Bears adjust, burn Cowboys' blitz
September, 19, 2010
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Dallas kept bringing heat.
So the Bears made the necessary adjustments to pack the Cowboys’ pass rush in ice.
“We let up,” Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “We should have kept the pressure on them.”
Uh, no. They shouldn’t have, based on what we’ve learned about their blitzing from ESPN Stats and Information. After the Cowboys pressured Jay Cutler relentlessly on four of his first five attempts, the Bears adjusted to the heavy pressure by switching personnel on the line and making adjustments to the play calling and the length of the quarterback’s drops.
Tim Heitman/US PresswireBears quarterback Jay Cutler is chased by Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer on Sunday.
The moves paid dividends in the Bears' 27-20 win on Sunday.
“We knew we were going to have a tough time taking seven steps and protecting everything,” Cutler said. “So we thought the next best thing was to empty [the backfield] out and see if they wanted to blitz or if they wanted to play soft, and get it out quick.”
The Cowboys chose the blitz route, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and Cutler made them pay. Dallas played its base 3-4 defense for the majority of the game, thinking the rush could get to the quarterback sooner, and defended with five or more defensive backs on just 11 of Cutler’s passing attempts.
In 2009, Cutler completed 58.9 percent of his passes, and threw 20 interceptions when opponents defended him with five or more defensive backs. But the Cowboys chose to defend Cutler with four or fewer Sunday, and the quarterback hit on 15 of 18 in those situations for a 9.9-yard average and a passer rating of 147.7.
Cutler threw all three of his touchdowns with the Cowboys utilizing four or fewer defensive backs in coverage.
“They kept coming,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “Protection got a little better. We gave Jay a little more time. When you blitz, there’s a lot of risk involved as far as giving up the big play.”
Dallas learned that the hard way.
“We kept a good defensive front at bay, and our guys on the outside were able to make a lot of plays,” Bears tight end Greg Olsen said.
Because of the pressure from the Cowboys, the Bears -- looking to bolster the protection -- operated out of three-wide sets on 46.9 percent of their total plays, and 58.1 percent of passing plays. Just last week against Detroit, the Bears used three-wide sets on 71.4 percent of their total plays and 83.7 percent of pass plays. So it’s safe to say the Bears sacrificed receiving targets for blockers.
The move worked well for Cutler, who pumped out the third-best passer rating of his career (136.7). He delivered when the Bears trailed, completing 8 of 8 passes for two touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in that situation.
“We are creating so many matchups for guys,” Cutler said. “They don’t know where we are going or what we are doing in some of these formations or where we’re headed. So it’s worked out out to our advantage, and we have a guy like Mike Martz who knows how to take advantage of all that.”
Just ask the Cowboys.