In this review, I am humbled. The Rams did everything I asked and lost. In fact, part of the reason why they lost is they could not get away from the game plan I asked for. The bears were prepared for the steady Eddy approach set forth below, and they wanted the ball in the middle of the field. The bears flooded the middle of the field with linebackers and defensive backs all within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Therefore, the best place to be open was on the outside and deep. Unfortunately, the Bears were maintaining tight coverage on the outside wide receivers, who rarely got open quickly.
What about going deep? With all of these linebackers and defensive backs covering people, the Rams should have had an advantage on the line. If the Bears wanted to flood the middle they had to accept rushing only four. The Rams always had five blockers, and often had a sixth blocker. With the extra man advantage the Rams should have been able to protect Bradford, which would have given the wide receivers some time to find the holes in the zone. So, the Rams could go deep, right?
Unfortunately, no. The offensive line was so bad, the Bears were able to assert tremendous pressure on Bradford while rushing only four. In fact, one of the hurried throws in the first half came when the Bears rushed three.
To emphasize how bad the line was, let’s look at Bradford’s performance in the first half. The second half is its own story. In the first half, Bradford dropped back 19 times. He scrambled twice and was sacked three times. Two of the sacks were a result of quick pressure due to the Bears’ defender man-handling our offensive lineman. The other sack was caused by our own offensive lineman tripping Bradford. Thus, the sacks were not on Bradford.
There were 14 passes thrown in first half. Bradford completed 7 of them. Of the 7 incompletions, 1 was dropped by Brandon Gibson, 1 was dropped by Lance Kendricks, and 1 was a spike. All 4 of the remaining incompletions were under some pressure, and 2 were throw aways to avoid a sack. In other words, Bradford had only 2 bad throws.
What about the running game? The Rams had 6 rushes from the running backs for 20 yards in the first half. More than half of this came on one 12 yard run by Richardson. That 12 yard run was a result of eight blockers. Otherwise, the Rams couldn’t run. It did not get better in the second half. The Rams had 9 rushing attempts and gained 25 yards. Some have complained that the lack of a running game caused the pressure problems in the passing game. Others have suggested that formations played a role. I will address those issues later in the week.
When the line is as bad as it was in this game, it negates good play. It even negates good play calling. Pressure coming from a guy that looks like he will be blocked and then isn’t blocked is very difficult to address. It requires players on the field anticipating that another player will not do his job. You can’t make that assumption on the field or you will have total chaos.
Now let’s look at the preview to see how it worked out:
PREVIEW 1 - STEADY EDDY
The Rams need to be Steady Eddy, especially in the first quarter … If this game is won by the Rams, it will be won in the fourth quarter.
REVIEW – Dead on. The game was there for either team to win it in the fourth quarter. As requested, the Rams were unflappable in the first half. They stuck with a short passing game approach in an attempt to keep the chains moving. The chains would have moved, if not for the sacks, drops and penalties. It is tough to be steady Eddy when you have 2nd and 12, 3rd and 14 and dropped passes.
PREVIEW 2 - PRESSURE, PRESSURE, PRESSURE
The Rams must put pressure on Jay Cutler … I want to see multiple blitzes and consistent pressure. If you pressure Cutler, he will wilt. I am looking for at least four sacks in this game.
REVIEW – The Rams got pressure, but they only had two sacks. Cutler was exactly what you would expect from him, under pressure. To quote Cortland Finnegan, when asked what he saw from Cutler: “Not much. I think he had 190 yards, but no touchdowns. Typical him.”
PREVIEW 3 - FOCUS ON 54
Urlacher has admitted that his knee will never be the same. Let’s test where it is now. … For this game, I want to see at least 10 passes to our running backs and tight ends. I want to see Urlacher having to run all over the field.
REVIEW – The Rams threw 11 passes to the running backs and tight ends, so I can’t complain. Unfortunately, for me, the focus on the middle and the short passes was one of the reasons the Rams lost. The Bears were ready for it. When nothing was open in the middle, the offense stalled. Additionally, these passes to the running backs and tight ends, resulted in no big plays. The longest completion was 12 yards to Mullegan. Many were completed for five or less yards. Nice idea, but it did not help lead to victory.
PREVIEW 4 - TWO TIGHTENDS
Unfortunately, we still have issues on our line, and we are facing one of the best passing rushing defensive ends in the last 10 years. While I want to attack Urlacher, I also believe we need a tight end back on the line to help with pass protection. The obvious conclusion is we need frequent two tight end sets. After last week’s performance by Bradford, the Bears will focus on trying to get quick pressure on him. Therefore, I hope to see an offensive game plan that shows protection is a priority.
REVIEW – Not only did Rams use two tight ends often, they used three tight ends often. The tights ends often line up as a wide receiver and sometimes in the backfield. The extra blockers didn’t matter. More often than not, the pressure came from non-blitz situations where the defensive lineman clearly beat the offensive lineman.
PREVIEW 5 - STEADY EDDY 2
I hope to see more of the same from Bradford. Last week was a shining example of what Bradford does well. With three/five step drops and quick throws, Bradford is at his best. With seven step drops and a requirement that he review his options all over the field, he is at his worst. … Keep moving the chains. Keep moving the chains. I am also not opposed to field goals. Steady Eddy has to get points to be there in the fourth quarter.
REVIEW – This preview could not have been more correct. When Bradford used three and five step drops with quick throws in the 1st half, he was very good. In the 2nd half, the Rams tried to get the ball deeper (over 10 yards) and operated from the shotgun 14 times. Bradford ended up holding the ball longer. The results were not positive. Bradford completed 11 of 24, with two interceptions. I do not have the space in this article to address the wide receivers, but I try to address it later in the week.