Hoge’s Notes: Rookies Come Through On Defense
By Adam Hoge-
SOLDIER FIELD (CBS) — It was by no means a clean day for the Bears’ defense, but the unit came through with the kind of game-changing takeaways it has been lacking in recent weeks.
The biggest of those plays came in the second quarter when rookie defensive end David Bass returned a Joe Flacco interception 24 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 10. The play came right after the Bears’ offense failed to get in the end zone with six chances inside the six-yard line and settled for a field goal.
Bass read his run-pass keys correctly on the play and didn’t bite on the play action. He jumped up simply to affect the throw and ended up making a very athletic catch. With no one in between him and the end zone, it was an easy touchdown.
“It was a basic play. I was the open side five-technique,” Bass said after the game. “When the tackle went down, my initial key was to close. I saw the quarterback didn’t really give a legitimate handoff fake, so the fullback ended up bouncing to the flat and the running back came to cut me. When the running back came to cut me, I just wanted to beat the cut and stay outside (to keep contain) and get my hands up and affect the ball. Just so happened to be a low throw and I got my hands up.”
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Rookie linebacker Jon Bostic also made a nice athletic catch on an interception in the second quarter, defending a deep seam route by tight end Dallas Clark. It was a poor decision by Joe Flacco, but a very nice play by Bostic to turn his hips and make the catch. One of the rookie’s toughest adjustments in the Bears’ Cover-2 scheme has been defending the deep middle.
“Just reading the quarterback, but at the same time, being able to read those routes,” Bostic said. “There’s a lot of things that go with it. You got to be able to read the quarterback’s drop. There’s certain routes you are going to get with certain drops. Reading his drop, reading his eyes.”
And also worrying about the run game at the same time.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge for me, but I’m getting more comfortable with it,” he said.
The Bears came into Sunday’s game with only 40 penalties on the season, but they committed 13 against the Ravens.
Those penalties added up to a costly 111 yards.
Some were more costly than others — like Zack Bowman’s horse collar tackle on the Ravens’ game-tying drive in the fourth quarter — and they added up quickly.
The Bears’ defensive line was particularly frustrated by four neutral zone infractions (two of which were declined) because they thought Ravens right tackle Marshal Yanda was drawing them offsides with false starts.
“Definitely. A lot of jerking, a lot of whipping. Popping up, even though his hand was still down. I didn’t think it was legal, but obviously it was,” Bass said. “They flagged him for it once. I thought after that flag they were going to continuously call it, but they didn’t. We saw it on film. We knew what was going to happen, but still when you see someone jerk real fast like that, your initial response is to go.”
Forte Comes Through
The Bears only rushed for 104 yards Sunday, but that was a big improvement over the 38 rushing yards they put up last week against the Lions. The execution by the offensive line was much improved and Forte ran through more arm tackles.
That included his 14-yard touchdown catch, which was a screen pass to the right. The Ravens had a chance to stop it near the line of scrimmage, but Forte eluded the tackles and reached over the end zone for the Bears’ only offensive touchdown of the game.
“This was some hard running against a very, very good front,” head coach Marc Trestman said. “Matt is so important to our football team.”
Forte finished with 83 yards rushing on 18 carries, an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery added three rushes for 17 yards. He also had seven catches for 83 yards.
Sunday’s game featured a rare weather delay of nearly two hours. The delay came with 4:51 left in the first quarter, right when both teams were getting into the flow of the game.
Trestman stayed busy throughout the delay though, spending the time in the locker room with his players.
Among the things he said he did during the break: Went over plays with his players, played catch with Brandon Marshall, sat down on the floor with cornerback Tim Jennings, and met with the coaching staff.
After the game, Trestman said he had never been through a delay like that.
“We had one up north, up in Canada, where we had a storm that forced us to delay the start of the game for half an hour, but nothing like this. Ever,” he said.
– Nose tackle Stephen Paea left the game in the first half with a toe injury and did not return. After the game he was wearing a walking boot on his left foot. He suffered a toe injury on the same foot against the Lions in September and has been playing through it.
– Sunday’s weather delay was the third delay the Ravens have been through since January’s Super Bowl when the power went out at the Superdome. Their first game of the season in Denver also had a weather delay.
“I think we’ve led the league in delays over the last few years,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said.
– Trestman said at one point the wind was so bad he felt like he couldn’t call any passes. He was even afraid to call a screen pass. That was likely on the Bears’ only possession of the third quarter, when the Bears ran on all six of their plays.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.