By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) While Packers fans were understandably stunned Monday night at Lambeau Field when quarterback Aaron Rodgers left the game with a fractured collarbone, Bears fans were simply stunned because it was Shea McClellin who sent him to the sidelines.
In just 42 snaps Monday, McClellin doubled his career sack output, finishing the 27-20 Bears win with three sacks on the night.
So, how did the guy who most of Chicago had already labeled a “bust” do it?
Sack 1 (1st quarter, 12:38, 3rd & 8 at CHI 9) – McClellin is lined up with a hand on the ground in a typical five-technique to the outside shoulder of Packers right tackle David Barclay. He doesn’t get much of an initial push and Barclay reroutes him upfield. McClellin, however, doesn’t get stuck on the block, which he has struggled with throughout his NFL career. He sees Rodgers step up and try to escape out of the pocket to his right. McClellin quickly disengages from Barclay and catches Rodgers from behind, landing on him as he takes him down. Rodgers suffers a fractured collarbone on the play in what may end up being the biggest defensive play for the Bears all season.
Sack 2 (4th quarter, 10:19, 3rd & 2 at CHI 40) – McClellin is lined up in the wide-9 technique (outside shoulder of the tight end). But with no tight end lined up there, McClellin has space between he and right tackle Marshall Newhouse. This is a good technique for him because it allows him to get some momentum before contact. In this case, he hits Newhouse with a quick spin move right at the point of contact and he blows by the right tackle to the outside. Quarterback Seneca Wallace does a good job to step up in the pocket and duck underneath the right arm of McClellin, but the defensive end is able to get just enough of him to make Wallace stumble. That stumble gives Julius Peppers time to disengage from a David Bakhtiari block and send Wallace to the ground with a slight push. McClellin is credited with a full sack on the play, but it would be surprising if Peppers isn’t credited with at least half of a sack after the NFL reviews the film.
Sack 3 (4th quarter, 0:14, 2nd & 27 at GB 23) – McClellin is back in the five-technique and beats Newhouse to the outside, although Newhouse is able to reroute him upfield enough to allow Wallace to step up and initially avoid the pressure. Wallace fails to get rid of the ball, however, and McClellin uses his speed to catch up and sack him from behind.
The common theme here (and throughout the night on what I deemed to be six pressures or “disruptions”) is that McClellin didn’t get stuck on blocks. That’s more of an issue for him against the run, but it also often costs him second chance opportunities when he is rushing the passer.
To be fair, if Aaron Rodgers was on the field, the third sack probably never would have happened, but there was also an instance earlier in the game when McClellin and Peppers probably would have had Rodgers dropped at his own 1-yard-line had he been in the game, but Wallace’s speed allowed him to escape to his left before Peppers finally forced him out of bounds for a loss of three.
It should also be mentioned that the last two sacks came against backup right tackle Marshall Newhouse, who was in the game because right guard T.J. Lang suffered a concussion and Barclay moved inside.
The bottom line, though, is that McClellin can only beat the guy who is lined up against him and attempt to sack the quarterback who is on the field. He played his best game in a Bears uniform Monday night and may have completely turned the NFC North upside down.
That alone may justify his first round selection.
Let’s take a look at some of the other key performers from Monday night:
Five Highest Grades
QB Josh McCown – The backup quarterback had the highest grade on the team for the second straight game and he was even more impressive on film than he was live during the game. McCown ran the offense seamlessly and was very impressive going through his progressions. On one play, McCown appeared to have settled on a dump off to Matt Forte underneath, but Forte slipped right before McCown let go of the ball. Without panicking, McCown’s eyes shifted right and he found Brandon Marshall open for a gain of 13. On another play, the Bears had trouble getting the right personnel on the field after Forte lost his shoe. It was a 3rd & 6, but once again, McCown did not panic. With the play clock running down, he quickly got his team lined up and completed a pass to Marshall for a first down.
LT Jermon Bushrod – The left tackle delivered his best performance of the season, playing what appeared to be a flawless game. Bushrod came up with a number of key blocks, none bigger than the seal he had on a pull to the outside on 3rd and 5 with two minutes left in the game. The block allowed Forte to pick up eight yards on the play and the Bears to run off another 67 seconds before kicking a field goal.
RB Matt Forte – Speaking of Forte, he also delivered his best game of the season. The 125 rushing yards and 54 receiving yards were impressive enough, but he was once again solid in pass protection and showed a high football IQ by staying in-bounds twice on the Bears’ game-clinching 18-play drive.
DE Julius Peppers – As impressive as McClellin was, Peppers was even better. He also accounted for six disruptions, but the athletic tip interception he had on Wallace gave him a better overall grade on the night.
DE Shea McClellin, LG Matt Slauson and RG Kyle Long (tie) – I’ve already gone through what McClellin did and Slauson and Long deserve some attention. Slauson, who I dubbed the Bears’ most underrated player in my midseason report, has yet to post a negative grade this season and he had another strong game Monday night. Long, meanwhile, has not had a negative grade since Week 1 and he continues to have the highest overall season grade on the offensive line. On Matt Forte’s touchdown run, Long absolutely crushed B.J. Raji on a trap block.
Five Lowest Grades
S Major Wright – Wright’s tackling was again an issue and he appeared to be out of position on Eddie Lacy’s 56-yard run to the 1-yard-line. Wright has now posted negative grades in four of the last five games.
DT Landon Cohen – Cohen only had 16 snaps on the night, but I marked him down on three plays. The defensive tackle has actually been decent in his time with the Bears this season, but he tends to get spun around at the line of scrimmage sometimes and lose sight of the football.
S Chris Conte – Conte allowed a big pass play to Jordy Nelson when he overpursued before Nelson broke over the middle and his footwork on James Starks’ 32-yard-line touchdown run was poor. He had a chance to make the stop in the secondary, but he stopped his feet and fell out of position. On the bright side, Conte did force a fumble and his technique on a fade to tight end Andrew Quarless in the end zone was much better. It was pretty much the same play the Redskins beat him on with Jordan Reed two weeks ago.
LB Khaseem Greene – The rookie saw 24 snaps (44 percent) in his first NFL start and that was likely more than what was originally planned when Rodgers was supposed to be the quarterback. There were a few mistakes, and he indicated after the game that he was out of his gap on one of the Packers’ long runs (likely Lacy’s 56-yard run). Greene also made a couple nice stops, however, and his debut certainly could have been worse.
C Roberto Garza – It was by no means an awful night for Garza, but he did finish with a negative grade overall after getting pushed around a little by Raji in the middle. It was the third game in a row Garza finished with a negative grade after posting positive grades the first five weeks of the season.
– Cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings were both very good in supporting the run. Of course, both players were able to cheat inside a little bit with Aaron Rodgers out of the game.
– Fullback Tony Fiammetta, who continues to have a really good season, probably had the block of the night when Marc Trestman elected to go for it on 4th and inches at his own 32-yard-line on the Bears’ final drive of the night. The Bears showed a bunch formation, indicating they would either run a quarterback sneak or a run up the middle, but instead they pulled center Roberto Garza and ran left. Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk split the line where Garza vacated and looked like he would pull Forte down in the backfield, but right at the last second, Fiammetta, who was lead blocking ahead of Forte, saw Hawk, turned around completely and chipped the linebacker just enough to allow Forte to break free. Garza blocked his guy to the outside and Forte picked up three yards on the play to keep the drive going.
– Wide receiver Earl Bennett did not receive a target on the night, but he threw four really good blocks to help his team gain yardage on screens to the outside. What’s interesting is that Marquess Wilson saw 15 snaps in the game, an increase from six in the Bears’ last game. It’s not like he is taking playing time away from Bennett, however, as Bennett played on 61 percent of the Bears’ offensive snaps Monday night as opposed to 55 percent against the Redskins in Week 7. Wilson’s playing time went from 11 percent against the Redskins to 19 percent against the Packers.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.