Green Bay Packers

Bears center Hroniss Grasu had the lowest-graded game in two years

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USA TODAY

Bears center Hroniss Grasu had the lowest-graded game in two years

Hroniss Grasu had a game to forget against the Green Bay Packers in Week 10.

After missing the last five games with a hand injury, the Bears' third-year center returned Sunday, where he was slapped with the worst offensive line performance over the past two years from Pro Football Focus:

Here's the full synopsis from PFF on Grasu's showing:

Center Hroniss Grasu really struggled in his first start back from injury. His 27.7 overall grade would be the second-lowest graded game of any center through the first nine weeks of the season. He allowed five hurries on 41 pass blocking snaps with two inaccurate shotgun snaps, earning him the first 0.0 pass blocking grade of any offensive lineman in the past two seasons.

That's...yikes.

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky was sacked five times against the Packers, though some of the blame for that was of his own doing.

Grasu, 26, was a third-round draft pick (71st overall) of the Bears in 2015 and a college teammate of Kyle Long at Oregon. Grasu has had trouble staying healthy in his three years with the Bears, having played in only 11 games, making 10 starts.

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.”

View from the Moon: Bears loss to Packers offers little toward John Fox’s job security

View from the Moon: Bears loss to Packers offers little toward John Fox’s job security

Chairman George McCaskey was pretty clear at the owners meetings last spring, that coach John Fox and his Bears didn’t need a particular win total for job security or at least to earn the fourth year of Fox’s contract. All McCaskey specified was the need for evidence of progress.

Well… . As someone remarked after the Bears’ 23-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers (5-4), this one’s going to leave a mark.

To offer some sort of possible, ominous context:

The true end of the Marc Trestman tenure came in a 2014 blowout loss to the Packers, coming immediately after the Bears’ off-week. That Green Bay team had Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

This time the Bears (3-6) lost to the Packers immediately after the two weeks of prep time afforded by the off-week. But this Green Bay team was without Rodgers, and this game was to have been a statement and a step towards respectability, at least in the NFC North.

The game may in fact have been a statement, just the exact wrong kind in the vein of Fox’s Chicago future and his chances of seeing the fourth year of his contract.

“I’ve been doing this too long,” Fox said. "I’ve never worried about my job security, and I won’t going forward.”

The overarching issue Sunday, though, was that there was precious little that qualified as “forward” anything. Through nine games under Fox in 2015 the Bears were 4-5. Last year, cycling through Jay Cutler, Brian Hoyer and back to Cutler, the injury-riddled Bears were 2-7. This year, injuries not as much of a factor, and the results not much better, for any number of reasons.

To an alarmingly significant degree Sunday, the Bears’ bellyflop traced to their own inept lack of discipline and execution, which typically is laid at the feet of the coaching staff, fairly or unfairly. Whether by virtue of coaching or talent acquisition, no shading of anything Sunday resembled progress.

“A lot of stuff was self-inflicted on ourselves,” said cornerback Prince Amukamara. “That’s been the theme this year. When we’ve had enough, it’ll stop. But we have to make a decision.”

Somewhat of a curious assessment, suggesting that the Bears haven’t all made that decision yet. The problem is that Fox and his staff may pay for a theme that the players don’t seem to have had enough of, apparently.

Take on Trubisky

The expectations swelled going into Sunday because there were hints that the Bears might have had enough of their own mediocrity. And then this game happened.

The Bears had won two of their last three under rookie franchise quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who had made some progress in four starts against teams all ranked in the top 10 defensively (Minnesota, Baltimore, Carolina, New Orleans). But against Green Bay – ranked 22nd in points given up, 20th in rush yards allowed and 23rd in passing yards surrendered – the offense reached the Green Bay 31 or closer and scored touchdowns on none of the possessions.

“We’re killing ourselves in critical situations, in third downs (4-for-14, or 29 percent) and red zones (actually, the Bears ran no offensive play from nearer than the Green Bay 25),” said Trubisky, who had the best day of his five-game career to date, completing 21 of 35 for 297 yards, a 46-yard TD pass to Josh Bellamy, zero interceptions and a passer rating of 97.0.

Trubisky’s progress notwithstanding, the Packers became the latest opponent to scheme with intent to force Trubisky and the Bears into something they weren’t necessarily good at yet, that being attacking all areas of the field. Trubisky may have thrown for nearly 300 yards but he was sacked five times, hit on two other occasions, and the Packers attacked the Bears’ front and collected 10 tackles for loss.

“[Trubisky’s] pocket presence will come along,” said Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who finished with a sack, tackle for loss, quarterback hit and a pass deflection. “You have to take advantage of that, and that’s exactly what we did. We ended up with five sacks, a number of quarterback pressures and hurries.

“That what you expect to do when a team is so one-dimensional.”

More “terrible 3” amid discipline breakdowns

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains spotlighted the three points of disaster for the Bears offense: sacks, negative runs, penalties. Trubisky was sacked three times in the first half. Four of Jordan Howard’s 11 carries went for negative yardage. Five penalties, three sacks, four negative runs – 12 negative plays in that informal accounting on the way to a disaster.

The point isn’t that Loggains was right. It is that the Bears with two weeks to prepare for the most average of the five defenses in Trubisky’s five starts, the offense kept doing exactly, precisely what Loggains identified as the reasons for offensive unraveling.

The word “undisciplined” barely applies. The Bears had seven penalties assessed in the first half, not including the three flags declined by the Packers because the Bears had bumbled to a negative play in each instance anyway. Five of those penalties were assessed on the offense, three of them pre-snap infractions.

Special teams were flagged for delay of game on a PAT. They were tagged for unnecessary roughness after a successful – yes, successful – field goal at the end of the first half.

Coming up short collectively

The Bears defense had allowed just two offensive touchdowns in the 13 quarters before the off-week. The unit allowed that many on Sunday alone, including one midway through the fourth quarter after the offense had scored to pull to within a field goal at 16-13. That 75-yard drive covered eight plays, one of four Green Bay possessions in the second half alone last eight or more plays. The Bears defense forced exactly one Green Bay punt on the five possessions of the second half with the game on the line.

A defense that had eight takeaways over the previous three games against offenses directed by three quarterbacks with Super Bowl experience (Joe Flacco, Cam Newton, Drew Brees) had zero against a Green Bay offense run by a backup quarterback (Hundley) and without its two top running backs due to injury.

“They made some plays,” said cornerback Kyle Fuller. “There were some things, maybe I could’ve done better on a couple. But [the Packers] get paid, too, to make plays, and they made some today.”