Bears film study: Were play calls to blame for inept offense?
It's always easy to second guess, so let's cue up the coaches film from the Bears-Titans game and nitpick Matt Nagy's play-calling.
The story of this game was the Bears' failure to sustain drives when they had plenty of chances to jump into the lead. Here's a list of where things went wrong on the money downs when those drives left the pavement:
First drive, 4th & 1: This one was easy to diagnose. Right guard Germain Ifedi completely whiffed on Titans rookie defensive Teair Tart, who blew up the play while David Montgomery was dropped for a loss. If Tart gets blocked, Montgomery probably runs well beyond the first-down marker.
Before handing it to Montgomery, Nick Foles faked a pitch to Cordarrelle Patterson, which might have been a better option. But you can also revert to the previous play when Anthony Miller caught an out pattern with plenty of room, but ran out of bounds a yard short of the first down.
Second drive, 3rd & 3: A lot of things went wrong on this play. First of all, the Bears lined up in a three-receiver bunch on the right side. The inside receiver was tight end Jimmy Graham, who got a 12-yard cushion from the safety. Logic suggests the best move is to have Graham cut toward the sideline while Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson head downfield, making it difficult for a defensive back to follow Graham.
But Graham just ran straight downfield. Mooney collided with cornerback Desmond King, but King was still able to lock up Robinson short and Mooney ran a deep out.
Meanwhile, Foles rolled right, Montgomery tried to cut block linebacker Harold Landry III, but Landry hopped off the ground and got in Foles' face, forcing him to sail a throw out of bounds. The tough part of the protection is the entire right side of the Bears' line -- Rashaad Coward, Ifedi and center Alex Bars -- didn't block anyone because the Titans dropped a couple of linemen into coverage. Seems like someone could have moved over and helped with Landry.
Third drive, 3rd & 5: On this one, Foles had time and should have hit Miller over the middle for a first down. But when Miller made his cut inside, he sat down and it looked like Foles expected him to keep running, which would have been a better choice.
Fourth drive, 3rd & 8: This might have been one of those plays Brian Griese was talking about on Monday Night Football, where the call comes in and Foles knows he won't have enough time. The Bears went empty backfield with five receivers in the pattern. Tennessee rushed five, and in a five-on-five scenario, the Bears offensive line is going to lose. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was the first to get beat.
Meanwhile, out of the five receivers, three of them stopped their routes well short of the 8 yards needed for a first down. What's the point of that? As suggested here last week, the key to opening up the Bears offense is running Mooney and Miller across the middle and this play could have used some of that. Anyway, incomplete pass, no chance.
This drive actually went awry early. On first down, the Bears kept two tight ends in to block and Foles was still forced to scramble. On second down, the Bears tried running a tight end screen to J.P. Holtz, which was certainly unexpected. With a rusher in his face, Foles threw the ball away and the play did not seem promising.
Fifth drive, 3rd & 2: This came after the successful fake punt to Barkevious Mingo and keep in mind, it was still 3-0 at the time.
This play started a little odd, because the Bears were in a tight formation with all 11 players inside the numbers. Mooney and Cole Kmet were on the left side, Robinson and Miller on the right, but there were no extra blockers at the point of impact on a play where Montgomery ran it up the middle.
Things started off OK. Coward got a good block, Ifedi helped Bars with nose tackle DaQuan Jones. But when linebacker Rashaan Evans screamed into the hole, Ifedi tried to cut him off and got knocked sideways. Evans ended up running past Montgomery, but Bars couldn't handle Jones alone and the nose tackle swallowed Montgomery for no gain.
Sixth drive: This one ended pretty quickly with a sack. Foles was looking to go deep, but the Bears couldn't keep the rush away even with two tight ends staying in to block.
The third quarter featured the consecutive false starts after a 4th & 1 and the fumble return for a touchdown. The game was essentially lost with the Bears' inability to score early.
Creativity points: Here's one nice play hiding in Sunday's loss. On the second snap of the third quarter, the Bears faked a bubble screen. Mooney jumped back like he was getting a pass, while Miller made it look like he was going to block. Instead, Miller ran past Desmond King for a 34-yard reception.
Encouraging signs: Obviously, Roquan Smith did a great job on defense keeping Derrick Henry in check. He'll need to do it again next week against Minnesota's Dalvin Cook. ... As bad as the offensive line played, there are probably fewer bad things to say about rookie guard Arlington Hambright, who made his NFL starting debut. He was guilty of the 4th & 1 false start, however. ... Veteran nose guard Daniel McCullers held his ground well in his Bears debut, finishing with 4 tackles.
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