The Bears Defense put an absolute butt-kicking on the Rams Offense Sunday Night. That’s the only way to describe it. They made the best offense in the NFC look pedestrian. To no one’s surprise, it all started up front.
On the first drive of the game, the Bears set the tone. The Rams had the ball deep in Chicago territory off of a Mitch Trubisky interception. On 3rd down, Khalil Mack made sure Goff didn’t have a chance to make a play. Watch #52 on the right side of the screen.
The threat of Mack’s speed off the edge and his initial movement outside forced right tackle Rob Havenstein to overset, opening up the inside. The immediate pressure in Goff’s face wrecked the play. This wouldn’t be the first time.
Goff’s first interception of the game also was the result of pressure, this time on a pass rush from his left. Defensive end Jonathan Bullard (#90) drove left tackle Andrew Whitworth back into Goff as he threw. The ball fluttered softly into the hands of rookie linebacker Roquan Smith for an easy interception.
On the Rams’ first drive of the 3rd quarter, the Bears made the play that really changed the game. This time, the pressure came up the middle, with nose tackle Eddie Goldman (#91) putting center John Sullivan on skates.
The safety made the game 8-6. The Rams didn’t get the ball back again until they were down 15-6.
Chicago overwhelmed the Rams’ offensive line all night. When a quarterback is getting hit from the left, the right, and up the middle, he isn’t going to be very comfortable. Consistent pass-rush pressure gets the quarterback playing fast, and even anticipating pressure. Jared Goff was under duress all night against the Bears. His ball placement and decision making suffered as a result.
On the Rams’ second possession of the game, Goff missed a 3rd-down throw that could have been a big play to Robert Woods over the middle. The Rams aligned in a trips bunch formation on this play, something they love to do. The receivers’ releases got Woods matched on safety Eddie Jackson. As good as Jackson is, a wide receiver like Woods on a safety is a mismatch. You can see the throw below, though.
That had the potential to be a big play. It was subtle, but Goff looked like he rushed his motion and yanked the ball just a bit. He was playing a bit fast here.
Later in the game, Goff missed another potential big play due to the effects of pressure. Watch the two inside receivers on either side of the formation.
Goff had two open seem balls with a lot of empty space in the middle of the field. He threw the ball out of bounds to the left sideline, though. Why? Because he broke down in the face of pressure. Goff had plenty of time to sit in the pocket and find an open man. Look at the room he had. Also, look at how his feet and throwing base had broken down.
Goff was completely parallel to the line of scrimmage, which is…not the way they teach it. A look from the end zone angle showed he was overreactive to a blitzing Danny Trevathan (#59).
Had Goff stood firm in the pocket, he likely would have found a big play.
When you play the Bears, you have to come into the game anticipating pass-rush pressure and be prepared to respond. Goff definitely seemed to be anticipating that pressure from the opening snap. His response was less than optimal, though. The cumulative effects of the pressure mounted as the game wore on. Goff’s 3rd-quarter interception was further evidence of this.
This turnover came immediately after another Trubisky interception that gave Los Angeles great field position. Unfortunately for the Rams, Goff stared down his receiver, was late with the ball, and needlessly forced a terrible pass on a first down.
Pressure makes quarterbacks do strange things. One of them is failing to move through progressions. Quarterbacks have internal clocks in their heads, and when they are repeatedly getting hit, they anticipate not having a lot of time to throw. As a result, they don’t anticipate being able to work through their reads.
On this play, Goff seemed surprised he had so much time. He stayed on his receiver despite the fact that his route wasn’t open at all right from the snap. This interception was about as inexcusable as it gets. Again, the cumulative effects of pressure on display.
Goff finished 20-44, for 180 yards with 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Not what you want if you’re the Rams.
In addition to their pass rush, the Bears also did a tremendous job of reading and reacting to the Rams’ numerous route combinations. Chicago played predominant zone, as they normally do. All year, they’ve done a great job of “pattern-matching” in zone coverage. That means they cover receivers based on where they end up in their routes instead of just dropping to a spot and covering air.
On Sunday, Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio had his players ready for the Rams’ many route concepts. They read and reacted quickly. There weren’t any blown coverages. They kept everything in front of them. Of course, it helped that their pass rush limited the amount of time the routes could take to develop downfield and attempt to break down the defense. Ultimately, the Rams were limited to just 1 pass play of more than 20 yards. L.A. entered Sunday night averaging almost 5 per game (2nd in the NFL).
A pretty solid argument can be made that the Rams abandoned their running game too soon. A 48/12 called pass to called run ratio is not ideal. Especially when Todd Gurley is your running back.
Given the fact that Goff was clearly affected by the pass rush, the passing game wasn’t exactly clicking, and the score was really never so out of hand that the running game couldn’t be a factor, the ratio of run to pass was surprising. We’re sure if these teams meet again in the playoffs, Sean McVay will alter his approach.
We’ve seen the two best teams in the NFC (Saints and Rams) lose to tough and physical teams in recent weeks. Maybe football as we knew it is not dead after all. Maybe championship football still comes down to hitting the other team in the mouth. We’ll certainly find out if this is the case during the NFC playoffs.
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