Week 2 Review: Bears pounded by Saints, 30-13
I do consider myself as die-hard a Bear fan as it gets; but the second half of Sunday’s beating at the hands of the Saints was hard to watch. I started having flashbacks of the Giants game at Meadowlands last year, one which Jay Cutler was knocked out of after suffering 8 sacks. In the first half.
As far as the pass protection goes, people are quick to blame the injuries to OT Gabe Carimi and OG Lance Louis, or the insertion of OT Frank Omiyale as reasons we had some trouble keeping Cutler upright. Upon further review, Omiyale played fairly well for being thrown into the fire against the Saints, and i expect him to do well going forward. The injuries never help, but every team has to deal with injuries—it is not an excuse for performance or execution. I will give my take on why our offense struggled later. But onto the review of the key points from my preview of Week 2, from last Thursday:
1) Bears’ tackling. Our defenses’ tackling was very average. There were a few impressive stops—most notably, a Tim Jennings’ tackle that forced a field goal from the Saints early in the 3rd quarter—but we had trouble bringing down rookie RB Mark Ingram and RB Pierre Thomas; and had a hard time even catching Darren Sproles.
2) Saints’ TE Jimmy Graham versus the Bears’ LBs. Graham finished the game as the Saints’ 2nd-leading receiver with 6 catches for 79 yards, including a 31-yarder.
3) The Bears’ Offensive Line versus The Superdome Crowd. The Bears committed 6 penalties for 47 yards, including 2 false starts on substitute OT Frank Omiyale. Even worse, there were numerous missed assignments on pass protection which led to alot of unnecessary hits on QB Jay Cutler. Whether those missed assignments were not a product of missed audibles, and just crappy blocking, we may never know. But the crowd was certainly a factor.
4) Kick and Punt Coverages. This was actually not a factor on either side, as neither return man really got anything going.
5) The Saints’ offensive line versus the Bears’ defensive line. This was a matchup the Bears HAVE to win in every game for the Cover-2 philosophy to work. They were dominated most of the game by the Saints’ offensive line; and they looked slow in pursuit. Take this for a contrast : In Week 1, Matt Ryan of the Falcons dropped back 48 times and was hit 11 times and sacked 5 times—a sack percentage of 11 percent. In Week 2, Drew Brees of the Saints dropped back 38 times, was hit just 2 times and sacked only once, a sack percentage of 2.5 percent. We must do a better job of creating pressure from our front four going forward.
Now…onto the pass protection troubles. I think there is are many facets to this problem that we need to fix before Jay Cutler gets killed:
A) I don’t know if we will ever know the reasoning behind the play-calling, but Matt Forte ran for 50 yards on 7 carries in the first quarter; and had 3 carries for -1 yards the rest of the way. Now, maybe the lack of running in the second half was a result of being down and trying to catch up…but what about the second quarter? Especially when you take into account the hostile environment…and how scrutinized our offensive line was all pre-season…you gotta get them into a rhythm and build some confidence.
B) Not having Roy Williams and Earl Bennett hurt, but I think it speaks ALOT to the ability of Devin Hester and Johnny Knox as receivers (or Cutler’s confidence in them; or both) that rookie Dane Sanzenbacher got a majority of the ‘clutch’ looks once Bennett went down. It is obvious that Hester and Knox have NO CLUE in the passing game.
– They do not break off routes on 8-man blitzes and get open quickly. They do not beat the jams and give Jay a good targets. There was one play in particular, where the Saints showed an 8 man rush, pre-snap. Jay takes a two step drop and looks for Hester or Knox out on the edge, expecting them to run a slant or a hitch. The only problem? Both Knox and Hester are running go routes and have not even looked back. Which is probably a good thing, because all they would have seen was Cutler getting thrown to the ground. Again.
– They do not make the clutch catches routinely. Hester, Knox, and Sanzenbacher all dropped very catchable passes that would have extended drives, or at least showed the Saints that we could be functional on blitz reads, and perhaps slowed the blitzes down somewhat. One thing I notice in this regard is that Hester, Knox, and Sanzenbacher NEVER come back to the ball to shield the defender and thus give Jay an easier target to throw into. They are always falling to the ground, away from Jay—which allows the defender to easier get in the way of the pass.
– Alot of people will blame this on Jerry Angelo for drafting smurf WRs who are not terribly physical, or not going out and getting a number one WR-type. But Hester and knox have been WRs now for 3 years apiece; you KNOW they have been coached up on how to do these things. There are WRs in the NFL with the same body types that do very well in third-and-short situations—Wes Welker, Steve Smith, just to name a couple—HESTER AND KNOX JUST HAVE TO EXECUTE.
– in other words, if you are going to try to win with those two guys, then you have to alter the game plan. ALOT. Keep 8 guys in to block for Jay, send Knox and Hester on go routes, have Jay chuck it 60 yards, and see if they can out-run the CBs and catch up to the ball. Its what we used to do with Bernard Berrian a few years back, because he had alot of the same deficiencies as Knox and Hester.
C) A coach can draw up the best plays and protection plans in the history of the NFL…but eventually your players have to MAN UP AND BLOCK SOMEBODY. Our OTs, TEs and RBs routinely whiffed on blocks, and nearly got Jay killed. Kellen Davis had a couple; Kahlil Bell had a really bad whiff on an inside blitz. Having Barber back will help there, as he is more of a physical presence than Bell. But again, blitz pickup is more about “want to” than skill. Us Bears fans had the chance to witness one of the best ever, Walter Payton—and he was only 5 foot-10 inches; maybe 200 pounds. As for Davis, maybe it is time to leave Speath in there full-time, or see what rookie Kyle Davis can do; because Kellen Davis looked SOFT in the Saints game.
D) I am not letting the coaches off of the hook on this one. On the 80-yard TD pass to Devery Henderson, credit Saints’ head coach Sean Payton for calling the play. Most coaches have a tendency to not try those deep balls against the Bears’ Cover-2 defense, and just are satisfied trying to 5-yard slant us down the field (eg.- The Falcons in Week One). Payton knew he had to stretch our defense out to open up some running lanes for his RBs and underneath passes to RB Darren Sproles and TE Jimmy Graham. So, even if Major Wright doesn’t get beat and the pass is incomplete, Payton’s purpose would have been served. I NEVER see the Bears doing this anymore. You have two of the fastest WRs in the game in Knox and Hester. You have one of the strongest arms in the game in Cutler. THROW THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD A COUPLE OF TIMES—if nothing else, you will loosen up the underneath stuff, or at least get Hester and Knox a cushion from the CBs, so they do not have to try and beat press coverage.
And please—when we are losing by 3 scores midway threw the fourth quarter and you have 2 backup offensive linemen in the game and your franchise QB has been getting beaten to a pulp all game long, PLEASE TAKE JAY OUT OF THE GAME, RUN THE BALL, AND LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY. As we learned by the Giants’ debacle last season, it is just one game—we still won the NFC North last season, regardless of that game.
The good news? Our coaching staff made the adjustments last season, after the Giants game, and we went on to win the NFC North. So don’t write off our team just yet—just know they have some stuff to fix before Sunday.