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Chicago Bears Sackwatch 2014: Week 17 vs. Minnesota Vikings

One year ago the pass protection of the Chicago Bears appeared to be a strength of the team heading into the 2014 season. Add in a few injuries and a struggling play caller and you have a recipe for disaster.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

And the final Sackwatch numbers for the 2014 season are...

Drum-roll please....

Sackwatch Cutler

Sackwatch after 16 games
2010 - 56 (Martzfense)
2011 -49 (Martzfense)
2012 - 45 (Mike Tice O)
2013 - 30 (Trestman's O)
2014 - 41 (Trestman's O)


We're not talking Mike Martz level's of bad, but an increase of 11 sacks from a year ago is pretty bad.

With 41 sacks allowed the Bears ranked 19th in the NFL. The NFL also tracks quarterback hits and the Bears allowed 82, which placed them 17th. The least sacked team in 2014 was the Denver Broncos with 17 and the most sacked was the Jacksonville Jaguars with 71. In the QB hits department, the Broncos allowed the fewest with only 43 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave up the most with 123.

Of the ten worst teams in the sacks allowed category, only two had a winning record, and none made the playoffs. Protecting the passer is key.

Let's get on with the final two sack breakdowns of the 2014 season.

Sack 40 - Second quarter 6:56 Linval Joseph and Gerald Hodges
This was a 1st and 15 play that came immediately after a false start penalty from left guard Ryan Groy. If you were guessing along at home, you probably predicted Marc Trestman would dial up a wide receiver screen. The Minnesota Vikings were ready for the slip screen too.

With Viking defensive end Everson Griffen (#97 near the top of the GIF) coming across the line of scrimmage then stopping to block Jay Cutler's throwing window, Cutler was forced to look elsewhere to unload the ball. As is often the case on screens, this is a one man pass play. None of the other eligible receivers are even looking for the ball to come their way. Cutler was just hoping someone would recognize the busted play and turn for a pass. They never did and Jay just decided to get down.

You may recall FOX color-man Brady Quinn mentioning that Cutler had to take the sack because his offensive line was already down field blocking. The only man to release off the line was left tackle Jermon Bushrod, but he pulled laterally down the line. In my opinion it seems that Bushrod is only a yard past the line of scrimmage, which is legal, but in the heat of the battle, that may have been hard for Cutler to determine.

The only viable options Cutler had on this play was to scramble or to throw the ball over his receivers head out of bounds. With intentional grounding a judgement call by officials, Cutler may not have wanted to take that chance. Either way, this sack is on Jay.

Sack 41 - Third quarter 1:24 Corey Wootton
The Bears ran a play action on this 1st and 10 play, but as soon as Cutler set to throw, former Bear Wootton was harassing him. I've been critical during my Sackwatch articles when the Bears leave a running back, or a tight end in to block a defensive linemen even though I understand some schemes dictate this has to happen. Unfortunately for Chicago TE/and sometime fullback Dante Rosario, this is one of those times.

With Matt Forte faking a run to the left side, Chicago's offensive line has to step that direction. It's all about creating the illusion of a run to the left. Cutler didn't do a very good job in hiding the ball and Forte wasn't very deceptive in his fake. Corey Wootton had a full head of steam and Rosario just couldn't slow him down.  Rosario allows Wootton to get into his chest, making his arms useless.

Look where Rosario places his left arm. Once the two players meet, Rosario has his arm behind Wootton. To the official it looks as though he's about to hold. Rosario is also way to high. He's almost standing erect when he prepares to block. Rosario has to fire out and be prepared to throw his hands into the defenders chest while maintaining a solid base. He does neither, so he's to blame for this sack

Here's where I place blame for every sack allowed this season.

Matt Forte - 6
Jordan Mills - 6
Jermon Bushrod - 5.5
Michael Ola - 4.5
Brian de la Puente - 3.5
Jay Cutler - 3.5
Sacks Happen - 3
Dante Rosario - 3
Matt Slauson - 2
Martellus Bennett - 1
Roberto Garza - 1
Ryan Groy - 1
Eben Britton - .5
Jimmy Clausen - .5

For a little perspective, in 2013 the top of my year end Sackwatch list was Sacks Happen with 7, followed by Matt Forte and Jay Cutler with 4 apiece, then Josh McCown with 3.5.

Last season I only had the offensive linemen down for allowing 9.75 sacks, whereas this year it jumped up to 23.5. Part of that was obviously the injuries along the front five. In 2013 the starting five started every game together and that kind of cohesiveness breeds familiarity. The more you play with the guy next to you, the more you understand exactly how he will react to a certain defensive front.

In 2014, the Bears started 4 different players at left guard. Newcomer Michael Ola started games at every position along the line except center. Not one of the week 1 starters started all 16 games. Even the jumbo TE/6th O-Line spot was filled by two different players.

In last year's final Sackwatch I predicted the sack total would decrease for the 2014 season. That obviously didn't happen, but I think it had more to do with injuries than anything else. If the 2015 Bears' offensive line can find some luck in the injury department, I think the 2015 Sackwatch will be under the 41 from 2014.

What did you think about the Sackwatch this year and how do you see the pass protection shaking out next season?