|Ignore the record, Bears’ play calling is still poor|
|Written by Michael Boyd, Daily Vidette Sports Columnist|
|Wednesday, 29 September 2010 18:25|
Every Bears fan breathed a sigh of relief late Monday night when kicker Robbie Gould split the uprights of a 19-yard field goal with only four seconds remaining to put the Bears up 20-17.
They breathed an even bigger sigh when they saw flags on the field during the Green Bay Packers circus attempt at a kickoff return for an illegal forward lateral which clinched the game for Chicago.
Almost no one predicted the Bears starting 3-0, and, to be honest, it feels really good to see the team that practically everyone said had no chance be the last undefeated team in the NFC.
However, if the Bears want to stay undefeated and defy the skeptics, the play calling of Head Coach Lovie Smith needs to get better in a hurry.
Watching the defense play Monday night felt like déjà vu of the 2006 Super Bowl when Smith refused to abandon the cover two defensive scheme and allowed Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to throw seven and eight yard passes the entire game on the way to a victory.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers did his best Manning impersonation and seemed perfectly content hitting his wide receivers on quick slants or out routes on nearly every attempt. He stretched Chicago’s “bend but don’t break” defense to its very limits and Smith refused to make a switch.
Rodgers went 34-45 for a total of 316 yards, yet his average completion was only seven yards. Green Bay’s run game was practically invisible, only totaling 63 yards with 20 of those coming from Rodgers’ makeshift scrambles.
Why Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli would not bring the linebackers up in the box and get in the short passing lanes is beyond me.
Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have proven to be one of the most dynamic line backing duos in the league with their speed and coverage abilities. If they could step up and play the short slant routes, not only would they be closer to the line in case of a run, but it would force opposing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer and make more difficult throws.
Green Bay’s longest completion was only 28 yards on a seam route to tight end Jermichael Finley. Chicago’s secondary has traditionally been strong, and would be more than able to cover deep routes if the linebackers were allowed to cheat up and make plays on short passes.
Considering Smith has kept the same cover two in place since his arrival to Chicago in 2004, opposing offenses know what is coming, and know exactly how to beat it.
The Chicago offense had its share of questionable calls as well, most coming late in the fourth quarter. With only three minutes left in the game, the score tied and the ball near midfield, it seems only logical to run the clock down and get Gould within 40 yards for the game-winning field goal.
Instead, they came out three straight plays with an empty backfield and proceeded to throw the ball deep downfield.
Luckily for the Bears, Green Bay broke their own franchise record for penalties and none was bigger than the defensive pass interference on safety Morgan Burnett. It erased a Nick Collins interception and gave the Bears first and goal at the nine-yard line with less than two minutes remaining.
From there, offensive coordinator Mike Martz actually played the clock well using running back Matt Forte on three straight runs up the middle, taking the clock down to only four seconds left to set up the game-winning field goal.
I would not say the Bears won by pure luck. They were able to exploit an undisciplined Packers team who committed 18 penalties. However, they cannot count on every team giving them 152 free yards and will need to make some major defensive adjustments if they want to continue to have this success.