Chicago Bears film study: Why did the Lazor-focused offense fail?
For the second straight home game, the Bears let a very winnable matchup get away Monday night against Minnesota. The play-calling duties were pitched to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and the Bears failed to score an offensive touchdown.
So in this week's film study, let's start by focusing on why the offense was such a failure against a Vikings defense that had been mediocre at best this season:
The Bears set the tone for this game right away when Nick Foles threw an interception on the team's second snap. This was a bad throw/poor decision by Foles. Pass rush was no issue and he tried to go deep middle to Anthony Miller. But he airmailed the throw, it bounced off Miller's hands and set up a 41-yard touchdown drive by Minnesota.
Something else that happened on this play was Cole Kmet and Allen Robinson collided on their pass routes. Late in the first half, before the second field goal, the Bears sent just three receivers into the pattern, but Cordarrelle Patterson and Miller ended up in the same spot on an incomplete pass.
New play-caller or not, this was Week 10 and the Bears shouldn't make these kind of mistakes. The slow start continued in the second half, when the Bears had four straight three-and-outs.
To repeat a previous theme, the best way to unlock this offense is to send Miller and Darnell Mooney across the middle frequently. That takes advantage of their speed and are tougher routes to cover. Short passes will set up the run game and, in turn, play-action.
The offensive line wasn't in as bad a shape as it was in Tennessee with center Cody Whitehair returning to action. But there was one area in particular where this group struggled.
In key passing situations, the Vikings typically put seven guys on the line of scrimmage, then at the snap some of them dropped off in coverage and the rest rushed. Time and again, the Bears couldn't figure out where the rushers were coming from and left someone unblocked.
This was especially important the one time the Bears reached a first-and-goal at the Minnesota 7 after a long drive in the first quarter. On first down, a rusher came free and Foles didn't have time to spot Kmet open on the goal line.
On third down, the Vikings sent six rushers against five Bears blockers, and Foles threw it out of the end zone. In a perfect Bears world, he would have noticed the middle was wide open and tried to hit Mooney on a crossing pattern.
Patterson played 50 percent of the offensive snaps in this game and was by far the best option at running back. So why didn't he play more?
One spot where he might have helped was after the Roquan Smith interception in the second quarter. On first down, Foles hit Miller over the middle (see, it works) for 21 yards, setting up a first down at the 24. Ryan Nall got his first carry of the night for no gain, then the Bears couldn't pick up a blitz on second down and failed on third down.
In the third quarter, the Bears put Patterson in the Wildcat and he sort of ran a read option with Allen Robinson. That's some good creativity, but the problem was Patterson and Robinson never got close enough to actually fake a handoff, and they both ran in the same direction.
If Patterson faked to Robinson running right, then took off to the left, this play would have been interesting. Instead, it lost a yard since the defense wasn't fooled.
The next play was a third-and-6, and the Bears tried to max protect and send three receivers deep. Reminder: It was third-and-6, not third-and-26.
Mooney broke open deep with a nice double move, but Foles already was on his back because the offensive line didn't pick up a Vikings stunt.
Memo to Bears: Short crossing routes are your friend.
Defense delivers: Once again, there weren't many complaints about the defense. They got 2 turnovers after coming up empty the previous two weeks. The Vikings successfully picked on nickel back Buster Skrine a couple of times and rode talented young receiver Justin Jefferson, who looked a lot like the Saints' Michael Thomas in this game.
Jefferson's 54-yard gain in the second half was an example of QB Kirk Cousins converting a tough throw and hitting Jefferson in stride, giving him a chance to tack on yards after catch. Foles had chances to do the same and missed.
One happy return: Thought it would be nice to point out the excellent blocks on Patterson's kickoff-return touchdown, but there were really just two -- by Demetrius Harris and DeAndre Houston-Carson. Patterson's speed and too many Vikings overrunning the play explained most of it.
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