Took a look at one play from each quarter of the game Sunday to examine what happened and the significance of the play.
Pittsburgh fourth-and-goal from the Bears' 1
The formation: Pittsburgh had three tight ends and two backs. The Bears were in their heavy package with five linemen, four linebackers--Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Nick Roach and Jamar Williams--cornerback Charles Tillman and free safety Danieal Manning.
The play: Ben Roethlisberger faked a handoff to running back Willie Parker, who was running left. Roethlisberger then bootlegged right with right guard Trai Essex pulling in front of him. There were just two receivers in the pattern, tight end Matt Spaeth dragging across the back of the end zone and running parallel to Roethlisberger, and tight end Heath Miller, who was lined up on the right side of the formation and just stopped after crossing the goalline. Spaeth, with Manning trailing him, was wide open for a touchdown pass.
The significance: Steelers coach Mike Tomlin gambled early, especially when considering Pittsburgh was 31st in the league last season on third- and fourth-and-1. While it appeared Manning was at fault, Williams was responsible for Spaeth off the line of scrimmage. He was supposed to take an inside route there but stayed to check tight end David Johnson, who had come in motion. Johnson never entered the pattern, and Tillman was there as Johnson was his responsibility.
Bears third-and-3 from the Steelers' 10
The formation: Jay Cutler was in shotgun formation with wide receivers Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox wide right. Devin Hester was lined up to the left and tight end Greg Olsen motioned left before the snap with Adrian Peterson as a single back. The Steelers were in nickel.
The play: Cutler looked left from the start with Hester running an inside route and Olsen running a corner route. The Steelers stayed back to protect the end zone and Peterson was open in the flat, catching a pass at the 10 before turning upfield. Cornerback Ike Taylor closed to make the tackle, but Peterson had enough momentum to reach the 6 and pick up the first down.
The significance: While CBS announcers Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were surprised Matt Forte was not on the field, the Bears showed confidence in going with the veteran Peterson. They have committed to not use Forte as much as last season when he led all backs in the league by being on the field for 84 percent of his team's snaps. Sometimes that means not being on the field near the goalline. In this case, Peterson did his job well.
It should be noted, because we didn't work it in elsewhere, that Olsen slipped in the end zone on the previous play when he was open behind Ryan Clark and would have had an easy touchdown. Olsen planted his left foot and just went down. This was before the rain began to fall on the fresh sod. The sod didn't look particularly good from the press box, didn't look real good when I just re-watched portions of the game on television, however it didn't look bad on the surface when I examined it after the game. We'll see what the players have to say about it in the coming days. The nice thing is the Bears have two weeks until they are back to face Detroit, so it should look more uniform then.
Pittsburgh first-and-10 from the Bears' 41
The formation: As is often the case, the Steelers were in a three-receiver package with Miller at tight end and Illinois product Rashard Mendenhall as a single back. The Bears were in their nickel defense.
The play: Left guard Chris Kemoeatu pulled through a hole on the right side while right tackle Willie Colon and right guard Trai Essex worked a combination block on defensive tackle Israel Idonije. Kemoeatu knocked out fast arriving strong safety Al Afalava and then Colon came off the double team to block middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. Mendenhall burst through the hole and the only thing that prevented him from a touchdown was a good angle by safety Kevin Payne, who shoved Mendenhall out of bounds at the 2.
The significance: Either Colon manhandled Hillenmeyer in wiping him out, or it was a holding penalty that was missed. Hillenmeyer complained to referee Scott Green to no avail. Does Brian Urlacher make the play? That's hard to say. When Colon gets his hands on a linebacker, he's going to win that battle most of the time whether he is holding or not, especially with a back passing at the same moment. Hillenmeyer was credited with four tackles and had a nice pass defense when he dropped in coverage, breaking up a pass Roethlisberger was trying to get over him to Santonio Holmes, who was open.
Bears third-and-four from the Steelers' 39
The formation: The Bears had three wide receivers with Hester and Bennett lined up left and Knox flanked to the right. Olsen motioned into the backfield as a fullback for Forte.
The play: Cutler faked a handoff to Forte, and Olsen went out into the left flat. Forte stayed in the backfield to block. Bennett ran a deeper route, and Hester turned around at five yards. Olsen had taken linebacker James Harrison with him. Linebacker James Farrior was originally following Bennett. Cornerback Ike Taylor slipped slightly when Hester cut off his route at the soft spot in the zone. Cutler made a low throw where it had to be and Hester cradled the ball for a first down.
The significance: Cutler and Hester knocked helmets together afterward in celebration. We've seen the quarterback and receiver on the wrong page, particularly in preseason. This was a play where Hester just needed to find the small window to get open and gain the necessary yardage and he did that. The quarterback and the receiver read the same thing, and it came with the offense not in field goal range and less than two minutes to play. What looked like a little dink and dunk play was important, and not just because it moved the chains. Cutler and Hester are growing together.