Bears' offense must dictate Vikings' defense

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Bears' offense must dictate Vikings' defense

The Bears' offensive line has been a hot topic the past few seasons, as the offensive tackle performance continues to be scrutinized from year to year.
Bears fans have been given code words like "chip blocks" from running backs or tight ends to provide help for the offensive tackles to slow down fast defensive ends rushing the quarterback.
The truth of the matter is there is plenty an offense can do to slow down destructive fast forces on defense, but the Bears haven't been good at any of that the past few seasons. Pass protection is much improved under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, along with the practicality of game plans, but the offensive line needs to utilize more tools at their disposal.
The Mall of America in Minneapolis can get extremely loud. At one point during the late 90s, it was ranked as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL to play. How do teams like the Bears combat the noise this weekend? How will this plan slow down fast defensive linemen like Vikings' sack master Jared Allen?
Score first
It sounds clich, but the Bears have to get off to a fast start and score first. Fans become like a baby coming down from a sugar high when the opponent scores first in their house.
The top 15 offensive plays will be scripted and followed to the letter of the law. They will be "go plays"--plays that can be run regardless of defensive front--with not a lot of communication until crowd noise is calmed.
Mix up the snap count
After the crowd is subdued, there is no weapon greater to an offense to slow down a defensive pass rush than the snap count. Unfortunately for Tice, this year's group does not understand the concept.
The snap count is an asset utilized on offense so the defense cannot get a jump off the ball. Cutler only tells his team the snap count in the huddle, far from the opponent, but yet the Bears have been awful at working the snap count.
False starts have been horrific on first and second downs, setting the Bears up for failure on the third down. We've already written about the stats and the Bears are ranked worst in the league on first down production.
Comcast SportsNet's John 'Moon' Mullin talked to Tice, who said "manageable third downs are the key to the game" against the Vikings. Working the snap count alone can aid in correcting those statistics.
Cutler can go on a quick count, often catching a defense off guard when they are not set, or he can go on one, two or on three. Cutler can work the snap count by changing the inflection of his voice to draw the defense offsides.
Cutler can also work what is known as a double cadence to affect the defense, by allowing for a longer snap count to identify problem areas if they exist. The snap count is an offensive lineman's friend and a tremendous weapon by not allowing a defense to pin their ears back rushing. It stuns, slows, delays and frustrates them with penalties of their own, disrupting their game plan.
Go right at them
Tice utilized this method in the first matchup against the Vikings and would be wise to go to the well again until Minnesota stops it.
A very effective way to neutralize good players and slow them down is to run right at them, that way they are forced into a defensive position, fighting off blockers in their path. There are different looks with various blockers coming from all angles, but offensively you are running the same play.
Even a defensive end as good as Allen becomes mortal and confused, not knowing where the next block is coming from, thus slowing their game down while also sustaining physical abuse.
Motion and shifts
Different looks cause the defense to communicate and call audibles much like an offense does. They have to adjust, make calls, and change their defensive front or coverage, causing them to change their line of thinking during a play.
Motion and shifts can stun a defense much like the snap count, and if the defense is thinking, they're not playing fast. They don't have to be done all the time because shifts or motions can inhibit the ability to work the snap count due to play clock constraints, but work brilliantly for angle blocking in the 'go right at them' approach.
Motion and shifts are also a great way to apply the chip block help by a running back, tight end on defensive ends that were sorely missing under Mike Martz, but managed well under Tice.
If the Bears' offense wants a fighting chance in Minneapolis, they need to dictate the Vikings defense rather than placate and submit like the way they did against the San Francisco 49ers while on the road.
Sounds like a lot to handle with three new offensive linemen for the Bears at different positions, but it really isn't. All they have to do is listen to the play call in the huddle and the snap count, and execute their assignment. After all, it is what they're paid to do.

Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

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Dustin Johnson, Kevin Chappell tied for lead at Tour Championship

ATLANTA (AP) — Dustin Johnson had a reasonable lie in the rough and only a few pine tree branches blocking his path to the 17th green. Neither seemed like a problem until he played the wrong shot, clipped the tree and wound up with a double bogey Saturday in the Tour Championship.

It was an example of how one hole can change everything at East Lake.

And it's why the final round of the PGA Tour season suddenly has more scenarios than Johnson cares to consider.

Johnson recovered with a birdie from the bunker on the par-5 18th for a 1-under 69, giving him a share of the lead with Kevin Chappell (68) going into the last round that will determine who wins the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup.

For the first time since 2009, there's a chance it might not be the same player.

"There's a lot of scenarios that could happen," Johnson said. "But yeah, I'm still going to go out and try to shoot as low a score as possible."

Johnson only has to win or finish second alone to claim the $10 million bonus as the FedEx Cup champion.

Rory McIlroy, who has gone 28 holes without a bogey at East Lake, had three birdies over his last six holes for a 66 and was two shots behind. If he were to win the Tour Championship and Johnson finished in a two-way tie for second or worse, McIlroy would claim the FedEx Cup.

"It would just be great to try to win the Tour Championship, and if the chips fall my way, then so be it," McIlroy said.

The winner of the Tour Championship has won the FedEx Cup every year since 2009, when Phil Mickelson won the tournament and Tiger Woods won the FedEx Cup.

Johnson led by as many as four shots when he ran off three straight birdies on the front nine, and he really didn't do much wrong to give up the size of that lead. He had a three-putt from 70 feet on No. 13, and missed the fairway by a few feet on the next hole, enough that his ball was buried so deep that even Johnson and his power couldn't advance more than about 135 yards.

It was the 17th hole that reshaped the tournament.

Johnson tried to played a fade from a flyer lie in the rough, and the ball came out high and hit a branch, leaving him in more rough about 60 yards short of the green. He put that in the bunker, blasted out to 6 feet and missed the putt to make double bogey.

Chappell rolled in a 10-foot birdie putt for a three-shot swing on the hole and suddenly had the lead, only for Johnson to catch him with the final birdie.

They were at 8-under 202.

Chappell, a runner-up three times this season who has never won on the PGA Tour, has made only one bogey in 54 holes this week, a show of consistency, discipline and a few good breaks when he does miss the fairway.

His next chance at a breakthrough victory is to face golf's best player at the moment (Johnson), with McIlroy and Ryan Moore (66) two shots behind.

"I've always kind of been the underdog, so it's a role I'm comfortable in," Chappell said.

Moore went out in 31 until he was slowed by a pair of bogeys, though very much in the mix just two shots out of the lead. The mystery is whether anything he does on Sunday - even if that means a victory - is enough for Davis Love III to use his last captain's pick on Moore for the Ryder Cup.

"I came here this week to win a golf tournament, and I'm 100 percent focused on that," Moore said, adding that the Ryder Cup is "completely out of my control."

And that's how the last day is shaping up for everyone - post a score and see where it leads.

Johnson, for a moment, looked as though he might take all the drama out of the season-ender when he made a 15-foot par putt early in his round and then ran off three straight birdies on the front nine to go four shots clear.

The putter cooled off, however, and Chappell stayed in range.

Chappell chipped in on No. 12 to match birdies and stay three shots behind, and then he quickly closed the gap when Johnson made back-to-back bogeys, only to respond with a 4-iron over the water to a peninsula green on the par-3 15th to 15 feet for birdie.

The 17th hole changed everything.

"I thought about just trying to hit it in the front bunker, which I probably should have done - probably would have made 4 if I'd have done that," Johnson said. "But it is what it is. I came back and birdied the last hole, tied for the lead going into tomorrow. I like my position."

And he doesn't need a degree in math to figure out the easiest scenario - just win.

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