Sunday, September 18, 2011
O-line takes step backward in Week 2
By Michael C. Wright
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler reaches to recover his fumble after being sacked by the Saints' Malcolm Jenkins on Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS -- Jay Cutler's voice cracked an octave or two lower than normal, the product of a cleat to the throat in the third quarter under relentless pressure from the New Orleans Saints pass rush.
In falling to the Saints 30-13 at the Superdome, the Bears -- despite anticipating the opponent’s blitzkrieg style -- failed to adequately protect Cutler, who was sacked six times (five in the fourth quarter) and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in a regular-season game for the first time since last December, when the club took a 36-7 thumping from the New England Patriots.
“We just didn’t get the job done,” said center Roberto Garza. “We knew what they were gonna do, we just have to get it done. We didn’t do that, and it falls on the offensive line. He took some hard hits today, and it falls squarely on our shoulders.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Saints brought six or more pass rushers on 19 plays against Cutler. Interestingly, Chicago gained a total of just 13 yards on those 19 plays, with the Saints dropping Cutler for sacks on five of those snaps, including one by Turk McBride with the Bears trailing by just three points at 16-13.
The McBride sack jarred the ball loose with Jonathan Vilma recovering for the Saints. New Orleans immediately turned that turnover into a touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Robert Meachem that opened up the game.
“A lot of times, they were sending more guys than we could block,” running back Matt Forte said. “We’ve got to hit the hot routes. Sometimes we would throw the ball, and they would be right on the hot routes. On some of the plays like that, we’ve got to start hurting them with the pass, so they’ll stop blitzing.”
Apparently that’s not what happened in this contest.
Last week, the Saints brought five or more pass rushers on 29.7 percent of Green Bay’s passes, with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers lighting them up for a touchdown (against five or more rushers) and a completion percentage of 80.
The Saints obviously decided to crank up the pressure another notch for the Bears. New Orleans brought five or more rushers on 39.6 percent of Cutler’s dropbacks, and the quarterback completed just 38.5 percent of his passes for an average gain of 4.9 yards.
“I can’t say we missed assignments,” said Bears coach Lovie Smith. “They played better than we did. They got pressure on the quarterback. Some of them were [missed assignments], but when you have that many sacks, it’s a combination of assignments, and some of them just winning.”
Right guard Chris Spencer called the situation “frustrating” after the offensive line put together a decent showing in the opener against the Falcons.
“We’ve just got to keep growing together,” Spencer said. “They had a good scheme. Mentally, we were communicating. Physically, I felt like we were blocking them up. Sometimes, things just happened but you never know what happened until you watch that film.”
Right tackle Frank Omiyale, who filled in for rookie Gabe Carimi (knee) in the third quarter, said the crowd noise inside the Superdome was loud, but not a significant factor. Carimi, meanwhile, said he didn’t know the extent of his injury, and that someone simply “rolled up on” his leg to cause it.
If Carimi can’t play next week, the Bears will face the Packers without two of their opening-day starters. Lance Louis suffered an ankle injury against the Falcons, and Spencer has filled in ever since.
“You’ve just got to look at why things happened, and where we had our problems,” Omiyale said. “Anytime you lose it’s frustrating. But they were just the better team today. Once you know who to block, it all comes down to a one-on-one battle. We’ve just got to make sure we’re winning the majority of those and we’ll be all right.”