Fresh off of a victory in the season opener, the Bengals will now face off against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Coincidentally, Cincinnati will also go up against a familiar face, as Andy Dalton is now the Bears’ starting quarterback. Chicago also has former Ohio State standout Justin Fields. Despite the shellacking that they took on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams, the Bears have been known to have a strong defense over the past few years. So what can the Bengals expect to see on Sunday?
Starting with the offense, the Bears run a fairly basic passing offense to go with an interesting run game. They run the same under center wide zone stuff that the Bengals do, but the difference comes in their shotgun formations. They run their shotgun sets as if they have a dynamic runner at quarterback, but instead it is Dalton.
The Bears come out in a 20 personnel split gun set with both running backs next to the quarterback. Prior to the snap, Dalton motions one of the running backs out. This could be to try to bump the linebacker over or put some defenders in conflict. The Rams respond by rotating one of their two high safeties down to take that motioned back. The Bears are running a zone read play which is essentially inside zone for the offensive line except they will leave the backside end unblocked for the quarterback to read. With Fields, this could be a pretty dynamic play, but instead, they utilize Dalton in that role and I am not sure if he can still scoot well enough to threaten the defense with his legs. The backside end does somewhat respect Dalton pulling the ball and running by utilizing squeeze and pop technique.
Here is the same exact play except it is in the red zone. Another split gun look with motion to clear out one of the backs. The Bears are once again running zone read with Dalton. The motion does accomplish more on this play with the linebacker clearing out instead of the response being a safety rotation. It is still a minimal gain and it is somewhat comical to think that Dalton is going to carry this ball. It could just be put in place to hold the end, but really it is not even doing a great job of that.
Now, this is why I believe the Bears have installed the zone read into their offense. Sooner rather than later, Fields will take over as the starter and when he does, they want to threaten the defense with the quarterback run game. While this is a zone read, it is not exactly the same as the play they were running with Dalton.
Dalton’s zone read came from split gun while this one has a guy in more of an H-back role. The H-back cuts across the formation to lead the way for Fields should he keep the ball. It’s a lead zone read rather than just a normal zone read which makes it more difficult on the defense. The defense doesn't only need to worry about the quarterback, but they also have to figure out what to do against the lead blocker. Fields carries the ball on this play and is fairly dynamic. I would expect to see this package again on Sunday if I were the Bengals.
They also seem to love using the motion with the back going out wide. On some earlier plays, it was utilized to remove the linebackers from the box, but on this one, it is not a run call. So the motion does cause the linebackers to bump over some, however, the motion also indicates to the pass rushers that they will be one-on-one and that this is 100% a pass. That does not mean that they pass rushers can go after the quarterback without hesitation because there still could be a screen pass called. Even with that minor concern in the defense’s mind, the Bears do not have the offensive line to carry this type of offense. Chicago's offensive line is one of the worst in the entire NFL. They cannot be asked to block for longer.
Sticks, Curls, and Slants
Added onto this interesting run game is a passing game that is reminiscent of a high school offense. Whether it is to ease Fields in or due to the offensive line being bad, the dropback passing offense is essentially some variation of stick, curls, and slant-flat/dragon. Even Allen Robinson’s route chart from ESPN’s Next Gen Stats shows just how simple this offense was on Sunday night.
This chart is all essentially curls, sticks, and slants, which further proves my point about the offense that they used against the Rams.
The Bears run "all curls,' which is exactly like it sounds. All three receivers ran a curl route. Simple play where the quarterback will pick his favorite matchup and throw the ball to it. Hard to make a living utilizing this play, but it is in every team’s playbook for a reason. The Bears leave seven guys in to block. Typically a team tries to get more players into the route on this type of quick play, but the Bears were more concerned with protecting the quarterback from Los Angeles' tough defensive line.
This play is stick-out which is another concept that essentially every team in the league runs. The Bears do dress it up interestingly by having the outside guy work inwards before running the stick route, but it is still the same play. The goal of the play is to provide a horizontal stretch on the defense and make it difficult for them to cover two guys. Another play that has its' uses, but should not be the basis of an offense.
Now I do think the Bears' passing offense will open up a little bit more in their game against the Bengals.
For the most part, Robinson is correct. The Bengals do like to utilize single high coverages much more than the Rams do so it could make sense that this is where they will start to open up their playbook. The Bears also probably do not fear the Bengals pass rush in the same way they did the Rams pass rush with Aaron Donald. I did not see a ton of press man from the corners this past week for Cincinnati, but that could be due to facing two elite level wide receivers. Either way, I will be watching to see if the Bears take their dropback passing game to the next level and try to open up the defense more. They showed a couple of shot plays off of play action with the wide zone stuff that they were running, but the offense needs to be able to utilize their drop back passing game as well.
When it comes to the Bears' defense, there is really only one player that needs to be talked about as a key contributor who could ruin the Bengals' game plan. That player is Khalil Mack, who is one of the best edge defenders in the entire National Football League. He is a perfect blend of speed and power with great hand usage. He also likes to give shimmies and fakes before getting into his moveset which can make younger offensive tackles punch too early or underset. Most of the time he seems to be over the right tackle, but he does move around and play elsewhere as well.
Here he is making quick work of Tristan Wirfs, one of the best young right tackles in the league. He gets Wirfs to underset with the hard inside jab. Once Wirfs undersets Mack, the game is pretty much over. He tries to recover, but Mack utilizes a forklift move. The forklift is a move where Mack will grab Wirfs outside arm by the wrist and lift it up to get around the edge. Mack then rips to disengage and gets a sack on Tom Brady.
Mack is playing edge rusher like a basketball player in these plays. He loves to set up his defenders with hard jabs before crossing over. On this one, he takes that elongated step to the outside of the left tackle. Once he gets that tackle oversetting due to the fear Mack creates, he clubs him that way with a rip to disengage. These last two plays show that Mack loves to use those jab steps to crossover. The offensive tackle against him needs to be prepared for this and just get to their landmarks while maintaining proper body positioning.
Mack also knows that offensive tackles are going to try to be patient with him because he typically uses hesitations, jabs, shimmies, and more. He uses this to his advantage on this play as he quickly stabs the open chest of the right tackle and then swims over the top when the tackle tries to meet his stab. So to go with the tackle needing to get to their spot and maintain proper body positioning, the tackle also needs to keep their chest clean and make sure Mack cannot just take advantage of them.
Here Ryan Ramczyk does a pretty good job against him early on. He doesn’t fall any fakes and he keeps good body positioning. However, he misses a little bit with his punch and this lets Mack feast. Mack is insanely strong as a pass rusher and is able to get inside of Ramczyk. Once he is inside of him he pushes him straight back into the quarterback causing a forced fumble. This guy is a nightmare to block one on one.
The Bengals shouldn't block him one on one with a tight end like they did against Danielle Hunter last week. Here the Falcons tried to block him with a tight end and it was a very quick sack. His get-off is too good to be blocked by anyone other than an offensive tackle one on one. All he does on this play is sprint off the ball and turn the corner. He gives a rip move, but he does not even need it as he beats the tight end to the spot with time to spare.
If I was in charge of protection against Mack, I would try to give chip help from a tight end as much as possible. The secondary for the Bears has not been very good, so the Bengals should take advantage of that as much as they can. Riley Reiff and Mack have faced off previously and Mack has gotten a few devastating wins against him, including this play where he tosses Reiff down with one arm.
Reiff does not do a great job of keeping his weight in the center of his body on this play, but he would not be in this position if he got some help early on in the rep. Giving Reiff chip help would be one of the ways to slow down Mack. Another way is to run boots towards him. Run wide zone away from him first to see how he is playing the boot, but then if he is staying or squeezing down the line, run a boot towards him and hit the slide route over his head. This can get him to slow down some along with screen passes in his direction. Whether they are screens to the back or tight end it can take advantage of a player that wants to get upfield and pass rush.
If the Bengals utilize all of these different ideas they may come out of the game neutralizing Mack as much as a team can. If they slow him down, the passing game could really pick apart the Bears' young cornerbacks with their more talented receiving group. Along with stopping the Bears offense, this creates a path to victory against a team that will want to show they are better than their performance last Sunday.
Make sure you bookmark All Bengals for the latest news, exclusive interviews, film breakdowns and so much more with the season opener just a few days away!
You May Also Like:
Be sure to keep it locked on All Bengals all the time!