Hoge’s Notes: Bears Catch Steelers Off Guard With Pressure Defense
By Adam Hoge
PITTSBURGH (CBS) – Lance Briggs stood in front of reporters early in the week at Halas Hall and said the Bears were blitzing less this season under defensive coordinator Mel Tucker than they did when Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli were in charge.
Apparently he was hoping that message made its way to Pittsburgh.
The normally cautious Cover-2 defense didn’t make much of appearance in Sunday night’s 40-23 win at Heinz Field as the Bears played mostly Cover-1 and dialed up blitzes the Steelers were not expecting.
“We knew that they had problems with their offensive line, a few key guys missing, a few young guys in there playing, so we dialed up a few good blitzes,” Bears middle linebacker D.J. Williams said after the game.
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Hoge’s Notes: Bears Catch Steelers Off Guard
Williams accounted for two sacks and a forced fumble on the night and Lance Briggs also got credit for a sack when he stripped Ben Roethlisberger, allowing Julius Peppers to return the fumble 42 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
All three of the Bears’ linebackers blitzed frequently, as did cornerback Isaiah Frey and safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte. Sometimes the blitzes led to big plays for the Steelers as Roethlisberger threw for 406 yards on the night, but they also contributed to five takeaways and two defensive touchdowns for the Bears.
“They disguised a lot tonight,” Roethlisberger said after the game.
Keeping ‘Poise In The Noise’
All week long, Bears head coach Marc Trestman admitted it would be a challenge handling the noise on the road. His team passed that test right away though, as they orchestrated a 13-play, 51-yard drive that took up 6:58 on the clock and led to a field goal.
“We kept our poise in the noise,” Trestman said after the game. “That was number one tonight. We wanted to make sure that we had no pre-snap penalties in the game in the noise with our young guys.”
For the third straight game, the Bears did not have any pre-snap penalties, although they were called for an illegal-shift in the second half.
Walters Penalty Changes Momentum
One of the reasons why the Steelers turned a 24-3 deficit into a 27-23 game was because of a roughing-the-punter penalty by safety Anthony Walters mid-way through the second quarter.
With the Bears holding that 24-3 lead, the defense forced a three-and-out and was about to give its offense the ball back with 7:35 left in the half. At that point, some fans had actually appeared to give up on the game and left.
Unfortunately for the Bears, Walters got a little too greedy and went for the punt block, missing the ball and running straight into punter Zoltan Mesko.
With new life, Roethlisberger only needed three plays to get to the end zone, eventually hitting Antonio Brown for a 33-yard touchdown, starting the comeback.
- Defensive tackle Henry Melton was carted off the field in the second half with a left knee injury. The Bears did not provide any further details after the game.
- Cornerback Charles Tillman, who played with a knee injury Sunday, had a sore groin during the game as well. The coaches kept him on the sidelines for most of the fourth quarter to let him rest it even though he was medically cleared to play.
- Robbie Gould had the first extra point of his career blocked Sunday night. It was only the second missed extra point of his career. Ironically, the first one also happened in Pittsburgh — in 2005.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.