When attacking the 3-4 defense, especially Don Capers 3-4 defense, you need to run the ball. Run. The. Ball. Line up and run the ball. Stick to the run. Did I mention you run the ball? Besides the obvious complaints I have with the Bears game plan (Where was the 1st half commitment to the run? Only ten 1st half runs?), they kept trying to execute a play that was doomed for failure. Every time I saw the play ran, I knew it'd be for naught. What play you ask?
Some call it a toss, others call it a pitch, I've heard it called a toss sweep, but what ever the terminology the Bears use, it was called a failure Sunday night.
One of the benefits of running a 3-4 defense is you have an extra athlete on the field. By playing four linebackers, you should have the team speed to contain offenses from getting outside. In the run game it's all about their flow to the ball carrier and being athletic enough to avoid blockers and protect the edge. Simply put, if your big blockers can't catch their quick defenders, the quick defenders should make plays.
When running to the outside most teams will pull at least 1 offensive lineman, sometimes it's a guard or two, sometimes it's play-side guard and tackle, and sometimes any uncovered lineman will pull. The Bears tried running outside with the stretch play on a few occasions and they tried 3 toss plays in the second half, all with little to no gain. When running outside (especially against the 3-4), you have to be sure your pulling linemen can turn and seal the flowing LB's back inside. The Bears couldn't do this. Another disruption to the toss play is the penetration of the defensive down linemen from Green Bay caused the pulling Bears blockers to belly back, which in turn caused Matt Forte to belly back and let Green Bay extend the play to the sideline. This penetration also took away any potential cut back lanes that Matt Forte could have exploited. And is Matt Forte the kind of burner that can turn the corner in the first place?
Offensively you're counting on executing everything to a "T" when running outside. From an X's and O's standpoint, the Bears would have been better off sticking between the tackles. There are less variables you need to work in your favor to run inside. You can double team the point of attack (at one of the 3 down d-linemen) then one of the double teamers will combo off onto a LB. If they are blitzing, at least now your offensive line is firing out and attacking, rather than pulling and trying to catch up with the defender. Simply put you want your biggens manning up on their little guys, and the shortest distance between the line of scrimmage and ten yards is a straight line. Fire out, get in someones chest, and drive block... repeat.
The thing that shocked me even more, was the Packers were in a nickel for a big part of the game. Only 2 down lineman, with 4 players in a 2 point stance, and 5 DB's. They actually had a the look of a 4 man front, with their OLB's right there waiting to get blocked. You tell me that against this lighter lineup, you can't pound the rock?
By no means am I saying they ran it good between the tackles, but they had more success there and on the counter play, than they did trying to take it outside.
With the Steelers up this week, I hope the Bears learned from their week 1 loss. The Steelers are more experienced with the defense, and a bit more stout at the LB positions, so running inside may prove more difficult, but it's something they have to do. And do. And do.