Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Jan. 13: Why does Orton struggle in the second half?

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We're getting a late start on dipping into our mailbag today. The Jon Hoke hiring and Lovie Smith teleconference tied us up for the majority of the day. Typically, we want to get to the Q&A's a little earlier.

But before we do that, there are a couple links that are worth checking out in regards to the East-West Shrine Game, where Bears general manager Jerry Angelo and the scouting staff are for the week.

This gives a nice primer to set the week up down in Houston.

Here's a practice report that gives props to Jason Williams, the Chicago linebacker who had a fine career at Western Illinois. It's good stuff to get you in a combine and draft frame of mind.

Now to Four Down Territory.

Q: It seems that most every game season, Kyle Orton's QB rating was significantly lower in the second half of the game. I was wondering if you could provide a statistical breakdown. I'd also like to hear your thoughts on the reasoning behind the statistics. Is it a failure by the coaching staff to adjust at the half?
Bill S., Oneida, Ill.

A: Great question, Bill. First, let's get to some numbers I've collected to take a look at this:

1st quarter--116.1 passer rating, 70.5 completion percentage, 6 TD, 0 INT
2nd quarter--76.2 passer rating, 56.3 completion percentage, 5 TD, 3 INT
3rd quarter--66.5 passer rating, 52.7 completion percentage, 5 TD, 5 INT
4th quarter--65.7 passer rating, 57.1 completion percentage, 2 TD, 4 INT

There is no question that Orton did not perform as well in the second halves of games as he did in the first halves. What's interesting is that the Bears scored 109 points in the first quarter in 2008, a franchise record that was second in the league behind only Atlanta (114). The previous club record was 91 in 1984. Whatever gameplan coordinator Ron Turner had from the get-go usually worked.

Why and how Orton was less successful as the game went on, I'd imagine Turner and his staff are trying to figure that out this offseason. Certainly adjustments are involved. The defense makes a move to counter what is working for you and you have to react off of that. It could also be a sign of the lack of weapons Orton had at his disposal. When an opponent can stop the one or two things that are working for you, where do you turn then? I'm not sure Orton had valid third and fourth options.

It's interesting to note that Orton did post terrific numbers in the final two minutes of each half. In those settings, he was 34-for-56 for 340 yards with a 101.8 rating. He threw four touchdowns. So, whatever they tried just before halftime or late in a game generally worked.

To me, the bigger concern though is the difference between pre-ankle injury and post-ankle injury. His numbers were dramatically different after his right ankle was injured Nov. 2 vs. Detroit and although never 100 percent before the season ended, he just didn't recapture the success he had early in the year.

Passer rating by month


Q: Jerry Angelo stated you do not win games with your wide receivers, but if you look at Arizona you clearly do. The Bears receivers strike fear in no one. What is the chance that the team trades a player/draft pick for a seasoned veteran receiver and if not do you think the Bears will pursue T.J. Houshmandzadeh in the free-agent market? I believe Devin Hester will thrive with a consistent veteran opposite him in the lineup. Also, why is wide receivers coach Darryl Drake still at Halas Hall?

Tom K., Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

A: Tom, I see your point and I very much agree that Hester would benefit from a more experienced, reliable target across from him, the kind of player that would command attention from the defense. But let's take a look at what made the Arizona Cardinals click. They had three 1,000-yard receivers this season because they got a terrific season from quarterback Kurt Warner, one that made him a serious MVP candidate. Take him away from that lineup, insert former first-round draft pick Matt Leinart and you would have had a much different season in the Valley of the Sun.

The reason the Cardinals have made an unexpected run to the NFC Championship Game is because they've finally struck a balance on offense. Play caller Todd Haley, the former Bears' wide receivers coach, has committed to a ground game with Edgerrin James and Tim Hightower and the Cardinals have evened out their play calling, which was the most pass-happy in the league this season. They've also started playing much better defense at just the right time.

As far as Houshmandzadeh, it's too early to rule anything out. But Houshmandzadeh is a veteran possession receiver and the last time the Bears made a big move in free agency to bring one of those guys in, well, it didn't work out quite as planned. It's a thin free-agent class and someone will no doubt overpay for his services.

As far as Drake goes, we talked to Hines Ward in Pittsburgh about Drake and he put together compelling support for the position coach which he based on the quarterback play the Bears have been through. It's not like Drake has been outfitted with top draft picks or given a big free agent with the exception of Muhsin Muhammad. That's not to say the production level of the position has been acceptable, but Drake is well liked by his players and some he has coached have gone on to success elsewhere.

Q: I thought the purpose of the Assistant Head Coach title was to prevent position coaches that were in line for coordinator positions from leaving. Why would the Bears call Rod Marinelli an Assistant Head Coach? He doesn't want to be a coordinator. Is it because the Bears don't have a position coach in line to be a coordinator, or because Bob Babich and Ron Turner won't be going anywhere?

Jay, Schaumburg

A: Marinelli held the title of assistant head coach and defensive line coach for the final four of his 10 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's one way to give an assistant a little more juice and a little more pay, and Lovie Smith said today that Marinelli would be assisting him in some of the duties of the head coach. It strikes me as a way to justify a bigger contract and pay respect to his previous experience. Giving Marinelli the title doesn't have anything to do with Babich, Turner or another assistant, and such a title isn't going to be used by Smith to block someone from interviewing for a coordinator job. Smith has been very forthright in saying he believes in doing what he can to promote his assistants who have opportunities for advancement elsewhere.

Q: Why didn't the Bears draft Joe Flacco last year? It would have solved a lot of problems.

Fan 55, Parts Unknown

A: The Bears are not the only franchise that question applies to, are they? Just think, Kansas City had two chances to nab Flacco holding the fifth and 15th picks and he went 18th overall to Baltimore. It's interesting because I exchanged a series of e-mails with Flacco's agent Joe Linta about his client last year. I wrote that Flacco would be a third-round pick and Linta challenged that he would be a first-round pick. Well, Linta was on the money.

Drafting quarterbacks is a tricky business and Flacco wasn't the easiest player to project because he played at I-AA Delaware after transferring from Pittsburgh. He's displayed tons of moxie, is more athletic than anyone thought he would be and has a great arm. It just goes to show you how tricky this evaluation business. I remember talking to a quarterbacks coach from another team the day QB's worked out at the combine. He walked out of the RCA Dome talking about hos awful the passers had been and said he didn't like anything about Flacco. See what I mean?

The Bears felt they had to get a left tackle for the future to be a building block for the future of the offense. The jury remains out on Chris Williams and whether or not he can fill that role.

Thanks for the questions. Start shooting them in on the blog right here and we'll get back to four more on Wednesday. As always, thanks for reading.

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Happy New Year, Brad. Keep up the great coverage. With Taylor Mays deciding to return to USC, the already shallow talent pool at safety may have just emptied out. Next to a pass rusher, which I think the Bears can address in Round 1, don't you think Free Safety is a huge need on this defense? Do you think the Bears will look to shore it up in Free Agency? Players like OJ Atogwe or Jermaine Phillips would make a lot of sense for a porous last line of defense.

I'm curious as to how the other top rookie tackles did this past year. I know Clady, Albert, and Otah all started most or all of the season, but how did they perform? Can that be any kind of small indicator as to what we can expect from Williams?

Brad I think I can answer your question about Orton and why he performs better in the first half, spacifically the first quarter and the end of the second and fourth quarters he is also usually better.

Turner does what Bill Walsh and a lot of coaches also do. They script the first 15 or so plays and they script the hurry up. So begining of the first quarter good, end of second quarter(hurry up good) end of fourth quarter(hurry up)good. Orton gets into trouble when he audibles and free lances. As for why he was good in October he had a monster game against Detroit, a very good game against Atlanta and there 25th ranked defense, and he had a good game against the Vikings who played a very sloppy game that day and Madieu Williams was out, plus only three games in October, so less chance to thin out your stats.

Brad I wondering if you could answer a real question for me about the Oline. I know St. Clair finished the season with 9.5 sacks allowed which was good enough to make him 30th amoung LT starters this year in sacks allowed. You posted something about it about a week ago I think. Anyway I thought you said you were going to get to the rest of the line. Maybe not, if you didn't my bad, but it would be real cool if you did. I would like to see were the guys finished the season myself, plus any info on the line would be real real cool, like how is Williams back and whats the word on Tait and Buenning if the Bears are maybe interested in bolstering the line. Basically any info on the Tampa Bay Bears line would be cool.

If you do it I will only write short posts for two weeks.

Do you know why Kyle was so successful in the final 2 minutes of each half? The two-minute drill. He was calling his own plays, just like Griese last year when he screwed up and said he was calling his own plays.

Just sayin.

Brad I wanted to throw out a tid-bit that doesn't account at all for the whole story of why Kyle struggles as the game goes on, but may shed a little light on part of the culprit. In the games where Kyle comes out hot Coach Turner allows Kyle to open it up bit and really at times gives us fan's the impression that this "can" be a pretty solid offense. But then as the game progresses, especially if we get up on a team early on, we begin to play not to lose and the amount of opportunities for Kyle to make big plays dwindles with this style. It put's pressure back on the struggling defense to hold these 3-7 point leads over the course of a second half, almost like a bull ride where it's hang on for dear life. It's interesting that this week Brendan Ayanbadejo came out and said the things he did about the team being unpassionate at times and Lovie being a more hands off coach. This is what typifies the type of "lack of killer instinct" that Coach Smith embodies and I believe a lot of our problems stem from this. I am not saying I dislike Lovie or think he isn't a good coach because he is, but it is getting old fast seing this layed back attitude where we allow the other team to dictate the play, and THEN we play reactionally to that. This has got to stop and until it does we will see fragments of that throughout the play of the entire team. I do believe that Coaches Marinelli and Hoke are steps in the right direction since both are "teacher's" who have passion and seem to envoke that in their players. Hopefully some of this rubs off on Lovie. GO BEARS!!

I think the main reason for Ortons dropoff was we never were able to establish a dominant run game in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. We get off to a great start then drag for 2 quarters and then have a strong finish.That middle period is where the good teams who have the lead are able to hand the ball off and run the clock which then ops nup the playaction. The bears never were able to establish the run which killed the playaction and left them predictable especially with no legit outside threats.When you know that only Forte,Olsen, and Clark are the only ones who will touch the ball inside of 20 yards its screams predictable.

I have seen a couple of suggestions that Charles Tillman could be moved to Free Safety and that Brian Urlacher could moved to the SAM linebacker. If those moves were viable it would appear to offer a few more interesting options in the draft (like Vontae Davis or one of the three "stud" middle linebackers that may still be available at the 18th pick). Are these suggestions realistic?

What is the worse problem with the Bears and their quarterbacks? Is it finding (scouting) the right talent and than drafting the right player when available, or is it more a problem of teaching and developing players on the roster? Given that none of the numerous QBs in the last 15+ years had success elsewhere (besides probably Jim Harbaugh in Indianapolis), it might point to the first, but I am not sure the Bears would be able to develope a talent like Flacco, Romo or Ryan.

Orton ankle not being at 100%! EXCUSES!!

Answer: Not a Starter; good backup

Note: Vikings game (3 INTS in 7 ATTEMPTS)NFL record?

With rumors surfacing that Herm Edwards will be canned in KC, do you think there's room for another Lovie friend on the Chicago Bears staff?


A question i have not seen addressed....When the DB coach was fired last week there was an implication in the ST article that the players didn't think the changes went far enough. Sounded like the implication was that Lovie has or is losing the players. Is the recent shuffling and hiring of Marinelli an attempt to win them back? In particular, is Sapp working with Harris a sign that Tommie is a head case and needs to really get kicked in the rear?

Finally, it looked to me that nar the end of the year, Lovie took over the D anyway. He went from holding a litlle 3x5 card to holding a larger sheet like other involved coaches. What do you think?

Here's what I've seen over the past several seasons. We come out in the second half and play like crap. That's on the coaches. The other team adjusts and we don't... can't. That is what is contributing to any drop-off in QB stats.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on January 13, 2009 9:36 PM.

New DB coach Hoke has been to Lovie's office before was the previous entry in this blog.

A whole lot of Lovie: Smith explains coaching shakeup is the next entry in this blog.

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