We can’t have a series called Tale of the Tape, and not break down the defining play of last week’s game. This week’s edition is solely dedicated to this unfortunate gaffe that allowed the Chicago Bears to eventually win the game.
I won’t be talking about the time on the clock or the roughing the passer call that preceded this play, or whether the Denver Broncos defenders shouldn’t have touched him down. We’re just going to dive into the play itself and what went wrong.
If you follow me on Twitter you have seen most of this before, or if you want the Twitter version of this article, you can check it out.
So let's talk about this 4th & 15 play vs. the Bears.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) September 19, 2019
We've got two things going on here - issues in the coverage, and also in the rush.
A Thread: pic.twitter.com/2n4lPd79gk
As I said above, there are two main issues on this play. The first is in coverage. Here’s how I see the coverage breaking down. This is based on how Fangio has covered Trips in the past.
Chris Harris talked directly after the game about this play how he was in man coverage on his side and tasked with just following his man around, so we know his assignment.
Due to that, Simmons is not there to help Harris so he is watching for the vertical of the #3. The #3 is the tight end and initially stays in to block, so Simmons comes in and helps with the vertical of #2.
Now among the trio of Jackson, Yiadom, and Parks, I’m not quite sure their exact assignments. Depending on the call, one of Parks or Yiadom should be picking up the vertical of the #1, who is the guy that gets loose.
We see below once the play develops that Parks take the vertical of #2 after Jackson passes him off. Recall Simmons also came over to help with that, so he is double covered down field.
As for the #1, he is initially covered well by Yiadom until the first down marker, then Yiadom turns his head back towards the QB and acts as if he is passing off the receiver to deep help. So either he is mistaken that he has help, Parks was supposed to help, or he and Jackson just let the guys slip behind them unawares.
The receiver is just freelancing at this point and Trubisky is scrambling trying to wait for something to open up. Justin Simmons talked about this play in an interview on KOA Radio and said that when they went back and watched the film, the initial coverage was good, it just broke down once Trubisky started scrambling.
So you have the receiver just working his way across the field trying to show himself to the quarterback, and the two defenders aren’t tracking him. Ed Donatell was asked about this play this week and talked about how these guys needed to get deeper to keep everything in front of them, that way even if the defender is freelancing, they can see if and break on the ball.
Overall, terrible time for a coverage breakdown and inexcusable, however, it would have been mitigated or perhaps completely moot if the pass rush came through.
I have seen a ton of criticism of Von Miller or various other members of the Dline on this play. The reality is, Derek Wolfe and Von Miller ended up getting tripped up due to a miscommunication, which caused the pass rush to fall apart.
Wolfe shared this in an interview on the Afternoon Drive that I have embedded below. It’s really a great listen.
Here’s what Wolfe had to say about the play.
“On that last play we let them extend it because me and Von got tripped up, miscommunication between us two, which doesn’t happen often. We had a miscommunication and ran into each other and tripped each other up, and that was an opportunity for one of us to make a big play there. They gave us both 1-on-1 pass rush and we messed it up, we screwed up.”
I really appreciate Wolfe’s candor here in admitting what happened and just laying it out there.
“We’re humans we’re going to make mistakes. All we can do is ‘alright let’s make sure to communicate better,’ you know it’s second game of the season, we haven’t had a lot of chances to rush with each other and we’re still trying to get back into that groove. We had to change things up because people were starting to catch on to our little tricks, so we had to change things up and some of our keywords are getting confused between each other and this and that, but we’ll get it, it just takes time.”
Paraphrasing a bit - essentially Wolfe thought he and Von were supposed to run a stunt that they have run many times together. Below is what it would look like.
Wolfe’s job is to crash hard drawing the guard and tackle to him, and Von loops around inside to clean up. Here is what it looks like when it is working smoothly.
However, due to the miscommunication that Wolfe mentions, Von thinks they’re rushing normally and doesn’t loop around, so Wolfe runs into him throwing both of them off their rushes.
This also leaves a wide open gap up the middle for Trubisky. I know we have been screaming about how they could’ve let this happen and given him all that room up the middle. The ironic thing is all that space was supposed to be for Von to be able to loop around right into Trubisky’s face for the sack. And it would have worked beautifully if they had been on the same page.
So no this play doesn’t mean that somehow Von is washed up or our pass rush is incompetent, etc. etc. etc.
They just made a mistake due to miscommunication. As Wolfe put it, they screwed up. It just happened to coincide with a dropped coverage in the secondary that wouldn’t have mattered if the pass rush got there, but both of those mistakes did happen and it is the reason Chicago was able to convert and ultimately win the game.
It’s disappointing for sure, and they were critical errors at the worst possible time, but all they can do now is learn from it, fix it and move on.
It may be harder for us fans to do that, this may stick with us a little longer, but hopefully we get some plays on Sunday and a win that make us forget about this one.