The Bears won the division. Way back in August, I did not think I’d be typing that, let alone as early as after Week 15.
Then again, if you told me in June that I’d typing “The Bears traded for Khalil Mack,” I would have called the police. Moral of the story: anything is possible.
Back to the all-too-important victory over Green Bay that transpired on Sunday at an electric Soldier Field. Mitch Trubisky led the charge, taking the Bears on a key touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter. However, these are the Chicago Bears, and with that comes defense playing a significant role in every victory.
There were a handful of studs manning the monstrous side of the football in Chicago on Sunday, as they finally defeated Pennywise the dancing clown. I go over who they were and more, here in my film review of the Bears’ reclamation of the NFC North crown.
Leonard Floyd’s big day
Opposite Khalil Mack, the Bears’ 2016 top-ten pick had a big day of his own, but he had it in a different way than his all-pro and potentially DPOY counterpart.
Floyd is not and will never be the dominant force that Mack is, and that’s okay. On Sunday, Floyd excelled at his two biggest strengths: his ability to gain separation from blockers and his pursuing speed.
Leonard Floyd has been steadily improving all year at setting the edge in the run game, and he does it primarily by getting extension with his freakishly long arms.
This clip is from the first play of the game. Floyd is on the defense’s right, facing Jason Spriggs. Spriggs’s first steps are to try and position himself to be a boundary between Floyd and the hole – a big no-no in offensive line rooms. This plus his disgusting pad level are what Floyd exploits. He drives his left arm into Spriggs’s right armpit, which because of Spriggs’s position blocking puts the OT perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.
This allowed Floyd to use Spriggs and the extension he achieves to close the designed hole and have full control over the edge. Because the interior line did its job and Floyd manhandled Spriggs, Floyd has a clear lane to stop running back Aaron Jones in his tracks for a tackle for loss.
— Jack Soble (@jacksobleTLS) December 18, 2018
On this play, Floyd used his thin frame and his knowledge of technique to get skinny and split a brief double team from the fullback and tight end. He then knows not to go to far upfield and – like Mack with Aaron Rodgers – brings down the ballcarrier with his back.
Back sack rhymes, but back tackle for loss is exactly as effective.
Floyd got his third sack of the season by using that extension that was discussed above, as well as his speed in pursuit of the quarterback. He immediately got extension on Bakhtiari and started slowly but steadily and surely walking him back into Rodgers. That is always helpful, but the arm extension is going to be the big key here.
The reason for this is that achieving extension allows him to easily disengage from David Bakhtiari, the left tackle, as Rodgers tries to escape from Eddie Goldman, who flushed him out of the pocket. Bakhtiari holds him a bit (and of course gets away with it because he does this all the time), but Floyd shakes loose and chases down Rodgers.
Many edge rushers could let Rodgers escape their grasp and buy time to his right, or even run for a few yards. Floyd, while being held, tries to grab Rodgers’ jersey, but that doesn’t work. So he swipes Rodgers’s right shoulder pad – with those long arms again – to slow him down enough so that Floyd catches up to him and takes him down with authority.
This sack on the final defensive play of the game may look like Floyd just got lucky and caught Rodgers in the right place at the right time, but he actually played it exactly according to play design.
While this may look like a four-man rush, it’s actually a three-man design with Mack, Goldman, and Roy Robertson-Harris, and a QB contain responsibility for Floyd. The idea is that Mack is dominant enough that he breaks through to Rodgers – which he did – and it drives Rodgers into Floyd’s arms.
This is exactly what happened here. Floyd plays this very well, careful not to get too close to Bakhtiari in order to avoid engaging him, and he shows a great ability to approach the quarterback at full speed without losing contain responsibilities.
Rodgers realizes before the end of the play that he’s fallen into the Bears’ trap, but by then it’s far too late, thanks to the speed and awareness of Leonard Floyd.
🚨🚨🚨MACK THREAD WEEK 15🚨🚨🚨
Mack holds the edge here and at the last second dives back inside to tackle Aaron Jones for minimal gain. I don’t think Randall Cobb can block Khalil Mack. pic.twitter.com/9zBMguyk7R
— Jack Soble (@jacksobleTLS) December 19, 2018
Other film notes
-Eddie Goldman is one of the best defensive tackles in the league, and it showed on Sunday.
-Prince Amukamara did not have a great day, going against Davante Adams for most of the night. Adams is one of the more precise route runners in the league, and he struggled to keep up with some of his harsher cuts and quicker movements.
That being said, when Adams lined up on Kyle Fuller‘s side of the field, he was limited to two catches – both screen passes – on four targets. And the two incompletions were both pass breakups from Fuller, in another exemplary performance from the newly crowned Pro Bowl cornerback.
Via Next Gen Stats, here is Adams’s full route tree. There is a noticeable difference between his performance against Amukamara and against Fuller, confirming what was clear on film:
— Jack Soble (@jacksobleTLS) December 18, 2018
The Bears like to keep Amukamara on the defense’s right and Fuller on the defense’s left for the entire game, and they’ve been consistent in this for most of the season because they trust Amukamara. That being said, if they find themselves in a playoff game against a team with a clear number one receiver like Adams, it may be necessary to have Fuller follow him around all day.
–If I didn’t know better, based on the tape I’d assume that Roquan Smith ran a sub-4.4 40. He continues to jump off the screen, flying to the ball to attack wide receiver screens and short passes to lumbering tight ends. He had some growing pains early in the season, but Smith has become a weapon.
-My dad pointed out earlier in the week that Sherrick McManis is a sure-handed tackler on defense due to his years of experience as a special teamer. I could see exactly what I meant when I watched the film from Sunday.
–Akiem Hicks didn’t have his best game, but he showed up with a huge third down pass deflect at the line of scrimmage late in the contest. He has undoubtedly earned his first pro bowl nod with a fantastic season.
–Green Bay’s touchdown wasn’t really anybody’s fault. Fangio had Floyd shoot the B gap in a stunt, which is an effective means of getting Akiem Hicks free off the edge. The Packers just ran the best possible play to beat it – an outside zone where Floyd lost contain because of the stunt. Hicks couldn’t make up the ground, and the tight end made a good block on Adrian Amos to secure the touchdown.
One of the Bears’ favorite blitz packages
Vic Fangio loves showing a nickel set with Smith and Danny Trevathan each inching forward and threatening the B gaps.
Khalil Mack’s first sack is a great example. The left guard didn’t see Smith’s blitz coming, so he helped on the defensive tackle instead of facing the linebacker. That left David Bakhtiari, the left tackle, with a predicament: block Mack or block Smith?
The answer, as it turns out, was neither:
It’s actually similar to sugar-ing the ILBs in the A gaps, like the Lovie Smith-led Bears did all the time in that it gives the offensive line something to think about with lots of options to choose from. However, I like this Fangio version more.
It’s safer because it doesn’t give the linebackers an inherent disadvantage in their drops into coverage if they don’t blitz, and it’s more effective because there is more you can run out of it. The Bears worked a twist with Trevathan going into his B gap and Smith looping around the DT into the Trevathan-side A gap out of this set on Sunday, which is much more creative than anything you can do out of a sugar set.
That’s all for this week. Read more about the Bears as we head into the playoffs (!!!) on The Loop Sports.
Credit: Sun Times. Pictured: Leonard Floyd & Aaron Rodgers
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