The Chicago Bears defense has not been able to reclaim its 2018 Vic Fangio form. After Fangio took the Broncos’ head coaching job, Chuck Pagano came in to fill the void as Matt Nagy’s defensive coordinator. Under Fangio in 2018, the defense led the league in points against (17.6), turnovers forced (36), interceptions by a wide margin (27), and were third in sacks with 50.
2019 wasn’t so fruitful under Pagano as the defense regressed with only 19 takeaways, 10 interceptions, and 32 sacks, albeit they were still dominant with points allowed (18.6). Turnovers can be fluky and fluctuate year to year, but it was evident that the defense took a slight step back in 2019. The Bears went from a net +17 sacks in 2018, and regressed to a -13 last season.
Although the unit had a down year, they’re definitely not a defense to take lightly. Khalil Mack is still a top five pass rusher in the league, Akiem Hicks was injured most of last season but is still a force to be reckoned with, and Roy Robertson-Harris is an ascending player. Both linebackers Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan missed time in 2019, but they make a formidable duo at the second level when healthy.
Free agent signing Robert Quinn, who the Giants became familiar with last season in Dallas, did not play in week one and remains questionable for the matchup with Big Blue. On the backend, safety Eddie Jackson is a ball hawking player and corner Kyle Fuller is a solid coverage player. The defense as a whole has talent at every level and the defensive front will be difficult for this struggling Giants offensive line.
Mack had 6 pressures in the game and lined up on both the left and right side of the line of scrimmage; you can bet both Andrew Thomas and Cam Fleming will see a fair share of Mack on Sunday. Let’s dive into some broadcast film on what the Bears defense was doing.
This was an interesting play call for Detroit on the third-and-10 as the Lions were able to scheme a mismatch with Marvin Jones against linebacker Danny Trevathan. Before the recording, there was a BUNCH formation to the top of the screen in 11 personnel with the backside receiver being the tight end. Jones motions from the BUNCH to be tight to the line of scrimmage and then he chip blocks Mack with a five-man pressure package coming. After the chip, he releases into the middle of the field, where Trevathan is stuck in coverage - a huge mismatch. Stafford waits for the release and fires the ball to Jones for an easy first down.
This third-and-17 play against a deep zone playing at the sticks allows a savvy route runner like Danny Amendola to find the soft spot between Jackson and Trevathan. If Chicago decides to play more zone than man when tit doesn’t blitz, then receivers like Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate, if he plays, have the type of experience and craftiness to find voids in zone coverage. Giving up a third-and-17 conversion is devastating for a defense, and hopefully the Giants and Daniel Jones can do the same in Week 2.
Here we see a possible running situation, but the Lions decide to motion their running back out to an empty set to create a specific matchup at the top of your screen. The Steelers did this a ton against New York in week one when Patrick Graham aligned in man coverage. This is a rub route where Marvin Hall (17) is trying to slightly obstruct the covering linebacker who is on DeAndre Swift; Hall goes outside to pick, Swift comes underneath for an easy completion, right? Well theoretically. The rookie Johnson blows this play up by seeing the pick and reacting to Swift’s under route. On bang-bang plays like this, it’s difficult for the quarterback to adjust if there’s no time, especially when he’s in his windup once he hits his back foot. Hall was open, but Stafford didn’t have the time. Maybe the Giants can fake this play in short yardage situations, and then go over top to the “pick” player.
This is a third-and-6, so not exactly short, but still important. It’s a pivotal play in the game. Lions come out in tight 11 personnel and the Bears are in match-man; Jackson is playing the middle of the field and he makes a great play to see the deep cross and understand the route concept. He jumps Jones’ dig route and is able to create the deflection that leads to the interception. Jackson is very anticipatory and Daniel Jones must know where he is at all times.
RB usage in passing attack
The Lions gave nine targets to their running backs against the Bears. This is a simple concept that may be available if the Giants are able to establish any sort of run to give credibility to their play action attack - I know ... big if. Two tight receivers to the field run clear out patterns to take the corners and safeties deep, and then the running back leaks into the flat for an easy completion. Now ... I’d imagine that the Bears will be a bit more cognizant of Saquon Barkley than an elder Adrian Peterson in the flat, but the concept could work and help get Barkley the ball in his hands in space.
The Lions utilize pre-snap motion to have the tight end chip the linebacker and release, but then design a play that should have won them the game. A very nice three-man route combination: a post, out, and flag from the running back. The outermost receiver runs the post to help clear out the sideline for Amendola, who helps draw defenders up and away from the end zone where Swift was headed. Swift’s stutter step leaves Trevathan scrambling and the rookie running back is wide open in the end zone, but he fails to catch the pass. A good play design, just a lack of execution ruined the win on this play.
The Giants offensive line will have its hands full once again with stopping the pass rush and paving a clear path for running back Saquon Barkley. I expect Jason Garrett to continue utilizing heavy personnel in an uptempo manner. If, however, Golden Tate is active, we may see more 11 personnel which could relegate Sterling Shepard back to the boundary. The Giants must focus on the quick game once again to maintain a rhythm for their second-year quarterback, who played well in Week 1, but made one really costly mistake. The Giants must limit the mistakes, eliminate the turnovers, and not allow Kahlil Mack & Co. to dictate this game.