At this point, it’s undeniable: the Bears missed Shea McClellin.
This week’s “Film Study” looks at the middle linebacker’s triumphant return, the role he played in stopping a fake punt and a goal-line play-action during the Bears’ 37-13 win Sunday in St. Louis:
McClellin, who hadn’t played since a Week 5 knee injury, woke up with a new feeling Monday.
“A little sore,” he said. “But that’s after any game… . So I feel like and old man kind of.”
His left knee did hurt Sunday — “Couple tweaks,” he said — but McClellin he’s ready to deal with them. The Bears will be better for it. He made a team-high nine tackles, helped hold Todd Gurley to 12 runs for 45 yards and forced a pivotal fumble.
He lined up as the Bears’ left inside linebacker with about a minute to play in the first quarter. The Rams handed off to backup Tre Mason, with their linemen sliding right. Mason planted his right foot about five yards behind the line of scrimmage, and plowed forward.
McClellin, who over-ran him a bit outside, pushed back in. McClellin hit Mason with his right shoulder and, as he was falling flat onto his back, used his right arm to wrench the ball away. The ball practically landed in his lap. Outside linebacker Sam Acho contributed.
“It helped loosen it out,” he McClellin said. “And I felt my hand in there and just kind of ripped it.”
The Bears kept their starting defense on the field with the Rams set to punt on fourth-and-seven from their own 23. They were down 14 with 10:21 to go.
John Fox said the Bears took “extra precautions” because the Rams have faked punts often, and so does coach Jeff Fisher.
He was right. The Bears sent their left gunner, Bradley Marquez in motion, and starting cornerback Tracy Porter followed him to the right. Punter Johnny Hekker, a high school quarterback, faked a throw to Marquez in the flat and looked back across the field.
Cody Davis had faked a trip at the line of scrimmage before running a crossing pattern left.
McClellin covered him. It was incomplete and would have been short.
Zach Miller will be remembered for the 87-yard touchdown, but his second was subtle. On first-and-goal at the 2, Jay Cutler was under center with defensive tackle Mitch Unrein and Jeremy Langford split behind him as fullbacks.
The deep back, Ka’Deem Carey, ran right on the snap, faking a pitch.
As the right tight end, Miller blocked for a second, and expertly pushed William Hayes into Cutler when he released from the line.
The quarterback threw the ball just in time, and Miller slipped inside a too-little-too-late Daren Bates for a touchdown.
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