ReFo: Lions @ Bears, Week 10
The NFC North lead was on the line on Sunday in Chicago and it came down to a single play at the end from 1 yard away. Nick Fairley’s tackle for a loss on the Bears’ final play from scrimmage was a microcosm for what decided the game. The Lions’ front seven was utterly dominant as they registered 34 total pressures and allowed 1.9 yards per carry. The last time these two teams met, a shootout ensued. Sunday’s contest had a completely different feel for the vast majority of the game. Outside of each team’s first and last drives, just 13 total points were scored.
One can’t help but wonder the direction this game would have gone had the Bears switched quarterbacks earlier in the game. After just a few series’ of play it was clear that the Bears’ offensive line wasn’t going to keep clean pockets and that Jay Cutler wasn’t going to be able to elude much pressure. For all his struggles, Cutler still led a team with an aimless run game to three scoring drives with another one ending in an interception in the end zone off a batted pass. What could have been 28 points (two missed opportunities for Alshon Jeffrey) was only 13 and the Bears dropped to 5-4 and 0-2 against the Lions on the season. Next week, they face Baltimore who boasts PFF’s sixth-best run defense and ninth-best pass rush.
For the Lions, the silly mistakes almost caught up with them. Three personal fouls extended Bears drives, while five drops cost them on offense. Despite the win, the concern turns back towards the secondary. Even with the defensive line providing an enormous assist, the secondary had zero passes defended and a combined coverage grade of -6.2. The good news is they are 6-3 with a one-game divisional lead and travel to a 3-6 Pittsburgh team next weekend.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Manning the Middle
What can you say about the job Stephen Tulloch (+6.3) did on Sunday? Quite simply the best and most complete performance we’ve graded at the middle linebacker position all season. Tulloch wasn’t downgraded once and made three stops in the run game and three in coverage. He showed amazing reaction in the passing game and enough speed to chase down Alshon Jeffrey from behind on a crossing route. He allowed three of five targets to be completed for just 15 yards and had a pass defended. He also made plays that won’t go on any stat sheet. The best example of this came in the third quarter with 8:56 remaining. Tulloch ended up blitzing the same gap Nick Fairley was occupying and instead of hesitating, he took a page from the Patriots’ playbook and drove Fairley right past Matt Slauson and into the backfield. It may not have been the flashiest game you’ll see, but Tulloch played lights out against the Bears.
Pick Your Pass Rusher
Willie Young (+0.5), Nick Fairley (+1.1), Ndamukong Suh(+3.3) – good luck offensive linemen everywhere. The trio got after against the Bears combining for three batted passes, three sacks, six hits, and nine hurries and a PFF pass rushing grade of +6.8. It was almost a given that if Cutler held the ball for three seconds, one of the three would be in the quarterback’s face. Young is seventh among defensive ends in Pass Rush Productivity while Suh and Fairley are first and 11th respectively among defensive tackles. If the Lions are stopping the run and those three can get in obvious passing situations, it’s a scary prospect for any quarterback.
Rookie on Rookie
Rookie undrafted free agents aren’t supposed to be this good. LaAdrian Waddle (+4.5) showed the Bears what they could have had on Sunday had they drafted him over PFF’s lowest-graded tackle Jordan Mills. No team drafted Waddle though and all he’s done since taking over as the starter in Week 8 is put together back-to-back monster games. Waddle was matched up against rookie seventh-round pick David Bass for most of the game and utterly dominated him. The right tackle didn’t allow a single pressure and showed great power in the running game. Two games don’t make a season, but Waddle is off to the best start of any rookie tackle in the NFL so far.
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
‘New’ Offensive Line
Last week, when asked to compare the Bears’ offensive line this season versus last season, Brandon Marshall boldly stated, “There is no comparison”. Unfortunately, the stats, and a dinged-up quarterback, say differently. In Sunday’s game, the Bears’ quarterbacks were pressured on 27 of 51 dropbacks and on those they went 10-25 for 110 yards. Along with two sacks, the Bears’ quarterbacks were hit on nine separate occasions. Kyle Long (+0.5) was the only offensive lineman to grade positively while Matt Slauson (-4.5) allowed more pressures on Sunday than he had in the last four games combined. The Bears may have figured out their sack problem, but they are on pace for 15 more hits and 84 more hurries than in 2012.
Boom or Bust
Stephen Paea came out of the gates against Dominic Raiola and looked like he was going to have a career game. The defensive tackle beat the Lions’ center for four defensive stops in the first quarter alone. Paea was standing him up and two-gapping perfectly, disengaging right as the running back got into the hole. Then Paea got greedy and started shooting gaps. On Reggie Bush’s 39-yard run early in the third quarter, Paea was fooled soundly by the counter action and left a monstrous hole on the right side of the line. It’s the type of misread that you could have lived with if Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher were roaming the middle of the field, but with two rookies behind him the miscue turned into a chunk play. It was still a very good game for Paea who graded at +1.7 overall, but his inconsistencies are still all too apparent.
What to Make of Cutler and McCown
Some teams you can understand rushing back an injured starting quarterback. There are many, many backups around the league that aren’t capable of winning games in the NFL. Josh McCown proved with a +8.2 grade over two games that the Bears are not one of those teams. The 12th-year veteran just put up more points against Green Bay than Cutler ever did with Chicago. That’s why it’s so puzzling that an obviously hobbled Cutler sat in the pocket all day and didn’t even come out after a play where he was visibly grabbing his groin injury. Cutler was fine when he played, going 21-34 on targeted passes for 250 yards with two drops, a touchdown, and an interception. The thing is McCown was better. The backup went six of eight on targeted passes with a drop, a touchdown, and quite a bit more escapability. It was an odd decision and one that Marc Trestman is going to have to field questions about for a while.
– Landon Cohen and Julius Peppers led the Bears with two pressures apiece. Five different Lions had at least four pressures.
– The Bears didn’t want to mess with Suh and Fairley in the run game, 15 of their 20 runs went outside the tackles.
– Jay Cutler did almost all of his work in the middle of the field. He went 15-21 for 210 yards on targets between the numbers as opposed to 6-13 for 40 yards outside the numbers.
PFF Game Ball
With one of the most complete performance you’ll ever see from a middle linebacker, Stephen Tulloch more than deserves this game ball. He finished with a +6.3 grade, the eighth-best single game grade we’ve ever given an inside linebacker.
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