Chicago Sun-Times

Third downs still haunting Bears' D

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The Bears ranked 27th in the league in third-down defense last season, which made the ease with which the Raiders converted three third-and-long situations in the first half of Saturday night's 32-17 exhibition loss to the Raiders at Soldier Field more troubling.

A holding penalty and a false start against guard Robert Gallery put the Raiders in third-and-17 situation on the first drive of the game. Jason Campbell's 24-yard screen pass to Michael Bush gave Oakland a first down on what turned out to be a game-opening touchdown drive.

"There's no excuse, for allowing a team to get 17 yards --- or more than 17 yards --- on third down," linebacker Lance Briggs said.

Campbell converted on third-and-10 and third-and-9 later in the first half when the Bears had their front-line defenders on the field.

"When it's third-and-long like that you have to find a way to get off the field," defensive end Israel Idonije said. "Unfortunately, on a few plays we couldn't. I'm sure we'll clean that up."

The Raiders third-down conversion rate was 50 percent in the first half and 47 percent in the game. Their conversion rate last season was 41 percent.

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Third downs was a major problem area last season for Chicago on defense, as a fan, it was extremely frustrating to sit back and watch opposing teams systematically tear the Bears up, especially underneath. That was a major problem last season that does need to be fixed.

The hope is a player like Julius Peppers can give Chicago's defense that rush from the edge it didn't have last season, that would go a long way on third downs. If Peppers, along with Tommie Harris, can generate a good enough rush where a blitz isn't needed all the time, allowing the linebackers to drop back in coverage a lot more, this would take care of the underneath stuff that has really killed Chicago on third downs.

As far as the 24-yard screen pass, someone obviously blew an assignment. Offensive coordinators use screen passes to combat a good rush, the offensive linemen will allow the defenders to penetrate, drawing everyone forward, then the qb simply hits someone underneath, if the offensive line can sell it right, there ends up being a lot of green in front of the player who gets the ball. Thats what happened this weekend to Chicago, like Lance Briggs said, "there's no excuse." Again, this needs to be fixed, but thats what the pre-season is all about, fixing things like defending a screen.

The good is Chicago's front was obviously getting pressure when a guard like Robert Gallery, one of the leagues better interior linemen, gets a hold and a false start on the same drive. Chicago just needs to tweak a few things and hopefully this defense can get back on track GO BEARS!!

Kevin, I have news for you: the glass is not half full.

Good evening my dearest friends. I just got back from the library where I was busy tutoring less fortunate children in reading and spelling, my strongest subjects when I was back in school by the way. It truly warms the soul, helping the needy, and I can't imagine how someone could just sit around all day and blog about sports if you ask me.

Mr. Armstead, well said. I truly enjoy reading your posts. They are filled with such hope and optimism that only a true Bears fan like myself could wholly appreciate them. I too believe that the sloppy third down efforts could be cleaned up and that a true gem of a player like Mr. Julius Peppers will assist in that. It is only the pre-season so there is absolutely no reason to panic. There is plenty of talent on this team to make a serious post-season run. Let's just try and be positive for once my fellow Bears fans and give the likes of Mr. Angelo, whom I admire and respect, and Coach Smith the benefit of the doubt for just one season more. Such patience worked for the New York Giants and Coach Coughlin if I am not mistaken.

Now if you will excuse me, my wife and I are planning to assist in a food drive for the homeless. Blogging and playing Madden will only get you so far in life. I pity those who know no better.

Adieu my friends, adieu. Until next time and as always Go Bears!

The Bears are using the same crummy defensive scheme and play-calling they have the past few years (and before). It's been obvious for 3 years now that teams have the D and Lovie figured out. We'd have to have a Pro Bowl roster to improve upon last year with the same scheme and play-calling. Get ready for a long season of teams converting third and longs against the Bears.

Kevin it has been a problem for a few years not just last year.

I got a question for the Bear fans. Most of us watch in HD right? I know I do. Well something has been bothering me sense I watched the game so I rewatched it, which I normally don't do in the preseason. But something was bothering me. Now I tivo some games usually and I was watching them right before I went to watch the Bears game again. And that's when I saw it. The grass. Did anyone else notice how bad the Bears field already looked? I remember some of the Bears recievers slipping multiple times during game too. It is only August and the Field already looks bad? Is this a joke? Do they just not take care of the field?

You have an offense that is based on speed and making quick cuts, you also have defense that is based on speed and coming of the edge. The Martz offense has always been better on turf and the fact is so has the Bears defense. What is keeping them from maintaining the field in the offseason, go watch some of those other games and you will see how much better their playing surfaces are. We all know it's bad but bad in August?

Even GB has a nice field, a really nice field.

That was one of the first things I noticed watching the game last night (didn't get it until Sunday night on NFL network, and was not going to stay up 'til 1am to watch a preseason game). The field is already terrible. An offense predicated on precise route-running, and speed/pursuit on defense, and we have a surface that horses wouldn't run on...

This alone is going to cost us at least one game, if not more. It could cost us injuries as well. I didn't see precisely where Urlacher's calf strain happened, but it could have been exaggerated by the long grass and slippery surface.

The team needs to pony up the dough to make this surface playable, because to get the right traction on it, they need to wear really long-spiked cleats, and that is just begging for torn up knees, hips, and ankles.

This thing about third down is, in my opinion, the most important thing the Bears have to address. It was horrible last year and they can't win unless they fix it....period.

The cover 2 scheme that Lovie uses is built to get offenses into and then take advantage of third and long situations. They sit in a "bend but don't break" scheme on first and second down while they wait for the offense to make a mistake or somebody to make a play. Then they try to generate a take-away when the offense is in a hole.

Under Lovie Smith the Bears absolutely have to do two things to win consistently. One is, at the very least, get off the field when it's third and more than say 6 yards. The other is to get an early lead. Both of these things force teams to make aggresive plays down the field and open themselves up to negative plays and turnovers. The defensive scheme is completely built around that idea. If the defense can't rule the day on third and long, their goose is cooked, it's over and they are looking at a top ten draft pick next year.

Y'all have heard me complain before and it's not changed. Sending an NFL team worth over $1 billion out to play on that field is like sending the Thunderbirds out to do a show in a bunch of crop dusters with mis-matched paint jobs. 95% of Mississippi high schoolers play on better playing surfaces on Friday than the Chicago Bears do on Sunday.

Why is this problem perennial? As always, the finger points directly at Bears ownership. They are the only ones who can do anything to correct the problem, and they just don't do it. If they are not to blame, some journalist should get to the bottom of the problem and explain his findings.

Hello did you hear the news Creighton? Roach had minor knee surgery. Now I know what your responce will be..

Creighton: Nick Roach has never done anything in his career. He has always been a back up. What his knee is bad, it was bad enough that he was slow and could not tackle. I guess this is another one of Angelo great practice squad pick up thinking he was gonna be a pro-bowler. Nick Roach will never be the same he has bad knees.

No need to blog on that Creighton I did it for you:)

To Alternate Reality Creighton: I'm pleased that you're literate and can spell, however I'm fairly certain that no one reading this site cares to hear the rhetoric you've included about you and your socially conscious wife. We're not here to shower you with accolades because you've advertised your good-doings. In fact, we're here to discuss a lackluster defense that can't stop the third downs that it's scheme aims to create. If you stop an offense, better yet, push them back, then it creates a (supposed) difficult scenario for the opposing offense. I'm disheartened by what I've seen out of the Bears. Please, let's keep the praise-fishing to a medium and discuss how/what can be done to fix a thus far concerning preseason for the Bears defense.

Third down used to be a strength of the Bears before 2008 and 2009.

The safety play has been such a concern that the linebackers are dropping way too deep in coverage so the underbelly of the defense is open and then of course, the basics of tackling have been poor at best with this defense.

When it is imperative to stop a play to ensure 4th down and a punt it appears to me that the Bears defense is trying for the strip first and foremost, instead of wrapping up and tackling the receiver and or runner. It should be the 2nd and 3rd guys in on a tackle that is stripping the ball on these critical third down plays that kill the teams moral, game in and game out.

Ok so now I am Married and Brando thinks, well I am not sure what Brando thinks but he is mad at me about Nick Roach. What did I do to Nick Roach?

And yes um Irritated Reader, I am the big praise-fisher thats why so many people agree with me on what I write and nobody ever asks for me to be banned. Hahahahaha, It's not my fault if what I happen to write, happens to be right on occassion. And someone from time to time says nice call, most of the time we are fighting on here.

I get the feeling that Brando who wrote both those posts, is made because someone complimented me recently. How dare they.

Hahahaha, whatever man. Clearly you don't have anything better to do sense you never spoke about football in your post and only focused on me. Second your choice to speak for everyone shows a like of insight into general thought and the fact that your ego is so large you believe it your right to speak for everyone. Next time speak for yourself Brando, and no need to hide behind a fake name.

Joe I am not worried about one loss as much as I am worried about a player getting hurt.

Even though your last response is quite combative and defensive, I'm thoroughly impressed that you were complimented by others, Creighton. I'm a little confused how you can comment that I responded without addressing actual football; I'm pretty sure that I broke down the cover two defense for you in two sentences and outlined why the Bears have been ineffective in employing it. Yes, I also told you that the meat of this platform should be for Bears football, not your nonsensical self-righteous diatribes. Go feed the hungry and stop reading the blogs that us other blockheads read to find factual and insightful information.

P.S. The word you're looking for is 'since,' not sense.

P.S.S. Not Brando responding here

Irritated reader you say your talking football? Thanks for your breakdown on the cover 2. Yes and your post is not personal or combative at all. Please point out this wife you mention I have and wrote about. Also not sure what your problem is I don't care, but if you want to really talk football thats fine. Now let me educate you spelling bee

It's Tampa 2, not cover 2 there is a difference and it goes all the way back to the steel curtain days where Dungy got the scheme and tweeked it. Then when discussing any defense you have take into account how it is played not just the basic scheme. Each coach has his own different version. Lovie uses a bend don't break style of play. Which means it is not designed to defend third and long. It is designed to tighten up as the field gets shorter and coverage becomes less of an issue. He plays his corners off, rather than press which is what the Vikings do with their hybrid Tampa 2 style. Lovie key's on the under tackle and everything is built off his disruption, however the Colts key off their ends. Every team in the nfl plays a version of cover 2. The Bears play Tampa 2 or as Lovie calls it Bear 2. Given your so called break down which I will get too, you don;t even know what cover 2 means.

Now on third and long Lovie doesn't play a lot Tampa 2, he plays nickle. The big problem is and has been the mug up front he likes to use. Which is a 4-3-4 stack, it pulls the LB's out of position places them on the line and then they either blitz the A gap or drop into coverage. Teams beat this with the inside slant or run counters. The stacked LB's create a bigger gap in the zone when dropping back into coverage because they are out of position. The safeties are not good enough to make this up and the corners are playing off and not giving the D-line help via the jam. Then you have the front four who are just not good enough to get regular pressure. There is no real one problem or one fix.

As for you, feel free to correct my spelling, I am terrible at it and I never proof read. So if you want you can be my proof reader. In return I will educate you on football sense you clearly don't know much about the game. How do you even follow the Bears and call it cover 2? It's tampa 2 and that is an important difference. Also you didn't break the cover 2 down. You worte this:

"I'm pretty sure that I broke down the cover two defense for you in two sentences and outlined why the Bears have been ineffective in employing it."

This is what you wrote about cover 2 and it's only one sentence and it's wrong. At no point do you discuss or point out the problem, you do nothing more than generalize the idea of all defenses:

"If you stop an offense, better yet, push them back, then it creates a (supposed) difficult scenario for the opposing offense."

Thanks for the insight. The idea is to stop the offense, got it. Nobody new that till you came along.

That's just the basics of any defense and has nothing to do with cover or tampa 2 scheme style. It's nothing but generalizing. Cover 2 simply means you play 2 safeties deep in a zone, thats it. You can play it in almost any defense and it can 3-4, 4-3. Tampa 2 changes the zones, uses a specific one gap system, generates pressure with the front 4, does little blitzing, the LB's are expected to cover a lot and the corners are expected to help in run support. It was designed to be the lateral passing game of the Walsh WCO. Tampa 2 under Lovie is bend don't break and has a specific style of player he looks for, different zones and different phylosophy than just some generalized cover 2. The only thing that is the same is two safeties are playing deep. That's it.

Where are these problems you outlined and where did you write what caused the problems? I don't see where you wrote it, I see where I wrote it. Dude you wrote nothing about the cover 2 or the tampa 2.

Also you don't speak for the board "In fact, we're here to discuss a lackluster defense" you are here for that. I am here to talk football and I will write how I want to write.

You should worry more about your own posts and less about mine until you actually learn the game. Take a chill pill fun sponge. Oh and welcome to the board.

P.S. Are you happy now Mr. Cover 2? Hahahahaha.

Sorry this is so long, but someone wanted to get personal.

Pulling from the third post on this thread:

Alternate Reality Creighton on August 23, 2010 10:09 PM

"Now if you will excuse me, my wife and I are planning to assist in a food drive for the homeless. Blogging and playing Madden will only get you so far in life. I pity those who know no better."

....Here's to hoping you now note where I saw mention of marriage.

This poster, Mr. Creighton, was the initial target of my post. If indeed that is not you, then it appears someone has a moniker very similar to yours. Judging by your response, it is not, and that you stressed yourself because of it, my apologies. I'm glad you've illustrated the intricacies and discrepancies between Tampa 2 and Cover 2.

Thank you kindly, Creighton for your angry responses. I'm much enlightened.

That is not Creighton at least not me. Never wrote, perhaps if you look at some of these posts you will in fact see more than one Creighton posting. Yes there is more than one.

Thank you for generalizing and assuming you know who I am and what I write.

Like I said if you post here and follow this blog you know this. But even if that guy wants to talk about whatever thats his right. He is basically making fun of me. But that's fine with me cause that's his right.

Here is a link to more than one Creighton posting just today.

By the way Mr Cover 2, let me just point something out to you. I am not angry, you have never seen me angry and it's not something I recommend. I am being curt with you however, and that is because you where rude to me. Let me just point out your screen name "Irritated Reader" funny that does not sound like a really friendly person to me.

This is the first thing you said to me:

"To Alternate Reality Creighton:"

Take a guess why you called me that? Gosh did I seem different from the other poster?

Then you said this: " I'm pleased that you're literate and can spell"

Gosh that was nice of you to say, so friendly.

Then you said this: "I'm fairly certain that no one reading this site cares to hear the rhetoric you've included about you and your socially conscious wife. We're not here to shower you with accolades because you've advertised your good-doings."

The whole time I am wondering why this guy is coming after me and what is he talking about?

None of that changes your poor attempt to cover your insults with football. You broke down the Cover 2??? I don't think so.

So sense you want me to be nice to and are being hyper sensative. Pretty please with suger on top jump down the rabbit hole and Follow the link. And don't insult me again because you are confused about who is who.

This is over now, I am done wasting my time on this.

santa barbara tom -

Its not a "Perennial problem". Last season was the first time since 2004 I believe that the Bears had less than a top 10 3rd down defense. That is why its a glaring problem because it is NOT normal...The Bears have been one of the best 3rd down teams of the decade (only 2-3 seasons this decade have we not been a top 10 3rd down defense).

Sorry, was never confused about who was who; it you you, Creighton who was confused. I never addressed you. Thank you for the comprehensive football intellect beat down. I'm much humbled now.

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on August 23, 2010 5:39 PM.

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