Breaking down the Bears’ blown special-teams coverages on Ravens’ TDs
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Someone asked special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers on Thursday if the kickoff-return touchdown the Bears allowed against the Ravens was more disappointing than the punt-return score that led to a tie game with less than two minutes to play.
It was like asking him whether he preferred the punch to the face or the knee to the groin.
“Anytime a play like that happens,” he said, “you’re disappointed, period.”
One was a sin of omission: The Bears and Ravens both stopped when Bobby Rainey fell to the ground on the third-quarter kick return, believing he was tackled, only to watch him get up and run for a 96-yard touchdown. Replay wasn’t conclusive enough to show that he was knocked down by gunner Josh Bellamy.
When the Bears submitted the play to the league in protest earlier this week, they pointed out that players on both sidelines ran onto the field during the play, too. In that situation, though, officials couldn’t have used replay to flag them for having more than 11 players per side.
Rodgers went mum when asked about the decision that Rainey wasn’t touched.
“The league fines for officiating judgments,” he said. “So I’m gonna stay away from that.”
The other sin was of commission: When the Bears punted, ahead by eight with 1:55 to play, they didn’t ask Pat O’Donnell to kick the ball out of bounds.
The right gunner, Cre’Von Le-Blanc, and the left gunner, Bellamy, each motioned to the line of scrimmage to guard against a block. LeBlanc had replaced Sherrick McManis, a Pro Bowl alternate last year who hurt his hamstring on the Bears’ first punt.
“Whether we brought the gunners in or not, it’s still the same number of people,” coach John Fox said. “It wasn’t like we had nine guys out there.”
Despite having 10 players crowding the line of scrimmage, the Ravens had a return play on.
O’Donnell didn’t punt the ball too deep for his coverage. LeBlanc and Bellamy tried to block their respective outside rushers. When they did, both had two Ravens knock them to the ground.
“Just try to stay alive and stop the touchdown,” LeBlanc said.
When Michael Campanaro caught the ball, the Ravens were left with only four blockers. The Bears had eight coverage players, plus O’Donnell. Still, the return to the left outflanked them.
LeBlanc never made it past the line of scrimmage and could only dive toward Campanaro at the 19-yard line. Campanaro jumped over him on his way to a 77-yard score.
“We didn’t spread our coverage out enough,” Rodgers said. “And they took advantage of it.”
The Bears punted without two regulars — McManis and Benny Cunningham, who also hurt his hamstring earlier in the game. That mattered, Rodgers admitted, but wasn’t the reason for the touchdown.
“The issue is we’ve got multiple players that are unblocked in that situation and a player out of leverage in terms of the coverage part,” Rodgers said. “And if we do our part, the other guys on the field, that play doesn’t happen.”
Follow me on Twitter @patrickfinley.