Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times gives the Bears statistics at defensive tackle:
Through three games, Melton’s grade of -6.4 was the lowest of any defensive tackle in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. Collins pressured the quarterback twice as often as Melton. PFF said Collins played the run better, too.
I’m not surprised. Collins has looked noticeably better through the first three games with Melton, to put it generously, knocking off some rust after missing the offseason. In fact, the first play after Melton left the game last Sunday, Collins came in fresh and penetrated into the backfield to cause some disruption. It mad eke wonder at the time if the Bears shouldn’t be rotating more frequently along the line to keep everyone fresh.
Regardless, with more opportunities to play, I’m going to go ahead and stick my neck out by saying the Bears might be better with Collins in the game over Melton. I’m not sure that holds up long term but based upon what I saw the first three games, I’m reasonably confident that Collins is going to be an improvement.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune does a nice job of summarizing the performances on film from Sunday nights game:
“There was a premium placed on getting the ball out quickly and rookies Kyle Long and Jordan Mills held strong against an exotic scheme in a hostile environment. Cutler was sacked only twice in a game in which six wouldn’t have been a surprise in the past. There wasn’t an adequate push in the running game with the exception of Matt Forte‘s 55-yard run, when Mills delivered a nice block on Lawrence Timmons. Power O was a popular call by [Bears head coach Marc] Trestman.”
It’s true that the Bears line has been getting a lot of help the first three games. Its rare when tight end Martellus Bennet isn’t in the game along with one of the two running backs, Matt Forte or Michael Bush. Nevertheless, Biggs nails it when he says that this was a type of defense where a lot of sacks would have been racked up in the past. Help or not, the offensive line, along with the coaching staff, deserves a great deal of credit. They did a wonderful job picking up the blitz, something they’ll need to continue to do with other 3-4 teams, not the least of which is the Packers, ahead on the schedule.
Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times on the frequency with which the Beas resorted to the blitz Sunday night to get pressure on the quarterback:
“[Bears head coach Marc] Trestman acknowledged the Bears increased their number of blitzes against the Steelers, going from roughly 25 percent of their plays in Weeks 1 and 2 to around 33 percent. It resulted in two sacks by D.J. Williams and one by Lance Briggs.
“‘It was just two or three more blitzes than we probably normally run in a game,’ Trestman said.”
It seemed like a lot more than that. In any case the frequency was too high. The lack of pressure from the front four is a major concern. The Bears gave up huge chunks of yardage in the second half as the Steelers burned then repeatedly when they blitzed to make up for the deficit.
1. The Bears came out executing well. They came out with a good mix of the run and the pass with lots of short passes.
2. The Steelers came out blitzing a lot. The Bears offensive line handled it surprisingly well early.
3. Jay Cutler looked really calm in the pocket under pressure in the face of the blitz. Much better than in previous years under these circumstances.
4. Cutler seemed more willing to throw the ball away this game than he has been in the past.
5. Alshon Jeffery was getting a lot of balls early. That’s good. He’ll need to be a major part of the offense when it’s a finished product.
6. Brandon Marshall looked like maybe he was having a tough time catching some passes. Admittedly most looked like tough catches. I thought he had a tough time getting started this game. He finally made a huge catch in the fourth quarter.
7. In contrast to the first half, it was a different story in the second half. They had a much tougher time with the blitz as the receivers apparently failed to get open. It looked like maybe the Steelers started taking away Cutler’s dump off option. The game started to look more like some of the others we’ve seen from the offense against similar defenses.
8. I loved what Martellus Bennett did with a little shuffle pass in the third quarter. Cutler was under pressure and found him. He should have been tackled for no gain but used some quick feet to dodge some tacklers and make about 6 yards. Nice work for a big man.
9. Jermond Bushrod had a bit of a rough game allowing some pressure on Cutler.
10. It was nice to see earl Bennett make a big catch in the fourth quarter.
1. Like the Steelers, the Bears came out blitzing a lot. It was reasonably effective but risky for both sides as they dared the other team to make big plays. The Steelers touchdown in the second quarter was on a blitz that was picked up. So was the touchdown at the end of the third quarter. There were a number of other big plays.
2. The Bears continue to have trouble getting pressure with a four man rush.
3. I thought the Bears did reasonably we’ll defending the run.
4. The linebackers did their usual mice job.
5. Man Ben Roethlisberger is tough to bring down. It’s like tackling a linebacker.
6. Once again the defense did a reasonably nice job in the red zone. They generally held the Steelers to field boas once they got down there.
7. However, once again the defense had trouble stopping yet another team on third down.
1. I thought that the Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth and Michelle Tafoya did their usual good job. For my money this is the best announcing team in the game right now.
2. The Bears didn’t get burned *too* bad by penalties though the roughing the kicker penalty on Anthony Walters in the second quarter certainly hurt. The Steelers had too many that hurt too much.
3. The Bears receivers did their usual good job in terms of dropping passes. You could argue that Marshall should have caught one or two that he didn’t come up with but they were tough catches to make. The Steelers had more drops but not an unusual number.
4. Special teams were unremarkable on both sides.
5. Turnovers were the story of this game as they so often are. The Steelers gave the ball away far too often and the Bears took advantage.
6. The Bears picked up a nice win on the road largely because of their penchant for getting turnovers. They generally played clean, too, not beating themselves. That’s as important as anything and often makes the difference as it arguably did tonight. That said, I can’t let this summary pass without noting the lack of a pass rush from the front four. They’ve simply got to get more pressure on the quarterback without blitzing. They’re giving up too many big plays for too much yardage. As for the offense it was a story of two halves. Good the first half, not so good the second as Cutler apparently had trouble finding receivers under blitz pressure. Cutler is going to have to start getting rid of the ball quicker in those situations to hot receivers. He’s dropping back and holding the ball too long with too many defenders coming at him.
Bears head coach Marc Trestman talks about the Steelers 3-4 defense, contrasting it with the type of 4-3 defense the Bengals and Vikings prefer. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times:
“’They’re not playing their front to rush the passer and defend the run on the way to the quarterback,’ Trestman said. ‘They’re rushing the passer to stop the run — and they’re doing it with internal blitzes and people coming from different levels, which makes it harder to one-on-one block.’”
“It also makes a draw play less dangerous because defensive linemen aren’t always selling out to sack the quarterback.
“Expect to see more power running from the Bears than when they faced the cover-2 defenses of the Bengals and Vikings the first two weeks.”
Noted. We’ll see if they can execute it on Sunday night.
Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune echoes my thoughts on this point:
“[Charles] Tillman isn’t the best cornerback in the NFL, but he’s the best system fit in the league. And he’s an essential playmaker at a position where the Bears are dangerously thin. One longtime NFL scout said Tuesday that the Bears are very thin at cornerback and predicted teams would start to go after Isaiah Frey at nickel back.”
Frey has performed well but he hasn’t been asked to do much. I’ve been wondering why teams haven’t picked on Frey more. I think this might be something to keep an eye on.
Jay Cutler gets it. From the Chicago Tribune:
“They’re going to be as calm as I am and I try to stay relatively calm out there, especially in the fourth quarter.”
I wouldn’t necessarily say that “calm” is necessary in these situations. I believe what made the difference here might be better described as “confidence”.
Cutler isn’t necessarily using the right words but there’s a recognition in his statement that the team goes as he goes in these situations. No matter what he’s feeling inside, outwardly the one thing that you can’t show is that you lack faith in your teammates or the team’s ability to perform as needed. This is what’s known as “bad body language” and Cutler hasn’t shown it yet this year. It’s going to be fascinating to see if it rears up at any point. But the one thing that we can plainly see is that he understands the problem. That’s a great start.
Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times puts yesterday’s game agains the Vikings in perspective:
“Football purists might have cringed at all the messiness of this game, but there was a terrible beauty to it.”
Indeed there was. Both sides overcame adversity with wonderful, uplifting play intermixed with plenty of flaws. It was human.
Dan Wierderer at the Chicago Tribune talks about the field conditions anticipated at Soldier Field on Sunday:
“Sunday’s Bears-Vikings game at Soldier Field is scheduled to kickoff at noon. If you’re keeping tabs, that will come roughly 15 or so hours after the University of Illinois football team completes its game against Washington on the same field.
“The Fighting Illini and Huskies will begin their clash at 5 p.m. Saturday night in Illinois’ “Chicago Homecoming” game.
“Also of note: Sunday’s forecast, according to Weather.com, calls for scattered thunderstorms and a 30 percent chance of rain in the city. So it’s very possible field conditions for the Bears and Vikings could get messy.”
Like many regular football fans I get extremely tired of hearing the complaints and debates about certain topics. Steroids, race relations, whether college athletes should be paid. The list goes on and on and the fatigue sets in early and often on all of them. But whether Soldier Field should have artificial turf is one of the worst. Unfortunately media people never seem to tire of it and there’s always a certain segment of Bears fans who always want to chime in. So I’m bracing myself for another long round of hearing the debates over this issue next week.