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Enemy Drives: Bears Offense vs Lions Defense

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The Chicago Bears offense is not a juggernaut. I say this because, as Lorin Cox of Locked On Bears pointed out in our Crossover show, the feeling around the team is the that Head Coach John Fox is essentially handcuffing rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky.

This is a Bears offense that only generates 8.9 points in the first half on average (ranked 25th) as opposed to a Philadelphia Eagles offense that ranks 3rd with 14.5. To reverse their fortunes and stay competitive against an Eagles team that is becoming extremely efficient at closing teams out once they establish a lead, the Bears will have to score early.

With that in mind, I took to the film and watched the opening script for the Bears game against the Detroit Lions. Here are the details of their first offensive drive, courtesy of Pro Football Reference:

Use this as a reference point to fill in the gaps between plays not highlighted here. Before we move to our first clip I’ll point out that the Bears, to my surprise, came out passing three straight times, with mixed results. Trubisky’s accuracy wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either, and he was a bit slow anticipating uncovering routes.

With that said, let’s watch some film!

-1st & 10, Bears 38-

The Bears will run outside zone from this formation as long as you’ll let them, and they do it well. (#24) Jordan Howard possesses the necessary mental processing, vision, feet, and one-cut physical style that perfectly fits what the Bears want to achieve in the run game. They also roster two smaller, speedier backs in rookie (#29) Tarek Cohen and (#30) Benny Cunningham to compliment Howard’s skillset.

In this play, watch how (#87) TE Adam Shaheen helps (#72) Charles Leno Jr. get to his man before releasing and sealing the edge.

This only goes for 3 yards, setting up 2nd & 7, but the real reason for posting this clip is the play by (#71) LG Josh Sitton. At the snap, Sitton has to be able to get his helmet to the outside of the 3-technique defensive tackle’s helmet for a “reach block”. Once he achieves this, he then has to rotate his hips while maintaining proper leverage to seal the defender from the flow of the play. Best of all is the finish, brought to you by IHOP.

Eagles defensive tackles Timmy Jernigan and Fletcher Cox will be tasked with defeating these types of blocks from the excellent Sitton.

-2nd & 7, Bears 41-

The Bears ran a read option and a couple Run-Pass-Options (RPO) to start the drive, which shouldn’t be a surprise given Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggins’ propensity for them and Trubisky’s experience with them in college.

Trubisky will keep on the read option, they’ll also go two backs and throw in motion with RPOs where Trubisky can hand off the inside zone, keep it on the read option (as seen above), or throw the flat to one of his running backs on travel motion, which is basically where the one of the backs will motion horizontal to the line before the snap for a flare route. They’ll even throw in some RPOs in the red zone with boot action incorporated.

Here, the defensive end on the left will be left unblocked by TE Shaheen, which should be the first clue to the crashing defender that he’s about to be had. The Eagles have been susceptible to squeezing their edges too tight, leaving them in position to be outflanked, and that’s what happens here. Granted, this only goes for 7 yards, but it moves the chains and it’s something the Bears could use in short down and distances.

-1st & 10, Lions 41-

This is similar to the look from the first outside zone video, only with an extra TE on the end. Two blocks stood out immediately. First, (#65) C Cody Whitehair showing off his athleticism by getting to the MIKE linebacker and effectively scooping him out of the play. Having the foot quickness and balance to come under control in the open-field is key to any zone blocking scheme. Second, (#70) RT Bobby Massie serving pancakes with what looks like a Reggie White hump move, only instead of proceeding to the Quarterback like Reggie would, Massey plants his meat on the downed defender.

-1st & 10, Lions 30-

I chose to highlight this play because it was necessary to the drives’ success, but also because of the rookie TE Shaheen. Selected in the 2nd round in this past NFL Draft, Shaheen has been largely unproductive and came into this game with a season stat line of 3 receptions, 41 yards, and a lone touchdown.

Here, Shaheen runs post behind the Lions linebackers and SAF Tavon Wilson shows Trubisky the back of his head, giving a clear indication that he won’t be able to see the throw coming. In his best throw of the drive, Trubisky throws it right over his dome and fits it into Shaheen for a 22 yard gain. Shaheen would end up with a season high 4-41-1 day and should become a bigger facet of the Bears offense.

-1st & Goal, Lions 8-

I only show this play to highlight the fact that jet sweeps in the red zone are bad and the Bears should feel bad for running it. It doesn’t get any easier for the DE here as he effectively shuts off Cohen’s path to the corner.

-3rd & Goal, Lions 5-

As mentioned at the top of the article, Trubisky struggled with accuracy early in this drive. With nothing coming open from his primary reads, he is forced to flip his hips and throw to (#30) RB Benny Cunningham, who is directly in front of him. Having just open his hips to the left, Trubisky leaves his feet a mess as he throws slight right, leading in an errant pass and setting up a field goal situation.

The Bears would get 3 points out of this drive, a win for the defense considering the Bears low-scoring offense is ranked 8th in the league in converting these RZ trips into touchdowns. Regardless, this drive showed all of the hallmarks of a Loggins offense. They ran outside zone, inside zone, incorporated two tight end or two running back sets, they ran spacing and hi-lo concepts in the passing game and even tried a doomed jet sweep.

For all that window dressing, at the end of the day, the key for the Eagles will be to stop the inside and outside zone play, which the Lions were largely unable to do in surrendering 222 yards on the ground.

Michael is an NFL Draft enthusiast, aspiring scout, and grandson of longtime East Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS football coach John P. Kist. He hosts Locked On Eagles and writes for Inside the Pylon & Breaking Football.

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