We're about a quarter of the way through the 2023 season with the Chicago Bears, so this is a good time to look at some of the league-wide sack numbers and how Chicago compares. Byes start with this week's schedule, so this is the last time in a while all 32 teams will have played the same amount of games.
The Bears have been sacked 17 times, which is third behind the Washington Commanders (24) and the New York Giants (23). In sack percentage, the Bears are fourth (12.1%), with the Commanders (14.6%), Giants (14.6%), and Tennessee Titans (12.8%) all sacked more frequently than Chicago.
While the Bears are on pace to get sacked a franchise-high 72 times, that 12.1 sack percentage for Justin Fields is lower than last year's 14.7%.
Let's break down the four* sacks that were credited to the Denver Broncos.
Sack 14 - 1st Quarter 12:57 - Nik Bonitto
After getting the All-22 version, this doesn't look like a pass play to me. The wide side of the field appears to be a bubble screen, but that's just some window dressing from a team that showed a ton of screens early in the season. This looks like Bash QB Counter to the left after Fields fakes a glance at the bubble, but the immediate and sharp angle from linebacker Nik Bonitto blows this play up.
Bash QB Counter usually starts with a fake to a running back before the QB keeps and follows the pulling linemen, but the threat of the bubble screen takes the place of a fake handoff on this variation. Chicago pulls both right guard Nate Davis and right tackle Darnell Wright, with Davis's job to kick out the edge defender (Bonitto) with Wright to turn upfield and lead for Fields.
The problem here is that Bonitto is one of the fastest edge players in the NFL, with a 4.54 forty and 1.59 10-yard split. With Bonitto exploding across the line, there's no way Davis could get to him.
I know some are thinking, 'Why didn't left tackle Larry Borom block Bonitto?'
Because with the RG/RT pulling, it's the responsibility of the other three linemen to all down block. Borom stepped right, he felt his left guard was comfortable with the Bronco defensive lineman, so he worked to the second level.
For most of the afternoon, the Broncos' edge defenders all played like their sole responsibility was Fields. They didn't care about play fakes, they didn't worry about contain, their number one concern was attacking Fields, and that's what happened here.
Denver had a good call on to thwart this play, and since I don't see this as a pass play anyway, this goes down as a *Sacks Happen.
Sack 15 - 2nd Quarter 1:27 - Jonathon Cooper
But this sack allowed is on Borom. It looks like the Bears called the Mike linebacker out as the Bronco who was stacked to their left, which meant that Borom, left guard Cody Whitehair, and center Lucas Patrick were responsible for the three Broncos on the left.
Whitehair and Patrick picked up the blitzing inside linebacker and down lineman, so Borom was on an island with outside linebacker Jonathon Cooper.
Borom may have hesitated when the ILB stepped up, or he simply didn't kick himself deep enough on his first step, but regardless, he didn't have the speed to stay with Cooper.
Sack 16 - 3rd Quarter 11:34 - Nic Bonitto and Zach Allen
Here's the speedy Bonitto flying across the line of scrimmage again, but this time off Chicago's right side. Chicago was ready, though, because they put fullback Khari Blasingame in motion to block him.
The problem here is that Blasingame took a bad angle by squeezing the line of scrimmage, and by the time he got across the formation, the ball was snapped, and Bonitto was past him.
If Blasingame stays on a parallel path, he may have the leverage to square up Bonitto and slow his rush. Bonitto being free drew the attention of tight end Cole Kmet, who came across the formation after the snap and who probably had a check release responsibility. And it also drew the attention of running back Khalil Herbert, who made the play action fake and likely had check release responsibility as well. Had either of those two not been preoccupied with Bonitto, they're probably in a position to slow defensive lineman Zach Allen, who slipped Wright's block to the inside.
But since it was Bonitto who blew this one up, this sack allowed is on Blasingame.
Sack 17 - 4th Quarter 7:05 - Nik Bonitto
Fields had no chance on this one. It's a fake run to the left with a boot back to the right, and Bonitto (again!) made a beeline straight for the quarterback off the right edge. He wasn't concerned with backside contain; he didn't care about the run going away from him; his responsibility on this play was to attack Fields.
The Bears had run play-action bootleg a few times during the game, and Denver defensive coordinator Vance Joseph had his defense ready for it.
The Fields to Herbert fake wasn't the best, but Herbert was more concerned with Cooper screaming off the left edge. Herbert is responsible for blocking anything coming free after the fake, and with Cooper across so fast, Herbert couldn't sell it. You'd like to see Fields extend the ball closer to his tailback, but he also may have sensed Herbert hurrying to get to his block.
The fumble is 100% on Fields, as he should have just tucked the ball and taken the sack on this first down play, but as for the sack, this is a Sacks Happen.
Here's the individual Sackwatch tally after four games:
Justin Fields - 7
Braxton Jones - 2
Sacks Happen - 2
Darnell Wright - 1.5
Larry Borom - 1
Ja'Tyre Carter - 1
Cody Whitehair - 1
Khari Blasingame - 1
Cole Kmet - .5
As I've often said, the breakdowns are based on my best guesses on what is happening in each play. Only the Bears know the specifics and where the blame truly lies for each sack allowed.
And here are the total Bears' sacks allowed through Week 4 in the Sackwatch era:
2010 - 18 Martz
2011 - 15 Martz
2012 - 13 Tice
2013 - 6 Trestman
2014 - 8 Trestman
2015 - 9 Gase
2016 - 11 Loggains
2017 - 8 Loggains
2018 - 10 Nagy
2019 - 9 Nagy
2020 - 8 Nagy
2021 - 16 Nagy
2022 - 16 Getsy
2023 - 17 Getsy