In the salary cap era, coaching and play-calling has become more important than ever. When the cap prevents you from building quality depth or o-line that can both run-block and pass-protect... well, that's where playbooks become important. It's not a coincidence that as talent has become more even across the league, playbooks have become more complex.
The importance of play-calling was shown brightly this afternoon. Two play calls in particular, in the 4th quarter, pretty much handed this game to the Bears.
Play one. Minn ball, 3rd & 8, own 43. M. Moore just went 8 yards on 3rd and 5 because the entire Bear defense was trying to strip the ball, desparate to make a play. The clock is stopped at 3:31 because the Bears burned their 2nd timeout and an incomplete pass.
That's right. 2nd & 8, the running game flowing, Our Beloved Bears almost out of timeouts, and the moron in charge of the Minnesota offense calls a play fake short pass.
One of the key factors in building a run-first pound the ball with a stretch passing game offensive system is that you use the run to set up the pass. One way that's rather popular, especially because it WORKS, is the play-action pass. Grossman, in particular, is rather good at this. Part of the power of the Indianapolis offense is that, especially with Edgerrin James, they ran a power sweep where if Peyton put the ball in his gut Edge would go for 5, or possibly Peyton would stretch the ball out and then pull it back in just as Edge ran past him, turn around and throw it downfield for 20. The blocking and positioning was just about the same.
Now, your quarterback is Brad Johnson. He certainly doesn't deal picks the way Daunte had mastered, but he's certainly not able to do some of the things other quartebacks can do. One of them is play action. His play-action fakes look like aborted pitches, which doesn't fool anybody when the back is 2 feet away and already looking for his blocking assignment. Contrasted with his handoff position, which is clearly a one handed grip extended towards the back, his usual two-handed fake is really easy to spot.
Brad Johnson is occasionally able to make a real play fake. The first play after the 2 minute warning in the 1st half is pretty well done, though the pass afterwards was bad. And on this particular play it was a shitty, two-hand play-fake that my grandmother in the corner woke up to mock before going back to her snooze.
The pass, predictably, was well-covered and incomplete. This set up the aforementioned ill-fated 3rd & 8. Forced into an obvious passing situation, Minnesota tried a draw play but Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson and Adawale Ogunleye crashed the backfield before the handoff could be completed. 3 seconds and Adawale's sure hands on the ball later, and the Bears were in position for Rex's 4th quarter heroics.
The second play call that torpedoed Minnesota's chances was the last meaningful play of the game. Having an eminently makeable 4th and 2, sanely set up by a draw on a long 3rd down, the geniuses on the sideline call a deep fade.
Never mind the fact that the Bears D-line has been on your side of the ball for the last 10 minutes. Never mind the fact that you don't need a home run ball after Troy Williamson kicked the Bears kickoff return teams's asses and put you 30 yards away from a makeable field goal. Never mind the fact that Brad Johnson's passes have been sailing on the deep routes. Never mind that you still have 1:10, only need 20 yards, and still have a timeout.
Nope. Let's throw all that out the window and make an idiotic slow-developing play call that would have marginal odds even with the Bears aggressive D. The best part about that formation is that Chester Taylor is WIDE open in the right flat. Even with the pressure on Brad there's plenty of time for him to float it out there and let Taylor make a play on the ball, make 10 yards easy and get out of bounds.
Thanks for the gifts, Childress. We appreciate it.