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  1. #1
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    Pro Football Focus' ReFo: Rams @ Bears, Week 3

    ReFo: Rams @ Bears, Week 3
    Cole Schultz | 2012/09/25

    Just when you thought the Rams were on to something offensively, they put up a performance like this, and you canít help but wonder if itís back to the drawing board. St. Louis may have put up 31 points a week ago, but none of that mattered against a tough Chicago defense. The Rams had little success on the ground or through the air. And though they trailed by only four points in the fourth quarter, you never really got the impression they could challenge the Bearsí defense enough to take back the game.

    Chicago came out with a win in a dominant defensive performance, but it has to be at least a bit worrying how little they managed to do on offense. Perhaps being without starting running back Matt Forte hindered them more than they had hoped it would, but credit the Ramsí defense for not allowing the Bears to put this one away until a fortuitous bounce led to a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    Going forward, the Rams are left to wonder how this game could have gone with a healthy offensive line. The defensive performance was encouraging, but showings like this will be wasted if the offense canít put any points on the board. Chicagoís offense did just enough to ride their defense to victory, a common theme in recent years. But Bears fans can take some comfort from the fact that they have some breathing room on offense if the defense continues to play at this level.

    St. Louis Ė Three Performances of Note

    Unprotected Passing
    Anyone familiar with our Pass Blocking Efficiency Signature Stat will be unsurprised to hear that Sam Bradford had a long day behind starting tackles Barry Richardson (-1.0 pass protection) and Wayne Hunter (-2.5 pass protection), who combined to give up two sacks, three hits, and seven pressures. And while neither made Bradfordís life easy under center, the QB didnít help himself much by not getting rid of the ball when he had to; Bradford took a sack on one-third of all plays where he was pressured.

    He may not have given up as much total pressure, but the manner in which guard Quinn Ojinnaka (-4.8 pass protection) gave it up was alarming. With 32 seconds left in the first half, Ojinnaka somehow managed to avoid blocking anyone and gave D.J. Moore a free run at Bradford, killing the Ramsí chance at a touchdown before the half and forcing a 56-yard field goal. Ojinnaka provided little resistance to Bears linemen all game, contributing to the overall meltdown of St. Louisí patchwork pass protecting unit.

    Finnegan Strikes Again
    Often times a big free-agent singing ends up backfiring with a player less motivated after his payday has arrived. St. Louis chose to try their luck with free-agent pickup Cortland Finnegan, and if anything, heís improved on last year. Our third-highest graded cornerback from 2011, Finnegan has held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of just 29.2 this season. Against Jay Cutler, he allowed just two of the seven balls thrown his way to be completed and managed an interception to boot. His excellent cover skills can be seen at work with his pass deflection against Alshon Jeffery with 10:57 left in the first quarter. In one-on-one coverage with no safety help, Finnegan broke up a jump-ball type pass from the hands of the much taller Jeffery. Finnegan has a reputation as a scrappy player, but that can often overshadow his fine work as a cover corner, which he backed up with his play against the Bearsí receivers.

    Running in Place
    Hindered by a groin injury, Steven Jackson (-0.9) ran the ball only 11 times on his 39 snaps. Averaging less than 3 yards per carry for the second time in three weeks, Jackson managed only one run over 4 yards all day and forced only one missed tackle. Outside of a 12-yard run, backup Daryl Richardson had a similarly rough day, gaining four yards on his remaining three carries. St. Louis never got in any sort of rhythm on the ground. The Rams only called 15 planned runs, choosing instead to drop back behind suspect pass protection 43 times. St. Louis will have to get their running game going if they hope to relieve some of the pressure on their young passer.

    Chicago Ė Three Performances of Note

    Nothing Through the Air
    Itís a pretty telling sign when the lowest individual coverage grade of an entire unit is -0.2. Such was the case for the stellar Chicago defense, forcing Bradford into multiple coverage sacks and a quarterback rating of 39.2. Leading the way was Tim Jennings (+3.3 coverage). Jennings allowed only one of the nine balls thrown his way to be completed for a meager eight yards. This is made all the more impressive by his interception and two passes defended, one of which resulted in a pick-six for Major Wright.

    The Chicago linebacker tandem of Brian Urlacher (+1.2 coverage) and Lance Briggs (+2.4 coverage) came up big as well. The duo was targeted 10 times, giving up five catches (only one over 8 yards) while breaking up three.

    Seizing the Opportunity
    It may have been a beaten up offensive line they were facing, but the Bears had no reservations about rushing the passer. The defensive line saw four of its members record three or more quarterback pressures. Stephen Paea (+3.6) in particular made life tough for Ojinnaka, beating him almost instantly on multiple plays while tallying five disruptions on the afternoon. On the final play of the first quarter, Paea shed Ojinnakaís block almost instantly, forcing Bradford to take a drive-ending sack. Julius Peppers (+2.0 pass rushing) was his usual self. He managed seven quarterback disruptions, doing most of his damage against the overmatched Wayne Hunter.

    A Step in the Right Direction
    The offensive line may be the common scapegoat in Chicago, but the interior only gave up one quarterback disruption (108 pass blocking snaps), compared with the three disruptions given up by halfbacks (15 pass blocking snaps). Only Gabe Carimi (-2.0 pass blocking) was a liability along the offensive line, surrendering over half of the disruptions of the entire offensive line. Thrust into the starting lineup, Michael Bush managed to give up a sack and a hurry on only eight pass blocking snaps. Cutler can be happy in taking only two sacks against a Ram defensive line that couldnít make the most of its opportunities. All in all, it was a solid day for a much-maligned pass protection unit that took some hefty criticism last week after their defeat in Green Bay.

    Game Notes

    - Bradford and Cutler combined to throw for 335 yards. Four quarterbacks individually tied or surpassed that number this weekend.

    - Tim Jennings has amassed some amazing coverage numbers through three weeks of the 2012 regular season; he has allowed only 9 of 27 targeted passes to be complete in his coverage and is allowing an NFL passer rating of 4.9 on those passes.

    - Nine Bear defenders recorded multiple stops. Briggs lead the way with four and was the only Bear to miss a tackle.

    Game Ball

    There wasnít much more Tim Jennings could do. He allowed just one of nine balls thrown his way to be completed, picked off one, and deflected another that was intercepted and returned for the game-clinching touchdown. An incredible start to the season for someone who was benched for a game at the end of last year.

  2. #2
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    Re: Pro Football Focus' ReFo: Rams @ Bears, Week 3

    I like how our defense is keeping close. Hey! A fortuitous bounce for us here and there and we can win some games.

  3. #3
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    Re: Pro Football Focus' ReFo: Rams @ Bears, Week 3

    Finnegan has held opposing quarterbacks to a rating of just 29.2 this season.

    He is balling, he really is... we need to stack the box this weekend and force those third and longs. Three games three picks. Can he go four for four?

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