Bears Defense Not as Bad as Stats Indicate, Key Stops Make the Difference..
Bears' defense not as ugly on tape as stats suggest
They got stops against Panthers in key situations
Dan Pompei On the NFL October 4, 2011
Horrendous would be the best word to describe some of the statistics from the Bears defense Sunday: 29 points and 543 yards allowed, 6.5 average gain per run and zero sacks. But the defensive performance didn't look as ugly on tape as it did on paper.The Bears stopped the Panthers when they had too, preventing them from converting 11 of 14 third- or fourth-down attempts. In three of their red-zone possessions, the Panthers scored only three points
It wasn't exactly artistic, but the Bears came at quarterback Cam Newton with a variety of blitzes and coverages that resulted in incompletions at key times. They didn't get sacks but did pressure him and forced throws that hit the ground.The run defense was disjointed, in part because of the unorthodox offense and quarterback they were playing. Not knowing if Newton would keep the ball or hand it off out of the spread offense caused some hesitation on the part of defenders. The Bears also got overaggressive and sloppy about edge contain and were burned for some long runs around the end.
This defensive performance was not indicative of the defense the Bears have; rather, it was an aberration against an unusual offense. Here is what else we learned upon further review.
Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.
Defensive line Grade: 4
Believe it or not, the Bears got good pressure on Newton 14 times. They just couldn't bring him down. But the pressure did affect the Carolina offense. Defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije both had multiple pressures. Tackle Matt Toeaina had his best pass-rushing game of the season, taking advantage of stunts, blitzes and his power moves. The line wasn't nearly active enough in the run game, however. Linemen were in on only 24 percent of the team's tackles.
Linebackers Grade: 3.5
Brian Urlacher was active, and Lance Briggs made some big hits. But there were no impact plays here. The linebackers have to take a good share of the blame for the problems against the run.
Safeties Grade: 2
When a quarterback puts it up 46 times, Bears safeties need to get their hands on the ball more than once. Brandon Meriweather's big hits are starting to make receivers look twice when they come over the middle, but unless he starts wrapping up, he is going to give up a lot of unnecessary yards. On DeAngelo Williams' 26-yard first-quarter run, Major Wright could have had him after 3 yards and Meriweather could have had him after 12. Both missed. Wright also took a bad angle on Steve Smith after a catch, giving up 9 extra yards.
Cornerbacks Grade: 3.5
The Bears had no chance of covering Smith, who had 181 receiving yards. He ate up their zones, and they had no one who could stay with him man-to-man. The team lined up Tim Jennings across from him almost exclusively, and that was their best hope given how Smith had abused Charles Tillman in the past. Jennings struggled to keep up with Smith's quick cuts and appeared to have a mental lapse (sucking up on what he thought was a run) on Smith's 53-yard first-quarter reception. It could have been worse. Smith dropped what should have been a 16-yard touchdown pass in the end zone. D.J. Moore showed nice awareness on his interception and great instincts on his return for a touchdown. He nearly had another interception in the fourth quarter. Jennings, Moore and Tillman all were guilty of helping the Panthers to long runs on the edges.
Special teams Grade: 10
This was a dominant performance by the special teams with a 73-yard kickoff return, a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal.There might not be another player in the league who would have broken either of Devin Hester's long returns. The blocking was good, but Hester was brilliant. On his kick return, his hesitation caused a pileup, and while the bodies collided, he swerved into the open field. Rookie Chris Conte showed wisdom in not blocking Olindo Mare in the back.The blocked kick was set off by a hard rush off the right edge. That helped create a crease for Peppers to sneak in and get his big paw up.Adam Podlesh placed two punts inside the 20.
Running backs Grade: 10
Matt Forte was outstanding, running with vision, playing off his blockers and cutting at just the right times.He broke tackles and made defenders miss, sometimes on the same play. A reception for no gain on third-and-1 might have been his best play of the day. He could have been caught for a loss of 4 but spun out of the grasp of Charles Johnson, cut back away from Johnson and another defender and then bulled through Omar Gaither for another yard. Fullback Tyler Clutts played a big role too, throwing the lead block for Forte repeatedly, including on his 46-yard first-quarter run.
Offensive line Grade: 8
This was easily the best, most physical performance of the year by the line, and everybody contributed. Before he was benched, Frank Omiyale pulled and reached linebacker Jason Williams to clear the way for a 10-yard Forte run.The linemen repeatedly got downfield on pulls and screens to help spring Forte. Omiyale struggled with Johnson, who also gave Lance Louis a couple of problems. But overall the pass blocking was sufficient. Chris Spencer toughed it out with a broken hand, pulling and wiping out middle linebacker Dan Connor on a 20-yard fourth-quarter run by Forte.
Tight ends Grade: 9
Zero catches, but it was an outstanding blocking performance from Kellen Davis. He had key blocks on Forte's 46-yard run, Forte's 40-yard run and Forte's 17-yard touchdown, knocking defensive end Greg Hardy on his back and into Connor.
Quarterback Grade: 5
The numbers painted a bleak picture, but the reality is Jay Cutler managed the game pretty well. He had one awful throw, a high, late pass over the middle intended for tight end Kyle Adams that was intercepted. Other than that, Cutler did what was asked pretty well. He minimized the Panthers' pass rush by getting rid of the ball.
Wide receivers Grade: 4
Aside from Johnny Knox, there wasn't much production in the passing game. Receivers did contribute with some downfield blocks, but Roy Williams failed to get to safety Charles Godfrey on a Cutler draw from the 4 that should have been a touchdown.