By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — The Bears’ running game hasn’t exactly been consistent this season, but in most games, they’ve been able to spring at least two or three big runs.
In Sunday’s 21-19 loss to the Lions, the Bears’ biggest run of the game went for seven yards.
Running back Matt Forte was responsible for that run, as well as 16 others. He totaled just 33 rushing yards on his 17 carries, an average of just 1.9 yards per carry.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery contributed just five yards on two carries, as the Lions became the first team to successfully stop the Jeffery end-around the Bears have had success with all season.
The only other carry on the day went to Michael Bush, who was stuffed on a big 4th-and-1 in the second quarter when Marc Trestman could have elected to go for a field goal instead.
“Part of it was blocking,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said Monday. “We had some missed assignments on some key plays, we really did. We had one toss play you saw Matt, so disappointed, just didn’t pick up his foot. He had a big gain (opportunity) there. We had a couple of sweeps where we blocked it incorrectly and that was disappointing. We knew we weren’t going to hit every one, but we had a chance to have three or maybe four explosive runs in the game, big runs, and we got the touchdown run called back (on a Matt Slauson holding penalty). We can’t say it wasn’t a hold, but it was very close to not being a hold as well. It was right on the edge. So that was disappointing. If we get those three or four runs and we’re sitting there at 85 or 90 yards, we’re feeling a little bit better about ourselves against a good defensive front.”
Indeed, there were a number of plays that went unsuccessful because a single block was missed. An example of that was on the 3rd-and-1 with 11:51 left in the second quarter — the play right before the failed fourth down conversion.
The Bears ran a toss to Matt Forte to the right, with left tackle Jermon Bushrod pulling to the outside as the lead blocker. This is something the Bears have done a lot this season, with plenty of success.
But on this particular play, Bushrod misses his block on Lions cornerback Chris Houston, who gets enough of Forte to bring him down for no gain. If the block is made, Forte at least gets the first down and he would have had a chance to make one guy miss for a much bigger gain.
That left the Bears with a 4th-and-1 from the 27, and once again, a missed block by Bushrod proved costly. But he wasn’t the only reason why this play didn’t work.
First, let’s look at the formation:
Trestman gets creative here with Bushrod (circled in red) lined up on the right side of the formation as a tight end. Essentially, he has swapped places with tight end Martellus Bennett, who is lined up at left tackle. Eben Britton (circled in blue) is lined up as an H-back in the gap between Bushrod and right tackle Jordan Mills. Tony Fiammetta is at fullback and Michael Bush is in at running back for his only carry on the day.
The unbalanced line creates extra gaps for the Lions to fill. While this is creative, it’s also a pretty significant tell that you are going to run the ball to the right. That’s fine, as long as you execute the play.
Meanwhile, the Lions counter the Bears’ “22” personnel with four linebackers on the field.
As you’ll see, Mills and right guard Kyle Long block down, while left guard Matt Slauson pulls to the right. At this point, essentially the entire offensive line has been moved to the right, with center Roberto Garza being the furtherest left offensive lineman. With Fiammetta and Britton also blocking, this creates a lot of traffic in the direction of the run, requiring patience from the ballcarrier.
But the play starts to breakdown when Bushrod misses his initial block on defensive end Willie Young:
The missed block is circled in yellow and it causes a cascading effect which results in the Bears losing the numbers game. Fiammetta ends up having to block Young, while Slauson pulls to block middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Meanwhile, Britton blocks down to take out linebacker Ashlee Palmer.
Unaccounted for, however, is linebacker Rocky McIntosh (circled in red), who comes from behind to take Bush to the ground.
Now, to be fair, despite the blocking breakdown, Fiammetta, Slauson and Britton still did enough to create a hole to the left for Bush. It’s unclear if that’s where the hole was supposed to be (Bush certainly doesn’t seem to expect it), but in this case the running back could show more patience and wait for the hole to open.
With the way the blocking scheme was set up — Britton, Mills and Long blocking down while Slauson pulls to the right alongside Fiammetta — Bush is most likely supposed to follow the outside hip of the pulling guard (Slauson) and read the leverage of the collision at Slauson’s point of attack. In this case, the leverage dictates that Bush needed to cut inside, underneath Slauson’s block. Instead, Bush pressed the line too quickly and ran into Slauson’s back, allowing the unaccounted tackler (McIntosh) to take him down from behind.
I guess it’s not surprising that that was Bush’s only carry on the day.
Five Highest Grades
WR Brandon Marshall – Another big game for Marshall, who has not had a negative grade all season. His only blemish Sunday was one missed block.
WR Alshon Jeffery – Jeffery’s drop in the end zone was very costly, but he still had a big enough game to grade out positively. Jeffery appears close to joining the upper-tier of NFL wide receivers, but he still needs to show that he can make the extra-special plays in crucial moments. If he just takes that extra step and starts pulling in those rare-level catches (like the one that was overturned by replay), Jeffery could be in for a big pay day down the road.
MLB Jon Bostic – Bostic has shown improvement in each of his three starts and Sunday was his best game. He filled his gaps, made his tackles and appears to be getting more comfortable in the defense.
S Chris Conte – Conte still had a bad missed tackle on the second level on Reggie Bush’s 39-yard run, but overall, it was the safety’s best game of the season. He made two nice run tackles and had three pass defenses to go along with his interception (which admittedly was gift wrapped for him by Matthew Stafford).
DE Corey Wootton – Wootton didn’t have the numbers to show how good of a game he had, but he consistently got a push at the line of scrimmage and batted one pass down.
Five Lowest Grades
LG Matt Slauson – After last week’s excellent performance against the Packers, Slauson came back with his worst game of the season Sunday. He missed more blocks than he has in any other game and also had the brutal holding penalty that brought back a Matt Forte touchdown in the fourth quarter, costing the Bears four points. It was just a bad game for a guy otherwise having a great season.
RT Jordan Mills – Mills continues to be the weakest link on the offensive line, but he’s still not killing the Bears by giving up free shots to the quarterback.
S Major Wright – Another poor game from Wright, who has now graded out in red in four straight games. He dropped an easy interception and Trestman also indicated there was supposed to be safety help over the top on Calvin Johnson’s game-winning touchdown. That would have been Wright’s responsibility on that play.
C Roberto Garza – If it wasn’t for the huge missed block on Nick Fairley on the final two-point conversion, it wouldn’t have been that bad of a game for Garza, but that was an enormous play in the game.
LB Khaseem Greene – Trestman admitted Monday that Greene didn’t play great, but he also said he’s in the right spot “most of the time.” I think that’s a fair assessment.
– Trestman indicated there was a missed assignment on a kick return that may have sprung Devin Hester for a touchdown. He could be referring to Fiammetta, who didn’t hold his block on the opening kickoff. Otherwise, it looked like Hester only had the kicker to beat.
– According to Pro Football Focus, the Bears only blitzed five times Sunday.
– The Bears were in nickel for 76 percent of their defensive snaps. Linebacker Khaseem Greene only played 15 snaps as a result.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.