After Sunday night's painful loss in Atlanta, I found myself questioning the abilities of the Bears coaching staff once again. The Bears had two weeks to prepare for that game, yet they littered the field with penalties and blunders which ultimately cost them a chance at victory. Three of the biggest coaching mistakes in that game are flat out inexcusable.
1. The Roddy White TD - The Bears were caught out of position when 3 receivers were covered by only 2 defenders. The Falcons had two wideouts and TE Tony Gonzalez lined up in trips right at the LOS, and Gonzalez was MLB Nick Roach's responsibility. The Bears were running a safety blitz, and outnumbered in coverage. No timeout was called on the field by Roach... and, no timeout was called from the sidelines either. The result: Matt Ryan threw an quick screen to Roddy White, who was uncovered with two blockers, and ran for one of the easiest TDs you'll ever see in the NFL.
2. The no-huddle - The Bears defense was caught off guard by a no-huddle attack, and the Falcons finished a 12-play drive in the first half that ended with a Tony Gonzalez TD. Gonzalez was wide open in the back of the endzone, where MLB Nick Roach once again failed to cover him. When asked by reporters after the game about the Falcons no-huddle offense, Love Smith said they were unprepared for it, even though Matt Ryan said they've used the no-huddle a lot this season when he was asked a similar question. It was later discussed the the Falcons used the no-huddle very often vs New England earlier in the season. So, the Bears had two weeks to prepare for it, and were unprepared? Hmmmm... go figure.
3. Twelve men on the field - For the second time this year on Sunday Night Football, the Bears found themselves in a numbers crunch. The first time this happened, in Green Bay, the Bears were punting in the 4th quarter from their own 26 yard line with a 12-10 lead. When they thought the Packers had too many men on the field, they ran a fake to try an take advantage of a "free play." But, they were wrong, lost a challenge and a timeout, and turned it over on downs at their own 30 yard line. The Packers kicked a field goal to take a 13-12 lead.
This time, in the 4th quarter once again, the Bears had just forced the Falcons to punt on a 4th and 4 from the Bears 36 yard line. But, 12 men on the field gave the Falcons a 1st down at the Bears 31 in the 4th quarter with a 14-7 lead. Thankfully, Matt Ryan was intercepted by Nathan Vasher at the Bears 7 yard line on the very next play.
When I reflect on those 3 things... I sit here and scratch my head.
Then, I start to think of some other concerns that raise my eyebrow.
The Bears blitz
Over the past two seasons, the Bears have blitzed more than almost every team in the NFL.
Last year, they blitzed on 34 percent of their opponents' drop-backs. This year, with coach Lovie Smith handling the defensive play-calling for the first time, they have blitzed on 45 percent of their opponents' drop-backs.
Only six teams -- the Jets, Bills, Steelers, Browns, Cowboys and Cardinals -- have run more blitzes than the Bears this season. And of those, only the Bills and Cardinals operate out of a four-man front as the Bears do.
I also remember it being documented that the Bears led the NFL in blitz % last season... although I can't find a source.
Sunday night vs the Falcons was no exception. The Bears blitzed Matt Ryan repeatedly in that game, however they failed to register a single sack or QB hit. Ryan's jersey never even touched the ground. When a team blitzes that many times, you'd figure they would eventually get to the QB... right? But, the Bears blitzes over the past several years have been practically useless... which raises another coaching question: Why?
Leading the league in blitz % in 2008, the Bears ranked 22nd in the league with 28 sacks. So far this season, the Bears have vastly improved their pass rush with 14 sacks... however, 10 of them are from defensive lineman. Why aren't the blitzers actually getting to the QB?
Talent has underachieved on the Bears, and excelled on other teams
Players come and go... and sometimes perform better on other teams. I get it... it's just the way it is. However, in the Bears case, there's a long list piling up. These players have had limited success as a Bear, and have left Chicago and prospered in other places. And, when you break it down... you wonder why they aren't achieving this success in Chicago?
It's not like the Bears have lacked talent... this list is proof.
QB Kyle Orton (traded) - Has led the Broncos to a 6-0 start and has a QB rating of 100.1
RB Thomas Jones (traded) - Led the AFC in rushing in 2008 with the Jets, and is currently #5 in the NFL in rushing yards
RB Cedric Benson (released) - The former #1 pick is experiencing a revival as a Bengal, and is currently #3 in the NFL in rushing yards
WR Justin Gage (released) - Led the Titans in receiving in 2007 & 2008, and is starting for them again in '09
WR Mark Bradley (released) - Is the 2nd leading WR for the Chiefs, and in 16 total games for Kansas City, has 45 catches for 557 yards & 4 TDs... nearly equaling his total output with the Bears in a span of 34 games over 4 seasons.
S Chris Harris (traded) - Has been the starting SS for the Panthers for 3 seasons, and led the league with 8 forced fumbles in 2007.
T Mark Colombo (released) - The former #1 pick, who battled knee injuries with the Bears, has started 53 consecutive games for the Cowboys at RT
FB Lousaka Polite (released) - He joined the Bears after 3 years in Dallas, and has been the starting FB for the Miami Dolphins for the past 2 seasons
It pains me to say it, but the evidence is stacking up here against Lovie Smith and his staff. Maybe it's a narrow-minded view, since my eyes are focused so much more on the Bears, than the rest of the NFL as a comparison. But, the overall picture sure doesn't look too good.