Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears
October, 23, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
After the Chicago Bears' 13-7 victory over the Detroit Lions, here are three issues that merit further examination:
- I thought it was interesting to see defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli beef up his blitz packages against the Lions, who for the most part had been stymied this season by four-man pass rushes and maximum coverage. Marinelli blitzed regularly early in the game and finished with blitzes on 28.8 percent of quarterback Matthew Stafford's dropbacks. The Bears entered the game blitzing on about 20 percent of opposing dropbacks, and Stafford had been facing the blitz on about 12 percent of the time. In the end, the Bears did most of their damage when they sent four pass-rushers. That's how they got two of their three sacks as well as their fourth-quarter interception. But anecdotally, I thought Marinelli's early blitzing prevented Stafford from getting into a rhythm and forced him to leave the pocket far more often than he likes to. Coach Jim Schwartz agreed. "They threw our timing off," he said.ESPN.com
- The Bears did as good of a job on receiver Calvin Johnson as any team in recent memory. Monday night was only the third time Johnson has been held under three receptions in his past 24 games dating back to 2010, and it wasn't for lack of trying. Stafford targeted him on 11 passes, but cornerback Charles Tillman made the connections difficult. Tillman finished with two tipped passes, in some ways proving that the best way to defend big receivers is with big cornerbacks. "It's hard for Detroit to win games without him being productive," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "That’s why you need a guy like Charles Tillman that can match up on him and it made them go and look at other ways to get the ball down the field. That's going to lead us to a win most of the time if we can get that effort out of Charles."
- After watching the Lions struggle to get the ball to Johnson, Bears fans should have an appreciation for the way offensive coordinator Mike Tice, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates and quarterback Jay Cutler have found ways to get the ball to Marshall consistently. He caught six of the team's 16 completions Monday, including three when the Bears got him matched up about new Lions nickel back Alphonso Smith. On the season, Marshall has caught 38.7 percent of the Bears' completions, the highest rate in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He is also the only receiver this season who has accounted for at least 40 percent of his team's receiving yards. Opponents aren't dumb. They are gameplanning to stop Marshall as their top priority in the Bears' passing game. But with the exception of the Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Bears have been one step ahead.
Is Marshall speaking for a silent majority in the Bears locker room, or only as fiercely loyal friend, in repeated suggestions that Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh crossed a line with his second-quarter sack of Cutler, which bruised the quarterback's ribs? We've already noted Marshall's late-night tweets on the topic. Tuesday morning, he told ESPN's First Take that the play was "dirty" and "not clean." Publicly, anyway, no one else from the Bears has backed him up. Smith and Cutler both referred to it as an acceptable, if painful, football play. If more players and coaches secretly feel the way Marshall does, we could have a pretty interesting rematch in the season finale at Ford Field.