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Chicago Bears Sackwatch 2019: Week 1 vs. Green Bay Packers

Each week I’ll break down the pass protection of the Chicago Bears and share my thoughts on where blame lies for each sack they allow.

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NFL: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

This is not how I like to kickoff my Sackwatch series, but for the sixth consecutive year I’m forced to break down multiple sacks allowed by the Chicago Bears. The Thursday night game against the Green Bay Packers was offensively offensive on several fronts. The quarterback struggled, the offensive line struggled, and the play caller struggled. After the game, head coach Matt Nagy spoke about the game not having any offensive rhythm, but that starts with him as the play-caller.

I’m not calling for a 50/50 run pass balance, but when you have the quarterback drop back play after play after play — 33 straight passes to close out the one score game — that allows Green Bay’s pass rush to stay in attack mode.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty...

Historical Sackwatch After Week 1:

2010 Sacks - 4 (Martz)
2011 Sacks - 5 (Martz)
2012 Sacks - 2 (Tice)
2013 Sacks - 0 (Trestman)
2014 Sacks - 2 (Trestman)
2015 Sacks - 2 (Gase)
2016 Sacks - 5 (Loggains)
2017 Sacks - 4 (Loggains)
2018 Sacks - 4 (Nagy)
2019 Sacks - 5 (Nagy)

Sack 1 - 1st Quarter 10:25 - Blake Martinez
Third and nine isn’t a high percentage to begin with, but adding a mental breakdown and the odds of converting plummet. With three Packers on either side of the center, the Bears had to make a decision on how to block this in the event that they all rush the passer. It looks like they were zoning it on the left and playing man on the right, but there was a missed call in there somewhere as the Packers showed a double a-gap blitz.

I’ll address the right side of the offensive line first.

They kept running back Mike Davis in the backfield in case of a blitz from the right. Tight end Ben Braunecker gives some chip help to right tackle Bobby Massie by hitting defensive end Kenny Clark, but he then tries to work back to the edge for the defensive back (which is weird). Massie is on an island with Clark and since Kyle Long’s immediate threat was to his a-gap, he should have been responsible for the blitzing Blake Martinez.

The Packers wanted to make center James Daniels think all night, which is why they mugged up in the a-gaps a lot. I think Daniels made the right call here, and Long either missed it or he executed it wrong. The Bears left of the line side did their jobs, so this sack is on Long.

EDIT: From time to time I’ll come across something from the Bears themselves about where blame lies for the sack allowed, and thanks to WCG member 1410Museum, there’s this quote from offensive line coach Harry Hiestand from Kevin Fishbain’s article in The Athletic.

“(Martinez) started in one spot, he ended up in another and that was more a product of us not being on the same page with the running back,” Hiestand said. “We obviously thought he was looking at him and he wasn’t. We obviously have to do a better job of making sure that identification that the running back goes when he’s in that spot that he’s his. We assumed that and that’s not a good assumption.”

Now I can take that quote one of two ways. One, that it was the running back’s sole responsibility to pick up the blitzers that present themselves (inside-out), so all the blame shifts to Mike Davis. Or two, Long shouldn’t have assumed that Davis saw Martinez come over and he should have blocked inside since there was no other threat in his vicinity.

Since there’s no way to know for sure I’m going to keep this one on Long for assuming.

You know the old quote about assuming don’t you?

“Never assume, because when you assume, you make an ass of u and me.”

Sack 2 - 2nd Quarter 3:46 - Za’Darius Smith
This is just Smith bull-rushing his way through right tackle Bobby Massie while playing contain. It’s his job to keep Mitchell Trubisky in the pocket, while inside linebacker Blake Martizez (#50) is in a spy technique. Massie does stay between Smith and his quarterback, but once Mitchell Trubisky steps up, Massie loses any leverage he may have had leading to the sack.

Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. gives up a bit too much against a bull-rush too, and this is the pressure that initially spooks Trubisky. But again, Leno has his body between his man and the quarterback. Trubisky could have come off his first read and looked backside for Javon Wims (highlighted below) on the slant.

Wims is a big bodied receiver and Trubisky has the arm strength to throw it where only Wims can make a play. Since Trubisky could have looked to his right and since he ran himself into the sack, I’m giving him the blame on this one.

EDIT: After watching this play get highlighted this nice video from Jack Soble, Trubisky also could have hit Tarik Cohen in the flat right after the snap.

Sack 3 - 2nd Quarter :38 - Kevin King
The Packers bring their outside linebacker (#91, Preston Smith) back inside on a stunt with their defensive lineman occupying Chicago’s left b-gap. Left guard Cody Whitehair should have come off of his initial block to get the stunting Smith, but he was late in recognizing it.

As soon as the defender (#55, Za’Darius Smith) slides even further outside, that’s a tip for Whitehair that there will be a defender stunting back to him. Whitehair’s technique is sloppy on this play as he turns his hips completely to Za’Darius thus opening the lane for Preston.

The Packers run a stunt on the other side too and Kyle Long is knocked to the ground.

Trubisky does a nice job in evading the rush, but then he inexplicably runs out of bounds on a 2nd and 6 instead of just chucking the ball out of bounds to avoid the sack.

One more criticism of Trubisky on this play, and that’s why not audible into an inside zone run? Look at the middle of the Packer defense when the defender slide outside. The Bears had an easy three on three zone block on their right side, and there was 12 seconds on the play clock when the ball was snapped. Plenty of time to check to a run.

This sack is on Trubisky too.

EDIT: Former pro bowl center Olin Kreutz agrees with me on this one.

Sack 4 - 3rd Quarter 9:47 - Preston Smith and Kenny Clark
This is that silly 3rd and 1 call that never had a chance. Actually, strike that, because it did have a chance if Trubisky would have made the right read on the RPO. If he gives the ball to David Montgomery (and Montgomery runs hard), the rookie running back would have picked up the first down.

Another sack on Trubisky...

Sack 5 - 4th Quarter 1:09 - Preston Smith
Another Packer stunt and another sloppy technique by left guard Cody Whitehair. Look at him completely turn his hips, once again opening a lane for the stunter to run through. Leno is ready to accept the pass off from Whitehair, but Cody stays with his man too long.

I’m giving this sack allowed to Whitehair, but Trubisky should have thrown it to Adam Shaheen (highlighted below) on the shallow crossing route. It was a 4th and 8, and I’m sure Trubisky was looking beyond the sticks, but with nothing else open you gotta try something in that situation. Shaheen would have had to run five yards for the first, but a well placed ball hits him in stride and that’s a play he has to make.

2019 Individual Sackwatch after week 1:

Mitchell Trubisky - 3
Kyle Long - 1
Cody Whitehair - 1