Dan Pompei made one of his usual astute observations about yesterday’s game for the Chicago Tribune:
“The Bears also played a heavy dose of man-to-man, especially against nickel personnel. In fact, they played man on about half the snaps.
“They tried D.J. Moore on Wes Welker man-to-man. Result: 17-yard reception. They tried (Tim) Jennings on Welker in man-to-man. Result: 12-yard reception.
“The Patriots’ multifaceted offense took the Bears out of what they do best. They are not built to play man-to-man any more than a rear-wheel-drive sports car is built for a Chicago winter.”
The Patriots are very good at dictating match ups when going against teams who play a zone defense. A good part of that is because they can dictate personnel with their tight ends, then line up Welker or another player in a position to get a favorable match up.
Looking at it in retrospect, the only way that the Bears were going to effectively defend against the New England offense was going to be by playing man-to-man.
As Pompei points out, the Bears just aren’t built to do that. Their defensive backs were signed and/or drafted to play zone and, when they’ve got their heads in the game and conditions are right, they’re pretty good at it. But if they want to compete with the elite teams, their defensive backs are going to have to be more versatile. Otherwise losses like yesterdays are always going to be a possibility.
Mike Mulligan brought up a point for the Chicago Sun-Times that I know is probably running through many people’s minds this morning.
“But the thinking was the Bears were beyond this sort of game, yet another in a series of historic losses. It has been going that way for the Bears the last couple of years.
“They don’t just lose; they set some kind of record for futility en route to disaster. It happened last year against Cincinnati and Arizona and earlier this year when they gave up an NFL- record nine sacks in the first half of a road loss against the Giants.”
This is something that the Bears seem to struggle with. All teams have bad games but when they do it, everything seems to collapse at once. I can’t believe that there weren’t signs that this was coming last week. Perhaps the players were too tight or too loose in practice. Perhaps they didn’t appear to be focused. Whatever the signs were, the Bears coaches obviously missed them or, if they didn’t, they didn’t do anything about it.
Players as individuals have to get themselves ready to play but getting the team as a group prepared to play is Lovie Smith‘s job. He’s got to recognize when a large percentage of the team doesn’t appear to be ready to play. Right now he should be questioning his evaluation when performances like yesterday’s come along with no apparent warning. Good teams with good coaches just don’t lay eggs like yesterday’s.
Smith has a lot of former head coaches on his staff. Perhaps a talk with them is long overdue. At minimum, its time for some self evaluation.
There were all kinds of reasons for yesterdays 36-7 debacle against the New England Patriots. But I thought Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris came up with one of the main problems that perhaps people aren’t considering in the locker room after the game (via Neil Hayes at the Chicago Sun-Times):
“Nobody was making excuses afterward as player after player agreed with linebacker Lance Briggs’ assessment that this had been a ‘butt-whipping,’ although defensive tackle Tommie Harris did say the Patriots’ defensive scheme may have given them a built-in advantage in the wintry conditions.
“‘If you’re a fast defense, you play better on turf and other fast surfaces,’ Harris said. ‘Their defense is a 3-4, so their guys stand up, so traction isn’t a problem.'”
Last week I pointed out that one of the keys to the game was going to be the Bears defense playing particularly fast against the Patriots. Then the snow came.
With Lovie Smith as the effective defensive coordinator and with Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator, the Bears have effectively brought the St. Louis Rams blue print of the late nineties to Chicago. That plan is built based upon speed. But the Rams play in a dome. The Bears don’t and, though the problem hasn’t reared its head much previously, it was obvious that the footing hurt them more than the Patriots yesterday.