Here’s the one trick the Chicago Bears used to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, as explained by Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“It’s called a stretch play, and for good reason. It stretches a defense like a Slinky, getting the defenders to flow to one side of the field and creating gaps in the defense that can be as large as Lake Michigan. Or, as Bears running back Jordan Howard so deftly demonstrated with two plays in overtime, even allow the runner the freedom to cut back against the flow.
It is the staple play of any zone-blocking scheme, and the Bears ran it to textbook perfection with Howard and rookie Tarik Cohen against the Steelers.”
The Bears ran the stretch play early and often while riding towards a 23-17 overtime victory on Sunday. Indeed, Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains dialed it up on three straight plays against the Steelers, including Howard’s game-winning run. Loggains might take some heat (and rightfully so, in some ways) for the scheming, design, and route trees in the passing game, but give credit where it’s due for exploiting the Steelers’ biggest defensive weakness over and over again until they stopped it.
- For a different perspective on Howard’s walk-off run, here’s this:
— Jordan Howard (@JHowardx24) September 24, 2017
- To put what the Bears’ rushing attack did in full perspective, let’s start with Jordan Howard and how he rewarded the Bears for his persistent usage. Howard’s 23 carries on Sunday was the sixth time in his career in which he was given the ball at least 20 times. The Bears are now 5-1 in games in which Howard receives 20 rushing attempts or more. That seems good and the Bears should probably try to replicate that again in the future. Like maybe even against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday Night Football, for starters?
- One week after playing just 31 snaps in a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Bears unleashed Howard on 41 offensive snaps – or 63.1 percent of the team’s plays. That’s an increase of more than 10 percentage points from the first two weeks when Howard saw action on just 52.7 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
- In addition, Tarik Cohen was a fixture in the offense again, as the Bears appear to have unearthed a fourth-round gem from the 2017 NFL Draft class. Cohen saw a decrease in total snaps on Sunday, going from 40 to 28, but an increase in percentage of touches. The Bears did a better job of getting Cohen the ball in Week 3, getting him the ball on 57.1 percent of the plays in which Cohen was on the field and 24.6 percent of their total offensive plays. In Week 2, Cohen touched the ball on 37.5 percent of the snaps he played.
- Overall, Howard and Cohen combined to carry the ball 35 times and gained 216 yards against what had been a pretty good Steelers front seven. The bar has been raised for this running back tandem and I’m looking forward to seeing how it can continue to grow in the weeks to come.
- Defensive end Akiem Hicks wants you to know that run blocking is truly a team effort:
I know my dog @JHowardx24 ran that thing in for the the tug. But please look at Deonte Thompson blocking his but off. That's what team is!!!
— akiem hicks (@The_Dream99) September 25, 2017
- Speaking of the defense, let’s not let their efforts go unacknowledged either. Over at the Bears’ official website, Larry Mayer explains how the defense carried a bulk of the load in the team’s overtime win. The team came up with three sacks of Ben Roethlisberger and limited him to an 82.7 quarterback rating. That’s a significant win for a defense against a quarterback who entered the game with a 99.9 rating after two weeks and posted a 92.5 during the team’s eight-game regular season winning streak that began in 2016.
- Pittsburgh left Chicago flustered after a disappointing offensive performance. Guard David DeCastro told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler he feels as if the team is wasting its talent on the offensive side of the ball. To be fair, scoring just 17 points with a future Hall of Fame quarterback (Roethlisberger), a stud running back in his prime (Le’Veon Bell), and an all-world receiver (Antonio Brown) should feel disappointing. And all the more reason for the Bears to be proud of their defense’s performance. Take a bow, Vic Fangio.
- It’s fair to suggest the Bears were a team in search of an identity entering Week 3, and if their performance against the Steelers was any indication of what’s to come, it’s also fair to say they might have just found it. Chris Emma of CBS Chicago writes the Bears banded together in Sunday’s win. The locking of arms before the game might have symbolized something bigger than football, but it was also symbolic of what the Bears need to be as a team as the season moves on.
- On the other side of the field, Joe Starkey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes about the Steelers suffering another head-scratching defeat against a team perceived to be an inferior opponent. “The Bears stink,” Starkey writes. “But the Steelers were 10 times worse in a 23-17 loss that ranks down there with the Philly massacre last season, the Ryan Mallett meltdown of 2015, the Cleveland, Tampa Bay and Jets losses of 2014, the Bruce Gradkowski game, the Brady Quinn game, the Terrelle Pryor game and any other ridiculous loss you can think of.”
- Pittsburgh is now 5-13 in their last 18 games against teams with losing records.