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Film Study: Bears’ pass-rush problems continue vs. Cowboys

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott vs. the Bears. (AP)

Thoughts and observations after watching the film of the Bears’ 31-17 loss against the Cowboys in Week 3.

Feeling the pressure

The Bears’ lack of a pass rush is troubling. Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott benefitted from being behind a talent offensive line, but the Bears’ struggles date back to the preseason. The Cowboys also were without Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith (back) and saw promising left guard La’el Collins suffer a foot injury.

The Bears’ pass-rush woes against the Cowboys can be summed up in the one quarterback hit they had, according to press-box statisticians.

Outside linebacker Sam Acho took down Prescott on the second play of the second quarter. But he was allowed to. Cowboys tight end Geoff Swaim briefly blocked Acho, before turning into an outlet option.

Swaim actually raised his arm to signal his availability, but Prescott completed a two-yard pass to running back Alfred Morris before Acho struck.

As usual, the Bears rarely sent more than four rushers. The Cowboys and Prescott also were seemingly prepared for defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s pressure schemes.

On tight end Jason Witten’s 18-yard catch to the one-yard line in the first quarter, safety Harold Jones-Quartey rushed while outside linebacker Leonard Floyd dropped into coverage. Floyd had to cover Witten, who turned the rookie on his route.

In the second quarter, nickel back Cre’Von LeBlanc was sent after Prescott twice on second downs. But it didn’t prevent Prescott from completing passes for first downs. They were key plays during separate scoring-drives in the second quarter.

Fangio typically doesn’t blitz often, but his use of four rushers — sometimes three — made it very apparent that the Bears were concerned about Prescott’s running ability and the mismatches in the secondary.

It’s also probably why Floyd continues to be used in coverage. During Prescott’s 17-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter, Floyd dropped back into a zone, while linebacker Jerrell Freeman rushed and was stopped.

The Cowboys’ ability to establish Ezekiel Elliott helped Prescott, too. It allowed for plenty of play-fakes for Prescott, who had only five incomplete passes.

“We were concerned with all of it,” coach John Fox said Monday. “With their offensive line, it’s one of the better ones in the league.

“You combine that with a mobile quarterback and some matchup problems maybe at other positions even in the skill positions, it was going to be a challenge for us, especially with some new guys starting for the very first time, some of them playing for the very first time in a real NFL game.”

Nick at night

Rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski was a surprise starter in the base defense after being inactive the first two weeks. He was on the field for 18 snaps.

Fox wasn’t going to praise Kwiatkoski with the run defense struggling overall, but the fourth-round pick’s power left an impression.

Kwiatkoski’s two most noticeable plays came on consecutive snaps in the second quarter against Collins. He shot past Collins on a two-yard run by Elliott, leaving Collins spinning and seemingly hobbled.

On the next play, Kwiatkoski rushed and forcefully sent Collins flying backward past Prescott and onto his behind. Elliott had to pick up Kwiatkoski, which allowed for a completion.

“If you take La’el Collins and knock him on his back, you are some kind of man,” NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said.

Want a positive?

Playing catch-up made for more work for receiver Kevin White. And White (six catches, 62 yards) showed more than he has in any game since the preseason. It was needed.

White’s 32-yard catch over cornerback Morris Clairborne stands out. But he also shook off tacklers on other receptions.

White also displayed an understanding of scramble rules when he made an 18-yard catch in the first quarter.

It was called back because of left tackle Charles Leno Jr.’s holding penalty, but he moved with Hoyer and became an option.