Sunday, November 11, 2012
Halftime Adjustments: Protect the ball
By Michael C. Wright
CHICAGO -- Four first-half turnovers backed by a defense that yielded more than 100 yards on ground to the visiting Houston Texans, yet almost miraculously the Chicago Bears remain in contention, behind 10-3 at the end of an ugly first half.
Feasting off the zone cutback running game, Texans running back Arian Foster gained 85 yards in the first half as Houston dominated time of possession, in addition to moving the chains for 10 first downs to Chicago's 4. Jay Cutler tossed two interceptions, while running back Michael Bush and tight end Kellen Davis each lost fumbles.
Yet despite the mistakes, the Bears face just a seven-point deficit in the second half. Over the last two seasons, Chicago holds a 1-6 record in games it trails at the half.
Still, the Bears have a chance to improve that mark. Let's look at what the club can do at halftime to regain the lead:
PROTECT THE BALL
Davis and Bush coughed up the ball in the first quarter, and Cutler tossed an interception to former Bears safety Danieal Manning. Three turnovers in a game, let alone in just one quarter gets teams beat, bottom line. So with the Bears being accustomed to the conditions they're playing in, this team should be making ball security a premium. Besides that, the offense can't continue to expect the defense to bail it out every time it makes a mistake.
RUN THE BALL
It seems we're writing this every game at halftime, but it's true: This team needs to make better use of its most dangerous weapon outside of receiver Brandon Marshall. Forte was ineffective in the first quarter, running three times for 5 yards. But once the Bears closed in on the red zone at the end of the first quarter, they went to the pass again on second and 9 with Manning picking off a pass intended for Davis. A run or a pass in that situation is definitely understandable. But it's really not a bad idea to hand off to Forte on back-to-back plays to allow him to get into a groove.
Houston dominated time of possession in the first quarter, hogging the ball for nine minutes and 37 seconds. Obviously turnovers played a role in the lack of time of possession for the Bears. Playing pass-happy football played a role, too.
Forte finished the first half with 11 yards on seven attempts.
STOP THE RUN
Houston averaged 4.7 yards per attempt in the first quarter, and by the 4:14 mark of the second quarter, Foster (91 yards) and Justin Forsett (27 yards) had combined for 118 yards, averaging 6.1 and 6.8 yards per carry, respectively. If Chicago can't stop the run, it can't accomplish the goal of making the Texans one dimensional. If the Bears fail to force the Texans into a one-dimensional attack, they're susceptible to the visiting team's playaction passing attack for the duration, which means they'll be playing a guessing game.
Up front, the Bears have run some stunts on the defensive line, which isn't an ideal method for defending a zone-rushing team.