Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

30 Nov 2010

ESPN AGS: Bears over Eagles

If you want to shut down Michael Vick, you better know your left from your right. Vince Verhei explains in this week's Any Given Sunday.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 30 Nov 2010

25 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2010, 7:42pm by Tampa Bay Mike


by Led :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:00pm

It also helps to sign Julius Peppers.

by battlered90 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:12pm

I'm guessing the key strategy is forcing him to run to his right? I am interested to see if A) the Texans coaching staff has any idea about this strategy and B) they are able to effectively do it with their defensive personnel.

by Marko :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:39pm

I'm guessing it is to rely heavily on Cover-2. And to have the 4 lineman get pressure up the middle while maintaining gap responsibility so as to not let Vick escape the pocket.

Or maybe it is to have the back 7 make sure tackles without allowing yards after the catch. Or maybe it is to get a game-turning interception off Vick by tipping a ball at the line of scrimmage as the Eagles were inside the 5 yard line and about to take the lead. Or maybe it is to get a big lead by gashing the Eagles with big plays and scoring 31 points, then hold the Eagles to field goals instead of touchdowns. Or maybe it is to not turn the ball over at all against the Eagles, instead of having 5 turnovers like the Giants did.

by JaxBearsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:24pm

Ick. Must be an "ESPN Insider." ESPN = DO NOT WANT. No Google Cache of the article either. Oh well.

by dbt :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 5:21pm

Did you miss the words "ESPN" in the headline? All content thus labeled is ESPN Insider only. That way the guys that write for the site get to eat and have a place to live.

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 11:18pm

For what it's worth, you can get an Insider account with any ESPN: The Magazine subscription; I saw a deal today that was $2 for an entire year. I hate the magazine so it gets sent to a friend, and I keep the Insider.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 1:35pm

Do you know where you saw that offer?

by qed :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:25pm

Getting pressure from the left side might be a small part of the overall strategy, but having the 2nd-ranked (NYG) or 6th-ranked (CHI) defense is probably a bigger part. I don't think most defenses can generate the same pressure using just the DL.

by Rick B. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 2:33pm

Yeah, holding the Eagles to 26 points and getting lucky with some dropped passes courtesy of the Eagles WRs sure sounds like "shutting Vick down".

The Eagles hung more points on the Bears than any other team this year, including Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. If it wasn't for a defensive meltdown which allowed Jay Cutler to inexplicably throw four touchdown passes, the Eagles probably win this one going away.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 3:22pm

The Eagles scored 13 points through three quarters and at that point had been out -gained by over 100 yards. The Eagles then added 13 more points and nearly 200 yards when the Bears haad already effectively beaten them.

I thought some perspective might help.

by Anonymous99 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 3:54pm

I'm sorry. I forgot. They don't count the 4th qtr of games.

Did you stop watching in the third quarter?

by Jimmy :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 4:03pm

Context matters. Cutler was throwing for more than ten yards a clip but the Bears pretty much stopped throwing the ball because they didn't need to as they had won the game already if they avoided giving the Eagles big plays. Which is waht happened.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 11:55am

but the Bears pretty much stopped throwing the ball

Bears non-kneel drives in the 4th quarter: run for 1 yard, 34 yard pass, run for 1 yard, run for no gain, pass incomplete. Run for no gain, run for 1 yard, pass incomplete.

They didn't stop passing. Drives like that happened earlier in the game, too.

because they didn't need to as they had won the game already if they avoided giving the Eagles big plays

Yeah, they completely won the game. I mean, no one ever recovers onsides kicks. Ever. And it would've been completely different if they had allowed the Eagles to have a big play - that way they would've scored in what, probably a minute or so, instead of taking too long to march down the field to score a TD.

Wait, what? They scored in ~2 minutes on the last drive?

There's this doofy belief that as soon as you get down 3 scores, you're dead, and even if you come back a bunch, it was because the other team let up. C'mon. This is crazy. I guarantee the Bears would've preferred to close out the game with a long drive at the 4-minute mark, and they would've preferred to force the Eagles into a three-and-out on the next drive. And I absolutely guarantee that the Bears didn't want the game to come down to holding the Eagles to field goals when they were in first-and-goal situations.

You can't discount what happened in the fourth quarter, because weird stuff does happen. That's not to imply in any way that the Bears didn't solidly win the game. They did. But they didn't win it as solidly as a 31-13 victory; discounting those 13 points in the fourth quarter really minimizes the fact that the Eagles were driving most of the game. They just couldn't do anything in the red zone.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 1:35pm

I am not saying it is ideal to allow the opposition to put long drives together in the fourth quarter but it is preferable to allowing Vick to start throwing deep and then running. The Eagles have a very good (and very fast offense) removing big plays from the options available to the Eagles prevented them from having enough time to bring themselves back without having to onside kick. The Eagles had to convert two fourth downs in coming back (including the last TD)

I stand by my original point that context matters, especially when folks are looking at conventional stats. It seemed all game to me that the Bears knew they were going to have to accept some yardage from the Eagles offense, they are very good. The gameplan seemed to be about Vick mitigation and it worked for my mind.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 5:06pm

I am not saying it is ideal to allow the opposition to put long drives together in the fourth quarter but it is preferable to allowing Vick to start throwing deep and then running

Other than the red zone performance, it doesn't look like it made the slightest bit of difference. It's not like Philly had been crazy bad in the red zone earlier this year, so it's not like they're all "big play only" - and the reason why the Bears were so good in the red zone had nothing to do with them playing off earlier. It had everything to do with defensive line pressure.

The gameplan was all about expose the crappy Eagles offensive line. That's it. Could've been Vick, could've been Kolb, could've been anyone back there.

by Big Frank :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 3:55pm

You should really only comment on the games you've seen. This, obviously, was not one of those games.

by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 6:00pm

That game wasn't decided by the Bears D vs the Eagles O, it was decided by the Eagles D vs the Bears O. It hurts a team to lose both starting corners and the tackling was just ugly. Neither Vick nor the offense was shut down, the offense moved up and down the field all day and stalled when they had goal to go as they did against Indy and NY. Vick also missed an open Celek for a TD early in the game while under no pressure from the D. No one who watched the game can reasonably claim that the Eagles were shut down anymore than they were against Indy or NY. They were a little bit unlucky in that they had 4 goal to go drives two starting on the 10 and two on the 8, even so they played well enough to win had the D showed up. There really isn't much new to learn about either team from this game. The Bears D/Eagles O played well enough to win or lose and the Eagles D had injuries precisely where an interception prone QB like Cutler would be helped the most. If these teams meet again and both are reasonably healthy, the home team will be favored by a few points.

by ChiJeff (not verified) :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 7:44pm

The point about the Bears defense is not that they " shut " down Mike Vick it's that they basically executed the defensive game plan to perfection. People are missing the forest through the trees so to speak. The issue was not to hold Mike Vick to 5 of 45 passing or hold the Eagles to 50 yards total offense for the entire game. The point was to take an extremely explosive offense ( one averaging about 38 points over it's last 3 to 4 games ) and make it nickel and dime it down the field. The Bears were basically saying that if Vick and the Eagles could consisently run off 12 to 15 play drives all game long in 5 to 7 yard chunks and STILL score 38 points then better power to them. What the Bears were NOT going to do was let Mike Vick get off one of his patent 55 yard bombs to his fast outside recievers and get quick and easy touchdowns which tend to pump up the Eagles and demoralize they;re opponents. The 399 yards were essentially empty calories. The yardage the Bears gave up were not a concern. All the Bears cared about was keeping the Eagles fastbreak offense under control. In that, they were sucessful. The worry Eagles fans should have is will other teams mimic the Bears defensive approach particularly if the Eagles continue to struggle in the red zone.

Speaking of the red zone, it is becoming annoying to hear people speak of the Eagles " bad " luck in starting goal to go on the 10 yard line. So what? Truly good offensive teams can still score from 10 yards out. I suspect Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning and Co could figure out how to get into the endzone even if they were starting 1 and goal at the 8,9 or 10 yard line.

by Kal :: Tue, 11/30/2010 - 7:53pm

Another aspect was something I doubt teams are going to be able to replicate: the Bears had massive speed rushing the QB. Just insanely fast at times. There aren't many players who can run Vick down from behind, but that happened multiple times to end drives. They played very disciplined in not allowing him outside the pocket as well. It was a very impressive performance.

And while Cutler played well, the real star for the Bears was their running game, which actually managed some life.

by dbt :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 4:28am

The reason Vick was able to dink and dunk down the field is because the Bears safeties were lining up 20+ yards off the ball and turning and bailing further back at the snap. Granted they usually run a tampa 2 but this was much deeper than they've run most of the rest of the season. I'm looking forward to watching the coach's film on rewind this week for sure.

Once the Eagles got inside the red zone, the safeties by necessity couldn't and shouldn't play as deep and suddenly the Eagles started kicking field goals... Hmm.

by Anonymous21 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 1:47pm

I guess you just happened to forget why they were playing so deep...you know so they didn't get burned deep.

When there was no deep to go(Redzone) they didn't need to play so deep. So they came up and forced FGs. This Bears D is far from a juggernaut. They had a good plan which was get pressure with 4 and play the safeties 30 yds off the ball. Knowing Andy Reid hates to run the ball(even tho he has one budding star at RB in McCoy and a very solid backup in harrison) this was a good strategy. McCoy was averaging 5 ypc if they had run it it would have brought the safeties up....and Ta-Da! the Deep routes would have opened up and the DEs would have stopped coming 100 mph off the edge.

In other words Andy Reid is Andy Reid b/c he didn't use the solution when he already had it. B/c running the Ball can't possibly be the right way to attack a defense ever...

Look for a TE to be lined up next to LT(either on the line or in the slot left) or a lot of slot motion(to chip and knock the DE inside) from avant on the left side or more of the wing RB looks on empty sets to counter this left side contain that has been effective in keeping vick from going left.

by dbt :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 8:52pm

I didn't say that that was why they were playing deep... I figured that went without saying. Of course that's why they were playing deep.

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 11:18pm

McCoy's ypc is misleading. He was boom and bust all day and one of his runs was 13 yards on 3rd and 19. The Bears were doing a very good job against the run with only 7 men in the box.

by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Fri, 12/03/2010 - 7:42pm

I'm gonna have to wake you from your Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning fantasy, but all teams are going to score TD's less often from 1st and Goal at the 10 than they will with shorter goal to goes. Having one goal to go from the ten is unusual, but having two was seriously rare. The Eagles had first and goal from the ten twice and from the eight three times. That's just luck. You can't credit the Bears D for that.

Bottom line, the Eagles difficulties in that game were about the Eagles and randomness, not the Bears. Their issues were dropped TD's, missing both starting CB's (Cutler with 4 TD's and no picks!), and a rare Vick miss of a wide open Celek for a TD. If they fix the drops and get at least one of the starting CB's back they have a better than 50-50 chance of beating the Bears on the road and are almost a lock at home. It doesn't matter what Chicago does, it's all about the unforced errors for the Eagles.

by skayne (not verified) :: Wed, 12/01/2010 - 6:42pm

It's shows how good Michael Vick's Eagles are when 27pts against the Giants and 26 against the Bears are considersed "shut down".

The Bears didn't do anything the Colts and Giants didn't. Both the Colts and Giants bogged the Eagles down in the red-zone as well, which you can blame on the fact that Andy Reid doesn't really run the ball in the red zone, and knowing the other team is only going to pass makes it easy to bend but not break to often. The Eagles moved the football up and down the field, just as they did against the Colts and Giants.

The ONLY difference was the play of the defense, which came unglued when forced to play Lindley for a lot of plays. The Eagles played stifling defense in the 2nd half against the Colts and the whole game against the Giants, which was key to winning both games. The fact that the Bears pathetic offense was able to move the ball at will until the middle of the 4th quarter is what made the 26pts the Bear's D gave up enough to win the ballgame. The Bears made plays hemming in Mike Vick, but so did the Colts and Giants. The difference was the Bear's O.