The biggest change in the fortunes of the Bears this offseason was the coaching change, because of its direct effect on the on-field portion of the organization. The results were in evidence vs. the Green Bay Packers even in a 31-23 losing effort Sunday.
Coordinator Adam Gase hit the Packers with “heavy” personnel at the outset, with just Eddie Royal as a lone wide receiver and tight ends just about everywhere. The result was a smash-mouth start with a long Matt Forte run and then later a big completion into a vacant seam to Alshon Jeffery. The opening drive featured some no-huddle as well as the Bears succeeded in taking the game to the Packers, a reversal of form from recent seasons.
“That’s how we like to operate,” said quarterback Jay Cutler. “We do a lot of that stuff in practice, pretty normal procedure for us. We can back it off and huddle up. We’re going to keep mixing it up throughout the year. The guys like it. It seemed to work pretty well.”
The balance and play design was creative and used the entire width of the field while staying with a power philosophy. Gase called 18 running plays to 23 passes in the first half, with Cutler turning three scrambles into 20 yards. A unit already without rookie Kevin White lost Eddie Royal for a time after a blow to the head, further undercutting the abilities to spread to the field both horizontally and vertically but the offense did not stall.
If there was an oddity it was in the fourth quarter when the offense threw four incompletions inside the Green Bay seven, including three after reaching a two-yard line.
“I thought we had a great plan against what they did defensively,” said coach John Fox. “I thought our offensive coaches did a tremendous job, maybe other than a couple of red-area stops that I thought were pretty much the difference in the game, in comparison.
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What the Packers did offensively was creative in keeping the Bears from some of what they wanted to do schematically. Vic Fangio’s defensive schemes were as advertised – completely beyond anything shown in preseason and in all manner of alignment. The Bears were rarely in straight 3-4 sets early but used 3-4 personnel Jared Allen and Pernell McPhee in on-the-line sets.
“We knew after the first quarter that they wanted to get us out of the 3-4 and more into nickel and run the ball,” said defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins. “That’s part of football, getting us out of our strong points. It’s still up to us to execute, though.”
Special teams were gashed for returns averaging 35.3 yards per kickoff return as players appeared to take themselves out of sound gaps in several instances.
“We were going to have to be near-flawless to beat them, and we didn’t quite reach that,” Fox said. “But I think there were a lot of positive things that we’ll be able to build on as a football team moving forward as we get ready for Arizona.”
Moon's Grade: A-