As we go through the coming weeks you won’t always see me place the blame for the sacks allowed on the offensive linemen, as pass protection is truly a team effort. So you’ll see me ding the tight ends, the running backs, the quarterback, and on occasion there’s nothing really wrong in what the Bears did, and those will go into the sacks happen category.
While last week’s three sacks allowed by the Chicago Bears were all easy to pin and were the fault of the big guys up front, this week there was some different blame to go around.
Let’s get to the week 2 Sackwatch.
Sack 4 - 2nd Quarter 7:05 - D.J. Reader
Before Andy Dalton exited the game, the Bengals got to him for a sack off a quick penetration from defensive tackle D.J. Reader (#98) between center Sam Mustipher and right guard James Daniels.
The Bears likely identified number 59 (Akeem Davis-Gaither) as the Mike linebacker, which meant that Mustipher was going to be responsible for Reader, Daniels would have Davis-Gaither (had he blitzed), and right tackle Ifedi has the edge rusher to his right. On the snap the Mike dropped, so Daniels probably should have stayed home to help his center considering the way in which Reader was lined up. If Daniels stays home then Dalton probably is able to unload the ball, but with Daniels turning his attention to the edge he opened the door for Reader's penetration.
I’m giving Daniels half of the blame on this one, but this is a block that Mustipher should be able to make, so he gets the other half. Mustipher was pulled out of position, and once Reader ripped his right arm under he was past Chicago’s young center.
Sack 5 - 2nd Quarter 1:18 - Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard
As long as things go according to the Bears’ plan, then in 30 years Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard will tell their grandkids that they shared the first ever sack on the great Justin Fields.
The Bengals sent five, and the Bears pass protection was in good position to pick it up, but Cincy’s coverage was up to the task. Watching it live I felt that Fields held on to the ball a tick too long, and on my re-watch I thought the same thing but realized he really had no where to go with the ball.
Here’s the full field view to see the Bears receivers.
Since Fields was still in the pocket he can’t just chuck it away to save the sack, although he could have fired it out of bounds over his receiver’s head, and it looks like he may have been thinking about that as he cocked his arm. But the pass rush got home. Fields also drifts back a touch after his initial set, so when Chicago’s tackles work to push their defenders back behind where the QB should be set up, they’re actually guiding them right to Fields.
Left tackle Jason Peters actually talked about the differences in blocking for Dalton (or someone that is more likely to stay in the pocket) and for Fields (someone that can extend plays with his athleticism), and I found it incredibly insightful because you rarely hear an o-lineman talk technique in their press conferences.
If you’re into the nuances of offensive line play, good stuff here from Jason Peters on how he adjusts when he goes from Andy Dalton to Justin Fields pic.twitter.com/qRshS9YmjZ— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) September 21, 2021
Fields had some room to step up in the pocket on this play, but by fading back he put himself in harm’s way. It also looks like he make have taken an extra step on his initial drop back, which but him back even further.
The first sack on Justin Fields may have been split by the two Bengal defensive ends, but the blame on this one lies with the Chicago rookie.
Sack 6 - 3rd Quarter 5:53 - Trey Hendrickson
Hendrickson picks up the strip sack on Fields, but Fields hustles back to fall on the loose ball after being knocked down. I was amazed at the determination Fields showed on this just to save the turnover.
The Bengals rushed five, and they ran two stunts while allowing Hendrickson to work one on one against left tackle Peters.
On Chicago’s right side, Ifedi and Daniels do a nice job passing off the stunt in front of them, but it still muddied up the middle of the pocket.
On the interior, Bengal linebacker Logan Wilson (#55) picks Mustipher on his blitz after engaging left guard Cody Whitehair, which freed up #92 (B.J. Hill), who was lined up on the nose. This was good timing on their interior stunt, so Whitehair tried to stay with the blitzer instead of passing him off to his center. Mustipher was essentially blocked from staying with Hill.
Which takes up back to Peters.
Fields doesn’t drift back on this play, and instead tries to dart out to the right. But just like Peters talks about in that Tweet above, he didn’t take enough kicks to cut Hendrickson off and prevent him from chopping at the football.
The Bengals again do a nice job in coverage, but if Fields isn’t stripped he may have been able to get a pass off in a scramble drill or at the very least run around the right side for some yards.
I’m putting this one on Peters, but don’t let this fool you into thinking that Peters had a bad game. I actually graded his game and I came up with a +55/-5 (91.7%) on the afternoon for him. Peters may have allowed another sack, but he played a damn good game, and I even gave him my Trench Tribute award in this week’s Bear & Balanced podcast.
Here’s the individual 2021 Sackwatch tally after 2 weeks:
Cody Whitehair - 2
Jason Peters - 2
Justin Fields - 1
James Daniels - .5
Sam Mustipher - .5
Historical Sackwatch after 2 games:
2010 Sacks - 5 (Martz)
2011 Sacks - 11 (Martz)
2012 Sacks - 9 (Tice)
2013 Sacks - 1 (Trestman)
2014 Sacks - 3 (Trestman)
2015 Sacks - 4 (Gase)
2016 Sacks - 8 (Loggains)
2017 Sacks - 5 (Loggains)
2018 Sacks - 6 (Nagy)
2019 Sacks - 5 (Nagy)
2020 Sacks - 5 (Nagy)
2021 Sacks - 6 (Nagy)
And a h/t to @TommyK_NFLDraft for the assist on the All-22 film this week.