(Written by kencraw)
The Bears actually were competitive in the Big Game longer than I expected. They apparently agreed with my advice to focus on stopping McCaffrey and force Chryst to beat them with his arm. And that worked reasonably well for a half. But the moment McCaffrey ran right by three over-pursuing defenders en route to a 90+ yard TD run, the game was over. If you can no longer stop the one thing you’re dedicated to stopping, your chances of winning are not good.
- I don’t know if it would have mattered if the Bears could have kept McCaffrey in check for the remainder of the game. Eventually Chryst found some rhythm and the openings in the Cal secondary and extended the lead. My guess is the Bears would have lost anyway even without McCaffrey’s 2nd half flurry.
- An interesting question is why the Bears seem to be able to stop what they intend for a quarter or two, but then fail to do it for the rest of the game. One possible answer is conditioning. These Bears just don’t have the strength to do what they need on defense for 4 quarters. I’m pretty sympathetic to that answer, but it’s not the only one. Another one is game-planning. Perhaps the Bears are doing a reasonably good job of confusing their opponents with unique game plans well tailored to each opponent and it is taking the opponent a quarter or two to adjust. Then there’s the inverse argument: The opponent is better at in-game/half-time adjustments.
- Just as frustrating to me as the defensive failings is the inconsistency of the offense, particularly in the 3rd quarter. For those who listened to my OTRH podcasts (which since I’ve been sick and haven’t made it to the last two home games have been lacking) all season, know that I’ve been complaining about the offense getting too cute and putzing around, particularly in the 3rd quarter. I felt the same way on Saturday.
- Similarly, I also feel like the team tries to go to the same well too many times. While the wide-receiver screens haven’t worked all season, I was very happy to see the O-line screens working so well against Stanford’s aggressive linebacker core. But by the 2nd half, they stopped working. Why? Because they ran too many of them. And I feel that way about a number of plays. They’re good plays, but we use them too often. The most blatent example of this was the WR screens early in the 3rd quarter. They must have run 6 of those in a row.
- I have a similar concern about the run game. The team is very streaky in when they use it. The run game needs to be mixed in every drive, not used for a drive or two (and we tend to use it heavily during that drive) until it stops working and then abandon it until later in the game. That is not how to keep the defense honest.
- But probably the most baffling thing about the 2nd half of the season has been the COMPLETE inability of the WR’s to stretch the field. And I refuse to blame all of that on Hansen’s injury. I’m more inclined to think that Webb’s hand still isn’t right. Or perhaps the defenses have schematically figured out how to stop it.
- Speaking of Webb, I think too many people are going too easy on him. While he’s not a bad QB, he’s had a lot of inconsistency. Inconsistent decision making. Inconsistent throwing. Inconsistent footwork. I don’t want to harp on him too much, as there are plenty of people playing worse football on the field than him. But he deserves a share of the blame.
- Which brings me to my long-term Dykes-led team fear: Is his system too dependent on a QB who executes near perfectly? A lot of plays require the QB make a run-pass decision pre-snap. If the QB is unable to make the right decisions, things can go quite poorly. I wonder if the reason the run game is used in such a streaky fashion is because Webb is making these decisions pre-snap and doesn’t have the big-picture of how to mix it in. I really wonder if we’ve now had two head coaches in a row that put too much emphasis on the QB.