In one of those instances where a game plan is one thing but adapting to change is another, the Bears both schemed effectively to exploit even the strengths of the St. Louis Rams, but also adapted to situations adroitly and never lost the upper hand in a game that was shaking early, if only briefly.
For one of the first times this season, the Bears were completely flummoxed early by an opposing offense such that Rams players were running completely loose in wide-open areas of the defense. The game plan obviously was to at least impede the running of rookie tailback Todd Gurley but the damage initially came from the Rams exploiting the Bears’ massing to stop Gurley, resulting in gains of 29 and 31 yards on short flips to receivers underneath within the game’s first two plays.
“We did start slow, without a doubt. The offense did a good job of some explosive plays early to answer.”
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The defense answered as well, and suddenly those free-running Rams disappeared for quarterback Nick Foles. After the Rams’ first drive, 80 yards for a touchdown, the Bears allowed just 209 yards and two field goals the rest of the game.
As Fox said, the offense replied with explosive plays, although the two biggest came on “short” calls by coordinator Adam Gase: an 87-yard swing pass to tight end Zach Miller and an 83-yard screen pass to Jeremy Langford.
Added into that was a fourth-down conversion of 11 yards, with Gase calling for rolling Cutler out right, with an option to run but with Langford breaking out to the right flat against a St. Louis front massed to stop a running play. That sustained a drive for the Bears’ go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter and they never trailed again.
Gase also stayed with the Bears’ preferred template of smash-mouth ball control, calling 34 running plays and nine passes to his running backs, meaning 43 of the Bears’ 63 offensive plays went to backs.
“I think Gase does as good a job as anybody in preparation and for attacking instead of playing in a defensive mindset,” said tackle Kyle Long. “He wants to go right at the teeth of the defenses and we love that.”
The Bears also went with a pitchout and sweep by Langford on a third-and-10 against a St. Louis defense with the speed to run things down.
“In big situations like the third-and-10, we ran a long toss around the left side,” Long said. “That was all Jay and Gase, so credit to those guys and their preparation.”
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Special teams effectively denied St. Louis return threat Tavon Austin openings to set up his offense.
“This game is about execution in whatever phase – offense, defense, kicking,” said coach John Fox. “What goes unnoticed is that the number 11 [Austin] that they have is a pretty dynamic, explosive guy. I thought that in both the kicking game and on defense we did a decent job of corralling that.
“Again, it is a team game and we clicked as a team as probably as good as we have clicked thus far. We will evaluate it and look at it and get ready for the Broncos next week.”
Moon's Grade: A