Reporting Laurence Holmes
By Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Every week I take 24 hours to watch the Bears game again and talk to players, coaches and experts behind the scenes. Here’s what I saw, heard and was told since the Bears lost to the San Francisco 49ers Monday night:
What I Saw
- This was a breakdown on every level of the Bears. There isn’t a player in that locker room that can look his teammates in the eye and honestly say that they played their best game. None of the Bears three phases: offense, defense or special teams did what they needed to do and it led to an embarrassing loss at the hands of the 49ers.
- There’s a problem at offensive tackle. It’s no longer just a trend. It’s no longer even funny. J’Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi played one of the worst combined games at tackle in the NFL this season, giving up three sacks a piece. Aldon Smith had 5.5 sacks. That’s a Monday Night Football record. He beat the Bears’ two tackles with speed moves and power moves. There were two plays, where both Carimi and Webb collapsed into Jason Campbell simultaneously. Their technique was bad. Their instincts were worse and they looked weak at the point of attack. The big question going forward: How can the Bears run an offense if they can’t trust their tackles?
There were communication breakdowns in blitz pick-up and the line could never get enough traction to run the ball consistently. Add that to the play calling early and you have major problems.
Let’s look at the first offensive possession:
1st & 10, Bears added Jonathan Scott to the line in a “Jumbo” package. Forte goes for four yards behind Chilo Rachal.
2nd & 6, regular personnel, Forte goes behind Carimi for four yards.
That leaves the Bears with 3rd & 2. They’re running the ball successfully. What do they do? They go shotgun. The Bears don’t run a ton of draws/delays. They made it too easy for the Niners to know what they were doing. After two good runs, Campbell drops back to pass and is dropped for a 10-yard loss. So on the first two plays, Forte gets eight yards. The rest of the game he got nine more carries for 27 yards.
- The defense was not ready for Colin Kaepernick. Throughout the week, they prepped for Alex Smith because indications were that Smith would play. Jim Harbaugh was quite cagey in letting that information get out. People I talked to that cover the team had no doubt that Smith was going to play. The Bears took the bait.
It turns out that Kaepernick might be better than Smith. He was poised and bold. He hit big plays down the field. He had touch and zip on his throws as needed. Thanks to the folks at ProFootballFocus.com for this: Kaepernick was 3-for-4 for 111 yards with balls going 20 yards or more in the air.
The most frustrating thing for the Bears is that this youngster — making his first start — was able to audible successfully.
He knew what he was seeing and checked to the right play. The Bears’ goal in every game is to make the offense one dimensional. They failed. Kaepernick: 16-of-23, 243 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 133.1 rating. He was ridiculously efficient.
- When the Niners needed yards on the ground, they got them. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter combined for 105 yards on 22 carries or 4.8 yards per carry. Vernon Davis sliced through the Bears’ D. In man, Major Wright couldn’t hang with him. The Bears switched and put Lance Briggs on him. He struggled too.
The Bears’ defense is still No. 1 in the Aikman ratings at 87.2, but they had consistently been in the 90s on this scale that ranges from 50 to 100. And they’ve seen their lead over the second rated team drop after Monday’s performance.
What I Heard
“He was on top of it.” – Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh was describing Kaepernick’s pre-snap reads. Saying that there was only one missed read that he saw, Harbaugh graded his quarterback’s performance in play diagnosis as an A+.
Kaepernick took most of the reps on Wednesday and Thursday and got all the team’s reps in their Sunday walk-through. The Niners went into each play with two play-calls and trusted Kaepernick to switch to the other if he recognized what coverage the Bears were in. It’s amazing that he was THAT prepared, but he was and the Bears paid the price.
“We have to leave this game as quick as we possibly can…” – Lovie Smith
There are games where coaches “burn the tape” because things went so bad. That seem to be the implication here from Smith, but the Bears need to learn from this. The same problems persist on offense. Smith is a defensive coach, but it’s time for him to put on his hard hat and reverse engineer his offense. Figure out how he would attack it and bolster up his weaknesses. While he’s right that this team has gotten to 7-3 doing what they do, that doesn’t mean that changes don’t need to be made. Getting Jay Cutler back will help some, but with the way that offensive line is playing, Cutler might as well have a big “X” mark on his helmet.
“We’ve got plenty of time.” – Gabe Carimi
No you don’t. This has been the mantra of Bears offensive players for two and half months. The fact is that the next two games could seal the Bears fate. Right now the Bears are technically in second place behind the Packers. Both Minnesota and Seattle want a wildcard spot and those games aren’t going to be easy. The stuff that Carimi and Webb keep putting on tape has got to have Jared Allen and Brian Robison salivating.
What I Was Told
“Don’t know, bud.” – D.J. Moore
When I found out that Moore was inactive on Monday, I texted him to ask if he thought he was being punished. In recent weeks we’ve seen Moore’s playing time drop from being the “12th starter on defense” to splitting time with Kelvin Hayden to now being inactive. Moore was the most outspoken critic of Jay Cutler’s antics. His loss of playing time syncs up with his speaking out. It’s possible the Bears haven’t liked how he’s practiced or think that Hayden is a better against the run than the diminutive Moore, but it sure smells fishy…
“No pressure.” – Charles Tillman
That’s what Tillman told me was the biggest problem against Kaepernick. During the week, the 49ers showed a tape of the Bears’ 30 takeaways. Harbaugh did a great job of letting his players know how important ball security was. I bring that up because every Bears player to a man will tell you that their takeaways are a direct by-product of the pressure from the front-four. On Monday, the Bears got one sack on Kaepernick. He was comfortable in the pocket most of the night and that lead to his fantastic game. No pressure = no takeaways. With the Bears offense struggling, they’re more reliant on those extra possessions than ever.
“That was a whipping tonight…gotta regroup quick. This season could be lost.” – Anonymous Bears Insider
The guy I talked to, didn’t want his name on this and I respect that and he would know about the fragility of a season. The rest of the schedule is tough and the Bears have to rebound. The wildcard race is heating up: Vikings, Seahawks, Bucs and Saints are all threats.
I’ll leave you with this: If the Bears lose on Sunday, they’ll be in third place in the division. Two weeks ago, they had a chance to tie for the best record in the conference. That’s how quickly things can change.
For more Bears information, follow Laurence on Twitter at @LaurenceWHolmes.