Welcome to my weekly Chicago Bears Redzone Report where I take a deep dive into every red zone possession on both sides of the ball.
A team’s success or failure inside the red zone has a strong correlation to its overall performance. In many ways, it’s do or die inside the 20.
I want to take some time every week to analyze these critical possessions.
This week, there were seven total red zone trips. Two from the Bears’ offense and five on defense.
Let’s see how they fared …
Trip 1 (Score: 0-3)
Quarter: 1 | Time Remaining: 5:20
How They Got There: The Bears were able to move downfield in a hurry during their opening possession of the game with the biggest chunk being the 30-yard completion on a flea flicker to Equanimeous St. Brown after a timeout.
David Montgomery was heavily featured throughout the drive and was the one who got the Bears into the red zone after gaining 13 yards on a first-and-10 from the Packers 25-yard line.
The Result: Fields faked the handoff to Montgomery and took off to his right. With his speed, Fields was able to outrun Rashan Gary and fall forward over Adrian Amos for the touchdown.
Analysis: It’s hard to complain about what the Bears were able to accomplish on their first trip inside the 20. They only needed to run two plays before punching it in for the lead.
Having fullback Kahari Blasingame on the field really helped in this area of the field. He was able to seal the edge for Montgomery quite a bit, including the run he had to get the Bears to the three.
For the Bears, marching downfield on their opening possession to take the lead was quite a statement. They cruised downfield with ease.
Surely, they’ll stick with what’s working and keep the Packers on their heels, right? RIGHT?
Trip 2 (Score: 10-24)
Quarter: 4 | Time Remaining: 12:01
How They Got There: After scoring a field goal on their prior possession, the Bears faced a long field down two scores as they started this drive at their own 10. The Bears reverted back to their strategy in the first quarter and kept it on the ground. It worked!
Montgomery and Khalil Herbert combined for 86 yards on the ground in order for the Bears to make it back into the red zone. If you’re doing math at home, the reason for 86 yards is because the Bears lost 10 on their lone pass attempt of the drive when Preston Smith sacked Fields on a play fake.
The Result: The Bears turned it over on downs after being stopped inches from the goal line on a Fields’ run out of shotgun on fourth-and-goal. Was he actually in?
Analysis: After being able to march their way into the red zone on the ground, the Packers’ defense stiffened up inside the 20. Chicago did run it on every single play in the red zone during this trip.
Fields was able to extend the drive when he ran out of bounds but stretched the ball out passed the line to gain. The only problem? The Bears had to challenge the call on the field in order to get the first-and-goal. The time it took for the officials to review the play was enough for the Packers to recover after being gassed and having to place reserves into the game. So with the starters back out there on defense with their collective breath back, the Bears’ job to score a touchdown got complicated.
After two-straight runs to Montgomery that yielded four yards, the Bears put the ball into Fields’ hands. His first attempt was a scramble to the right end. Called a touchdown on the field, it was overturned as the quarterback’s knee hit the grass before the ball hit the pylon.
With one more play to work with and only inches to go for the score, the Bears broke the huddle and came out of shotgun. The guys upfront failed to generate enough push to propel Fields into the end zone — at least in a clear and obvious way — and instead of making it a one-score game with eight minutes left, the Bears gave the ball back to the Packers.
And that was that.
Offensive Summary: 2 Red Zone Trips, 1 Touchdown (50% conversion)
Trip 1 (Score: 0-0)
Quarter: 1 | Time Remaining: 9:45
How They Got There: Despite getting the Packers into third-and-long twice on the drive, the Bears’ defense was unable to get Aaron Rodgers and Co. off the field. So naturally, they found themselves into the red zone in a matter of minutes after Rodgers found Aaron Jones for a 15-yard gain on third-and-10 from the 28.
The Result: The Bears sacked Rodgers on third-and-15 and forced the Packers to settle for a field goal.
Analysis: After giving up a ton of yards in a hurry, the Bears stiffened up in the red zone. They forced two-straight incompletions before taking down Rodgers on third down. One of the best plays on the drive came from rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon who was able to use his vertical to go up and knock the ball away from Allen Lazard in the end zone. The following play is where Trevis Gipson sacked Rodgers.
Trip 2 (Score: 7-3)
Quarter: 1 | Time Remaining: 0:46
How They Got There: After moving down the field, the Packers looked like they were going to face a third-and-3 at their own 43 after a Rodgers’ scramble. However, rookie Jaquan Brisker was called for illegal contact on the play, which gave the Packers a fresh set of downs. A few plays later, Rodgers found Sammy Watkins for a 24-yard completion, which set up the Packers for their second-straight trip inside the red zone.
The Result: The Bears surrendered the first touchdown of the game after Jones was able to practically jog into the end zone from 15 yards out. The Bears didn’t get hands on him until he was a few yards out, and by then, it was too late as the back had a full head of steam and nobody had interest in making an effort to tackle.
Analysis: That one stung. After forcing a negative play to begin the trip, the Bears surrendering a score to a running back on the ground from 15 yards away is a punch to the gut.
It should never happen.
Trip 3 (Score: 7-10)
Quarter: 2 | Time Remaining: 5:23
How They Got There: Chicago surrendered a 44-yard completion on a third-and-6 when Juan Jennings got behind Kyler Gordon for an easy pitch and catch down to the Bears’ 16-yard line.
The Result: Aaron Jones scored his second straight touchdown.
Analysis: For the second time in a row, the Bears gave up a touchdown in the red zone after only two plays. Simply put, they failed to provide any sort of resistance. It was way too easy for the Packers to extend their lead.
Perhaps most frustrating is that this trip should not have ever happened. The Bears had the Packers in a second-and-28 situation near midfield a few plays prior after a holding penalty and a sack. They allowed rookie Romeo Doubs to gain 20 on a screen and Randall Cobb to gain enough on third down to move the chains.
The scoring play was a simple pop pass to Jones who took it to the right end. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Kindle Vildor got sucked in and failed to maintain their outside contain and it was an easy trot for a touchdown as the rest of the defense could not flow to that sideline in time. Jaquan Brisker took a poor angle and Roquan Smith got gobbled up by the lead block from AJ Dillion.
Trip 4 (Score: 7-17)
Quarter: 2 | Time Remaining: 0:43
How They Got There: It’s starting to sound repetitive, but the Packers easily were able to march downfield against the Bears. They didn’t face a single third down on the drive. After a 14-yard completion to Cobb, the Packers set up shop inside the 20 for the fourth time in the game — and it wasn’t even halftime yet.
The Result: Rodgers found Lazard for an easy pitch-and-catch on a slant from five yards out.
Analysis: On the first play of the trip, Rodgers was able to find Robert Tonyan who leaked out into the flat and was wide-open after Smith failed to get out there in time. When the tight end caught the ball, there was not a single defender within five yards of him.
Tonyan was able to turn upfield and gain an easy nine yards after the catch.
On the touchdown, Lazard was lined up in the slot on Gordon. His initial move off the snap looked like the receiver may attempt to break outside. Gordon took a step outside, and that was all the inside leverage Lazard needed. Lazard also helped sell this by putting his hands up like he was intending to run block.
You can tell this was exactly what Rodgers was looking for with this matchup as he threw the ball upon immediately noticing the rookie corner taking the bait.
Eddie Jackson’s responsiblity may have been any in-breaking route, but the ball came out too fast and was put on the money. The safety didn’t have a chance. Another wrinkle on the play that made it work was the play-fake. That was enough to hold Jackson in the middle of the field and even forced him to step up, further opening the window for the touchdown throw.
Trip 5 (Score: 10-24)
Quarter: 4 | Time Remaining: 4:54
How They Got There: After the Bears’ failed to convert on their final red zone opportunity, turning the ball over on downs inside the one, the Packers wasted no time moving down the field. After a 55-yard completion to Watkins, Jones gained 15 yards on the ground. Yes, it was another outside run with nobody there to make the stop. And just like that, the Packers were in the red zone for the fifth time.
The Result: The Packers had to settle for a field goal after the Bears made a rare third-down stop in the red zone.
Analysis: Finally, the Bears provided some resistance in this area of the field. It was the first time since the game’s opening drive. Justin Jones had a real nice play on second down where he got into the backfield and took Aaron Jones down for a two-yard loss.
But ultimately, it didn’t matter. The Packers turned it into a three-score game, which was what the Bears needed to avoid if they had any chance at a miracle comeback.
Too little too late.
Defensive Summary: 5 Red Zone Trips, 3 Touchdowns Surrendered (60 percent conversion)
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