Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, “The 24 Blog.”
What I Saw
– It was the offense that the Bears envisioned when they made the trade for Brandon Marshall. Marshall was targeted 15 times. He made 9 catches for for 119 yards and a touchdown. You saw him draw coverages, make plays when double covered and be a presence inside the red zone.
– Offensively the Bears were balanced: 33 carries vs 35 passes, but it was more than the numbers. Matt Forte showed why he is one of the best complete backs in the NFL. He had 120 total yards from scrimmage and averaged 6.3 yards per touch.
– Defensively the Bears got Brian Urlacher back. His knee held up and the Bears did the right thing by getting him game reps, then getting him out of there. Urlacher protested, but it was good to see Lovie Smith think long-term.
– The defense got sustained pressure, sacking Andrew Luck 3 times and forcing him into pressure interceptions. When the pocket wasn’t clean for Luck, he missed his targets high. Four different defensive linemen got hits on the quarterback. Henry Melton had 2 sacks and stuffed a run play for a loss. Julius Peppers moved around the line, forced pressure and had a turnover. Shea McClellin, showed off his speed and balance with a nice spin move early on.
– After an offseason of uncertainty, the offensive line of the Bears played really well. After the first series (which was a disaster), they dominated in the run game and kept Cutler relatively clean. That allowed him to go down the field and make throws that only a few guys in the NFL can make.
What I Heard
“That was a change up” – Brian Urlacher on being taken out of the game.
Urlacher will always want to play if he can, but the way the Bears went about it accomplished a few of things: 1) It allowed him to test the knee at full speed (with guys trying to cut block him.) 2) It allows the Bears to see what the knee looks like after a game. 3) He got his work in and they got him out of there without injury.
“Yeah. I kept it.” – Alshon Jeffery on keeping his first NFL touchdown ball.
It was a perfectly placed 42-yard bomb form Jay Cutler. Brandon Marshall’s slight move inside, made the safety move and allowed Jeffery to get behind the defense. The coaches all summer have talked about Jeffery’s hands and concentration. Sunday the Bears got to show off that he can be a downfield threat as well.
“That’s why we brought him in here.” – Lovie Smith on Michael Bush.
A healthy Michael Bush opens up a ton of possibilities for the Bears. They used he and Forte in 2-back sets where Forte would split out wide and be a receiver. It allows the Bears to use Forte in the pass game and still have the threat of the run. Bush converted his red zone carries into touchdowns, which has been an issue for the Bears in the last couple of years.
“Please, please, please let’s tone it down a little bit when we’re down in the 20s. You’re more than welcome to yell and scream and do whatever you want to do after we score, but please, let’s go ahead and quiet the stadium down and save it for after we score. Thank you. That’s my PSA.” – Jay Cutler
Cutler with a plea for quiet when Bears offense is in the red zone.
This has been a problem for years. The Bears have had electronic reminders pop on the jumbo-tron that say: “SHHH. Quiet, Bears offense at work.” They also know that doesn’t always help. Last week, the team practiced with crowd noise. Which is weird considering it’s a home game. What they would like: When the defense is on the field, be REALLY loud. When the offense is on the field, be quiet. They pay a lot of lip service to the “4th Phase” but it’s an actual way fans can impact a game.
What I Was Told
– Last year, Tim Jennings was a bit a scapegoat for some late season collapses. He got benched after the Seattle game. That was because while he would break passes up, he didn’t pick them off when he had a chance. The Bears place a premium on turnovers and the benching bothered Jennings into the offseason. I asked him about it after the game.
“I worked on it in the offseason,” Jennings told me. “They emphasized that. I kinda knew what I needed to do. I wanted to come in week one and make the best of the opportunity that I had.”
Jennings only had two interceptions all of last year. Sunday, he got two of his own and had a deflection that set one up for Chris Conte.
– This year Jay Cutler has the ability to audible. On Sunday, anytime he would motion, the Indy defense would react. That’s the desired effect because sometimes the play wouldn’t change. I asked Cutler about how even the chance of an audible can help the offense.
“Sometimes we’re out there messing around, motioning, gesturing and giving signals just to give signals. We just want to keep them off-balance and attacking them. We always want pressure to be on the defense and not vice versa,” Cutler said.
That’s a valuable weapon for the offense to have, which was dormant under Mike Martz.
– The Bears run game was really good. The offensive line opened up a ton of holes, but the downfield blocking was fantastic. Evan Rodriguez and Jeffery in particular were very solid. Roberto Garza told me he loved seeing it.
“They did a great job blocking downfield,” Garza said. “It was a focus in the offseason and training camp. Obviously, coach Tice is gonna push for those guys to get down the field on those explosive runs and spring those guys.”
– Brandon Marshall had his first Bears touchdown. It came on a “fade-stop” route against his old nemesis, Vontae Davis. Sunday night I had a chance to break the play down with Marshall and he gave me a lesson on space.
“Creating space isn’t about the distance of air between me and Vontae,” Marshall said. “I’m the space. My body is the space. I’m 6’4, he’s basically your size. He has to go around me to get the ball. Jay and I like to bring basketball principles into what we do. This is post-up move. It’s a bad matchup.”
I don’t know how Davis felt, but when Marshall re-enacted the play w/ me as Davis, I felt like Marshall was Gulliver and I was a Lilliputian.
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