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.

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

Bears numbers don't indicate 3-13, yet still lie

In doing some post-season wrapping up of my Nerdy NFL Notebook as we begin turning the page to the 2017 season, part of it involves compiling where each team finished in big-picture team offensive and defensive categories: overall ranking (total yards), as well as team rushing and passing ranks on both sides of the ball.

So if the Bears wound up ranked 15th overall in total yards gained and allowed, they should've finished…oh, 8-8, right? It adds to the deception of some of the deeper issues that focus on a lack of playmakers, which tied into their inability to make plays when it matters most. In John Fox's 9-23 start, 18 of those games have been decided by six points or less. They've won just six of those games. 

Offensively, the Bears ranked higher in total offense than five playoff teams: Kansas City (20), Detroit (21), Miami (24), New York Giants (25) and Houston (29). They wound up 17th in rushing offense, better than four teams who advanced: Seattle (25), Green Bay (26), New York Giants (29) and Detroit (30). And their 14th-ranked passing offense ranked better than the Giants (17), Kansas City (19), Dallas (23), Miami (26), Houston (29).

On the other side of the ball, they'd be even better off before allowing 109 points over the final three losses. Their total defense ranked better than Detroit (18), Green Bay (22), Kansas City (24), Atlanta (25), Oakland (26) and Miami (29). After being gashed for 558 rushing yards the last three games, they fell to 27th in the NFL against the run (better than only 30th-ranked Miami). But the seventh-ranked pass defense, despite collecting a measly eight interceptions (among only 11 turnovers), was better than nine playoff teams: Miami (15), Pittsburgh (16), Kansas City (18), Detroit (19), the Giants (23), Oakland (24), Dallas (26), Atlanta (28) and Green Bay (31).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

What do all the hollow numbers indicate? A lack of complementary, opportunistic football, playmakers on both sides of the ball, a minus-20 turnover ratio, and a lack of quality and continuity at the quarterback position — to name a few. All of those playoff teams have more impact players (or kept more of their impact players healthy) than the Bears in 2016.

While some of the numbers aren't that bad to look at, and some even raise an eyebrow, there's still a deep climb from the most significant numbers: 3-13.

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

Bears' best rookies will have another learning curve

There's a sense of irony and, to a certain degree, concern about what changes the Bears' coaching staff has undergone.

Think of the best of Ryan Pace's 2016 rookie class: Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair, and Jordan Howard. They were brought along under the position group tutelage of outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt, offensive line coach Dave Magazu and running backs coach Stan Drayton. The latter was the first to depart, shortly after the season ended, to return to the collegiate ranks on Texas' new staff.

He's been replaced with former 49ers and Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins (also serving as that position coach in Detroit, Buffalo, Arizona and Kansas City). Howard certainly adapted to the NFL game well, more than anyone expected, as the NFL's second-leading rusher. One would think Drayton played a part in that.

Longtime John Fox assistant Magazu was also let go after the season despite the impressive move of second-round pick Whitehair to center the week of the season opener after Josh Sitton was signed following his release by Green Bay. Whitehair was sold as a "quick study" following his selection out of Kansas State, where he was a four-year starter at three different positions (but not center).

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Like Howard, he wound up making the All-Rookie team, but whether he remains in the middle of the line or not, he'll be getting his orders now from Jeremiah Washburn.

Rounding out the trio of All-Rookie selections was Floyd, who was brought along by Hurtt. He impressed Fox enough to be kept around from Marc Trestman's staff, and moved from defensive line to outside linebackers.

That's where he assisted Willie Young in morphing to a foreign role, yet still managing 14 sacks over the last two seasons. The Bears have yet to name a replacement for Hurtt, who's joined the Seahawks in taking over one of their strengths in recent years, the defensive line.

These three were already good, and the jewels of last year's draft. But if they're to grow and ascend into impact contributors if and when this team becomes a regular playoff contender, it'll come from new faces, new voices in their respective classrooms and position groups.