The difference between these two teams was slim but all too obvious: one quarterback played mistake-free football for two halves, whereas a certain Caleb Hanie could only manage one. Bears fans must be wondering what they did to deserve such bad fortune. A month ago, Jay Cutler had just completed his best-ever game as a Bear, we were talking of Matt Forte as a legitimate MVP candidate, and the team was nailed on to a playoff berth. Unfortunately, the crowbar of fate has pried them away and they are now almost certain to miss out.
The Seahawks have an identical record–and as little chance of making it to January as the Bears–but for some reason, a more positive feel at the moment. Maybe it’s the fact they see themselves with a brighter future; they’re a young team who are a quarterback and a re-tooling of the offensive line away from being very good indeed. Is Tarvaris Jackson that player?
Seattle – Three Performances of Note
Can the Real Tarvaris Jackson Please Stand Up?
It’s fairly obvious to most people that Tarvaris Jackson (+4.1) is never going to be confused with Dan Marino, but that’s not the question. What Seahawks fans want to know is: is he capable of talking them to the playoffs and then on an extended run. Contrary to what Tim Ryan told us during the game, his issues this season have been accuracy when going deep, lack of care and precision throwing less than 10 yards, and a real problem with pressure. In this game only one of those issues manifested itself and even then, only in a minor way. Let’s look at each of those in turn with reference to this game:
To date in 2011 Jackson is 22nd out of 31 ranked passers in accuracy over 20 yards. This wouldn’t be quite so bad but he’s thrown the sixth-most times into that range. The good news here is that he completed a very well thrown pass to Ben Obomanu that went 35 yards in the air and, while this was only one of three, none of the others were of a “dangerous” variety.
Up until this week, under 10 yards, we’ve graded Jackson at -8.1, but against the Bears we gave him a +1.9. Clear evidence of this was the way he held Israel Idonije on the lofted flare to Justin Forsett on 3rd-and-4 with 13:27 left in the fourth.
Finally, his reduction in NFL QB rating under pressure is a mind-boggling 63.7 points (or in PFF grading terms a differential of 25.6). While in this game it still dropped dramatically by 59.6 (or 3.0 in PFF grades) he didn’t make the mistakes we’ve seen in the past that usually accompanies this precipitous fall; he only had one negatively-graded throw all game.
Is this the real Tarvaris?
Run Defense – What is it good for?
Do tight ends get voted to the Pro Bowl for blocking? How about linebackers for their coverage ability? Surely defensive tackles must be considered first and foremost based on their skill in stopping the run? I know I’m a cynic but I’m claiming none of those are true because “if there aren’t any statistics, how on earth could anyone judge?”
Well we will and I am by saying while he may not put up any gaudy sack numbers (unless you consider one all year flashy) Alan Branch (+2.4) is at the least worthy of consideration. He’s our third-ranked run defender on the interior defensive line and here again he came to play. He made five tackles, all of them stops and generally made life tough for everyone on the Bears’ line. Take a look at the way he jolts J’Marcus Webb onto his backside and then bursts inside to stop Kahlil Bell for a yard (first quarter, 4:25 left) – great stuff.
Lies, Damned Lies & Penalties
Chris Clemons (+5.9) had a huge game for the Seahawks but when you look at the box score numbers you see a couple of sacks (put to one side here the NFL stupidly double counts sacks as tackles). “Raheem Brock also got two sacks but also made a couple of tackles but you only gave him a +1.5 grade” I can hear people scream. Why?
Well mainly because of penalties. Penalties have this odd function of wiping out a play as if it never existed. The only remnant is a “black mark” against the person who committed it. What about the guy who caused the thing in the first place? In this game, Clemons forced J’Marcus Webb into two holds and Kellen Davis into another and we grade that in his favor. Just another reason to trust PFF with your hard-earned cash – you know you want to!
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
Breaking the Mold
So you’re a Bears fan and you fully expect me to go into some rant about how awful Caleb Hanie (-2.0) was after the break or how Webb (-3.6) got creamed yet again. Well, prepare to be surprised because I’m going to tell you an unusual tale of a guy doing a great job on the Chicago Offensive line. Although the legacy of Mark Bortz is probably not in jeopardy yet, Edwin Williams (+4.0) had a very effective game across all its facets.
He was perfect in pass protection (would have been an oxymoron if I’d used Chicago in the same sentence) but also did a good job opening holes for his backs. He was the only one to hold his own against Branch, took Hawthorne to task at the second level, and also showed the ability to pull smoothly. Check out his block on Leroy Hill with 12:00 left in the third.
This is his fifth start now and he may be getting into a rhythm. I for one am interested to see how he progresses.
Before I get any hate mail on this one let me start by saying Lance Briggs (-0.7) has had a great season and I’m absolutely not calling time on the back of one mediocre showing. However, what I will say is this: In the last five weeks, this is the third time we’ve graded him as -2.1 or lower in coverage. The way that he plays dictates he gets from sideline to sideline quickly, cover backs, tight ends, and generally move well. At times here he looked slow off the mark and lacking in acceleration. This led to all five passes into his coverage being completed with one going for a touchdown. On the Pass to Forsett (mentioned above) look how labored and hesitant he looks getting through traffic to track a player he had in man coverage.
All that said, if you want to see the reason this is just so much conjecture try 10:24 left in the fourth. The game is slipping, but watch the way he reads the play, destroys Robert Gallery and tackles Marshawn Lynch for a 4-yard loss.
I’ve had Tim Jennings (-1.6) in the mix for my last NFC Pro Bowl vote for a while now. Like any Bears corner, he gives up a lot of yards but rarely gets beat deep–he’s one of only two regular starting corners not to give up a touchdown (the other is Baltimore’s Lardarius Webb). In addition he’s also a superb run force player who likes to bring the hammer to much bigger backs when they run over right end.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t his best game and he gave up a deep pass as well as being rightly flagged for pass interference. As if this wasn’t enough, when tracking Golden Tate over the middle on a 4 route, he was knocked off his tackle by Charles Tillman and then failed to make the play when given a second chance.
He may have slipped out of my consideration, but All-Pro could be just around the corner with a four-pick day next week. Well, if it’s good enough to get DeAngelo Hall a Pro Bowl place with nothing else in his favor, it would certainly wipe out this game and let us consider the rest of his great season more fully.
– How tough was it for Lynch to get to the edge of the defense? Take out the nine runs for 32 yards inside the tackles and you’re left with 11-for-10 yards to the perimeter.
– Hanie’s Passer rating on the seven drop-backs he was blitzed? 2.5. No, I did not miss a digit.
– Brian Urlacher has played more snaps than any other inside linebacker (989). He has only missed one snap all year, against the Chiefs.
PFF Game Ball
Tempting as Tarvaris Jackson’s mistake-free day was, the guy who caused a lot of the issues for Hanie was Chris Clemons and this auspicious award will be winging it’s way westward immediately.