24 Hours Later: Laurence Holmes Breaks Down Bears-Saints
Laurence W. Holmes-
(CBS) Time offers the opportunity for perspective, so I thought it would be a good idea to wait each week to give my thoughts on the Bears game. The idea being that 24 hours allows for me to watch the game over and talk to a few more people. Hence, "The 24 Blog."
WHAT I SAW:
Against teams like New Orleans, mistakes can be magnified. The Bears got off to a horrible start and looked to be playing catch-up for the rest of the afternoon. It's been a developing pattern for the last two games and it needs to be corrected.
Before I start to dissect some of the problems, let me give some praise. The Bears defense had some busts and some incredible mistakes by veteran players in crucial moments, but they also held the Saints to 26 points. While I don't think that deserves a parade, considering some of the short fields they were given, it's a miracle this game didn't turn into a blowout.
The Saints scored six points in the second half. I also, thought the Bears commitment to the run in the second half was encouraging. Two problems with that though: 1) That commitment should start earlier. 2) When they needed two yards, Marc Trestman decided to throw the ball and it failed. Trestman himself questioned whether that was the right call.
Now on to the issues. Every game comes down to a bunch of plays and it can be a losers lament to single them out and say what if, but let's look at three pivotal plays that show a bad combination of lack preparation, discipline and execution.
First quarter 1st & 10, Bears 20 (7:38) Cutler is sacked and fumbles. Cameron Jordan of the Saints recovers.
The Bears admitted that they weren't ready for some of the blitz looks they saw and it took them the better part of the quarter to figure it out. Granted, the Saints didn't blitz much to begin the season. They were getting consistent pressure with their front (3/4) for most of their games. That being said, it's inexcusable that the Bears weren't prepared for a defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan who is notorious for bringing pressure, even if he hasn't done it with this group. That's a coaching issue. The whole point of the grind of going over tape is to find tendencies. It also took the Bears too long to adjust.
Fourth quarter 4th & 2, Saints 25. Earl Bennett drops the ball.
In a 13-play, 74-yard drive, the Bears had 61 yards on the ground. They're obviously in 4-down territory and the run was working. The game was still in reach. On third & fourth down, they decide to throw it instead. A third down run would've made sense, especially considering Matt Forte had gotten them eight yards on the previous two downs. You still have fourth to throw for it, if you don't make it. So that's the coaching issue. The execution issue is on Bennett. On the play, Cutler surveyed the defense, went through the progressions and found the open man. He made a great throw and it was a disappointing drop by the usually-reliable Bennett.
Fourth quarter 4th & 1, Saints 47. Lance Briggs jumps into the neutral zone.
Briggs had an incredible game with 14 tackles, a sack and three tackles for loss, but this play was inexcusable. Before the Saints lined up, Julius Peppers reminded all the linemen not to jump offside. The Saints had tried this ploy at the beginning of the second quarter. It's shocking that one of the Bears smartest players fell for it. That play turns into a first down and that drive basically puts the game out of reach.
A couple plays here and there - that's what separates the ordinary, from the elite.
WHAT I HEARD
"Everybody knows that..." (pregnant pause and then...) "He does give the ball up a couple times a game and we were definitely trying to emphasize that and put pressure on him." -Saints Defensive End, Cameron Jordan on Jay Cutler
David Schuster came back to the press box and told me to take a listen to this. When he asked about Cutler being turnover prone, Jordan almost said it was a given. He then took a minute to say it a nicer way. Cutler's fumble came on a blindside blitz by Malcolm Jenkins. Cutler thought he had more time to secure the football. He was wrong.
"I think they were problematic. We hadn't really seen them." -Marc Trestman on Saints early blitz success.
One can make the argument that Trestman has been out-coached the last two weeks. This quote speaks to that. His team was unprepared to counter the pressure they saw from New Orleans. Rob Ryan did a masterful job of disguising blitzes and coverages. He used different alignments all day and the Bears didn't get comfortable going up against them until much later. Brandon Marshall said it took a whole quarter for the offensive line to settle down. Those adjustments and contingencies have to happen much faster going forward.
"...If you beat yourself up too much or get too down or too frustrated at the play calling for the coverage, the ball comes your way and you drop it." -Brandon Marshall on his five target afternoon.
The Saints made sure that they had bracket coverage on Marshall. They didn't want him to get the ball and they did a pretty good job of making that happen. Marshall is used to being 'the guy' and I get that, but he can't hang his head and can't get frustrated. Alshon Jeffery's 218 yard record-setting day was made possible in part because of the attention that Marshall is drawing. So if B-Marsh has to be a decoy, so be it. The hope is that it will eventually lead to teams getting burnt by Jeffery or Martellus Bennett and that opening things back up for Marshall. When it happens, Marshall has to be ready to strike. In the meantime, the Bears might want to experiment with putting him in motion to see if that loosens up the coverage.
WHAT I WAS TOLD
"They know I'm on the team. They're gonna change their calls and if I give the defensive guys the wrong call, that could mess them up more. Everything they need is on the film." -Jermon Bushrod on Saints' secrets.
Bushrod was adamant that he didn't have any help for the Bears and seemed uncomfortable with the assertion that he should act as some type of double-agent when I talked to him last week. Considering the first few blitzes were successful and to his side, it's clear Bushrod - and maybe more surprisingly Aaron Kromer - had no real insight on what was happening.
"Be hard on yourself and figure out what you did wrong and improve on it." -Jay Cutler
I wanted to know what the challenges of getting ready on a short week after a loss and Cutler gave me a great answer. The players won't have time to go through the film with the coaches to make corrections. That's not good because the Bears had a lot of issues. I know the Giants stink and the same logic that applied against the 0-3 Steelers should apply here, but this seems like it would be a good week to make some corrections. As Cutler said, it could be incumbent upon the Bears players really analyzing where they went wrong.
ONE MORE THING
With the Bears in dire straits when it comes to depth on the defensive line, they might want to pick up the phone and call Matt Toeania. Toeania has experience in the system, is familiar with the personnel and calls and was a solid bottom half of the roster guy. I do give the Bears some credit, upon further review, Landon Cohen and David Bass didn't embarrass themselves on Sunday. There's room to grow there, but the Bears need more bodies after Nate Collins was lost for the season with an ACL tear.
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