Chicago Bears

15 on 6: Bears Beat Themselves in Red Zone

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15 on 6: Bears Beat Themselves in Red Zone

Sunday, October 18th
Bears Let One Get Away

Literally, the Bears two years in a row let the Falcons get the best of them. They were not beaten physically, they were not out schemed offensively or defensively, they beat themselves with critical mistakes at key moments. They dominated all statistics, just not the one that matters.

Red Zone Efficiency

What did I last write in the Detroit Lions Blog? When you have an opportunity to score in the Red Zone, you have to make it count. The Bears failed in this area of the field and were only 25 in Red Zone efficiency. An interception, a fumble, and a crucial off sides penalty were the main reasons the score was not 28-21 and the Bears walk away with a 4-1 record.

It started rocky for Jay in the first half with two interceptions. I want to break down the first interception on the Bears opening drive as it directly affected the Bears ability to score. It could have been an easy completion and the Bears at minimum walk away with three points. The Bears team I was a part of called the play "772 Z Drive". The Flanker or called the "Z" (Devin Hester) runs a shallow cross or is driving across the field at five to seven yards depth. His responsibly is to run away from man coverage or hook up in zone coverage on the far hash while occupying the middle and weak linebackers. The tight end (Greg Olsen on this play) drives up the field 10 to 12 yards depth and runs an "in cut". If Devin influences the LB's and Greg beats the front side safety, he will get the ball as the number two receiver in the read. The running back (Matt Forte) checks protection to the strong side (TE side) for the SLB. If he does not come, he hooks up two yards up field and two yards outside the tight ends original alignment on the line of scrimmage. He is your number three.

The coverage was a zone, "quarters look", typically seen in the NFL in the Red Zone. The four defensive backs occupy a 14 of the field. It was 3rd and nine situation for the Bears and no one is designed to occupy the back side safety. In this case, it was Thomas Decoup of the Falcons. As a quarterback, you are trying to work this inside triangle between the flanker, tight end, and the running back. That is your progression. Jay thought he could squeeze it in to Devin, when if he simply moves on in his read, his number three receiver was wide open for a completion.

The old clich holds true. "Never beg a receiver to get open!" Jay has completed a throw like that to Devin many times in Denver versus the exact same coverage. But when windows to throw get tighter down in the Red Zone, if it is at all "harry", move on in your read. Especially, on the road and it's the opening drive. If the Bears walk away with three points, everyone is feeling pretty good and it silences the crowd early.

The last two points are what quarterbacking is all about. We forget Jay is still young in his quarterbacking career. We expect miracles because he is so talented. If he harnesses the mental part of the game and weighing the risks and rewards, he will truly be a multi time Pro Bowler. There is much to learn young Jedi. I believe Jay is up for the task.

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

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AP

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

It's been a while since Devin Hester electrified the city of Chicago with his touchdown returns, but we got flashbacks of that Saturday night.

Deonte Thompson took a page out of the book of arguably the best returner in NFL history by returning a 109-yard missed field goal to the house as the first half expired during the Bears' second preseason game in Arizona.

It gave the Bears a 17-7 lead, and even had John Fox going crazy on the sideline:

Deonte Thompson, you are ridiculous?

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

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USA Today Sports Images

Five Bears who can improve their stock Saturday night against Arizona

1. QB Mike Glennon

The Bears’ first team offense as a whole could be included under this subhead, whether it’s the offensive line creating holes for a running back (Jordan Howard won't play with a minor corneal abrasion) or the receivers creating more separation to get open. But the onus is on Glennon to be better than he was Thursday night and prove that 0.0 quarterback rating was the product of a small sample size and not a sign of more serious issues. On the other side of things, a bad game from Glennon only would lead to further questions about his ability to succeed as the Bears’ starting quarterback. 

“I mean, (this game is) bigger than the first but not as big as the third,” Glennon said. “I don’t really know how else to say it. Everything gets more amplified Week 1 to 2, 2 to 3 and then ultimately the season opener. Obviously I want to go out and play well but I don’t want to make too big a deal and put too much pressure on a preseason game.” 

2. WR Kevin White

Cameron Meredith can do a lot to help Glennon’s case, but the Bears have a good idea of what they have in the third-year receiver who’s been one of the more steady performers during training camp. Kevin White is in a different position, having not been targeted at all against the Denver Broncos and still needing to prove plenty going into his third year in the NFL. White’s growth this year may be slow, but he needs to show some signs of that growth during preseason games to build up some confidence for Sept. 10. 

“Anytime you go through some injuries, there’s a whole mental game that plays a part of it,” fellow wide receiver Victor Cruz (more on him in a bit) said. “Just talking to him – I think he’s over it. He understands those things are behind him. His confidence is back in his body with the things that he can do. You’re starting to see that out there on the football field. He’s really hitting another gear, catching these balls, going deep down the field and putting pressure on these defensive backs.”

3. WR Victor Cruz

It was a little jarring to see Cruz, a Super Bowl-winning former Pro Bowler, playing until the final snap of Thursday’s game — even if that had something to do with the Bears not having Daniel Braverman available and losing Rueben Randle and Joshua Bellamy to injuries during the game. But Cruz hasn’t seemed to significantly push Kendall Wright for the No. 1 slot receiver job over the last few weeks, and could find himself on the roster bubble by the end of the month. A good showing Saturday night could provide a nice boost to his chance of avoiding that bubble.  

“I've been impressed with him,” Fox said before the Bears’ first preseason game. “He's got a great feel for the game. Sometimes it might not be just how fast they are physically but how fast they play, and he seems to be that type of guy. He's still got plenty of gas in the tank and we're excited to have him.”

4. DE Jonathan Bullard

Bullard is the only player on this list who flashed last Thursday, with an impressive tackle for a loss probably the Bears’ second-best defensive play of the day behind Leonard Floyd’s first-play-of-the-game sack. He’s had a solid camp, too, showing some promising signs after struggling to show much of anything a year ago. For Bullard, Saturday night will be about keeping his arrow pointing up, perhaps to the point that he could start at defensive end opposite Akiem Hicks in Week 1. 

“He’s definitely stronger, faster,” Hicks said. “He was already explosive, right? He has picked up the game to a point where he can play within the scheme now and see things come and be able to predict the play in order to get a step on the guard or the tackle, whoever he’s playing against. Just the things that come with getting more reps.”

5. CB Kyle Fuller

No player may have a better opportunity Saturday night than Fuller, who should be in line to take first-team reps with Bryce Callahan out and Prince Amukamara missing practices this week with a strained hamstring. What Fuller does with this opportunity could be a major deciding factor of whether or not he’s part of the Bears’ 53-man roster — this coaching staff and front office didn’t draft him, and his fifth-year option for 2018 was declined in the spring. 

“It’s a new year,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said earlier this month when asked about Fuller. “We start evaluating guys by what you’ve seen on the field at this point.”