In this week’s edition of Grizzly Details, we take a look at the Chicago Bears’ horrendous tackling in Thursday night’s victory over the New York Giants, and we also discuss the sideline confrontation between Devin Hester and Robbie Gould during the contest.
Missed Tackles More Worrisome Than Injured Players for Defense
With the spate of injuries that has afflicted the Bears’ defense in recent weeks, it shouldn’t be any surprise that the team is having some fundamental lapses on the field. Whether it was Jon Bostic jumping into the wrong gap on a lengthy run by Giants RB Brandon Jacobs or Major Wright not coming over quickly enough to cut off Ruben Randle before he caught a pass and reached the end zone in the second quarter, there are some execution errors that are still plaguing the Bears even as the season nears its halfway point.
What is more worrisome at this point than execution or blown coverages is the inability of the defensive players on the Bears to tackle opponents. The issue has come up at several points this season, including notably against Reggie Bush and the Detroit Lions in Week 4, but there were a slew of incidents in Thursday’s game that could be a cause for concern among Bears fans.
Early in the second quarter, the Giants were facing a third down play and QB Eli Manning dumped the ball off to TE Bear Pascoe. Isaiah Frey had an opportunity to wrap Pascoe up and stop the drive in its tracks, but instead he tried to just dive at Pascoe’s legs, and he shed the hit and ended up with the first down. To compound matters, on the very next play, CB Zack Bowman missed a tackle on Hakeem Nicks, which allowed the Giants’ wideout to scamper 11 yards down the field for another first down.
Bowman had another key missed tackle later in the game, as Randle evaded him and got a first down. Tim Jennings also had a few bad angles that he tried to take on potential tackles, and while the mistakes weren’t enough to cost the Bears the game, they did end up extending drives that should have been stopped, and against a better team than the Giants, the Bears would have ended up getting torched repeatedly because of their refusal to simply wrap guys up instead of going for arm tackles or leg sweeps.
Did Marc Trestman Make the Right Call on Fourth Down in the First Quarter?
On the Bears’ opening possession of the game (which came complete with great field position thanks to the first of Manning’s three interceptions), they had a 4th-and-2 play from the 4-yard line. Rather than just take the field goal and the sure three points, the Bears instead tried to go for it, and QB Jay Cutler threw an incomplete pass off of Brandon Marshall’s hands to turn the ball over on downs.
While the play wasn’t ideally executed by Cutler (it did appear that Martellus Bennett was open in the flat, and would have probably scored a touchdown), the reaction by most media members to the play was one of incredulous disbelief. Here are a couple of examples:
Forte middle twice. Get him to the edge at least once. Not a fan of going for it here. Take the free points. — Matt Spiegel (@MattSpiegel670) October 11, 2013
Despite the many people questioning the play, Trestman made the right call for a couple of reasons. For starters, his team had just intercepted Manning, and the Giants were surely stewing in thoughts of “oh no, not again” on their bench. Knowing that, Trestman’s choice to try to go for seven points over three there makes sense. Even if the play isn’t successful, the Giants would still be pinned deep in their territory, and the Giants’ offense hadn’t shown any resiliency in any of their previous games, so why would they start now?
In addition to that, the Bears have been getting way too conservative with their offensive play calling in the early stages of games so far this season, so this was a great opportunity for Trestman to flip the script a bit on that type of thinking. What better way to show confidence in your offense, as well as a way to break out of the rut that might have been developing if the team started to doubt the system, than to go for a big fourth down that early in the game?
Ultimately, there really is no right or wrong answer here per se, but in our estimation, Trestman did the right thing.
Hester vs. Gould: Another Sign of Decaying Confidence on Special Teams?
In the second quarter of the game, the Bears had a kickoff after taking a 21-14 lead. On the play, Gould attempted what looked like a semi-squib kick, and enabled the Giants to actually get in a kick return. Jerrel Jernigan ended up with a 46 yard return on the play as the Bears once again had a coverage breakdown on a kick similar to the one that they gave up against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2 of the season.
After the play, TV cameras caught Gould in a heated argument with Hester on the Bears’ sideline, and while it appeared to many that Hester was the one who initiated the argument, Gould said after the game that it was actually his fault.
“I love Devin like a little brother,” Gould told the media after the game. “It was just [that] my emotions got in the way. I was at fault. I was the wrong party in that. I love him like a brother. Once it was over, it was over.”
Obviously, it would be easy to just chalk this up to a one-time spat between guys who have been teammates for a long time, but it could be symptomatic of a growing frustration within the special teams unit of the Bears. Over the past few weeks, and really for most of the season, there has been a play or two in every game in which that unit has struggled, and the frustration might be starting to build up among some of that unit’s most important players.
Whether it was the directional kicking woes of Adam Podlesh in Week 4, or Cordarrelle Patterson’s 105 yard kickoff return for a touchdown for the Vikings in Week 2, or the inability of Gould to get an effective onside kick down last week, there always seems to be at least one moment where the special teams unit reminds fans that it isn’t the same dynamite group that operated under Dave Toub for so many years.
Joe DeCamillis is a great coach and is excellent at what he does, but when you look at the myriad of problems that the group has had in all sorts of areas (Gould’s field goal kicking mercifully is an exception to this), it’s hard to believe how far the special teams unit has fallen in terms of effectiveness over the season’s first six weeks.