Chicago Sun-Times

Anatomy of a bad day of pass defense

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For all the hoopla surrounding the Bears' struggles defending the pass lately, especially Sunday against Tennessee, we went back and took a look at the tape of Kerry Collins' 42 drop backs.

A central complaint of defensive linemen, tired of hearing they are not generating enough pressure on the passer, has been that they're pretty much helpless against an onslaught of three-step drops. Well, we found nine by Collins from under center. We broke the pass plays down into five categories, first giving plays in the shotgun their own category. Then, we charted three-step drops from under center, five-step drops from under center, seven-step drops from under center and finally the play-fake rollouts Collins did, which seemed to warrant their own category.

We're not going to pretend to be able to diagnose with certainty what call the Bears were in on every down, so we will not try. But here's what we came up with when tabulating the results:

Kerry Collins vs. Bears

42 drop backs
41 passes
1 sack

30-for-41, 289 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack, 108.7 passer rating


Shotgun formation

14 plays: 10-of-14 passing, 93 yards

Under center

3-step drop: 6-of-8 passing, 45 yards, 1 TD, 1 sack

5-step drop: 8-of-11 passing, 75 yards, 1 TD

7-step drop: 3-of-5 passing, 49 yards

Play-fake bootleg: 3-of-3 passing, 27 yards


Kerry Collins vs. the nickel: 12-of-16, 108 yards

Kerry Collins vs. pressure: 9-of-14, 96 yards. The Bears didn't blitz a ton. There were a handful of plays where MLB Brian Urlacher rushed when his man, the running back, stayed in to block. Those were counted as pressures even though the late start didn't give Urlacher much of a chance to get in the backfield and make a play. It's one of the areas we would expect the Bears to take a look at this week. He's being marginalized when he's used that way.

So, draw your own conclusions on whether or not there were too many three-step drops for the Bears to get heat on Collins. The Titans have what is regarded to be one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Here also are some comments from Lovie Smith's press conference Monday:

Q: IS ONE OF THE PROBLEMS WITH THE PASS RUSH THE NUMBER OF THREE-STEP DROPS YOU FACE?

LOVIE: Well, they're not three-step dropping every time. They are throwing it quick sometimes, but this is a typical game. You have some three-step drops, you have some play-action and you'll have some regular drop-back passes. Sometimes the defensive line will have time to get there, sometimes they won't. But it's not just the defensive line, it's not just the linebackers and it's not just the secondary. It's a combination of all. You go through spells like this sometimes where teams can pass the ball a little bit more on you. You go through spells where teams will be able to run the football a little bit more than you'd like, but you just stay the course and things will be OK.

Q: HOW BIG OF AN ISSUE IS DEFENDING THE QUICK SLANT PASSES YOU'VE FACED?

LOVIE: The slant. I've heard a lot about this slant. Every team deals with slants. Look at every game yesterday, you're going to see a team dealing with slants. Slants normally don't beat you. From time to time they'll frustrate you a little bit. But let me get back to the change-up. We change up always. We do it all, so it's just not a question of changing up and all problems are solved. Even with changing it up, you still have to get in position to make a play and make it from time to time.

Q: ARE EXPECTATIONS GREATER FOR HIGHLY PAID DEFENSIVE PLAYERS?

LOVIE: We expect a lot of all of our players on the football field whether you're a Pro Bowler or not. If you're out there, there's a high standard that we have and that's why we're talking a lot about our defensive play, because we have a high standard. Our players know that, but we're not checking their salary or anything like that. It's just that at every position there's a certain amount of play, a certain type of play, that you expect -- [that] we expect. We'll keep working on it until we get it right.

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18 Comments


I'm find it strange that all of the players, all of the assistants, the coordinator, and the head coach can't even diagnose why they can't defend the pass. I mean seriously, these guys are at the top level of football. They really can't break down game tape and see how it is they are getting beaten? Does anyone else find this troubling?

Lovie's quote "stay the course and things will be OK"... are you kidding me? So this head coach in the NFL, this defensive specialist, he is just sitting keeping his fingers crossed on game day hoping things magically fix themselves? What?

MAYBE SOMEONE COULD TELL LOVIE AND BOB THAT DEFENDING THE SLANT AND THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD IS PRETTY BASIC. BUT THIS COACHING STAFF HAS YET TO FIGURE THAT OUT. I WONDER WHY OTHER TEAMS FIGURE IT OUT AND THE BEARS CAN'T. MUST BE THE PLAYERS' FAULT. YEAH, RIGHT.

(THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE).Lovie needs to let his CBs play the inside instead of the outside all the time.As far as people talking about scheme changes (NO),the Cover-2 defense is what took us to the Super Bowl and what made the Bears,Tampa Bay and The Colt a Good Defense for a years.Besides if our Cbs cant cover playing Zone what the F*#% makes u think they can change the scheme and play more Man Coverage.

It seems like it didn't matter if it was a 3 step or a 7 step, Collins simply had the Bears number sunday, although it is interesting that the lone sack came on a 3 step drop. I love my Bears, and I can sit here and make up excuses all day that the Bears went in with the sole intent to stop Chris Johnson, but this lack of a pass rush has been a problem all season. Chicago needs to solve this problem. But with that being said, the lack of a pass rush would probably not even be an issue had the Bears won. Heck, the defense would have probably been celebrated rather than scrutinized for stoping the Titans running game. Sundays games was a lot like the Falcons games this season, Chicago stoped Turner the burner, much like they did Johnson, but in the process, got torched by the opposing teams QB. Hopefully Lovie Smith can come up with an answer to the lack of a pass rush. GO BEARS!!

That the defensive line is unable to get pressure on the quarterback is clearly a major reason for the opposing quarterback's success. I think the defense too often quits too soon in their rushes. I watch other teams whose defensive rushers never let up, but the Bears seem to quit if they do not initially break free. How many times have we seen the opposing Quarterback stand there and stand there waiting until a receiver breaks free? there's no excuse for allowing that much time. Last night's game was another example. Warner had so much time almost any quarterback could have done as well. The few times he was pressured,he was unable to throw completions. On the other hand, pressuring the Forty-niners' quareterback led to the interceptions and their loss.

Go Bears this weekend.

The Good:
1. Orton
2. Forte
3. Receivers and TE's
4. The O-line in terms of scheming and intelligence
5. The run Defense
6. Kevin Payne and Lance Briggs

The Bad:
1. Pass Defense
2. Babich
3. Ron Turner ( for not going to a "no-huddle" offense earlier than the 4th. It clearly worked to change the tide. Stupid to wait till you are down 2 scores to bring it out.)
4. Tommie Harris, Hillenmeyer, and Nate Vasher
5. The O-line in terms of getting physically dominated one on one

The Bottom Line:
1. The O-line cannot get fixed this year, but they can get by.
2. Orton and Forte are good enough to make the offense good
3. They have 4 losses
4. But those losses came by a total of 15 points.
5. They have not beaten a team with a current winning record sans Minnesota. The 4 teams are a combined 28-8.
6. But they haven't lost to a team with a current losing record.
7. The clear weakness is pass defense (more specifically 3rd and long, and scheme, and pass rush).
8. The clear strength is run defense.
9. Special Teams took a step back this year.

Based on this, they are a 9-7 team. Just barely above .500. Could they go 9-7 and win the division? Yea, but they would probably have to win 2 of the 3 remaining division games to do it. So this is a critical game this weekend. No doubt.

But the Packers are a middle of the pack team too. They have weaknesses. Their run defense is weak, and their run offense is weak. Their strengths are pass D and O. They have strong special teams.

The Bears have a strong run D, Strong offense both ways. So both teams will have a lot of their strengths going up against the other team's weaknesses. But the Bears pass O will go against a strong GB pass D. This will determine the game.

Bear's running game will force 8 in the box, and Orton can beat them.

All bets are off if Grossman plays. Probably a loss then.

I see a lot of pessimism, and some optimism. I agree that the Bears have obvious weaknesses and flaws, but so do the other tow 2 teams they are competing with.

Go Bears!

Well written post, absolutely brilliant. It exposes the central complaint of the Bears D linemen that they can't get to the QB because of the three step drops as bunk. So what is it then? Why can't this highly paid and very talented group of defenders create any discernible pressure on the QB? My guess is that it's not just the scheme but when certain calls are made. That alone has cost us at least two wins--Tampa and Atlanta--and possibly one other (Tennessee). Yes, we shut down the run very well but if we're still getting burned in the passing game then we're just not calling the right plays.

Can you say overated!!!!!!!! Tommie Harris is not the real deal. To compare him to Warren Sapp is a disgrace!!! No pass rush up front from day one!!! Idonije has been the most valuable.....wait is that a Mark ANderson sighting? No its just Lovie.

"Stay the course." -Lovie Smith, George W. Bush

Well that proves it. Great minds do think alike, no? Does Lovie realize that opposing offenses led by names such as Ryan, Frerotte and Collins didn't just do a good job against our defense, they did a GREAT job passing against us. Like, season high great. So sure, stay the course. When Urlacher drops back into the safety's area and first down passes are easily made in front of him or this so-called "slant pass" gets an easy first why would you change anything?

Still I'm not sure if we can hold the defense's meltdowns on Boob Babich because as soon as he stops saying:
"AAAA-BSOLUTELY Lovie!" he'll be axed just like Chico.

Paul, I agree 100% on the defensive line's inability to generate a pass rush is the reason our pass D stinks. That's Lovie's philosophy and it's worked in the past but clearly it's not working now. Maybe it's the front four not playing up to par, or the offensive line using max protect. Oh well, let's not over think it. Stay the course!

I was listening to Mully and Hanley this morning and they started looking at our defense now versus in 2005 post-season. The idea being how did we get worse:

DTs Alfonso Boone, Ian Scott, Tank Johnson, Izzy Idonije vs. Tommie Harris, Dusty Dvoracek, Marcus Harrison, Izzy ... Advantage 2007
DEs Same
LBs Same or possibly Slight Advantage in 2007 with Nick Roach pushing Hunter Hillenmeyer
CBs Charles Tillman, Nate Vasher, Ricky Manning Jr. vs. Charles Tillman, Nate Vasher, Corey Graham ... Advantage 2007
Ss Daniael Manning, Chris Harris, Todd Johnson vs. Mike Brown, Kevin Payne, Daniael Manning ... Advantage 2007

OK, on paper we should be better so what else has changed?

We brought in Brick Haley as the d-line coach after the 2005 season ... and the d-line couldn't find their way to the QB with Dora the Explorer and her talking map.

Bob Babich took over as coordinator of the defense after 2005 ... our defense couldn't stop a 3rd-and-long if the opposing team told them their play.

Let's try this out Lovie, see if you can follow my logic: players = better ... coaches = different ... defense = suck ...

Babich and Haley (SHOULD EQUAL) unemployment line!

Hey Da Church - Now is 2008.

1. No pass rush + no ground rush = no rush to the playoffs.

If the bears cannot find a pass rush and cannot sustain a ground rush, they will not make the playoffs, If they do make the playoffs as they currently are playing, they will be ushered out of the playoffs quickly.

2. The bears can win with Grossman, but he has to play within his means. If Orton can do it and improve his game, so can Grossman.

3. The team’s deficiencies do not begin with the players it begins with the coaches. If the coaches cannot fix what is not working, how can the players correct their part of the "team's" deficiencies?

Please, enough about Rex! This guy has yet to have aonther team even ask about him! Even as the back up, which he says he has excepted, he stinks. The Bears problem is coaching! From the head coach on down. (except for Toub)

Sit Harris.

Start Idonije.

Blitz Urlacher and/or Payne.

Keep Roach/Hillenmeyer and Briggs back to counter slants.

Don't let Mark Anderson on the field (he's a Lovie Pet and all Lovie Pets -- Archuleta, Anderson, et al -- have been failures)

If Payne isn't blitzing but on the side a slant is thrown, he should be tasked with making the receiver pay for the catch. A couple of those and the receivers will start having alligator arms and the slants won't be as effective.

That's what Mike Brown used to do, but he seems out of position nowadays.

I cannot help but think that the pass rush was also affected by the fact that the defense was out on the field so much because the offense was sputtering so badly. Same thing happened against Carolina when we went 2.5 quarters with barely a first down. If the offense could be more consistent and stay on the field, the defense would get its needed rest, and that would help the pass rush a lot.

Ken --

Defense was on the field about 10 minutes less than the offense against Tampa. Didn't seem to help. Also, why is it that defenses get tired when on the field "too much," but offenses never do? Plus, most defenses constantly recycle their d-line so they are fresh (Bears play about 7 D-linemen per game), but the o-linemen play the entire game. Yet the o-linemen aren't the ones that look tired. Why's that?

In the early part of the season, our defense was out of shape and those games in warm weather didn't help (Carolina, Tampa). Now our "D" just looks confused and has become its own worst enemy on 3rd and long. They don't seem able to get off the field in those situations.

That's on them. Not our offense.

I've been a Bear's fan all my life no matter where I move I always loved the "monsters of the midway" who use to be able to be a place opponets feared to even play. I've read the comments here and although I concur with the concerns of the pass defense and excuses around time of possession Chicago Bear what has not been said is what we all witness. Chicago defense has always placed pride in terrorizing opponets. There is no fear in this defensive scheme because in it's own construction it allows faults. These faults were clearly identified in the Super Bowl by Peyton Manning who elected to go under the coverage to move the ball down the field and resulted in Ron Rivera's dismissal. Nothing has been done by the Bears coaching staff to correct this and letting go players that wind up excelling in other places is proof that it's not always the players. I think we can all agree that trading Chris Harris to Carolina for Adam Archulta was a mistake. What I'm not witnessing here is the ferocity to strip the ball first and make tackles make breaks on the balls for interceptions. The Bear's defense is like a lion without teeth eventually the prey of other teams. Most Bear fans dismissed this astute observation in the lackluster performace during preseaon and after the euphoria of the Colts win but back to true form it has come. Wheres the gang tackeling and the needed strips for turnovers. Chicago played in poor field position nearly the entire Tennesse game and the defense did nothing to alter that fact. This team use to be feared for special teams and defense and from what I've witnessed this year the two singular improvements have been Orton and Forte. I hate to say paycheck players but that's what it looks like has taken the field in Chicago why is no one else outrage that a rookie is leading the defense in tackling on a team aligned with pro bowlers. Why our take/giveaway ratio is not moving when we have faced Rookie Matt Ryan, Brian Geise, Jake Dahlome and Kerry Collins. I agree this is the NFL and on any given Sunday anyone can beat you but to be out played in this way is fustratingly asinine. I would put D Manning back in special teams with Hester to stoke his fire he had an awesome preseason. I'd replace Vasher with Corey Graham because of the height and the tackle percentage. I'd also replace Mike Brown with Craig Stelz he had a good game against the Titans but his pass play coverage is declining. I'd also quite slot playing Urlacher and Briggs so that they are not caught up in the fray of the pit and allowed to seek and kill. Just looking at things from Atlanta.

Joe...THANK YOU! I don't think anyone else has stated it like you have, but you're 100% right: Bears defense, aside from highly paid talent, would always have an attitude; would always have a reputation of ferocity; and would intimidate offenses that played against them. That mindset and reputation is gone and all signs point to Ron Rivera's departure, and Boob Babich's arrival.

The D has taken on Lovie's personality (or lack thereof) and have become apprehensive. How nice it would be to have Coach Singeltary or Coach Billick as the new Bears D coordinator. Alas, it will never be as long as Lovie is steering this ship through a hurricane and "staying he course."

*The above analysis is purely scientific.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on November 10, 2008 11:56 PM.

Briggs takes team lead in tackles was the previous entry in this blog.

Baldwin to jump start dormant pass rush? is the next entry in this blog.

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