Monday, October 22, 2012
Halftime Adjustments: Keep running
By Michael C. Wright
CHICAGO -- Chicago jumped out to a 10-0 lead over the Detroit Lions in the first quarter on the strength of Jay Cutler's 7-yard pass to Brandon Marshall on the club's opening drive and a 39-yard field goal from Robbie Gould, but just as quickly the Bears established momentum, it seemed to fizzle.
Further complicating matters is the injury suffered by Cutler with
5:06 left in the first half, when he was driven into the turf by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, causing the quarterback to head into the locker room as the team looked to evaluate a possible rib injury.
Given the fact running back Matt Forte has already reached 69 yards rushing, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt, it might be a shrewd move for the Bears to continue to feed him the ball even with Cutler returning in the second half, just to alleviate some of the potential punishment on the quarterback.
Let's look at some of the halftime adjustments the Bears might make:
Keep pounding the ball. It's working. Forte averaged 11 yards on his first four runs of the game, which means Detroit's front seven is falling apart quicker than probably what the Bears anticipated going into the game.
Typically it takes more time to soften the interior of a defense, but Detroit's vaunted front four of Suh, Nick Fairley, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril struggled early against the run. It's likely the group comes back stronger in the third quarter after making some halftime adjustments. But it's important the Bears to continue on the strong start from the first quarter. When a team's first six runs go for 79 yards, it's a sign of dominance that will eventually put Detroit into guessing mode. By starting the game with a fairly balanced attack the Bears knocked the Lions off balance, defensively.
In the first quarter, Chicago ran the ball seven times and passed it on nine occasions. The threat of Chicago's run opened up things for the Bears to hit a couple of playaction passes, including the 7-yard touchdown to Marshall.
Keep up the pressure. Detroit certainly didn't expect the Bears to bring the blitz the way they did early, and that totally threw off the rhythm of Matthew Stafford, who completed just 3 of 8 to for 12 yards in the first quarter as the Lions failed on all four third-down attempts.
Chicago typically opts to bring pressure with just the front four, but the club brought heat up the middle with Brian Urlacher and even came off the edge with safety Chris Conte. That led to confusion in Detroit's protection. The Bears complemented the pressure with disguised coverage in the secondary that wreaked havoc on Stafford's reads.
Don't get drawn into Detroit's frustration. We've already seen a couple of glimpses of the Lions starting to lose their cool, and it's just the first half. But the Bears can't afford to get drawn into that in the third and fourth quarters if they want to maintain the momentum they've already built. Cutler broke a 24-yard scramble in the first quarter, and received an additional 15 yards tacked onto the run by virtue of Detroit defensive tackle Corey Williams hitting the quarterback while he was already down, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty that put the Bears at the Lions' 21.
Three plays later, Robbie Gould nailed a 39-yard field goal to give Chicago a 10-0 lead.
Then in the second quarter, officials flagged Alphonso Smith for a horse collar tackle on Marshall at the end of an 11-yard reception that kept alive a drive that should have resulted in points, if not for Lawrence Jackson blocking Gould's 47-yard field goal attempt.
So although it's early, Detroit appears to be making its trademark mistakes that cost ballgames. Instead of getting into the chippiness we'll likely see in the second half, the Bears should just benefit from the miscues.