On the NFL
9:45 PM CDT, September 14, 2012
The problem with the Bears offense in Thursday night's 23-10 loss to the Packers wasn't that pass rushers outnumbered pass protectors.
It was that the rushers were superior to the protectors, and the extra blockers often were not where they were needed.
Of the Bears' 35 dropbacks, the Bears blockers outnumbered rushers by two or more 48 percent of the time. But on those plays, the Bears allowed four of their seven sacks and two of their four interceptions.
In fact, keeping so many men in might have been a problem as it limited the potential receivers for quarterback Jay Cutler.
The Packers didn't have more rush men than the blockers once. The numbers were even only three times — a completion, a drop and the final interception.
The Bears clearly did not pay enough attention to Clay Matthews, however. They left the overmatched J'Marcus Webb alone with him 11 times, and on those plays Matthews had 2 1/2 sacks and drew a holding penalty. He would have benefited from two more holding penalties if replacement officials had not blown calls.
Here is what else a review of the tape showed.
Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.
In addition to sacking Cutler seven times, the Packers hit him on 14 other plays. Most of that is on the offensive line.
Between penalties and sacks allowed, Webb gave the Packers 33 yards, which is more than any Bears wide receiver gained.
The only offensive lineman who didn't play poorly was right guard Lance Louis.
Cutler threw four interceptions and easily could have thrown two more — a second quarter pass to Kellen Davis that safety Jerron McMillian dropped and a fourth quarter pass to Davis that was linebacker D.J. Smith dropped.
Cutler didn't have it easy in this game, but he did very little to help himself or his teammates. Aside from his abysmal leadership, he was frequently late in delivering the ball, and he was throwing off his back foot.
He threw a nice strike for a touchdown late, but could have had another touchdown to Brandon Marshall in the fourth quarter if he hadn't put up a duck that fell short of the intended receiver.
If this is the Bears' best group of receivers ever, they were way, way off their games Thursday.
Receivers struggled to get open against the Packers' secondary. Marshall dropped a pass that should have been a touchdown. Earl Bennett failed to break up an interception by not coming back to the ball. Devin Hester couldn't hang on to the only pass thrown to him.
Nearly 30 percent of Cutler's throws were intended for tight ends, but they produced only two catches for 25 yards. One of them was Davis' fine catch away from his body for the Bears' only touchdown.
Davis had some lapses in blocking, both on passes and runs.
Aside from Matt Forte's blown block on the first play from scrimmage that led to a sack, the backs did OK. Forte was the team's leading receiver, which doesn't say much.
Michael Bush had some gritty runs but was not spectacular. He also appeared to have been at least partially responsible for a sack late.
The pass rush was pretty good for the second straight game, and it came from more than Julius Peppers. He had help from Henry Melton, Shea McClellin, Israel Idonije and Corey Wootton.
In fact, one of Peppers' two sacks came in part because Melton had a nice rush from right defensive end. That forced Aaron Rodgers to step up into Peppers, who, from the defensive tackle position, had bulled back guard T.J. Lang.
It is most encouraging to see Melton put together two strong games. He would have had a second sack if Lang had not held him in the first quarter.
The Bears stunted often and effectively.
Brian Urlacher remains a work in progress, but it's not like he hurt the defense while he re-acclimates himself. He made 11 tackles, so he was doing plenty right.
But there is some hesitation in his play, particularly in coverage. Urlacher was better in the box than he was in space.
He is coming downhill pretty well. He showed that on a tackle of Cedric Benson for no gain in which he plowed through fullback John Kuhn and a tackle of Benson for a 1-yard gain.
Lance Briggs had a strong game. He was very aggressive on the run and led the Bears in tackles. Still, he dropped a pass that should have been an interception. If he had hung on, the Packers wouldn't have had their second field goal at the end of the second quarter.
For the most part, the safeties did a nice job of following their assignments, making tackles and limiting big plays. But there were a couple of hiccups.
Chris Conte came up too fast and out of control and missed a tackle of Randall Cobb at the 31, enabling Cobb to get another 20 yards and take the ball to the 11 in the second quarter. That led to the only touchdown of the first half.
Major Wright was responsible for the Packers' other touchdown because Rodgers suckered him looking off Donald Driver. Wright was way late in moving inside from a two-deep look.
Tim Jennings is on fire. He is playing with a high level of confidence and aggression. It led to his third interception of the season. He came up strong on two quick passes on the line, making big tackles.
Charles Tillman sucked it up despite a shin injury and came up with one of his patented forced fumbles. He recovered it too.
The Cover-2 blanket (the Bears rarely played anything else) provided by corners and others often forced Rodgers to hesitate, which helped the pass rush.
The Packers' fake field goal that turned into a touchdown was a brilliant call, but the Bears should have been prepared for anything.
Robbie Gould, Adam Podlesh and Devin Hester were pretty good. Recently acquired Sherrick McManis did some nice things on the coverage and return units.
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