The play preceding the Bears' failed fake punt was, if you just look at the box score, a head scratcher: A third-and-three run to running back Taquan Mizzell, which gained only a yard.
But the play call was a run-pass option, and Mitch Trubisky made the correct decision to hand the ball off to Mizzell on the play. Today's film breakdown looks at why, and how the play broke down:
First, the wider view shows that Trey Burton (blue arrow) might’ve been open over the middle. But Trubisky’s read on the play is linebacker Kyler Fackrell (yellow arrow), who starts the play by taking one step back and does not engage with right tackle Bobby Massie.
This is Trubisky’s read on the play — if Fackrell rushed, this is an easy decision to pass. But he doesn’t, so Trubisky makes the correct decision to hand off to Mizzell.
It looks worse than it was, because when Burton turned for the ball he was open, in part too because inside linebacker Blake Martinez blitzes up the middle.
Still, Nagy said Trubisky made the right decision on the play. So why didn’t it work?
As Trubisky is making his read (blue arrow), left guard James Daniels doesn’t block defensive lineman Fadol Brown (yellow circle). This wasn’t Daniels getting defeated on a block — there was a communication breakdown, and Daniels thought he was going to have help on the play. The run is going this direction, though (red arrow).
Green Bay had sort of a funky front here, with three defensive linemen lined up over the interior of the Bears’ line with Martinez (No. 50) blitzing up the middle as well.
When Trubisky makes the decision to hand off to Mizzell, his eyes where they need to be — on Fackrell (blue arrow). But Brown is already free (yellow arrow) and Daniels has no one to block (green circle).
Daniels can’t recover, and Brown gets his hands on Mizzell. This play, otherwise, was blocked up well — left tackle Charles Leno had a handle on outside linebacker Clay Matthews (yellow circle), and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel was in position on cornerback Josh Jackson, too (yellow arrow). At a minimum, this play should’ve gone for a first down; at best, it could’ve gone for 10 or more yards.
This shouldn’t be taken as a reason to doubt Daniels’ progress — he’s developed nicely throughout the course of the season, though is occasionally prone to rookie mistakes like this. More often than not Daniels gets this play right, and when he does get something wrong, he rarely repeats the same mistake.
But if you were asking yourself on Sunday why the Bears handed off to Mizzell on third and two — this is why. The play should’ve worked. There’s nothing strategic to quibble about here when it comes to Nagy’s decision to call it or Trubisky’s decision within it.
The point of looking at this play is to more to show how the Bears' offense can be effective with RPOs — Trubisky completed a few passes to Burton on them earlier in the game, when he correctly read an outside linebacker coming across the line of scrimmage to engage with a tackle. It's not necessarily ground-breaking, but it shows how the Bears' offense can efficiently operate come the postseason, so long as the blocking up front is sound.