There were plenty of concerns from Chicago Bears' fans heading into the 2014 season, but pass protection wasn't one of them. The Bears were returning the same five offensive linemen that started all 16 games in 2013. They were about to enter year two of Marc Trestman's offense, an offense that allowed the 4th fewest sacks (30) in the NFL last season. Surely the pass protection would improve...
Sackwatch after 9 games
2010 - 34 (Martzfense)
2011 - 23 (Martzfense)
2012 - 28 (Mike Tice O)
2013 - 14 (TCO)
2014 - 24 (TCO)
And yet here we are out in front of the pace of the 2011 Martzfence.
The Bears have had numerous combinations playing along the offensive line and the offense as a whole hasn't found any rhythm.
Sack 21 - First quarter :54 Clay Matthews
Matthews hasn't sacked a Bear quarterback since 2012. Back then Green Bay kept confusing young left guard James Brown with stunt after stunt, but this sack allowed by Chicago left tackle Jermon Bushrod involved no trickery.
Bushrod just blew his assignment. Matthews give a little deke to the inside, Bushrod bites hard and lunges, then Mathews races past him. Clay finishes the sack with a little extra shove. While not penalized, it was clearly a dick-move. I wonder how this play went over in the Bears film room this week?
Over on the other side, I thought right tackle Jordan Mills did a good job sticking with Julius Peppers. He got his hands up, he moved his feet, then guided him past the pocket.
Sack 22 - Second quarter 2:21 Morgan Burnett
This sack allowed is just like the one above in that Bears running back Matt Forte simply blows his assignment.
Forte sets up well, he doesn't lunge at the blitzer, he patiently waits for his man, but then he doesn't react to Burnett going outside until it's too late.
Over on the left side, Bushrod does a good job in passing Clay Matthews off to left guard Brian de la Puente, but then he falls for the same inside shake move that burned him earlier. The only thing saving Bushrod for allowing another sack was Forte's whiff.
Sack 23 - Second quarter 1:09 Julius Peppers
When you're left on an island with Julius Peppers, you don't need to check inside before protecting the edge. Even if you're expecting tight end Martellus Bennett to give a quick chip, you don't need to set up to protect your inside gap. Get on your horse, kick step to the outside and your hands on Peppers.
Chicago right tackle Michael Ola seems concerned with the B Gap at the snap, but there are only two Packers over the Bears' right side to be concerned with. Right guard Kyle Long has a man and Ola has Peppers. Ola doesn't even get his hands on Pep until he's past him. Peppers hesitates to read the help from Bennett, then once he realizes he's one on one with the young right tackle, he speeds past him.
The pass protection holds up everywhere else, but Jay Cutler has to get rid of the ball quicker. Cutler is drifting to his left and since he pumped the ball a couple of times his internal clock should have been ringing. I'm splitting the blame for this sack on both Ola and Cutler.
Before moving onto the 4th sack I wanted to show a similar play from the Denver Broncos. Now before you get all #OMG and #SMH on me, I'm not comparing Cutler to future Hall Of Famer Peyton Manning, I just want to point out one of Cutler's bad habits that I'm sure coaches have tried to get him to stop doing his entire career. Check out how Manning holds the ball as he's drifting to his right.
Manning is holding the ball tight at his chest. Now scroll back up and peek at where Cutler is holding the ball. See the difference? Cutler has the ball down by his belly and when he cocks to throw the ball goes even lower. Cutler throws such a fast ball that he can occasionally get away with not having as technically sound of a release, but the lower a QB holds the ball, the easier it is for the strip/sack to happen.
I was wondering if this was a relatively new habit from Cutler so I checked some of his Bronco highlights and he was doing it then too.
Sack 24 - Fourth quarter 5:41 Sam Barrington
You may look at the GIF below and think I'm about to pin another sack on left tackle Jermon Bushrod. He didn't really block anybody, plus he's only a few feet away from the man that got the sack. In my opinion this is just one of those sacks that happen. It's really no ones fault.
Because of the way the Packers were aligned Bushrod had to be ready for an outside rush. Green Bay blitzed at Chicago center Roberto Garza and they had a defensive tackle occupy left guard de la Puente. Then they sent Barrington through the left A Gap, and there was no one to pick him up. By the time Bushrod realizes there's a free blitzer, Barrington is even with him, and there's nothing he could do.
Quarterback Jimmy Clausen could have kept his running back in to block, but hindsight is always 20/20. Sometimes a defense just dials up a good play. This was one of those times.
Here's how I have the Sackwatch after nine games.
Jordan Mills - 4.5
Jermon Bushrod - 4
Sacks Happen - 3
Michael Ola - 3
Matt Forte - 3
Brian de la Puente - 2.5
Matt Slauson - 2
Dante Rosario - 1
Eben Britton - .5
Jay Cutler - .5