Bears In-Foe: Packers fans are not R-E-L-A-Xing about offense

Bears In-Foe: Packers fans are not R-E-L-A-Xing about offense

It got to the point in Sunday’s 30-16 loss to Dallas at Lambeau Field that Aaron Rodgers was being booed. Or maybe it was the Packers’ offense in general. But two years after telling those same fans to “R-E-L-A-X” after a 1-2 start, days before he made them in a 38-17 surgical procedure on the Bears at Soldier Field, the two-time MVP doesn’t sound very comfortable, either.

After starting 6-0 a year ago, the Packers are 7-8 in the regular season. The NFL’s all-time leader in passer rating at 103.5 (“K-HITS!!!!”) stands 20th in the league in that category this year (88.4) on the heels of a 92.7 rating in 2015, Rodgers’ worst since his first year as the starter.

His accuracy has been off (60.2 percent, ranking 25th), and while he still has a 10-to-4 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio, he has six picks in his last seven games and has gone a career-high 12 games without throwing for 300 yards. I know, I know. It’s the last thing Bears fans want to hear heading north for yet another prime time game there. But sandwiched around the 55-14 embarrassment two years ago have been a pair of wins: when Shea McClellin broke his collarbone in 2013, and the pedestrian (for Rodgers) 22-of-43 Thanksgiving night win last November, in which he threw for only 202 yards, a Tracy Porter pick and one touchdown.

The postgame thought that night involved being thankful Jordy Nelson and his torn ACL weren’t around to burn The Beloved like he usually does. But Nelson is back now, and while he has five scoring receptions in as many games, he’s caught only 26 passes, with a 12-yard average. And Vic Fangio’s defense could well be without Tracy Porter (knee), who had the interception last year and had four other pass breakups, something no one else had ever done in a game to Rodgers.

[RELATED: Bears In-Foe: Pack’s defensive backfield in motion]

Randall Cobb leads the club with 28 catches, but with a 10.5 average. Davante Adams, who struggled to fill Nelson’s shoes a year ago, has three TD’s among his 15 grabs, but enters the week under concussion protocol. GM Ted Thompson took a rare dip into free agency to address the lack of a threat at tight end, but Jared Cook’s been sidelined after spraining an ankle three weeks ago.

The other urgent issue facing Rodgers and company is at running back. Eddie Lacy worked out with P90X guru Tony Horton to get in his best shape since his rookie season (after reportedly spinning the sacle around 250 last season). But Lacy sprained his ankle two games ago, tried to battle his way through it Sunday, and while averaging five yards a carry, is also averaging just 72 yards a game. The added twist is backup James Starks’ Sunday morning knee surgery. Promoting undrafted rookie Don Jackson from the practice squad could be an option after Mike McCarthy tried to get by sprinkling Cobb and fellow wideout Ty Montgomery into Sunday’s backfield. Aaron Ripkowski has replaced John Kuhn for an occasional handoff at fullback.

Then there’s the Josh Sitton-less offensive line. Lane Taylor has slid it at left guard, between David Bakhtiari and center JC Tretter, while T.J. Lang and Marian Central High School product Bryan Bulaga. The latter left Sunday’s game early with a back injury but in the past has found a way to grind through. While Sitton may have been the financial sacrifice with Lang and Tretter heading towards free agency, Bakhtiari was re-upped before the season before hitting the market.

McCarthy took back the play-calling this season, but is being criticized up north for remaining too conservative. After kicking field goals on fourth-and-short in Sunday’s loss, the Pack went the next five possessions before scoring their lone touchdown of the day with just seven minutes left versus a defense that’s not exactly the 1985 Bears. Green Bay enters this game 25th in passing yards, 26th in total yards, 17th in points per game, but first in third-down percentage. An odd mix, sort of what the Bears are going through. But we know the weapons, and that quarterback, are present. Now the Bears hope they don’t figure things out for four more days.

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

Film review: Albert Wilson's 75-yard TD shows how Sunday was an aberration for the Bears' defense

(For a bonus film review, check out the video above of Akiem Hicks' forced fumble on the one-yard line)

When Eddie Jackson didn’t stay on top shoulder of Randall Cobb in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ season opener, there was a clear coaching point from that 75-yard backbreaking touchdown. The Bears’ defensive mantra the week after was to focus on “plastering” receivers, which this defense did a good job of over the next three weeks. 

There surely are coaching points leveled by Vic Fangio and his assistants after the Bears were carved up by Brock Osweiler and the Miami Dolphins in Sunday’s 31-28 loss in Miami. But maybe the over-arching though here is this: The Bears didn’t, during the off week, go from being one of the league’s more sure-handed tackling teams to one of the worst. 

A defense that swarmed to the ball over the first four weeks looked a step slow and frequently out of position on Sunday. The more likely explanation for that development isn’t the plot to Space Jam 3, where a group of cartoon aliens steal the athletic power of an entire defense to use for their own. More likely, it was the heat in south Florida that sapped this team’s energy over the course of a long afternoon.

In this week’s film breakdown, we’re going to look at Albert Wilson’s 75-yard touchdown, which was wildly uncharacteristic of this defense. 

Image 1: the Bears are in nickel man coverage with Wilson (red circle) lined up in the slot across from Bryce Callahan. Danny Amendola goes in motion to the boundary (green arrow), with Danny Trevathan (green arrow) following him, though safety Adrian Amos will be the guy covering the Dolphins receiver. Akiem Hicks and Jonathan Bullard are the two down linemen in the interior, with Leonard Floyd rushing from the left and Khalil Mack from the right. 

Image 2: Mack is chipped by tight end Nick O’Leary (yellow circle), with Roquan Smith (yellow arrow) responsible or covering him. Trevathan (green circle) is in space with Amos (blue circle) picking up Amendola. With Mack chipped, the Bears have three pass rushers to go against five offensive linemen. 

Image 3: There’s about 10 yards of space between Mack and Osweiler (yellow arrow) after Mack comes free of O’Leary’s chip. Trevathan (green circle) is in a good position here, with Amos (blue arrow) closing on Amendola. Wilson works into space ahead of Callahan (red arrow), while both Dolphins outside pass-catchers run go routes to clear cornerbacks Kyle Fuller and Kevin Toliver II out of the play. 

Image 4: First, the white circle — Hicks had his helmet ripped off, with right tackle Jesse Davis the apparent culprit. He still manages a good pass rush against a double team that could’ve hit home, or forced Osweiler to Mack (who’s about five yards from Osweiler when the ball is released) or Floyd, had the play extended longer. Meanwhile, when the ball is released, Callahan (red arrow) and Trevathan (green arrow) are in good position to bring down Wilson, while Amos (blue arrow) is there for help if Wilson were to turn upfield to the far sideline. 

Image 5: Wilson catches the ball and goes to the far sideline, away from Callahan (red arrow) and toward Trevathan (green arrow). After O’Leary and Smith engaged, the rookie linebacker is the farthest back from the play of these three when the ball is caught. 

Image 6: Trevathan (green arrow) seems to over-commit, giving Wilson a lane toward the boundary to cut upfield. 

Image 7: Amos (blue arrow) still has a chance to bring down Wilson short of the sticks.

Image 8: Amos misses the tackle, and Trevathan is blocked by O’Leary. That leaves Jackson (yellow arrow) as the last guy who can stop Wilson from breaking this play open. 

Image 9: In missing the tackle, Amos tripped Wilson a bit, which Jackson admitted threw him off (“but that’s not an excuse for it,” he added). Wilson re-gains his balance, cuts inside, and Jackson whiffs on the tackle. 

“Probably just try to shoot my shot on the tackle instead of just guessing, just probably should have shot my shot,” Jackson said of what he felt he should’ve done differently. 

Wilson goes to the house, and the Dolphins tie the game one play after the Bears took the lead. The last image here is Wilson’s route chart from NFL Next Gen Stats, which shows just how much running he did after the catch on that play — yardage-wise, it was 71 yards, but by distance it was much further. 

“We talked about how many tackles we missed,” Jackson said. “Some of that could have really changed the momentum of the game if we would have made some of those tackles. Unfortunately, two of them resulted in big play touchdowns.”

No members of the Bears defense were willing to use the heat as an excuse, instead opting for thumb-pointing instead of blaming teammates, coaches or the sun. But there’s a good chance we look back at Week 6 in Week 10 or 11 and can say with some confidence that the Bears beat themselves more than the Dolphins did, and it’s something that hasn’t happened since. 

“We know we made mistakes, that don’t kill our confidence,” Jackson said. “That don’t kill our swagger. We know what we gotta do, we know what we gotta correct. So we come in here, we’re going to play Chicago Bears football that we’re used to playing.”

Bill Belichick sees "overlap" between the Bears and the Chiefs, and who are we to disagree with him

Bill Belichick sees "overlap" between the Bears and the Chiefs, and who are we to disagree with him

If Bill Belichick talks football, it's probably worth listening to. 

Talkin to reporters ahead of this weekend's Bears-Patriots matchup, Belichick mentioned how similar he views the Bears and the Chiefs: 

“Well, I mean they have a lot of good players,” Belichick said. “They have good skill players, good receivers, big offensive line, good tight end, athletic quarterback, good backs. I mean there’s some movement and some motion and shifting. I wouldn’t say it’s an extraordinary amount. They get the ball to a lot of different people and they’re all pretty effective when they get it. That’ll be a big challenge. They throw the ball down the field and have a lot of catch-and-run plays and have a good running game.”

Statistically speaking, Kansas City ranks 2nd in offensive DVOA while the Bears are down at 17th. But otherwise they're identical! We're with you, Bill.