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.