The pass protection of the Chicago Bears was solid in 2015, coming in tied for 11th in sacks allowed in the NFL at 33. For some perspective, the top team at protecting the quarterback, the St. Louis Rams, gave up only 18 and the 32nd ranked team, the Tennessee Titans, allowed 54.
Here's how many sacks the Bears allowed in each of the last six years along with the play caller running the offense those six seasons.
Sackwatch after 16 games
2010 - 56 Mike Martz
2011 -49 Mike Martz
2012 - 45 Mike Tice
2013 - 30 Marc Trestman
2014 - 41 Marc Trestman
2015 - 33 Adam Gase
During that first season with Marc Trestman calling the plays he had the luxury of the same five offensive linemen starting all 16 games. This year the Bears only had one offensive lineman start all 16 games at his original position. Well technically right tackle wasn't Kyle Long's original position, but you know what I mean.
Matt Slauson was the only Bear to play every offensive snap this year (Long only missed 1) and he started 12 games at left guard, with another 4 starts coming at center.
Will Montgomery (remember him) started the first four games this year at center, but a season ending injury paved the way for rookie Hroniss Grasu to makes 8 starts at center. The Bears had no intention on Grasu playing a snap this year, in fact, his in-season work out program was all about adding strength to prepare for 2016. Once the Bears realized he'd be pressed into action, coaches had to alter his work outs.
Jermon Bushrod started the first three games this year at left tackle, but an injury gave Charles Leno Jr. an opportunity to play and he made the best of his 13 starts. Leno may not be the future left tackle for the Bears, but he did enough to be considered.
Right guard was a problem most of the year with Vladimir Ducasse starting 8 games next to Kyle Long and another four at left guard. Patrick Omameh, who I thought played better than Ducasse, had 8 starts at right guard and one at left guard.
Injuries to the wide receiver position and tight end also affected how the Bears attacked defenses. They were even without starting running back Matt Forte for a three game stretch.
Considering all the injuries, I'm impressed Chicago's pass protection was as decent as it was.
Here's the breakdown of the fousr sacks allowed to the Detroit Lions.
Sack 30 - Second quarter 6:56 Devin Taylor
Getting sacked on 1st and 10 is not the way you want to start a series. Unfortunately for the Bears, the first three sacks they gave up on Sunday all came on 1st down. Negative plays on 1st downs are such a momentum suck to an offense. On this play everyone starts off doing their job except right guard Vlad Ducasse.
On Sunday I tweeted out that Ducasse is sometimes clueless in pass protection, so if you can tell me what he's doing on this play I'd love to know. He comes out of his stance and gives the defender his inside gap. He simply doesn't have the foot speed to stay with his guy. By Ducasse allowing such quick pressure, Jay Cutler is forced to scramble before even setting up to pass. He scrambles right into the waiting grasp of Devin Taylor who spins off of the Kyle Long block.
Long looks to be beat on the spin back to the inside, but there's no way I can pin this entire sack allowed on Long. I'd love to give it all to Ducasse, but Long's shoulders are turned too much to allow him to recover on the spin. I have to split this sack between the two Bears.
Sack 31 - Second quarter :39 Ezekiel Ansah
Let's be fair, Ansah is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. On this play left tackle Leno does a good job staying with him, but once Jay Cutler steps up in the pocket, Ansah is able to slip the block and get the sack. I have a hard time giving this sack allowed to Leno, because he did his job. He has no way of knowing that Cutler was going to be flushed up to his right. And what exactly spooks Cutler in the first place? Check out the GIF.
The Lions ruin an inside stunt at Bears' center Slauson and left guard Omameh. Slauson is slow to react in picking up the looping DT Caraun Reid (#97). Detroit helps open up the hole for Reid by sending a blitzer at RG Ducasse. With Ducasse occupied, Reid just has to beat Slauson one on one. This is a very good play design by Detroit.
As far as where to give blame, I can't let Slauson off the hook, because in my opinion he missed his assignment, but this is also just one of those sacks that unfortunately happen. So half to Slauson and half to sacks happen.
I was curious who Pro Football Focus gave blame to on this play, so I checked them out and I don't think they hit anyone with blame on this play. They only had the Bears down for allowing 2 sacks against Detroit, meaning 2 went to sacks happen. PFF gave Cutler and Long one sack allowed each on the day. I'm assuming they gave Long the first one (and gave Vlad a pass), and I'm guessing they gave Cutler the next one.
Sack 32 - Third quarter 1:00 C.J. Wilson
Here's why I'm giving Cutler the sack allowed on this play. I don't think he necessarily had to step up. Once Leno pushed his man past, Cutler had an exit to his left. Slauson doesn't completely lose his man until Jay is already starting to run. Cutler runs himself into this sack by coming too close to Omameh's man, C.J. Wilson. Plus it looks at though, at the very least, Cutler could have chucked the ball in front of Matt Forte to avoid the sack and any intentional grounding penalty.
Sack 33 - Fourth quarter 6:32 Haloti Ngata
This play went in to the books as a sack for 0 yards and I'll never understand why the NFL doesn't just credit the QB with a zero yard run. I guess sacks are sexier than tackles, so why not boost a defenders sexiness.
Two Bears have a chance to pick up #98 Devin Taylor on this play. First TE Rob Housler, who is lined up as a fullback, runs right past him without as much as a token chip, then Matt Forte tries to go low, but he doesn't get enough of Taylor.
The Lions cover well on this quick hitting play, so Cutler has no where to go with the ball. Ngata picks up the sack after hustling down the line after spinning off of Long's block. Long looks to be concerned with the edge rushing Taylor, perhaps thinking he has help to his inside for Ngata.
Taylor made a good play avoiding Forte and Ngata hustled into the sack, so I'm inclined to give the final sack of the 2015 season to sacks happen.
Here's how I have the final individual Sackwatch of 2015.
Kyle Long - 6.84
Sacks Happen - 6
Charles Leno Jr. - 4.33
Vlad Ducasse - 3.83
Jay Cutler - 3.5
Matt Slauson - 3
Patrick Omameh - 2.5
Matt Forte - 1.5
Jermon Bushrod - 1
Hroniss Grasu - .5
That's 22 sacks I attributed to the offensive line. Not having that continuity all year long, plus throwing a guy in a new position with limited time to prep will do that to a pass pro scheme.
For those of you curious how I had it last year, here are the individual numbers for the 2014 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
In 2014 I had the o-line down for 23.5 sacks allowed, again it was due to the constant changes along the front. Injuries seemingly brought a new combination each week.
And let's take it back to 2013, the lowest sack numbers in the history of Sackwatch.
Sacks Happen - 7
Jay Cutler - 4
Matt Forte - 4
Josh McCown - 3.25
Jordan Mills - 3.25
Jermon Bushrod - 2.5
Martellus Bennett - 2
Matt Slauson - 2
Kyle Long - 1.75
Roberto Garza - .25
Remember this was the season where the Bears started the same 5 guys along the offensive line for all 16 games. That quintet included an all rookie right side, and an all new to the Bears left side and they only allowed 9.75 sacks. Even with the four new faces, just the constant grind of playing together did wonders for the unit as a whole. Talent is obviously a big part of pass protection, but having the confidence that the guy next to you knows his job is just as important.
What are your thoughts on the Sackwatch finale and do you see the pass pro taking a step up next year??