Monday, November 10, 2008

Blame Grossman

"It looks like the continuing deficiency of Chicago's defense will get quarterback Rex Grossman off the hook in the Windy City postmortem this week. Grossman didn't deserve sole blame for the Bears' 21-14 loss to Tennessee, but usually he is a victim of the pile-on factor."

Thus Kevin Seifert at ESPN's NFC North blog. Thing is, this is one of the few times in Grossman's career when I think he really deserves more of the blame than the press is giving him. I know it looks bad that the defense gave up 289 yards to Kerry Collins, but that was on 41 passes, and over the course of 14 drives. Tennesse's longest drive of the game was 56 yards, their first drive of second half, when TN came with their half-time adjustment in place of only passing--it was a six play drive, five of which were passes.

Other than that, the Titans only scored on two other drives, the first of which was a four play, twenty-two yard drive. What set that drive up was three consecutive drives by the Bears of three plays or less, alternating with three six-play drives by the Titans. The Bears ran eight plays over those three drives, five of which were passes, all of which were incomplete except for an interception (it should've been challenged and overturned, but it still would've been an incomplete pass). The Bears moved the ball a total of seven yards during those three drives. Then Chris Carr pulled off his 29 yard punt return, and the Titans only had to go, like I said, 22 yards to score.

My point is this: The Bears defense played really well that game. Their pass defense was not as dominant as the run defense, to be sure. Their pass rush certainly could've looked better, and the defense did completely break down for that TD drive at the beginning of the third quarter. But other than that, the defense kept the Titans from scoring on all but three of their fourteen drives. The Bears, meanwhile, scored on their first drive, and then went 10 drives without scoring. Of those drives, 7 drives were three plays or less. The most plays the Bears strung together after their first, 14-play drive, was seven, which they did three times--once for 25 yards and a punt, once for 30 yards and a blocked field gold, and once for 68 yards and a TD. The two scoring drives were both about seventy yards, but the longest drive for the Bears other than those two was the 30-yard blocked punt drive. In other words, it was entirely the offense's fault that we lost this game, and the difference between the offense this week and other weeks was Rex Grossman. That was one of the least productive outings by a quarterback I've ever seen. The defense, meanwhile, probably had one of their best games of the season. Any time your opponent runs fourteen drives and you only allow them to score three times, that's a good thing. If Grossman had put together only one and a half more drives, nobody would be complaining about the defense's performance--but Grossman wasn't even close.

Of course, the memory of that MN game and the TB game probably hurt the perception of the defense as well. But those games were either a long time ago or with a completely gutted secondary. None of which is to say that the pass defense doesn't need to improve. Teams have obviously figured out where you can throw the ball against the Bears zone. Those are short, underneath routes, and the defense needs to shut them down more quickly so they result in fewer first downs. Some kind of adjustment needs to be made. But the defense simply wasn't the reason for the loss yesterday. The defense came out yesterday and put together one of their best games of the season, and it only wasn't good enough because of Grossman's terrible performance. They simply don't deserve the pile-on they're getting in the Chicago press this week.

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