After the blizzard of points Tom Brady and the Patriots put up on the Bears’ vaunted defense and the lack of production from Jay Cutler and the Bears offense, it’s becoming clear that the Bears face a definite home field disadvantage. What do I mean? I’m saying that this 2010 Bears team is built to succeed in a dome or a warmer climate.
Let’s start off with Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense. We’ve talked about this many times on this site, but it’s worth bringing up again. The scheme is predicated on the principle that the Front Four defensive linemen generate a pass rush. The prototypical defensive linemen for the Cover-2 or Tampa-2 scheme are lighter, faster guys.
Long gone are the days of 700 pounds of Keith Traylor and Ted Washington eating up blockers. They’ve been traded in for a couple of lighter, faster models. In nasty conditions like we saw at Soldier Field on Sunday, these lighter, faster linemen get pushed around by bigger, stronger offensive lines. They can’t get the traction necessary to generate consistent pressure. As a result, the Bears have to blitz more to get pressure, creating more holes in their zone coverage.
The next area where the Cover-2 is vulnerable is for the quick slants and hitch routes. How many times did Wes Welker just turn around and look for Brady to deliver the ball while the Bears’ corner sat 10 yards off the ball? In sloppy conditions, a quick move and the receiver is able to elude a would-be tackler charging up from their zone.
To an experienced quarterback like Tom Brady, it just takes a play action look or a little pump fake to confuse the safeties and further expose the defense. It’s like taking candy from a baby.
Head coach and defensive mastermind Lovie Smith defended his Cover-2 defense:
“That was a rare happening [Sunday],” Smith said. “There’s nothing wrong with our scheme. We played a little Cover 2 [Sunday]. Normally, that’s an easy person — you know that Cover 2 person to jump on — but [Sunday] we weren’t in an awful lot to be truthful. So we’re not going to use that. The scheme is good, we didn’t execute. The scheme has helped us get to 9-3, but [Sunday], again, we didn’t execute.”
Really, Lovie? Just when I was starting to soften my stance against you, you pull one of those quotes out of your ass. How rare is rare? Off the top of my head, I can think of 4 games where the Bears got their proverbial doors blown off last season alone – Bengals, Cardinals, Vikings and Ravens – just off the top of Boomer’s old melon. None of those games were played under the adverse conditions from Sunday, but they all featured teams that carved up the Cover-2 scheme. Granted, last season the Bears played without a premier pass rusher like Julius Peppers or the lynch of this defense, Brian Urlacher.
On the other side of the ball, Mike Martz’s offense was one knows as the Greatest Show on Turf. Obviously they didn’t have the recently green-painted dirt of Soldier Field in mind when they were referring to turf. The offense is a timing-based system that requires precise timing between the quarterback and his receivers. The quarterback often throws the ball before receivers are coming out of their breaks. Do you see a mismatch between words like precise and timing and the slop they call Soldier Field?
When Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith attempted to reconstruct the St. Louis Rams circa 1999, they must have forgotten that the Bears play in Soldier Field, where every year the turf goes to hell by Thanksgiving and footing is tenuous at best all season long. The field conditions totally negate the Bears’ team speed. Think it’s pure coincidence that three of the Bears’ four losses have come at home this season?
When you add the elements that Mother Nature threw out there on Sunday, the schemes on both sides of the ball completely fail. Add in an experienced opposing quarterback and struggles along your own offensive line and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. This team was not built to win in the hostile winter conditions on the sloppy Soldier Field turf.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Bears would be the #2 seed and host a playoff game. Think they could defer and go to New Orleans instead of playing at Soldier Field?