A Game of Inches

Much has been made about the play of Jay Cutler early this season.  Obviously, his performance on a certain Thursday at Lambeau was “throw the game tape out” horrid, but the fact that he failed to bounce back the following week against the mighty Rams was cause for even more concern.

Now sitting at 4-1 following back to back blowout victories, the critics are backing off (sans Terry Bradshaw).  His numbers look great: 4 TD’s, 1 INT, and 589 total yards against the Cowboys & Jaguars.   Certainly the play of the Bears Defense should get most of the credit for these wins.  But offensively, from the line play to the QB play, things have noticeably improved.

But Cutler is not there yet.

A lot of sins go unnoticed in a 41-3 victory.  But even the Jax tape shows if Cutler wants to be great, and he must be for the Bears to win anything, he needs to improve.  The difference between winning and losing in this league, particularly against good teams, is miniscule.

Let’s take a look at the tape.

The Scenario:

3-3 game with 10:45 to go in the 3rd quarter

Ball on the Bears 46 yd line, 3rd down & 10.

The Bears are obviously behind the chains here, but in a game that has zero going offensively, a conversion here would put them in Jax territory and keep a long drive alive.

The Bears motion Forte out of the backfield to Marshall’s side to clear the LB out of the middle of the field, creating a 5 WR set against the Jax defense playing man with a single high safety.  Marshall is singled up in the slot, so even Maro knows where this ball is going.

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So as you can see, BM15 beats his guy and has plenty of room to catch the ball and pick up the first down and Cutler has plenty of room to deliver the football accurately.  He chooses not to step up in the pocket to avoid the oncoming rusher, and delivers the football with his shoulders & feet parallel to his intended target.  This is what we would call bad footwork.  But this is nothing new for Cutler, let’s see the result.

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The ball is delivered behind Marshall, which leads to him being tackled immediately for a 9 yard gain, 1 yard short of the first down.  Not only do they fail to convert, a potential big play is missed.  If the throw leads Marshall to the open area the only thing stopping him from a Touchdown would be the single high Safety, 20 yards down the field.  Marshall wins that match-up.

The Bears end up converting the 4th & 1 anyway to continue a long drive that ends in a Robbie Gould FG. But the point here is, these small inaccuracies (inches) leave points on the field which could end up costing them a game down the road.

Now let’s see how a future Hall of Famer handles a similar situation.

The Scenario:

7-0 game, Saints trailing with 4:42 left in the First Quarter following a San Diego Touchdown

3rd & 10 on the Saints 42 yd line

Not exactly apples to apples here, but still an important play in a game where Brees needs to convert to keep a drive alive and answer a Charger TD.

Obviously Brees has a cleaner pocket to work with here, but notice the difference in footwork.

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He stands tall in the pocket, releases the football and gets off his back foot.  And see the different result:

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The ball is placed perfectly.  Camarillo is led away from his trail defender, but not far enough to lead him into the zone of the Charger Nickel, & the ball is low so that it gives the Safety over the top no chance to break on the ball.  Camarillo does his job, by getting passed the sticks.  First down Saints.

Brees has a ring, Cutler is still chasing his.  If that’s going to change in 2012 Jay must pay attention to the little things.  The inches add up quickly. (twss)

sidenote:  if you find a girl that cleans up after dinner while you study the all-22 (geekmode)….marry her

 

sparrow

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