Last season the Chicago Bears started the same 5 men along the offensive line all 16 games. That type of continuity allows the linemen to get accustomed to what the player next to him is doing and/or thinking. Playing and practicing with the same group over and over allows for teammates to attack certain defensive looks without so much as a word being spoken. You gain trust in each other the more you play with someone.
Last season even though right tackle Jordan Mills struggled, the Bears knew how to help him out. They chipped, they slid protection his way, and they kept in extra blockers. Having only one guy to help isn't that big a deal. This year left tackle Jermon Bushrod hasn't been right since he missed time earlier this season. It makes it tough on a play caller if both tackles are having issues. If you help out both sides, you're forced to keep in extra blockers, which limits your options on pass plays.
Left tackle Bushrod isn't winning his one on one battles with the same frequency as in 2013, the right tackles are allowing too much pressure, and the Bears have allowed too much pressure up the gut. Chicago has gone through two different centers, three different left guards, two different right tackles and two different left tackles. The only player to play start every game on the o-line has been Kyle Long, who has built on an impressive rookie season.
Here's where we stand after 12 games...
Sackwatch after 12 games
2010 - 45
2011 - 34
2012 - 36
2013 - 21
2014 - 30
I really hope the Bears can at least finish the 2014 season by allowing fewer sacks than in the Martz and Tice years.
Sack 28 - Third quarter 13:01 Andre Fluellen
This is one of those tough sacks to pin blame on because I don't know the specific rules the Bears' line uses when facing an ET stunt. There may be no hard and fast rule that Chicago's o-line uses on this stunt, instead they may allow the linemen to play each one as they see fit.
If you watch left tackle Jermon Bushrod, he must assume it's his job to stay with the defensive end, while left guard Michael Ola comes under to pick up the looping defensive tackle. Ola either is waiting for the DE to be passed off to him, or he's just caught up in the wash and is unable to get under Bushrod's block.
Check out the Bears' left side in this GIF.
Now I want you to check out the Bears' right side. The Lions run the exact same ET (End slants first, Tackle comes around) stunt against Bears' right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills. The difference is that Mills passed the DE off to Long and picked up the stunting DT.
Also notice the depth of RG Long and LG Ola. Long gives some ground on his kick step, while Ola stays near the line of scrimmage. Chicago's right side seemed prepared for a potential stunt, while Chicago's left side was locked onto their men.
I could give Bushrod the blame on this since he never passed off a player that clearly wanted to slant inside. But if it was Ola's job to come under Bushrod's block then I could pin blame for this sack on him because he wasn't ready. I don't want to slap this one in the Sacks Happen category, because clearly something was amiss. So I'll split the blame between Chicago's left side.
I think there should have been a pass off, but Bushrod never does it, and Ola wasn't in position to receive it.
Sack 29 - Fourth quarter 14:19 Jason Jones
This sack reminds me of a J'Marcus Webb or Gabe Carimi block circa 2012. Just bad. Mills reaches then lunges, and is in no position for the inside spin by Jason Jones. I don't know why, but his slow creep as he realizes he just allowed a sack is comical to me. I'm sure Jay Cutler doesn't appreciate it, but I picture Mills saying to Jay, 'You see what had happened was...'
Mills' lower body starts off ok, but as soon as Jones' outside shoulder starts to spin away, Mills has to ready to cut off the inside. For some reason Jones' move causes Mills to reach.
The words piss poor come to mind.
Sack 30 - Fourth quarter 6:16 Ezekiel Ansah
If you've read the Sackwatch in the past, you probably recall me harping on a big should be blocking a big. Meaning, offensive linemen should be blocking defensive linemen and backs should be picking up linebackers or defensive backs when needed. Reason being, you'd rather your 6'2", 218 pound tailback not left one on one with a 6'6", 278 pound defensive end. Physics tells us this isn't a good match up.
In the case of this sack by Lion DE Ziggy Ansah, it wasn't strength and mass that beat Matt Forte, it was athleticism.
I called a good friend of mine that I used to coach with and just so happens to be well schooled in the West Coast Offense to ask his take on the sack.
He told me that in the WCO it's not uncommon for the offensive line to slide one way leaving the back to pick up a defensive end on pass plays where the ball is supposed to be out quickly. This play was a 1st and 10, Cutler takes the shotgun snap then turns with a gather step. The ball should be out right now, but Ansah was on him too quick.
If Forte stays on his feet and simply gets in Ziggy's way, Cutler probably hits the slant/arrow concept to the top of the screen.
Even though I'm no fan of leaving a back to block a defensive lineman, I understand the scheme and realize Forte's error.
Here's how I have the Sackwatch after 12 games.
Jordan Mills - 5.5
Jermon Bushrod - 4.5
Matt Forte - 4
Brian de la Puente - 3.5
Michael Ola - 3.5
Sacks Happen - 3
Matt Slauson - 2
Dante Rosario - 2
Jay Cutler - 1.5
Eben Britton - .5
What are your thoughts on the Bears' pass protection this week?