Pernell McPhee (red circle), and have cornerback Marcus Cooper playing off Lions wide receiver T.J. Jones (orange line). Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (blue arrow) is going to sit in the flat. 

Jones gets to the sticks and sits down (orange circle), with Cooper still backpedaling. Kwiatkoski, perhaps, could've been a little deeper, but it doesn't appear that he's in the wrong spot. Also, tight end Eric Ebron has some open space just before the first-down line with safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson (purple arrows) keying on him. 

The ball is in the air, and Cooper is about six yards off Jones, who's right at the first down marker. Kwiatkoski can't get to the ball, and Jones and Stafford easily converts the first down. Credit needs to be given to Jones for a savvy route and knowing exactly where he needed to go to pick up the first down. 

And this was a heck of a throw by Stafford, who in this frame is about to get hit by Goldman while Floyd is leaping to try to disrupt the throw. A good route, a great throw and poor coverage led to the Lions picking up a first down. This throw sparked something in the Lions' offense, too: Including it, Stafford had a run of nine completions in 10 attempts for 153 yards and two touchdowns before halftime. For the Bears' defense, this play was the beginning of one of the "siestas" coach John Fox said have plagued his team this year. 

***

One of the Bears' best designed and executed offensive plays on Sunday came midway through the fourth quarter in the red zone down by a touchdown.

Tre McBride was motioned to the hashmarks from the outside, and the Bears have fullback Michael Burton and tight end Adam Shaheen lined up to the field side (red circles). Zettel (yellow circle) is lined up well off left tackle Charles Leno's left shoulder. 

Trubisky sold this play well, planting his right foot and sort of turning his body toward the field. Zettel (orange arrow) bites hard on that fake and loses contain, while Shaheen, Burton and McBride (red arrows) all disguise the play as a stretch/toss to the field. Cohen (purple arrow) now has some open space to the boundary. 

In the top left corner, another player does his job to set up the play: Inman carries cornerback D.J. Hayden (blue circle) into the end zone, freeing up plenty of green grass for Cohen. Safety Quin Glover (gray arrow) now has to pursue Cohen toward the pylon. 

"(Inman) ran the DB off, so I knew I had to get to the pylon or if he’s going to meet me there first, I had to stop his feet," Cohen said. "So I gave him a hesitation move." 

That hesitation froze Glover just enough for Cohen to tee up this:

Wheeee! "I felt like I had a 44-inch vert," Cohen said. He's able to dive in the end zone and tie the game up in a critical spot. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Did the Bears technically "win" on Sunday?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times) and Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) join Kap on the panel.  Kap is happy that Mitch Trubisky played ok and John Fox’s team lost again.  The panel disagrees.

Plus Leonard Floyd doesn’t have an ACL tear…. Yet. Should the Bears shut him down even if he gets good news?