The lovely young gentleman pictured above is Michael Brockers. The 14th overall pick in the draft, the Rams got themselves a dominant run stopper, to help bolster a rush defense ranked 27th against the run last season by Football Outsiders.
Unfortunately for the Rams, he's out 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury. The good news for the Bears? That helps make them susceptible to the rushing game. But where at? Let's go beyond the jump to take a look at how the Rams are faring against the run in this young season, and what the Bears might do to be successful.
Watch out Mike Tice, we're doing your job for you.The Rams have given up 259 yards rushing to the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins. That's good for 21st in the league right now. They've also given up four (4!) rushing TDs, tying them for 28th. Not exactly world beating numbers. (For quick reference, the Bears are ranked 9th for giving up 169 yards, and tied for 8th in giving up only one rushing TD.)
With that said, let's take a look at how each of their first two opponents attacked them with the run.
(Stats courtesy the fine folks at Pro-Football-Reference)
|LE (2 rushes, 17 yds)||LT (9 rushes, 40yds, 1TD)||LG (0 rushes, 0yds)|
|Kevin Smith||1||6||0||Kevin Smith||8||38||1|
|Titus Young||1||11||0||Keiland Williams||1||2||0|
|MD (2 rushes, 3yds, 1TD)|
|RG (0 rushes, 0yds)||RT (3 att, 16yds)||RE (2 rushes, 7 yards)|
|Kevin Smith||3||16||Nate Burleson||1||6||0|
As you can see above, the Lions rushed 18 times for a total of 83 yards and 2 tds. Not a bad day for a team that is not known recently for having a potent run game. As you'll note, most of the rushing attempts and success came from running between the left end and the middle. Let's take a look at an end-around by Titus Young:
Now, what's so amazing about this? For starters, there is game tape of an end-around having positive success against the Rams. That's huge, simply because the Bears love end arounds. Any chance to put the ball in Devin Hester's hands seems to make them salivate like they just saw Fred Flintstone's tray at the drive-in.
More than that, though, it shows some lapses in the Rams defense. There's nothing spectacular about the Lions offensive formation, they're in 2WR, 2TE, 1RB Ace personnel. The key here is execution by Detroit. They sell the initial fake to the RB, and the whole defense moves that way immediately. The offensive line does exactly what they need to there...shuffle all of the defenders to the opposite side of where the WR is coming around.
With the safeties 20 yards downfield, the left side of the line is able to quickly get down and make additional blocks in the second level, allowing for the first down.
So there we can see a situation where an effective misdirection can have an impact on this team.
|LE (4 rushes, 13yds, 1TD)||LT (7 rushes, 44 yds)||LG (0 rushes, 0yds)|
|Alfred Morris||1||11||0||Alfred Morris||6||43||0|
|MD (4 rushes, 40 yds, 1TD)|
|RG (0 rushes, 0yds)||RT (4 rushes, 8 yds)||RE (8 rushes, 58 yards)|
Now let's take a look at the big 29 yard run in the third quarter by Alfred Morris. To set you up a bit, the previous two plays were a 28 yard pass completion, and a HB toss to the weak side from a regular I formation (2WR,1TE,2RB) for 6 yards. On this play, the center gets down and immediately engages a linebacker on the second level, while the fullback leads Morris out around the end for a six yard gain. Now take a look at this play:
Here the Redskins have lined up in Ace personnel with both tight ends lined up on the right side wing. Appropriately, the linebackers are shifted that direction slightly for what looks like a possible attempt to push for the first down behind a solid wall of blockers, and the safety has stepped up to the linebackers level to play run contain.
The handoff to Morris goes to the weak side. The left tackle and left guard are able to lock up and seal their guys on islands right away. The center, much like on the last play, is able to almost immediately engage a linebacker in the next level. The right tackle and inside tight end are able to slow the left end momentarily, and get down to engage the middle linebacker and the safety who is playing up. The outside tight end picks up the linebacker playing at the line. The right guard becomes responsible for a defensive tackle, and is able to keep him off the runner long enough for Morris to enter the fairly sizable hole left by his blockers.
Morris is able to get solid blocking downfield, and is being pursued by linebackers the whole way until he finally runs into the single high safety, about 25 yards downfield.
Now, the big thing about this is not just that there was a big play. There was a big play to the left. That followed a decent play to the left. And was followed by TWO MORE RUNS TO THE LEFT. (An option play, and then the exact same play that went for 29 yards goes for another 5 yards)
This really seems to help explain the news that Chilo Rachal will be starting at left guard this week. An energized push to the left side early could help the line, and Cutler's nerves, get settled in. I'm sure if I was able to notice this, that someone on the Bears staff noticed that you can run left.
The opportunity is huge here. Chicago has a team that shows they'll bite on misdirection and heavy looks, coming into their stadium. This is a great time to set the tone, and force the Rams to show that they can stop the Bears, not for the Bears to put themselves in situations where they need to play catch-up.
If the Bears can get after this early, it could open up a lot of rollouts to the right for Cutler, and make big things happen in the pass game. At the same time, it should help negating a lot of the risk that is sometimes so, so tantalizing to JC6.