As the Chicago Bears head into their bye week, the next few days are sure to be full of beat writers and bloggers waxing nostalgic about how optimistic fans were when the Bears started off with a 3-0 record on the season, and how all of that optimism has been loaded into a cannon and shot off into the Chesapeake Bay after the Washington Redskins knocked off the Bears by a 45-41 margin on Sunday.
Rather than join this black parade of doom, it seems like a good idea to focus this week’s edition of Grizzly Details on several of the positive aspects of the Bears’ loss, and what they might mean for the team moving forward.
Wootton’s Play Continues to Dazzle at Three-Technique
When Henry Melton and Nate Collins went down for the season with knee injuries, a lot of talk centered on just who exactly the Bears would be able to bring in to help fill the gap left behind at the defensive tackle position. A slew of options were considered, from the completely unrealistic (Richard Seymour) to the intriguing, but ultimately ill-advised (sliding over Julius Peppers), but one choice that Mel Tucker has made has paid dividends in a big way.
That decision was to move defensive end Corey Wootton over to the defensive tackle slot alongside Stephen Paea. Yes, Shea McClellin has had a rough go of it getting the majority of snaps in Wootton’s absence, but the amount of pressure that the line has been able to generate up the middle has been nothing short of extraordinary. They are getting a great amount of push, especially in the beginning of the game before injuries really started to ravage the Bears’ defense and caused them to be on the field for a majority of the game.
Credit for that performance has to go to Wootton and Paea, who were able to get the pocket to collapse in on Robert Griffin III and forced the Redskins’ running game to the outside edges of the field. Unfortunately for the Bears, they weren’t able to stop the run out there largely because of the ineffectiveness of both McClellin and Jon Bostic, but since we are focusing on the positives here, we’ll bring it back to Wootton.
His quick study at the position has enabled the Bears to keep their overall defensive scheme largely intact, and that means a lot considering all of the holes the team has had to fill this season. Wootton will be in line for a very nice payday at the end of the season, and it will be richly deserved.
Forte’s Breakout Game Shouldn’t Get Lost In the Shuffle
Coming into this week’s game, one of the biggest factors that pundits chose to discuss about the game was how the Redskins have been doing much better against the run as of late, including holding DeMarco Murray and the Dallas Cowboys to a minimum of yards in the team’s Week 6 battle with Dallas.
For the Bears though, they took full advantage of some excellent run-blocking and some aggressive play by Matt Forte to turn that wisdom on its ear. Forte ended up only rushing the ball 16 times, but he did run for 91 yards and three touchdowns in the game, including a 50-yarder.
Obviously, Forte’s big day was due in large part to his own confidence in hitting the correct gaps (something that he has been struggling with in recent weeks), but a couple of key plays by the offensive line really helped him in his three touchdown outburst. On Forte’s first touchdown, it was a nice block by Kyle Long that established a gap for Forte to run one past the tackle position, and Eben Britton provided some nice cover on the play as well.
On Forte’s second touchdown, it was Jordan Mills who got in on the act, helping clear a gaping hole for Forte to sprint through on his way to a 50-yard score. Some great elusiveness by Forte also was a big part of the play, but all of it was set up by Mills’ great jump on the play. Finally, on Forte’s third touchdown, it was once again Long who came up big for the Bears, engaging in a perfect cross block with Matt Slauson to confuse the Redskins’ gap assignments, and Forte burst through for the easy score.
Add in a couple of good blitz pickups by Forte in the backfield, and it was arguably his best game of the season for the Bears, and with Jay Cutler likely on the shelf for a while, the onus will be on Forte to continue producing out of the backfield.
Downfield Blocking By Bears’ Receivers a Big Key to Success
One of the more notable developments in the Marc Trestman era for the Bears’ offense has been the seeming joy that all of the receivers on the team take in blocking downfield both for each other and for the Bears’ other weapons.
During Sunday’s game, there were a couple of plays that featured receivers blocking effectively. Two notable examples occurred during a scoring drive in the third quarter. With Josh McCown in the game, the Bears were executing more of a quick-strike passing attack than they may have normally gone for, and the collective team effort involved was impressive. On the first play from scrimmage on the drive, McCown threw a screen pass out to Alshon Jeffery near the line of scrimmage, and blocks from both Earl Bennett and Brandon Marshall enabled Jeffery to pick up the first down and a whole lot more.
On the final play of the drive, the Bears opted to have Forte run a draw play up the middle. In addition to the block by Mills that we alluded to earlier, Forte also benefited from another block, this one from Marshall, in the secondary to seal off a potential tackler, and Forte’s elusiveness carried him the rest of the way to the end zone.
There were other plays to be sure that showcased this willingness to block, but the overall takeaway is that this ability is having a hugely positive impact on the team’s offense, and if they can continue to fight this way both for each other and for guys like Martellus Bennett and Forte downfield, then they are going to keep scoring a lot of points.