Will the Packers do what the Steelers didn't to scheme against Jordan Howard?


Will the Packers do what the Steelers didn't to scheme against Jordan Howard?

According to NFL’s Next Gen stats, the Pittsburgh Steelers had eight or more men in the box on only four of Jordan Howard’s 23 runs on Sunday. None of Tarik Cohen’s 12 rushing attempts came against a loaded box, either, per those numbers. 

That seems to go against conventional wisdom. The Bears have struggled to find consistency passing the ball, so why wouldn’t an opposing defense load up the box and try to shut down a running game that racked up 216 yards between its “thunder” (Howard) and “lighting” Cohen?

“They were in a lot of split safeties, playing Tampa 2 a lot, and they thought that was the best answer to stop us and they stayed in it,” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “And (I) thought that we did a really good job up front.”

Perhaps that was Pittsburgh betting that its front seven — led by linebacker Ryan Shazier and defensive end Cameron Heyward, but without defensive end Stephon Tuitt and linebacker T.J. Watt — could shut down Howard and Cohen without needing extra help. Or, as Loggains admitted:

“At the end, I don’t know that teams respect us enough right now to say hey, they can put a 12-play drive together and go score on us, and we’ll bleed them out and see if they’ll make a mistake.” 

That’s what happened in Week 2, when Mike Glennon completed his first six passes but threw a debilitating interception on his seventh. The Bears fumbled five times on Sunday but only lost one, while Glennon was picked off once (and it could've easily been twice). 

But not facing loaded boxes has actually been a bit of a trend so far for the Bears' offense: 26.67 percent of Howard’s runs have come with eight or more men in the box, the 25th-highest percentage among running backs with at least 20 carries. Only 12.5 percent of Cohen’s attempts have come with eight or more men in the box, too — the sixth-lowest percentage in the same group. 

How the Green Bay Packers scheme against the Bears offense in a short week will be interesting, given the Packers have lagged against the run (4.5 yards per carry, 24th) and pass (7.6 yards per attempt, 21st). Would they try to sell out to stop the thing the Bears do well — run the ball — or try what the Steelers did and drop into zone coverage and hope Glennon makes a mistake? 

The answer to that question will be key in how much success the Bears’ offense will have Thursday night at Lambeau Field. 

How ‘spatula hands’ Adrian Amos is a perfect representation of the Bears’ defense 

USA Today

How ‘spatula hands’ Adrian Amos is a perfect representation of the Bears’ defense 

Adrian Amos grew up a Ravens fan, and would go play football with his dad on a field in the shadow of M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. So what was the best game of his career on Sunday — eight tackles and a 90-yard pick six — carried more meaning for the Bears’ safety. 

“This was a dream come true coming back to play in this stadium,” Amos said. “That’s a blessing in itself. Not a lot of people from Baltimore get the chance to do that, to be in this stadium.”

Amos played nearly 2,000 career snaps before recording his first NFL interception on Sunday, when he was in the right place to snag a ball Kyle Fuller — another Baltimore native who was outstanding against the Ravens — tipped pass. Amos always was regarded as a sure tackler who could be counted on to stick to his assignments, but for whatever reason he never was able to get himself an interception. 

“Sometimes, I call him ‘spatula hands’ because he doesn’t catch a lot of balls,” defensive end Akiem Hicks said. 

“Akiem’s always got the jokes,” Amos said. Hicks never actually called Amos “spatula hands” to his face, and after dropping that line to the media, he told Amos what he said (“He’s got jokes for everybody,” Amos added). 

Homecomings and jokes aside, Amos is playing his best football right now, and that’s been huge for a Bears defense that’s needed to replace plenty of key players before the halfway point of the season. Amos, who lost his job when the Bears added Quintin Demps and Eddie Jackson in the offseason, is starting in place of Demps, who broke his arm Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

“At that time, there was a guy playing better than him,” coach John Fox said of Amos losing his starting job in training camp. “And, at this time, he’s playing the best in the group. And that’s why he’s playing out there.”

Amos played a grand total of one defensive snap in Weeks 1 and 2, but has played every single defensive snap — as well as 26 special teams snaps — in the last two weeks. He had eight tackles against both Minnesota and Baltimore, and against the Ravens, he notched a tackle for a loss and two pass break-ups. 

This Bears defense showed in the first five weeks of the season to be a “fine” group, one that wouldn’t make many mistakes, but also wouldn’t make a lot of plays. That changed on Sunday, with Bryce Callahan picking off a pass, Christian Jones forcing a fumble and Amos notching an interception. 

Like the Bears defense this year, Amos was a solid player who hadn’t made a lot of big plays in his career. And like the Bears’ defense on Sunday, Amos finally made a critical play when it counted. 

“It’s just a mindset thing,” Amos said. “Just staying focused. Stay confident in my ability. Just keep working, being aggressive, just put my head down and work, that’s all I know.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?