Saturday, November 1, 2008

Why Isn't The Bears Defense What It Used To Be?

The Bears defense has gone into a decline this year and everyone is asking why, or at least pointing fingers. I have only one place to point my finger. Defensive coordinator Bob Babich. What many people forget is that this defensive decline really began last year, when Babich first got promoted to defensive coordinator after Ron Rivera left. Even though he was and is still employing the Cover 2, Babich announced before that season he was going to abandon the blitz and completely rely on the pass rush of his front four. Lance Briggs doesn't want to blame Babich, however:
"From the outside, heat comes on the quarterback for the offense and on defense it comes mostly to the signal caller. That's Brian [Urlacher]and Bob Babich, but I don't feel that way," Briggs said. "Bob has called some great games. If we were to execute all the plays Bob has signaled in, we would be successful."
While Briggs does make a point, the play calling needs to take into account the players skills and strengths and put them in positions to be able to execute effectively. The Bears defense ranked 16th in scoring defense and 28th in yards allowed per game last year. That is a far cry from 2005 when the Bears 1st in scoring defense and 2nd in yards allowed per game.

What made Lovie and Rivera's version of the Cover 2 work so well was that there was pressure on the quarterback from all directions. Quarterbacks had to get rid of the ball quickly, allowing Peanut and Vasher (or whoever was playing CB) to make plays on the ball by undercutting routes and generally hawking for interceptions. Once the quarterback has time to settle, the CBs in the Cover 2 can be easily exposed for not being good cover guys.

Babich decided to essentially abandon the blitz last season, and while the sack numbers did not take a significant hit, the pressure on the quarterback did. This can be seen and felt most strongly in the number of turnovers forced by the Bears, especially interceptions. With the quarterback having more time in the pocket to check down and make good passes, the Cover 2 gets exposed, especially with system guys at CB who are not great cover guys but good ball hawks. Last year the Bears ranked 17th in interceptions with 16 INTs. This year the Bears have done better getting interceptions, but you can see that Babich is slowly opening up the Defense with more blitz schemes. Also 7 of their 10 picks this year came against 2 guys, Griese and Frerrote. Compare those 2007 and 2008 numbers with 2005 and 2006(2nd in INTs with 24 both years).

Babich has begun to open up the playcalling a bit and bring some pressure from different positions. Hopefully he continues that trend, because as has become blatantly obvious, his non-blitzing ways have been ineffective. Also, its just painful as a Bears fan who has come to love the smashmouth hard-hitting defense to watch a quarterback stand in the pocket for 4..5...6...7 seconds all game without even getting his jersey dirty.

While it is unfair to level 100% of the criticism at Babich, the playcalling has been primarily responsible for the decline of the defense. Other factors include: key pieces getting older, injuries, poor execution by players, etc. All those being said, Babich can rejuvenate this defense by getting creative. Its not like the Cover 2 doesn't allow for creative blitzing and coverage schemes. Use them Babich, confuse the defenses a little. Oh and PLEASE get some pressure on the quarterback.

3 comments:

Ben said...

babich needs to send brian up the a gap more often as teams are expecting him to drop off the line into middle coverage as he has been doing all season. i am hoping he is setting teams up for more important games later with this pattern.

WorkerHelp said...

I agree with you that there is something wrong with the Bears defense. Watching the game more closely today, I noticed somehting else. Certainly blitzes would help but notice that the rushers show no stunts. In fact they just rush straight up and can easily be picked up one on one. Further, the linebackers seem to be playing too close to the line and therefore the Bears are very vulnerable to the quick hitters across the middle.

What is most odd is that man for man, I believe that the Bears have great defenders.

Stormin' Norman Disciple said...

Good point. Another testament to Babich's lack of creativity with his defensive schemes.

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