Halftime Adjustments: Ugly from start
September, 13, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPNChicago.com
AP Photo/Jeffrey PhelpsThe Bears showed a lot of fight -- but no points -- in the first half.GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Potent offenses combined for scant production early in a defensive slugfest finally taken slight control of when the Green Bay Packers scored on a fake field goal just before intermission to cap 10 unanswered points in the second quarter. Green Bay seized a 13-0 halftime lead over the visiting Chicago Bears.
On fourth and 26 from the Chicago 27 with 1:56 left in the half, the Packers lined up for a field goal. But upon the snap of the ball, punter Tim Masthay -- serving as the holder -- rose and dumped off a pass to Tom Crabtree, who romped 27 yards down the field for the touchdown.
Earlier in the quarter, Mason Crosby kicked a 48-yard field goal to score the game’s first points, which came 17:04 into the contest. Crosby’s field goal was kept alive when a replay review revealed the Bears had 12 men on the field on a third down from the Chicago 42. The fresh set of downs from the 5-yard penalty kept alive Green Bay’s drive, with Crosby hitting the field goal four plays later.
Crosby hit a 35-yarder with 1 second remaining in the first half to conclude the scoring.
The Bears gained just three first downs while being outgained in offensive yardage 201 to 47. The Packers also kept possession for 40 snaps on offense, compared to 21 plays for the Bears.
Pass protection issues resurfaced for the Bears leading to Jay Cutler absorbing three sacks, including 1 ½ of those from Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. In addition to throwing an interception, Cutler completed 4 of 9 passes for 37 yards and a passer rating of 16.7 as the Bears converted only 1 of 5 on third down.
Earl Bennett and Alshon Jeffery ended the half as the only Bears receivers to catch passes as the duo combined for two grabs for 17 yards. Cutler’s top target, Brandon Marshall, ended the first half without a catch or even a pass thrown his way.
Chicago’s front four, which sacked Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers four times, seemed to be the club’s lone bright spot in a dismal first half. Julius Peppers led the way with two sacks, followed by Henry Melton (1) and rookie Shea McClellin and Corey Wootton with a half sack each.
But for all the pressure the front four generated, it struggled against the run. Former Bears first-round pick Cedric Benson averaged 4.1 yards per attempt in the first half as the Packers gained 76 yards on the ground as a team, including a 28-yard burst by receiver Randall Cobb.
The Bears, meanwhile, seemed to abandon the run in the first two quarters with Matt Forte and Michael Bush combining for nine attempts.
THREE HALFTIME ADJUSTMENTS
Stop the run: The Bears are generating plenty of pressure from the front four on passes. But the Bears haven’t been able to consistently neutralize the run, which could make the Packers one dimensional, thus a tad easier to defend.
In the first quarter alone, former Bears first-round pick Cedric Benson gained 64 yards from scrimmage as the team combined for 76 yards rushing. Because of the Green Bay’s success running the ball, the Bears are off balance defensively. So the Bears need to snuff out the run to force the Packers to go back to the air attack.
Run the ball: Matt Forte averaged 6.2 yards per carry in the first half. Too bad the Bears aren’t giving him the football, which will be even tougher to accomplish in the second half with the club trying to recover from a 13-point deficit.
Interestingly, the Bears are attempting to execute playaction passes. But the plays aren’t convincing because the club isn’t running the football. Run the ball to set up the play action pass, not the other way around.
Playing from just 13 behind, the Bears can still rally by running the football. Besides that, the rushing attack would keep Green Bay’s potent offense off the field.
Anticipate throws: With Brian Urlacher vacating the short middle portion of the field to run deep when the Bears play Cover 2, outside linebackers Lance Briggs and Nick Roach are left to read Aaron Rodgers’ eyes to anticipate throws to the zone just left open by the middle linebacker. Briggs and Roach struggled in that department at times, and it allowed Rodgers to hit short throws that turned into decent chunks of yardage for the Packers.
So either the Bears need to try to stay out of Cover 2 or Briggs and Roach need to do a better job of keying the quarterback and anticipating his throws.