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Chicago Bears Sackwatch 2021: Week 1 vs Los Angeles Rams

We begin our journey tracking all the sacks the Bears allow during the 2021 season and on week 1 Aaron Donald dominated, the gut and eyes move made an appearance, and there were some protection issues from Chicago.

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Sometimes the Chicago Bears give up a sack on a brilliantly designed blitz, and you just have to tip your hat and acknowledge that the defensive coordinator had a nice call on. Other times the pass protection zigs when it should have zagged, and you can chalk it up to a learning experience for the offense. But other times, like the three sacks allowed on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams, you simply lose your one on one matchup.

These are the easiest sacks to break down, but also the most frustrating as a fan, because you never want to see the players on your team get their butts whipped.

The All-22 film still wasn’t available when working on the Sackwatch this week, but considering all three featured Bears quickly getting beat, I decided to press on without it.

For those of you new to this weekly in-season series, I do it to show the reason behind the sacks the Bears allow. Sacks, more often than you realize, aren’t always the fault of the offensive line. Pass protection may start with the center getting things set, but the quarterback has the final say on the pass pro.

There are often times where a defense brings more pass rushers than an offense can handle, and in those situations it’s up to the quarterback to account for the free blitzer with a hot route, a throw away, or a quick scramble.

I don’t know the exact specifics of each play call, so just like when I grade film it’s possible I deduce a few plays wrong, but after doing Sackwatch for 11 years I’ll put my body of work up there with anyone doing similar stuff.

And remember that part where I said not all sacks are the fault of the o-line? We may have to revisit that next week, because this week all three were on the big fellas.

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Sack 1 - 1st Quarter 1:22 - Justin Hollins
Considering Bears left tackle Jason Peters was fishing on a lake a few weeks ago, I can’t be too surprised that he gave up a sack in the first game of the season. What did surprise me was the way in which it happened.

Peters seems to be more concerned with defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who is working on left guard Cody Whitehair, and he treats linebacker Justin Hollins like an afterthought. This tells me three things.

1) Either Peters thought he may have some help from the running back who would chip Hollins from taking such a wide rush.
2) Or he didn’t see Hollins until it was too late.
3) Or he forgot he was 39-years old and still working himself into shape, and figured he had the athleticism to peek in at Donald before jumping out for Hollins.

The pass protection wasn’t clean on this at all as L.A.’s foursome got pressure with a quickness, but it was Hollins that got there first to knock the ball out of Andy Dalton’s hand, so this one is on Peters.

Sack 2 - 4th Quarter 11:46 - Justin Hollins
Hollins gets credit for this sack, but it’s all set up by the quick pressure from Aaron Donald, thus the blame for this sack falls on the man that allowed Donald get in Dalton’s face, Cody Whitehair.

Before I look at the specifics of the sack, I have to point out the top notch celebration from Hollins. I thought it was the gut and eyes move when watching it live, and a trip to his Twitter page all but confirmed it. If you don't know what the gut and eyes move is, this clip from the classic film Blue Streak (PG-13) explains it all.

Blue Streak is one of my all time favorites, so if you haven't seen it I suggest you check it out as soon as possible.

Now back to our regularly scheduled Sackwatch.

Whitehair is the Bears best offensive lineman, but Donald's combination of quickness and strength was simply too much on this play. Whitehair really didn’t do anything wrong. He had a good base, he got his hands up quick, he went with a hug technique, but Donald just gave a quick shimmy and shrugged him off like he was a a toddler. If Donald doesn’t wreck this play, Dalton might have had time to something, but Hollins also whipped 4th string left tackle Elijah Wilkinson pretty soundly.

Sack 3 - 4th Quarter 2:23 - Aaron Donald
This one is all Donald as he again beats Whitehair, and he again does it with his relentlessness and other-worldly athleticism.

It’s not even fair how good he is, and to think the Bears were one pick away from getting him in the draft.

Here’s the spotlight replay.

Whitehair set up in a good position to block Donald, but then Donald engages, does a quick swim over the top, and shoots the gap before Whitehair can even react. The thing that makes Donald so effective as a pass rusher is his plethora of moves. All three of these sacks he beat Whitehair, and all three were different moves.

On sack 1 Donald came with a right forearm smash then a rip under with his left arm to penetrate the b-gap. Sack 2 was mostly his quickness, but there was a subtle tug of Whitehair’s jersey with his inside hand and a slap with outside hand before darting through the b-gap. Sack 3 was him showing an outside move, then a lightning fast shift inside with the swim through the a-gap.

Here’s the individual Sackwatch tally after 1 week:

Cody Whitehair - 2
Jason Peters - 1

And here are the total Bears’ sacks allowed on Week 1 going all the way back to the Mike Martz era:

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)
2020 Sacks - 1 (Nagy)
2021 Sacks - 3 (Nagy)