Bears try to match what Chiefs did best
December, 23, 2011
By John McTigue | ESPN.com
Denny Medley/US PresswireThe Chiefs frustrated Aaron Rodgers repeatedly in last Sunday's win.
Earlier in the season, teams tried to take advantage of the Packers’ poor pass defense by spreading the field with sets featuring three or more wide receivers.
The Packers countered with their nickel and dime defenses. Not only do the Packers lead the NFL in interceptions from such formations with 21, they have seven more than the next highest team.
The Packers played nearly three of every four defensive snaps in the first 11 games of the season with at least five defensive backs on the field.
Over the last three games, the Packers have used such formations about half as often-- 40 percent of the time.
The Chiefs used sets with two wide receivers or fewer on 48 of their 70 plays against the Packers. In turn, Green Bay used nickel or dime packages just 24 percent of the time (a rate of about once every four snaps)
Keeping the Packers’ 3-4 on the field also negatively impacts the team’s pass rush.
The Packers record a sack once every 19 dropbacks when in nickel and dime sets, compared to once every 48 dropbacks with the 3-4 defense or bigger on the field.
The Bears are a team that primarily uses sets with at least three wide receivers. Only seven teams in the NFL have used those offensive formations more than the Bears this season.
If that trend continues, the Packers’ nickel and dime defensive looks will get opportunities to flourish.
On the defensive end, the Chiefs were able to control Aaron Rodgers by using five or more defensive backs more frequently. The Packers like to spread the field offensively, but even when using two or fewer wide receivers, the Chiefs kept their nickel and dime sets on the field.
This season, NFL defenses have gone with the nickel and dime (referred to as “going small”) 15 percent of the time when offenses use two or fewer wideouts.
Sunday against the Packers, the Chiefs did so 59 percent of the time, which is nearly four times more often than an average team.
Rodgers faced five or more defensive backs on 31 of his 35 pass attempts, completing a season-low 48.4 percent of his passes against such defenses.
The Bears rarely go to a small defensive look with fewer than three receivers on the field, doing so just seven percent of the time, so mimicking what the Chiefs do would be a bit unusual.
Rodgers was 9 of 12 for 122 yards and a touchdown against the Bears’ 4-3 defense in Week 3 this season, but threw one of his six interceptions this season when the Bears had five defensive backs on field.
In addition, Romeo Crennel rarely blitzed, sending five or more pass rushers just eight times against Rodgers, who leads the league in Total QBR (90.7) and touchdown passes (16) against such pressure.
With extra men consistently in coverage, Rodgers completed just 2 of his 12 attempts more than 15 yards downfield against the Chiefs, and failed to throw a touchdown on an attempt that long for the third time this season. It was the first time he’d had gone without one since Week 3 against the Bears.
The Bears generally rely on their four-man rush, using such pressure on nearly 75 percent of opponent dropbacks, the 10th-highest rate in the NFL.
The Bears have been able to take away the deep ball from Rodgers, holding him to one touchdown in 58 attempts of 15 yards or more since the start of 2008 (including playoffs). Rodgers has 43 touchdowns on such throws against all other opponents during that span.
If the Bears can replicate the Chiefs’ success, they’ll have a chance to hand the Packers their first two-game losing streak since Weeks 14 and 15 of last season, the last two games the Packers lost before winning 19 straight.