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Hey Bears brass, there is one thing you could do today that would absolutely energize everyone connected with the defense. And after Sunday's 42-21 loss to the Rams, it couldn't be clearer that something must be done.
You could move Shea McClellin back to linebacker - at least some of the time.
He is overmatched at defensive end. It is painfully obvious. The Rams repeatedly ran right at him to start the game and the result was a series of big plays. And the team has depth at end, what with David Bass having stepped up last game and with Corey Wootten sure to move back to his best position on the end of the line if the Bears can ever keep someone healthy at tackle for more than a game or two.
On the other hand, it is hard to imagine the Bears could be worse at linebacker. The Rams sent mediocre back Zac Stacy (12 carries, 87 yards) slamming through the Bear line for much of the first half. When Stacy left the game with a possible concussion, the Rams went to backup backup Benny Cunningham, and all he did was amass 109 yards on only 13 carries.
All totaled, the Bears gave up a whopping 258 yards on the ground.
McClellin played 3-4 linebacker back at Boise State but Bears general manager Phil Emery saw something during the pre-draft process in 2012 that led him to believe McClellin could transition into a speedy defensive end. Of course it would be better if the Bears could switch McClellin back to his best position during an off-season but they are in the midst of a season that can still be salvaged. They have as good an offense as we've seen around these parts in a long time and if they can put together a defense that is just a bit better than it is now, they can go on an end-of-season run.
Overall, the Bear defense had too many injuries to give the overall team a chance to compete against the Rams. But rash of injuries or not, McClellin is playing out of positon. Stand him up at the end of the line outside of a defensive end or even bring him inside behind the line every once in a while.
As for the offense, well, I remember Bear running back Michael Bush 1.0. That version ran with a purpose last season. He made people miss and did a great job carrying the ball in tight quarters. What happened to that guy? Because he is long, long gone.
I cannot remember a worse pair of goal-line runs than the ones Bush busted out after a pair of pass interference calls - both on rookie cornerback Brandon McGee - in the end zone twice gave the Bears first-and-goal on the one twice at the end of their first drive of the fourth quarter. The first time Bush plowed up the middle for no gain. The second time Bush had a blocker ahead of him who was essentially diving into the end zone, Bush decided to cut outside. If he had followed the blocker, he would have fallen into six points. Instead he went sideways and managed to lose two yards.
On the next play, Josh McCown completed a touchdown pass to Earl Bennett that was called back because of a Jermon Bushrod hold. It was the second Bears touchdown called back in the drive, which began with Devin Hester returning a punt 62 yards for a score that was nullified because of a Craig Steltz hold.
Now from the 13, it looked like the Bears scored for a third time on a McCown pass to Matt Forte, but the replay official reversed the call, saying Forte failed to break the plane of the goal line. So back to the 1.
This time McCown lined up in the shotgun and was sacked at the 10. Fortunately, an incompetent referee called a ridiculous "roughing the passer" on what looked like a textbook hit and the Bears where back to first-and-goal from the 1. Again they went to Bush! He slammed into the line behind right guard for no gain. And then they went to Bush again! This time, off right tackle, Bush finally knocked it in.
Twitter went wild.
SO AFTER 7,844 GOALINE CARRIES, MICHAEL BUSH FINALLY MISTAKENLY STUMBLES INTO THE ENDZONE! #BEARS— Mick Carlson (@M1cKmAcK) November 24, 2013
Michael bush averaging .0001 ypc in short yardage situations there #bears— Carlos (@greatgoldenbaby) November 24, 2013
Michael Bush...when you absolutely, positively need 5 tries to score a TD from the 1 yard line. #Bears— Steven Diver (@sdiver) November 24, 2013
Keep wearing 'em down with Michael Bush. #Bears— Alex Kantecki (@rotodealer) November 24, 2013
Michael Bush: 7 attempts, -5 (negative 5) yards. Fewest rush yards by #Bears player (minimum 5 attempts) since Darren Lewis (7, -5) 12/27/92— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) November 24, 2013
Back to Trestman's 4th & goal decision...Michael Bush now has 0 or negative yards in 13 of his 42 rushing attempts. #Bears— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeO670) November 24, 2013
"Analytically it made sense. We needed a yard and Michael Bush averages 1.9 yards per carry." - Trestman on Monday— Tom Fornelli (@TomFornelli) November 24, 2013
All Marc Trestman would say in his post-game press conference was that "Bush did a heckuva job" - as a blocker.
If watching Bush in that sequence seemed like a severe case of deja vu, it was foreshadowed in the third quarter when the Bears first found themselves on the St. Louis 1. In this case, it was fourth down and Trestman, as is his wont, decided to go for it. That wasn't the problem. The problem was the play call.
Was there any Bear fan out there who saw that power formation with - you guessed it - Michael Bush lined up deep in the back field who was confident the team was going to score?
In addition to Bush's difficulties running, there was also the fact that the play called for Martellus Bennett to lead the way from a blocking back position. Bennett is a lot of things but he is not a stellar blocker. And sure enough, he simply dove into the line instead of finding the linebacker who was slipping through into the backfield. Jo-Lonn Dunbar was untouched and took Bush down for a four-yard loss.
Trestman said after the game that he made the decision to go for it because the game was a track meet and three points wouldn't mean much in the long run. He figured his team would be in three-point range again - quickly, if the defense made a stop (and it had started to shore itself up a bit in the previous few series'). And this part he didn't say but was clearly presumed: You don't always get chances from the 1.
But why oh why oh why Michael Bush? Just because you want him to be a short-yardage specialist doesn't mean he is a short-yardage specialist.
Meanwhile, Matt Forte had a dazzling first half, making yards out of nothing will Payton-like elusivity, but only got six carries in the second half.
Learn, dammit! Learn!
* Biggs: Another Bears Foe Sticks To Ground, Pounds Away.
* Hoge: Sloppiness Again A Problem For Bears.
* Rams 101: Rams Resurgence A Reflection Of Jeff Fisher.
Jim "Coach" Coffman is our man on Mondays. He welcomes your comments.
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