Bears

Joniak’s Journal: Bears Can’t Miss Tackles Against Saints

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Bears defense.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Bears defense. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

00137_1374182544_Joniak_jeff2013 Jeff Joniak
One of the most energetic and exciting voices of the National Foot...
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By Jeff Joniak-

First Impression

By definition, the Bears missed many tackles in Detroit and in the case of Reggie Bush, it hurt them significantly in the first half. New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, and running backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas all rank in the top 30 in receiving yards after contact.

In yards after the catch, Sproles is third in the league with over 200 yards, Thomas is 12th with 162 yards and Graham is 13th with 157 yards. These guys are chain movers and with a quarterback as efficient as Drew Brees, finding soft spots in zone or exploiting man coverage creates chunk yardage gains.

It’s the kind of slow march to the end zone that makes the Saints so dynamic and explosive. The Bears will need multiple tacklers to rally to the ball to prevent damaging explosion plays. The Bears have allowed 13 runs of 10-yards or more, and 21 pass plays of 20-yards or more in four games.

Second Thought

Alshon Jeffrey is an aggressive stiff arm runner after the catch. He uses his 33-inch arms to push away smaller defenders allowing him to earn additional yardage. His yards after contact are nothing out of the ordinary right now, but I think in time that number will grow based on the route tree he’s running for the Bears.

Those long arms have cleaned up a couple of off-target throws this season, and helped clear a running lane for Matt Forte’s 53-yard touchdown run at Ford Field. On that block, he created a huge ally when he extended his arms and knocked Lions cornerback Darius Slay into safety Glover Quin wiping out two tacklers with one shot.

Those long arms and strong hands also helped him on the back-shoulder fade for his touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. As he grows in this offense, I feel Jeffrey will continue to learn how to consistently use those arms and his body to create separation to win contested throws, or off-target throws.

Third Degree

Only six times in four games covering 47 possessions has the Bears defense forced a three and out. Only Philadelphia’s defense has fewer with five. Percentage wise the Bears are 30th at 12.8%. The league average is 22.5% and one of the staples of the Bears defense has been their consistency in forcing teams off the field six times over the past decade at a clip of at least 26%.

A year ago, they were at 24.6%. However, the math sometimes does not tell the whole story. In Detroit, the Bears defense had to defend a short field often leaving the Lions in a higher percentage chance of getting at least a field goal. Getting the Saints off the field is no picnic. They only have eight three and outs in 48 drives which ranks tied for fifth fewest in the league.

Fourth & Short

Drew Brees is winless in four games at Soldier Field. His career numbers are still very good on grass as they are on turf. In 88 games on grass in the regular season, he’s completing 64% of his passes, with 144 touchdowns, 83 interceptions, and an 89.0 QBR. On turf, he’s completing 67.4% of his throws, with 180 touchdowns, 84 interceptions, and a 99.6 QBR.

Those games in Chicago came in December and January, but his 92.3 QBR in temperatures less than 40-degrees is still very good. At Soldier Field including the 2006 NFC championship, he’s completing only 55.7% of his passes, with a low for him 5.72 yards-per-pass attempt, with 7 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 2 fumbles, 7 sacks, and a 71.3 QBR.

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