Bears Grades: Secondary routinely burned for big gains


Bears Grades: Secondary routinely burned for big gains

After allowing just 16 pass plays of 20 yards or longer through five games, the Bears allowed four in just the first 15 minutes of Detroit Lions possession Sunday, setting a course for problems that eventually doomed the Bears. The Lions put up eight pass plays of 20 or more yards, including two in the fourth quarter and a 57-yarder from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson in overtime to set up the game-winning field goal.

“I just saw Matt,” Johnson said. “Once I’m running downfield, he always tells me to keep my eyes on him because he’ll throw it up. I saw him do the ‘crow hop’ so I knew it was coming. I was just trying to keep the defender in a good place so I could make a play off of him.”

The defender on the play was rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey after cornerback Kyle Fuller had passed Johnson off to the deep coverage. “He’s a tough cover,” said Jones-Quartey. “He’s big, he’s fast, he can jump. He’s Calvin Johnson, a great player. But that’s no excuse. When your number’s called, you’ve got to make a play.”

Johnson has made a career out of abusing secondaries and spent much of Sunday doing the same. He finished with six catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, nearly all of the receptions coming at what seemed to be the most precipitous moments.

Johnson worked into an open area of the Bears’ zone for a 43-yard gainer in the second quarter, then beat cornerback Tracy Porter for 39 yards to set up the third Detroit touchdown. “It was a lot of (coverage) variety,” Porter said. “I was on him most of the time, but we mixed it up a little bit, tried different things.”

[MORE BEARS: Upon further review: No interception for Bears as Lions get TD]

But Johnson was far from the only problem for the Bears. Stafford finished with 405 passing yards and four touchdown passes, exploiting major breakdowns by virtually every member of the secondary at one point or another.

Fuller had a day nothing short of tumultuous. The second-year cornerback saved a touchdown with an open-field tackle of Johnson in the second quarter. Fuller then gave up the score when he lost focus as Stafford extended the play and Detroit backup tight end Tim Wright worked free for a virtually uncontested catch of a eight-yard touchdown to finish that drive.

Fuller failed to seal against a slant to wideout Golden Tate in the Chicago end zone late in the second quarter.

Missed tackles and poor leverage allowed a 22-yard completion from Stafford to Tate, a catch-and-run in the first quarter that was followed by poor coverage on which Sherrick McManis allowed wideout Lance Moore an easy catch on a slant for a 20-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Moore finished with five catches and a total of 106 yards.

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McManis also completely lost Moore in the secondary in nickel coverage to allow a 42-yard completion late in the third quarter. McManis was spared embarrassment several plays later when he missed running back Theo Riddick on a long gainer that was nullified by a pass interference call against Johnson.

Fuller committed pass interference on what would have been a third-down stop late in the fourth quarter, sustaining a Detroit drive.

The Lions put particular emphasis on working deep against the Bears, “and I’m glad we did,” Johnson said.

Moon's Grade: F

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.