The Bears' offensive line has been a hot topic the past few seasons, as the offensive tackle performance continues to be scrutinized from year to year.
Bears fans have been given code words like "chip blocks" from running backs or tight ends to provide help for the offensive tackles to slow down fast defensive ends rushing the quarterback.
The truth of the matter is there is plenty an offense can do to slow down destructive fast forces on defense, but the Bears haven't been good at any of that the past few seasons. Pass protection is much improved under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, along with the practicality of game plans, but the offensive line needs to utilize more tools at their disposal.
The Mall of America in Minneapolis can get extremely loud. At one point during the late 90s, it was ranked as one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL to play. How do teams like the Bears combat the noise this weekend? How will this plan slow down fast defensive linemen like Vikings' sack master Jared Allen?
It sounds clich, but the Bears have to get off to a fast start and score first. Fans become like a baby coming down from a sugar high when the opponent scores first in their house.
The top 15 offensive plays will be scripted and followed to the letter of the law. They will be "go plays"--plays that can be run regardless of defensive front--with not a lot of communication until crowd noise is calmed.
Mix up the snap count
After the crowd is subdued, there is no weapon greater to an offense to slow down a defensive pass rush than the snap count. Unfortunately for Tice, this year's group does not understand the concept.
The snap count is an asset utilized on offense so the defense cannot get a jump off the ball. Cutler only tells his team the snap count in the huddle, far from the opponent, but yet the Bears have been awful at working the snap count.
False starts have been horrific on first and second downs, setting the Bears up for failure on the third down. We've already written about the stats and the Bears are ranked worst in the league on first down production.
Comcast SportsNet's John 'Moon' Mullin talked to Tice, who said "manageable third downs are the key to the game" against the Vikings. Working the snap count alone can aid in correcting those statistics.
Cutler can go on a quick count, often catching a defense off guard when they are not set, or he can go on one, two or on three. Cutler can work the snap count by changing the inflection of his voice to draw the defense offsides.
Cutler can also work what is known as a double cadence to affect the defense, by allowing for a longer snap count to identify problem areas if they exist. The snap count is an offensive lineman's friend and a tremendous weapon by not allowing a defense to pin their ears back rushing. It stuns, slows, delays and frustrates them with penalties of their own, disrupting their game plan.
Go right at them
Tice utilized this method in the first matchup against the Vikings and would be wise to go to the well again until Minnesota stops it.
A very effective way to neutralize good players and slow them down is to run right at them, that way they are forced into a defensive position, fighting off blockers in their path. There are different looks with various blockers coming from all angles, but offensively you are running the same play.
Even a defensive end as good as Allen becomes mortal and confused, not knowing where the next block is coming from, thus slowing their game down while also sustaining physical abuse.
Motion and shifts
Different looks cause the defense to communicate and call audibles much like an offense does. They have to adjust, make calls, and change their defensive front or coverage, causing them to change their line of thinking during a play.
Motion and shifts can stun a defense much like the snap count, and if the defense is thinking, they're not playing fast. They don't have to be done all the time because shifts or motions can inhibit the ability to work the snap count due to play clock constraints, but work brilliantly for angle blocking in the 'go right at them' approach.
Motion and shifts are also a great way to apply the chip block help by a running back, tight end on defensive ends that were sorely missing under Mike Martz, but managed well under Tice.
If the Bears' offense wants a fighting chance in Minneapolis, they need to dictate the Vikings defense rather than placate and submit like the way they did against the San Francisco 49ers while on the road.
Sounds like a lot to handle with three new offensive linemen for the Bears at different positions, but it really isn't. All they have to do is listen to the play call in the huddle and the snap count, and execute their assignment. After all, it is what they're paid to do.
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