Bears’ success creates potential 'problem' vs. good Cardinals run D


Bears’ success creates potential 'problem' vs. good Cardinals run D

Within the Bears’ success at running Matt Forte for 141 yards against the Green Bay Packers lay an element of good news-bad news that points to a “problem” for the Bears’ offense going against the Arizona Cardinals.

Forte ripped off runs of 23, 22 and 20 yards, equaling the offense’s total of pass plays gaining more than 20 yards (not including a 14-yard completion supplemented by a 15-yard penalty). The run results stand as exceptional; the pass results, not so much, and a significant task before the offense is to change some things. Fast.

The Cardinals were a respectable 13th vs. the run last season and began this season by limiting the New Orleans Saints to 54 rushing yards in the Cardinals’ 31-19 handling of the Saints last Sunday.

Pounding the Cardinals the way the Bears did the Packers is not a winning formula, and the Bears know it.

[MORE: Complete Bears-Cardinals coverage on CSN]

“We've got to take some shots,” said quarterback Jay Cutler, who rarely threw deep even through preseason and almost not at all against the Packers. “We've got to air it out. We make sure that we take our shots, push the ball downfield and just let them know that if you're going to play [to stop the run], we're going to let it go.”

An obvious key for the Bears will be to generate rush on Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The Saints failed to sack Palmer even once, and lost; the Bears failed to even hit Aaron Rodgers once, and lost.

The pressure is on Cutler from more than the Cardinals front.

Besides stretching the field, Cutler is tasked with completing a higher percentage of his passes than the 50 percent (18 of 36) against Green Bay. The low percentage was far from Cutler’s fault alone; drops affected the overall, some of them egregious.

But with the Cardinals expected to make sure that Forte does not beat them, Cutler has the football in his hands with the opportunity and burden of sustaining drives and forcing Arizona linebackers and safeties to pay attention to more than run-blocking and Forte.

[RELATED: Bears special teams facing early roster tests vs. Cardinals]

“We’ll pick our spots when it’s time to go down field,” said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “We’ll wait to see who challenges us as far as taking away the underneath stuff first.

“I’m not going to just start dropping him back there and see how many times he can get hit. We have to make sure that the defense is giving us what we want. Maybe that’s when we start attacking down the field a little more.”

And the Bears-Cardinals winner is… a surprise?

Arizona coach Bruce Arians is the one that got away for the Bears, who passed on the chance to hire him and went instead with Marc Trestman. Under Arians the Cardinals have gone from three straight years without a winning season to two straight with a combined 21-11 record.

Worse for the Bears, Arians has balanced the offense between the passing of Palmer, working on a streak of seven consecutive wins, and running the football, with 120 in the win over New Orleans.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

Palmer is 3-0 vs. the Bears for his career, albeit none of them games against a 3-4 Bears team. And the 120.3 passer rating he has vs. the Bears is his highest against any team. The Bears did not show enough defensively against the Packers to expect them to end Palmer’s win streak.

But here’s the rub:

“View from the Moon” surveyed the schedule not long after its release and opined that the Bears would win one of their first, very difficult games. It is beyond difficult to envision the Bears defeating the Seahawks next week in Seattle, and they just lost to Green Bay by a score, a game VFTM had as a win. Therefore, to get back on rhythm:

Bears 23, Cardinals 21

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.