Bears

Hoge’s Week 7 Rewind: Why The Bears Struggled With The Read-Option

Robert Griffin III runs past Shea McClellin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Robert Griffin III runs past Shea McClellin. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

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By Adam Hoge-

After every game during the season, Adam Hoge reviews the film and highlights the best and worst performances while also providing some observations.

(CBS) The Bears defense failed on many levels Sunday against the Redskins, but the unit especially struggled defending the zone read-option.

Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Monday that the Bears had 10 chances to defend the read-option and they only fit it properly twice.

After going back and watching every read-option Robert Griffin III ran in the game, the problems appear to be due to both scheme and execution (particularly with the linebackers). And, as you’ll see, rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic is involved a lot.

Let’s take a look at a couple the Bears failed to defend and one they defended nicely.

This first one came at the end of the first quarter:

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As you can see, RGIII reads the defensive end (in this case Shea McClellin) and keeps the ball because McClellin crashes inside. Bostic is right behind McClellin and comes around him. If he diagnoses the play correctly, he has a chance to stuff Griffin right away. That’s not what happens though.

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Instead, Bostic (circled) follows Alfred Morris, who doesn’t have the ball, leaving Griffin with a blocker and room to run.

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The All-22 look shows you how far inside Bostic (small circle) ends up. Further complicating matters is safety Chris Conte, who ran into the box to the defend the run, but also bit on the handoff. He essentially blocks James Anderson out of the play as a result (larger circle) and RGIII picks up 13 yards.

The next play, however, is an example of the Bears making an adjustment and fitting the read-option well:

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Once again, Griffin is reading McClellin, who goes inside, but that’s likely by design as Bostic and Lance Briggs are committed to getting to the outside to keep contain. This is the “crash and scrape” technique where the C-defender (McClellin) takes the inside and the linebackers fill the B and C gaps. Griffin keeps the ball because McClellin plays Morris, but he has nowhere to go with the two Bears linebackers containing him. Unfortunately, this stop gets wiped out because Landon Cohen (No. 97) is called for illegal hands to the face.

This adjustment by the Bears probably wasn’t hard to make because the Redskins weren’t exactly hiding their read-option plays. Morris (not Roy Helu) was in the backfield for every single one with Griffin in shotgun and an extra blocker offset in the backfield. But that doesn’t mean the Redskins weren’t ready to counter with their own adjustment.

On this next play, the Redskins originally line up without the extra blocker in the backfield, but tight end Logan Paulsen motions into the backfield just before the snap. As a result, the Bears don’t look ready for the read-option.

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This time it’s Julius Peppers being read and he doesn’t keep contain, playing the handoff to Morris. The linebackers do not shift over like they did on the previous play and Griffin has the entire left side to himself once he keeps the ball. The only reason he only gained nine yards on this play is because Lance Briggs (who is the farthest of three linebackers) takes a good angle and uses his elite speed to force Griffin out of bounds.

The Bears said all week that they were ready for Griffin to run more in this game, but they simply weren’t ready to stop him once he did.

Five Highest Grades

QB Josh McCown –  The backup quarterback was simply great. He only made one questionable throw, putting Brandon Marshall in a tough spot on the play Brandon Merriweather was called for hitting a defenseless receiver illegally, but otherwide McCown showed great touch and decision making. He threw a number of short outside throws where he led his receiver nicely.

RB Matt Forte – The running back gained 91 yards on 16 carries and did it in style. On his first touchdown run, he leaped over both Kyle Long and the guy on the ground who had been put there by Long. Later, on his 50-yard touchdown run, Forte made a great read at the last second and jump-cut behind the block of Brandon Marshall to give himself nothing but green grass on the way to the end zone.

WR Alshon Jeffery – Jeffery got it done both on the ground and in the air. He caught four passes for 105 yards (averaging a staggering 26.3 yards per catch) and he also ran for 16 yards on two end-arounds. He showed incredible strength bouncing off a would-be tackler on the Bears’ final touchdown drive, getting the ball down to the 10 yard line. His only blunder was a big one though as he bobbled a pass from Jay Cutler and it was picked off by Brian Orakpo and returned for a touchdown.

LB Lance Briggs – Believe it or not, there were a few defensive players who played well Sunday. Briggs was one of them. Before suffering a shoulder injury in the third quarter that will keep him out around six weeks, Briggs racked up eight tackles, two TFLs (was only credited for one) and two pass defenses. It’s scary to think about what this defense will look like without their best player and signal caller.

DE Corey Wootton – Wootton was only credited with a two tackles, a TFL and a quarterback hit, but he quick into the backfield all game long and along with Paea did a really good job of taking the middle away from the Redskins. Most of Washington’s gains were to the outside.

Five Lowest Grades

S Chris Conte – There’s no way to get around it — it was rough day for the safety. Besides the most obvious blunder when he ran into Aldrick Robinson and fell down on what was essentially a prayer to the end zone, Conte also struggled with tight end Jordan Reed for most of the day and was caught out of position on runs.

DE Shea McClellin – Phil Emery can say McClellin is improving, but put me in the camp that thinks otherwise. This is the fourth game in a row he has come out with a negative grade.

S Major Wright – Wright really struggled in the fourth quarter, over-pursuing and getting out of position on a number of run plays.

LB Jonathan Bostic – He’ll get better at diagnosing run vs pass — and playing the read-option in your first career start isn’t easy — but what’s concerning is how he struggled to get off blocks once the Redskins engaged.

LB James Anderson – Anderson had a similar problem with getting off blocks and he also struggled to keep contain on both read-option plays and RGIII bootlegs.

Other Observations

- Speaking of the bootleg, that was just as big of a problem for the Bears as the read-option. The linebackers were constantly sucked in with no contain.

- Rookie linebacker Khaseem Greene leveled Logan Paulsen on Devin Hester’s 81-yard punt return for a touchdown. Meanwhile, Joe Anderson is lucky he wasn’t called for a block in the back.

- The coaching staff (or a veteran on the field) has to help out Chris Conte on the three-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed with 33 seconds left in the first half. No one was lined up on Reed so Conte ran out there at the last second and was put on an island with Reed. The Bears still had one timeout left and they never should have let the Redskins snap the ball in that situation. It was a huge play right before the half and the Bears could have kept it a 20-17 game instead of a 24-17. They ended up taking that timeout with them to the locker room.

Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.