3 observations from rewatching the Chicago Bears’ Week 9 loss, including a successful group effort to corral the Titans’ Derrick Henry

·7 min read

A player secret will likely be lost in the course of time, as the Chicago Bears never stated their goals for containing Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry on Sunday.

They kept Henry out of the end zone and limited him to 68 yards on 21 carries, a modest 3.2 average for one of the league’s most explosive and punishing runners. Henry had one 26-yard burst around the right side, but otherwise the Bears swarmed him consistently, stopping him for no gain six times and for 2 yards or less on 14 attempts.

Eleven defenders were credited with at least an assisted tackle in corralling Henry, and that type of team effort was apparent on every snap, with the exception of the one run when Henry got out of the gates. And if you go back and watch that closely, Titans tight end Jonnu Smith probably got away with a hold on inside linebacker Danny Trevathan.

Here are three observations from rewatching the Fox telecast via the NFL GamePass subscription service, beginning with the group effort to slow Henry, and some interesting numbers in terms of playing time.

1. Whatever numbers the Bears had in mind for slowing Derrick Henry — surely a lofty goal but one they wanted to keep in house — really don’t matter as the result was a 24-17 loss.

But it would have been hard to play him much better. For the most part, the Bears were violent, filled gaps and took good angles to the ball. They played hard.

Henry’s long run came early in the fourth quarter with the Titans in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) against a nickel package for the Bears. Strong safety Tashaun Gipson rolled down late to the weak side to blitz, and the Titans ran outside zone away from the pressure.

Outside linebacker James Vaughters got double-teamed, and tight end Jonnu Smith climbed to latch on to Danny Trevathan, who probably needed to be more violent at the point of attack. Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks did a good job of walling off his man as inside linebacker Roquan Smith tried to go back door on the center, a tough play against outside zone. By then, Henry was loose down the sideline and free safety Eddie Jackson wasn’t aggressive in his tackle.

Other than that, it was a strong effort by Roquan Smith and Trevathan filling gaps, and nose tackle Daniel McCullers, plucked off the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad in September and then stashed on the practice squad, proved to be a shrewd addition by general manager Ryan Pace’s personnel department. He was credited with four tackles.

Here are three plays out of many more that stood out.

1st quarter, 2nd-and-10 at Titans 37: The Titans run zone read to the weak side from 21 personnel. Roquan Smith takes on fullback Khari Blasingame in the hole. McCullers stands up center Barrett Jones, taking him for a ride, and Khalil Mack beats right tackle Dennis Kelly, turning the play back inside. There’s no place for Henry to go, and McCullers virtually throws Kelly into Henry for no gain.","type":"text

2nd quarter, 2nd-and-4 at Titans 15: The Titans run outside zone and Mack beats Kelly again, forcing the play back inside with McCullers charging hard down the line to make a stop for a 2-yard gain. Cornerback Kyle Fuller is there too. McCullers proves to be good on his feet. He gets a little high with his pad level, not unexpected for a 6-foot-7 man, but shows he has good feet to redirect.","type":"text

Surely, the Bears will set another goal this week as they prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings and Dalvin Cook, who leads the NFL with 858 rushing yards despite missing a game.

Surely, the Bears will set another goal this week as they prepare to face the Minnesota Vikings and Dalvin Cook, who leads the NFL with 858 rushing yards despite missing a game.

2. The Bears are putting more into the game plan for rookie wide receiver Darnell Mooney, seemingly by the week, and that bodes well.

Because if more big plays begin clicking, it will open up more action in the passing game and take some of the pressure off Allen Robinson. Mooney was targeted a game-high 11 times, and while he caught only five passes for 43 yards, some of the shorter routes look like they will set up future opponents for double moves and deep shots.

Here are three plays that stood out.

3rd quarter, 1st-and-10 at Titans 40: At the perfect part of the field to take a shot, Mooney runs a slot fade and has his man beat, but Nick Foles’ throw is barely deflected — or his arm is hit — ruining a shot at a deep play and maybe a touchdown.","type":"text

3rd quarter, 1st-and-10 at Bears 39: Again at a good spot on the field for a shot play, the Bears call for a seven-man protection with 12 personnel. This is how the Bears have tried to get Mooney big plays downfield with two tight ends on the field. He runs an over route against Cover-3 and the curl defender, Rashaan Evans, gets good depth, forcing Foles to make almost a back-shoulder throw for a 22-yard gain.","type":"text

3. The Bears broke out a trick play on special teams for the first time in nearly two years.

3. The Bears broke out a trick play on special teams for the first time in nearly two years.

Personal punt protector DeAndre Houston-Carson took a direct snap and handed off to Barkevious Mingo on a misdirection run for an 11-yard gain in the second quarter. The badly needed first down didn’t lead to points, as the Bears gained only 8 yards on the next three plays and then lined up and actually punted.

It’s proof that old-school high school plays can work in the NFL. It’s all how they’re packaged. It was basically counter/power out of a double wing formation. Tight end J.P. Holtz pulled on the play, and wing Ryan Nall did a nice job of sealing the edge defender.

A little digging shows Chris Tabor is now 5-for-7 calling fake kicks since becoming a coordinator in 2011 with the Cleveland Browns. The Bears were unsuccessful with a direct snap to Benny Cunningham, who ran up the middle for a 1-yard loss in a Dec. 16, 2018, game against the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field.

But Tabor was 4-for-5 during seven seasons in Cleveland as personal protectors ran for 35, 34 and 10 yards on direct snaps. There was a failed fake punt when Duke Johnson was stopped for a loss. The Browns also executed an 11-yard touchdown pass from holder Spencer Lanning to Jordan Cameron in a 2013 upset of the Vikings in Minnesota, the same game in which Josh Aubrey ran for 34 yards on a fake punt.

Mingo, by the way, was one of the players blocking for the Browns’ Jordan Poyer on his 10-yard run on a fake punt against the Chiefs in 2015.

Examining the playing time numbers

6: Snaps for tight end Demetrius Harris, who has either fallen out of favor, been de-emphasized in weekly game planning or both.","type":"text

37: Snaps for defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, who was on the field for 67% of the plays. He has played more only three times in his career, and he’ll need to carry a heavy workload the remainder of the year with Roy Robertson-Harris out for the season because of impending shoulder surgery.","type":"text

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