With the recent showing of the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers in Week 17, the outcome of the game wasn’t as important as seeing the execution by the Bears' offense in crucial situations. Bears' fans have had questions about many aspects of their beloved team throughout the season.
This game really exposed some of the flaws that could prove to be disastrous in the playoffs. While many thought that some of the flaws had been improved, the Packers exploited the weaknesses of the Bears.
The offensive line has had the reputation of being one of the worst in the NFL. Chris Williams was never going to be productive this season at the left tackle position. Some of it seems to be mental and some of it physical. He seems to have trouble getting low and stopping the bull rush or reading what linebackers and cornerbacks are planning pre-snap.
When he and Frank Omiyale changed sides, the Bears looked to improve the protection just a bit, while still not being the solution that would fortify pass protection. The Bears had to put some Bondo on their car to fix the rust spots.
What the offensive line showed Sunday is that it draws the same questions Bears fans had early in the season. The Packers' 3-4 defense gave the Bears' offense so many looks and it seemed as if Charles Woodson knew when to blitz or when to get back in coverage.
The offensive line didn’t seem to know when and where the pressure was coming from. Those problems erupted during the games against the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks. The offensive line let the cornerback blitz open up over and over against Seattle.
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Green Bay used their linebackers efficiently, as well. Edge rushing was the highlight of their defense Sunday. Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk were swarming from the edges and put the protection in fits.
What confuses many fans is why the Bears don’t adjust to the pressure by putting more players at the line regularly. If the seven-step drops and spreading the players out isn’t working against the defense, it would make sense to be flexible in the play-calling. Mike Martz has adapted the offense, but there still has to be tweaks to make up for lackluster pass protection.
It was a miracle that Jay Cutler didn’t get injured with some of the hits he was taking trying to get the Bears out of horrible field position. He was sacked six times and lost a total of 51 yards. Many times the sacks can lead to game-changing turnovers.
In the post-season, the turnover battle makes or breaks every team. Cutler has a tendency to throw interceptions in the first place, so having another chance to give up a turnover because of getting hit on the blindside doesn’t bode well for the Bears.
Chicago has given up more sacks than any other team in the league. If Cutler doesn’t have time to make sound decisions because of pressure, he will throw interceptions at a higher rate. Many fans think that Cutler throws better on the run, but that is when the play is called for the run. When he is getting out of the pocket because the defense doesn’t respect the offensive line picking up the blitz, that is not throwing on the run; it’s just running for his life.
The Bears have weeks to prepare for the defenses of the Philadelphia Eagles, Seahawks or New Orleans Saints. The Eagles love to use the blitz that the late Jim Johnson brought to the table. The Saints have improved their defense under the tutelage of Greg Williams, who is never afraid to put pressure on any quarterback. The Seahawks have already been successful exploiting the misreads of their pressures.
If the Bears are to go far in January, they will have to change some things in the protection schemes or Cutler will have to play from behind every game.
The bottom line is that when Cutler plays from behind, he throws picks. The protection has to take some of the blame in those interceptions because Cutler has less time to get the ball downfield. We will see if the kryptonite of the Bears affects them in the playoffs.