24 Hours Later: Laurence Holmes Breaks Down Bears-Lions
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
– Another well-rounded effort from the Bears defense. They continue to prove that they are the best in the NFL. The offense is still a bit uneven, but until they figure things out, the defense is showing that it’s good enough to win games without a lot of help.
The Lions were able to get some sustained drives, but when they were knocking on the door of the endzone, the Bears took the ball away. The Bears had four takeaways, three of those came in the redzone. On the season, the Bears defense now leads the NFL with 21 takeaways. Keep in mind that there are some teams that have played seven games this season, while the Bears have only played six.
– A “tough as nails” performance by Jay Cutler. After taking a vicious but legal sack by Ndamkoung Suh, it looked like Cutler was down for the count. After a couple minutes on the field to gather himself, Cutler bounced up and ran off the field. He came out for a play and then left for the locker room early to have his ribs checked out. The team said that he played the second half with bruised ribs.
At times it looked like it was killing him to raise his arms, but he pushed through. I found myself wondering what the fallout would be if Cutler didn’t return. He was good enough after the hit to keep a couple drives going. In fact, in the second half, there were two Bears drives that started inside of the Bears 5-yard line. Cutler and crew were able to move the ball on both and flip field position.
– Charles Tillman played a great game against Calvin Johnson. When the Bears played “Man” Tillman was locked on Johnson. He was physical with him and handled single coverage very well. Johnson was targeted 11 times and only made three catches. Tillman had seven tackles on the evening and broke up two passes. One of those was a sure touchdown to Johnson in the third quarter from the 1-yard line. The next play, the Bears took the ball away from Joique Bell.
Tillman also had two forced fumbles that rolled out of bounds. It’s one of the best performances against Johnson that I’ve ever seen, but not surprising. Over the last six games, when Tillman is matched up in “Man” against Johnson, Megatron has caught less than 50% of his targets. If you want to start calling Tillman Optimus Prime, the nickname is warranted.
What I Heard
“Definitely scared us when he went down.” -Brandon Marshall
Marshall is Cutler’s best friend on the team. He talked about them being together in Denver and knowing how tough the Bears QB is. Speaking of tough, Marshall got 81 tough receiving yards. He now has 577 yards through six games. Which is the most by a Bears wideout through six games since 1960.
Marshall also got into the endzone on an improvised route. Because of the Lions “Wide-9″ looks, where the defensive ends are out near the tight end, Marshall got re-routed on his touchdown catch. While Cutler was on the move, Marshall read his eyes and got where he needed to be and scored the Bears only touchdown.
“We never wanna be there.” -Israel Idonije
Izzy was talking about the redzone. As a defense, they don’t want the field shortened with their backs up against the endzone, but the Bears played great when the Lions got inside the 20. All three redzone takeaways were game changers:
- 2nd QTR 1:32 left. Lions are driving down 10 points. Keep in mind that at this point, Cutler is on his way to the locker room to get X-rays, so the Lions can grab momentum with a score. Lance Briggs takes the ball away from Mikel Leshoure and Julius Peppers pounces on it. Crisis averted.
- 3rd QTR 5:26 left. Lions have driven 79 yards down to the 1. Stafford was getting good protection and looked sharp for the first time in the game. Tillman breaks up the pass to Johnson that would’ve gone for a TD. The Lions follow it up with Bell leaping from 4 yards out. His jump was cut short, by Henry Melton who got the ball loose, then Brian Urlacher swooped in and picked up the ball.
- 4th QTR 2:46 left. Because the offense was struggling to put points on the board, the game is still in doubt. Stafford puts together another strong drive, 85 yards, but he gets flushed out of the pocket on a 4th-and-goal play and forces a throw to the sideline. His nemesis, D.J. Moore picks it off and the game is pretty much sealed up.
It’s not good that the Lions were able to rack up so many yards, but what has always made the Bears defense good is their ability to take the ball away. It’s a bend-and-don’t-break style, but it has worked. Since Lovie Smith took over in 2004, the Bears lead the NFL in redzone takeaways with 37.
“This (bleep) was like watching paint dry!” -Otis Wilson
Otis was in the elevator with us as we headed down to the locker room. He still looks like he’s in great shape, but he was quite bored with the game. Even though it was a low-scoring game, I thought it was entertaining. Because of the injury to Cutler and the Bears inability to get the offense moving, there was a tension that didn’t subside until the Bears recovered the onside kick late in the fourth quarter.
What I Was Told
“You gotta make the most of your opportunities” -Zach Bowman
Bowman was out of football after being cut by the Vikings. With Sherrick McManis hurting, the Bears needed someone to play the “Gunner” role on special teams. They knew they could trust him to come in with minimal practice time and play the role. It worked. Bowman’s recovery of a muffed punt in the third quarter led to three very important points by the Bears on the next possession, pushing the lead to 13-0. A two-touchdown lead makes a big difference in what the Lions do when they have the ball. When I caught up with Bowman outside the locker room, he was still beaming about the play, conveying to me the importance of special teams play for the longevity of a player’s career.
“You gotta build trust” -Major Wright
I talked to Wright about how well he and Chris Conte are playing as a tandem. You may have noticed that the Bears are sending Conte on more blitzes. That’s because they’ve reached a point where the coaches know they don’t have to sit in Cover-2 all game. The Bears have been able to use the perception that they’re a “boring” defense against opponents. The blitz numbers and blitz disguises are up and it’s paying off. You can’t do that stuff if you don’t trust your safety combo. Wright and Conte are playing good football right now and it opens up what Rod Marinelli can call.
“I think so. I was outside the pocket, ya know, it’s football.” -Jay Cutler
I asked Cutler if he thought Suh’s takedown on the sack was a clean play. No doubt it was vicious. It looked like something you’d see Anderson Silva do, but it wasn’t illegal.
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.