Tale of the Tape: NFL Week 1 – Lions at Bears
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A LiveBall Sports Game Tape Review
- The Bears used a lot more of max protect schemes than the Lions did. Both teams relied on spread concepts to define reads for their quarterbacks, but the Lions, on average, put many more guys in the route.
- Jay Cutler was the best quarterback in this game. Cutler still struggles to read simple coverages, but his greatest asset in this game was to save his offensive line from itself. It was a poor performance by the Bears’ pass protectors, especially the backs.
- The go-to receivers in this game were TE Tony Scheffler for the Lions, and WR Devin Aromashadu for the Bears. I’m thinking that neither offense really got into it’s stride from a playcalling perspective.
- Calvin Johnson isn’t a great receiver. His overall numbers would have looked a lot better if he had been awarded the touchdown catch at the end of the game, but his entire game is based on being bigger, stronger, faster than smallish corners. He’s an excellent goal line scorer, but in the rest of the field, he’s a mediocre route runner at best.
- Scheffler is a really versatile target, and a great pickup by the Lions: He may have been the best player relative to his position that Josh McDaniels gave up on. But Scheffler’s usage suggests issues about both Brandon Pettigrew and Calvin Johnson. On one hand, perhaps the Lions are right to think that Scheffler is their most dependable target. On the other… well, those guys were first round picks. And if the Lions are using Scheffler, they can’t use Pettigrew or Johnson much.
- Scheffler was the only Lions starter who didn’t have at least one drop from Shaun Hill. Scheffler is the Wes Welker to Johnson’s Randy Moss and Pettigrew’s Ben Watson and Burleson’s, uh, Jabar Gaffney? Watching this offense is like watching the 2008 Patriots.
- Shaun Hill is playing the Matt Cassel role. He looked really bad, but mostly because his receivers simply weren’t adjusting to the different passing velocity. All of Hill’s really good throws came on the last drive of the game.
- I wasn’t blown away by Matt Stafford’s performance, but it’s night and day from last year. Stafford is very inaccurate when he has to go away from his first read. But his throw to Nate Burleson on the Lions second TD drive was a beauty. The Bears were in a cover three that was disguised as a cover two. Calvin Johnson ran a post on the other side. Burleson ran a dig. If the window in the middle of field was “closed” (cover 1, man free, cover three), Stafford would have to react quickly and stick Burleson on the deep dig route. If it were open (cover 2, quarters), Stafford might be able to stick it in to Johnson. The Bears disguised their coverage, Stafford read it, and drilled Burleson for 19 yards. Last year, he forces that pass to Johnson and might get intercepted.
- Stafford didn’t complete a pass longer than 19 yards, and he didn’t complete a pass to either Calvin Johnson or Bryant Johnson in this game. His second longest completion went to Maurice Morris.
- Shaun Hill’s biggest issue was dropped passes, but he also didn’t help his receivers by staying in the pocket and making multiple reads. Shaun Hill is a sub-replacement backup in this offense.
- No rushing lanes for Jahvid Best all day long. Best’s two runs that went for longer than three yards came when Brian Urlacher got lost in the wash, including the TD dash from the shotgun. The Bears are one of the better tackling teams I’ve seen on tape. Best is explosive, but he made no one miss.
- The Bears’ biggest problem was turnovers. Cutler was picked once on third and 20, which costs the Bears field position, but the drive was ending regardless. The Bears put the ball on the ground four times. Matt Forte was responsible for two of those, then the Center/QB exchange was responsible for another, and finally, TE Greg Olsen. Jay Cutler did not fumble in the pocket, which made him one of the most valuable players on the Bears offense, by default. The Bears had some rushing lanes in the Lions defense, but simply couldn’t hang onto the football.
- Forte’s 89 yard screen scamper for a TD happened because the Lions have an overall lack of speed on their defense. A good screen call plus a devastating block by Olin Kreutz on a linebacker sprung Forte for a first down. Chris Houston couldn’t get off his stalk block and Louis Delmas took a shallow angle assuming that at least one Lions player would square up Forte. He was wrong. Outside of CB Chris Houston and Delmas, there is no team speed on the Lions defense. Forte simply ran by everyone.
- The Bears won because they could throw the football against the Lions. If they keep throwing to Devin Aromashadu 10 times a game, they won’t beat any other defense. Devin Hester was targeted once. Hester is a better receiver than Aromashadu, whose one skill is that Jay Cutler likes using him. I thought Johnny Knox played well, but I thought he was an afterthought in this offense.
- The Lions DL dominated the Bears OL. The Bears knew going in they had no one who could block Ndamukong Suh, but the match-up they had to win was Chris Williams vs. Kyle Vanden Bosch. They didn’t win this match-up: Vanden Bosch was a problem all game long. But the difference on the Bears TD Drive at the end of the game was that Williams finally recovered against Vanden Bosch and kept him off of Cutler (if dangerously close).
- Suh was a monster in this game. He, at different points in the game, drove Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams deep into the backfield when they needed to, schematically, stay near the line. The Bears tried pulling C Olin Kreutz early in the game, but the right side of the Bears OL spent so much time going in reverse that Kreutz couldn’t even get past them. RG Lance Louis and RT Omiyale were dreadful. Albert Haynesworth is a very good comparison for Suh, but you know what? I think Suh is going to be even better than Haynesworth at his peak.
- Chris Williams needs to play better, but he doesn’t look out of his element at LT. He was beaten a lot, but not to the point where I think he won’t develop into a decent left tackle. He’s essentially where Duane Brown (another 2008 first round tackle) is for the Texans. The best Bears lineman are Olin Kreutz and LG Roberto Garza, who pretty much shut down Corey Williams.
- Forte and Chester Taylor are both weapons in the passing game. That is the Bears schematic advantage over all other NFL teams. The Bears OL did best when it was just 5 guys blocking four guys straight up. They are VERY susceptible to stunts because the backs are usually out in the pass pattern when the OL is being beaten by a twist.
- Without Forte/Taylor, the Bears are a below average passing offense. They are already a below average rushing offense.
The Bears defense was the story. The Lions never really challenged their passing defense before the final drive, but the Bears have a best-in-NFL type run defense, and Julius Peppers is going to have a monster year to prove he deserves that contract. Peppers does not have very much help on the pass rush: Urlacher and Lance Briggs were the second most dangerous pass rushers in this game. What will be interesting to see: can the Bears D hold up vs. the Cowboys passing attack next week?
The Lions defense could be vastly underrated. We’ll learn more about them as well after they face the Eagles this week. The Eagles, if nothing else, won’t fumble four times in a game.