Chicago Sun-Times

Breaking down Lovie and the blitz

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Three games into the era of Lovie Smith as defensive coordinator, I took a look at the tendencies the team has had using the blitz thus far. ESPN.com put out some interesting numbers earlier in the week showing that the Bears were blitzing more than 47 percent of the time, second-most in the league.

Smith didn't want to talk about tendencies, but said he goes into the game each week with a plan in mind and then adjusts as the game unfolds. If you'll recall, he put the blame on himself for one blitz at Seattle last week. The Seahawks were facing third-and-19 from the Bears' 39-yard line, and Smith called the blitz. Seneca Wallace dumped a little screen pass into the flat to Julius Jones and he broke an arm tackle try by cornerback Charles Tillman along the sideline to scoot all the way to the end zone. The Bears rushed six on the play--linemen Adewale Ogunleye, Tommie Harris and Israel Idonije, linebackers Lance Briggs and Hunter Hillenmeyer and free safety Kevin Payne. Right end Mark Anderson dropped into coverage. There was minimal pressure but plenty of open space for Jones. With long odds for the Seahawks to pick up 19 yards, Smith probably wishes he would have been more conservative.

It's a zone pressure similar to what was diagrammed here at the National Football Post by Matt Bowen, who played safety in the league under Smith in St. Louis. One of the first blitzes Smith installed when he got to St. Louis was "Storm." Bowen does a great job of taking you through the X's and O's and explaining how and why the play works. He details the responsibilities in coverage.

According to Football Outsiders, only Washington and Dallas blitzed more than the Bears last season. The Football Outsiders Almanac broke down the frequency with which the Bears blitzed:

Five rushers--25 percent, 10th in NFL
Six rushers--14 percent, 4th in NFL
Seven rushers--5 percent, 1st in NFL

Michael David Smith at Fanhouse took a good look at the Bears' blitzing tendencies last season. He noted that they were more aggressive blitzing than the other teams most associated with the Tampa Two scheme in 2008:

Detroit 31.1 percent
Tampa Bay 21.5 percent
Indianapolis 11.4 percent (league low)

The Bears were forced to blitz last season because the front four was not getting to the quarterback. Three games doesn't provide much in the way of a sample size, but so far the linemen are getting decent pressure. Maybe it points to the fact that Smith is simply being more aggressive. It's an easy thing to call a coordinator. Think about it for a minute. When a team changes defensive bosses, how often do you hear them say, "We're not going to be as aggressive?" The answer is you don't. Thus far, the Bears really are being more aggressive.

"I have no idea how often we're blitzing,'' defensive end Alex Brown said. "We run what coach calls. I don't decipher it, I just run it. Whatever he's doing, it seems to be working. I like it. Even in the game we lost, we played well. It's just about continually getting better.''

So keep an eye out for how often the Bears dial up the pressure against Detroit rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday.

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15 Comments

Good job on the xs and os Brad.

Schemes and scheming aside, the Bears gave up over 300 yards last week to a second string QB (albeit a good one) and mostly second string linemen. Not very inspiring. The defense definitely looks better this year than the past two, but I hope it doesn't start slipping. And good teams generally don't play down to their competition, so that's no excuse.

I really wonder just how significant all the plots and plans on defense actually are.There are so many intangibles in any given game that heavy adjustments are an ongoing and constant process. The more I watch the more I tend to think that the trenches are where the game outcome is really determined. For example, how often has Grady Jackson almost by himself stopped a running game? That he is doubtful for Sunday's game is a plus for the Bears. With the Packers he was a rock, rather a boulder, that closed up half the running game.His absence or presence alone could determine how well Forte performs.The Bears' front four on defense will make all the other defensive players'jobs much easier or close to impossible.

Brad how come Lovie does not think brining 5 is a blitz? He calls it a dog not a blitz and so do most of the players. I can only assume they mean red dogging and thats the same as a blitzing.

It's intresting that Rod and Lovie blitzed the most out the same scheme last year but that Dungy and Kiffin blitzed the least. Both Tampa and Indy rating as better defenses.

The Bears D-Line has yet to face a real test IMO, GB's line is a joke and you can run over the right side and so is PIT's. SEA was missing 3 starters on their line. Like Brad said they played decent, but decent against 3 bad lines is not very good. After the bye they face Atlanta who has a very good line. Let me know how the D-Line does after that game.

Lovie does not blitz unless he has too, and he has to blitz in order to mantain pressure. Which means the front 4 is not doing its job in this scheme. If the Bears D-Line can't beat the MIN O-Line then they can't win this division, cause the Bears O-Line is not going to win you any games against good teams. Eventually it will get cold and the Bears will have to run the ball at some point. 9 and 7 will not get you in. The Bears will need at least 10 wins for the playoffs probably 11.

Nick Roach looked impressive when he blitzed from his mike linebacker position sunday, this could be a strength to Roach's game? We'll find out the more he plays the mike position I guess.

The blitz Smith called on 3rd and 19 on the Bears' 39 yard line sunday should have worked, the problem was Tillman went for the strip when he should have been going for the tackle.

I realize the blitz diagrammed above [the zone blitz] keeps the free safety back in coverage. But I've always liked free safety Danieal Mannings abiltiy as a blitzer. Smith should dial up more blitzes that send the free safety [Manning] in. With his speed, ol D-man can get there in a hurry. Should be an interesting one sunday, but by no means an easy one. Detroit will give the Bears a run, but Chicago should win, can't wait to find out GO BEARS!!

This is good food for thought. To me the question is not how often the Bears blitz. It's why they blitz.

My impression has been that the have been blitzing within the scope of the game. By that I mean that the defensive call is the one Lovie thinks has the best chance at auccess in the given situation. They blitz becuae they think it will work.

That's Ok. What you don't want is to see them blitz out of desparation, where the blitz is the ONLY chance they have to succeed and if it doesn't work they lose. I haven't seen that at all.

Are you kidding? Of course we're going to blitz the hell out of the rookie QB! We're going to try to demoralize him in Chicago, and maybe he'll carry that over to when we meet him in Detroit.

The blitzing pressure caused three sacks and the interception by Briggs, and flushed Wallace out of the pocket all day. He's a fleet-footed QB, so sliding out of the pocket and making plays is his strength, but it still stopped him from planting his feet and going long. We couldn't stop Burleson who had 9 catches for 109, but aside from the Jones screen play (which Hillenmeyer also missed the tackle on), most of the pass completions were medium to short range, thanks to the pressure.

I think the D-line play has improved, but not to the point where the front 4 alone can cause constant pressure. So I like the aggressive blitzing. Wrigley Field Bear points out that the Seahawks gained over 300 yards, and I'd like to add that they needed 75 offensive plays to gain it, Wallace is not your garden variety backup (has starting experience and could be a starter for a few teams), and I'm more worried that Jones gained close to 100 yards rushing on just 19 carries.

Blitz Bears!

Even though it seems like the line is getting fair pressure, this much blitzing points to the coaches seeing deficiencies somewhere in the defense.

My guess is that the line, and possibly the CBs look worse on film breakdowns than they appear to be playing in games. Just a guess, but there are easier schemes to blitz from than the Cover 2, and if it was just a philosophy evolution, we'd probably be playing a different defense.

Brad, how can you say the d-line is getting better pressure than last year and that we're just blitzing to be more aggressive? This team is blitzing because the front four can't get it done; just like last year. It just doesn't make sense to say that Biggs-

Unless...

Unless someone is making you write that stuff Biggs. Like a crazed Bears fan who believes this is the best defensive line since the 2002 Buccaneers. Someone who can't admit the d-line isn't playing up to par and needs the blitzing game to help it get pressure on the QB...

The nutcase must have broken into the Sun-Times corporate office and hunted you down Biggs. What's he doing to you? Is he forcing you to write these things with a jacknife to your throat? A gun to your head?

For the respect of my fellow Bears fans on this post, I won't drop any names. But I will leave you all with this subtle hint:

http://www.amw.com/fugitives/brief.cfm?id=54076

Everyone thinks he's such a nice guy. But he doesn't have me fooled!

All week I've been reading lazy "couldn't stop a back-up QB" storylines and I'm sick of it. Wallace was extremely elusive. The Bears got a ton of pressure on him. They got a couple of sacks. They got a forced INT and should have had a second since he threw up another gift that TJ ended up coming down with. Plus Mora called short drops and quick throws for him the whole game and he was still running for his life most of the game. Give Wallace his due. He's a very capable back up. He avoided pressure like, honestly almost Vick-like but with the ability to make some throws. Wallace was the reason the Seattle did so well, not an excuse for those looking to trash the D. If it were Hasselbeck in that game, he would have been pulverized.

Stafford's not nearly as mobile. This will be some show by the Bears pass rush I believe.

Oh, and as much as I've been disappointed in Harris, he has been improving over 3 games, not only quality, but quantity, staying in for more downs.

Still, all in all, I am concerned the pressure is overdependent on the blitz, leading to exposing the secondary. I am looking forward to just the front four being able to accomplish more on their own. We'll see.

I have to agree with MOMO. Also, the need for pressure comes from the fact that teams are doing exactly what we are doing: Using a 5 step drop and settling for short yardage in hopes of breaking a long one after a missed tackle. LBs in that case are practically useless because the passes are dropping between them and the DBs. Might as well rush them and get more one-on-ones and kill their QB. Or at least keep him from setting and going long. Not many of them will have the quick release that our QB has so they won't be as successful as we've been the past 2 games. Wow, who would imagine that a real killer would have the same name us one of our bloggers? What a great set-up to expose that. Too bad someone was really killed so that takes the funny out of it.

""The blitz Smith called on 3rd and 19 on the Bears' 39 yard line sunday should have worked, the problem was Tillman went for the strip when he should have been going for the tackle.""


The other problem was that Hunter Hillenmeyer missed and open field tackle on Jones as well... Hunter failed to bring Jones down on the sideline and when Jones broke free Tillman wiffed on the strip attempt... Two Bad plays by two Bear defenders allowed Jones to scamper into the end zone.

I don't blame the blitz call at all. The fact is that we had two players in position to stop the play from getting a FD much less a score and both players blew it. Poor execution, not a poor play call.


Go Bears !!

Ditka (hard to say Coach after this statment) said that Favre has done the most for his team this year in the NFC North! Couldnt believe my ears!!! I would def. say Cutler cause of the game winning drives. anyone think I am wrong? The last second throw TD by Favre was a fluke, now I like Favre but lets be for real, AP is the man and Forte has done little, Cutler won with precision drives Favre won with a fluke throw, yes the throw was there but it was not an engineered drive to win the game, Cutler is the reason we won. Can not say that about Favre. Ditka should rethink that statement. Sounds like an ESPN $$$ statement. Am I P.O.'d???
fk.. aye!

Brad, how about a story on that? Sounds like alot of controversy there!

I am with MOMO as well,
but alright, if the line is not working, and that is a given (by others not by me) then what do you do? You frkn blitz! So what is your problem? The question then would be, Are we getting there? I would say yes on percentages. So again what is your problem? or would you rather we just sit the entire D line down?
But me? I feel the Dline has improved with Rod, Harris is looking better every game (as he said he would) He is not there yet, and maybe never will be but he is improving, rewatch games from last year, and see for yourself if the Dline has improved.
I have no problem with blitzing if it works. I could care less unless it does not work, cause then we get the snot kicked out of us. In a perfect world we never blitz but this D has not been perfect since 2006.
We blitz, I love it. What will happen in the future? I have no idea and no one else does either. so.....BLITZ!! and blitz hard!!
Pressure on the QB is the key to every game ever. Why did the 85 Bears win so much? ever take a look at that QB after the game? Those guys were scared the p out of their pants literally. What did the 85 D linebackers do? Different scheme? doesnt matter, 3-4 down linemen will not get to that QB on a regular basis, aint gonna happen in today's game, (in my opinion) so blitz. please blitz

I agree with Kevin we should send Manning more, we are sending Briggs more - we should mix that up with Manning.
Blitzing Bears!!

Coach Lovie Smith might be in charge of the defense, but he's in tune with what's happening along the offensive line. He's not pushing for change.

''Offense has given us a big drive at the end of every game,'' he said. ''We say a lot about the receivers and the quarterback, but in order for that to happen, the line has to be doing some good things. We're making progress each week. The line is as much a part of that as anything.''

This is what I was talking about on Cutler being the most for his team.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on October 3, 2009 8:34 AM.

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