Film Study: Bears’ line struggles lead to Jordan Howard’s bad day

Thoughts and observations after watching the film of the Jaguars’ 17-16 win against the Bears in Week 6.

Howard stopped

The Bears went to the “hot hand,” and rookie running back Jordan Howard’s opportunities decreased because of it.

After surpassing 100 rushing yards in consecutive weeks, Howard gained 34 yards on 15 carries against the Jaguars, who often kept eight players in the box. In the first half, Howard had 10 carries for 16 yards and a one-yard touchdown run.

Bears running back Jordan Howard celebrates his touchdown with left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (AP)

Bears running back Jordan Howard celebrates his touchdown with left tackle Charles Leno Jr. (AP)

“It was just how it went,” coach John Fox said after the game. “It’s no indictment on anybody.”

Well, maybe the offensive line, which was better the past few weeks.

The line simply blocked better when Ka’Deem Carey (nine carries, 50 yards) got the ball. Howard came in averaging 5.8 per carry this season, but only averaged 2.3 yards against the Jaguars.

Defensive lineman tackled Howard on 12 of his 14 carries, not counting his touchdown. Here are three examples of the offensive line’s struggles:

* On Howard’s first carry, rookie center Cody Whitehair failed to cut off veteran defensive tackle Roy Miller on a stretch-run to the right. Miller tackled Howard for no gain.

* Later in the first, defensive end Jared Odrick beat right tackle Bobby Massie inside, which forced Howard into defensive tackle Malik Jackson, who split the line’s zone blocking. It resulted in a two-yard loss.

* On first-and-goal from the five-yard line in the third quarter, defensive tackle Abry Jones overpowered Whitehair, closed a developing hole and eliminated a possible cutback. It resulted in a one-yard loss.

Pass-rush problems

Outside linebacker Willie Young, who had two sacks and a forced fumble, is the Bears’ only consistent pass-rush threat.

The best example of the Bears’ pass-rush problems came in the fourth quarter during the Jaguars’ four-play possession that turned in wide receiver Arrelious Benn’s 51-yard score.

Without any pressure, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles beat the Bears with 13- and 14-yard completions for consecutive first downs.

That didn’t sit well with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

On the third play of the drive, the Bears blitzed, sending seven rushers, including nickel back Cra’Von LeBlanc. The secondary was in zero-man coverage. The blitz forced an overthrow by Bortles.

But the Bears came after Bortles on the next play, too. Again, seven rushers were sent, including LeBlanc. Bortles found Benn, who turned a 15-yard completion into the long, game-changing touchdown after cornerback Tracy Porter slipped.

With the Bears applying pressure and in zero-man coverage, there was no one behind Porter to help. Overall, the Bears blitzed Bortles seven times.

Short-pass game

Short, quick throws are a staple of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s game. He completed only five throws that went over 10 yards. His two longest gains were actually short throws.

Cameron Meredith turned a quick-screen throw behind the line of scrimmage into a 36-yard gain. Alshon Jeffery turned a 10-yard curl route in 26 yards when he broke cornerback Jalen Ramsey’s tackle.

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