Bears' O-line holds up against blitz

Cardinals' pass rush went nowhere against Tice's conservative protection

On Monday, what stood out about the Bears' performance on Sunday is the pass protection held up both in terms of recognition and execution against an aggressive, accomplished blitzing team.

Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton sent more than four rushers after Jay Cutler on 52 percent of Cutler's 29 dropbacks, and 73 percent of the third down dropbacks.

They never sacked him on a blitz. The only time Cutler was sacked was on a four-man rush, and Cutler could have and should have thrown the ball away on that play.

Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice played it very conservatively, giving his rag-tag offensive line plenty of help from tight ends and backs.

The Bears tried to block five or more rushers with six or seven blockers 80 percent of the time. On the three snaps in which they went with five-man protections against the blitz, the offensive linemen held up fine.

The biggest pass play of the day came on a Cardinals blitz. On third and 8 in the second quarter, the Cardinals sent five linebackers and two linemen against a five-man protection, as the Bears were in empty. An unhurried Cutler got off a 30-yard completion to Brandon Marshall to the Arizona 4.

The Cardinals did not make it simple for the Bears, attacking with a variety of pass rushers and from a multitude of angles and gaps. The Cardinals blitzed six players through the course of the game, with linebackers Paris Lenon (nine blitzes) and Daryl Washington (seven blitzes) leading the way.

But nothing they did seemed to surprise the Bears or give them problems.

Here is what else we learned upon further review.

Grading key: Grades are between 0 and 10 with 0 being complete failure and 10 being perfect.

Offensive linemen

Grade: 7

This was probably the most impressive performance of the year from the offensive line, given the circumstances. It was far from perfect, but it was better than anyone had a right to expect it to be.

Each of the offensive linemen had their mistakes. James Brown got away with the worst one when the left guard lunged at Dan Williams from the Bears 1 and missed. Armando Allen barely got out of the end zone to avoid a safety before Williams hog tied him.

Defensive linemen

Grade: 8

The Bears defensive line had a big day, as it should have against an overmatched offensive line and two quarterbacks whose heads clearly were swimming.

The Cardinals made the mistake of trusting seventh-round rookie Nate Potter alone with Julius Peppers for much of the game, and they paid the price.

Peppers was dominant with three sacks (on one of them Ryan Lindley collapsed into the fetal position when Peppers got near him), a strip and three quarterback hits. He helped force Charles Tillman's pick-six by getting a hand on Lindley in the end zone, rushing his throw.

Peppers was rushing outside and turning the corner beautifully. One of his best plays was sniffing out a screen and following LaRod Stephens-Howling almost to the numbers on the opposite side of the field to make a tackle for a loss of three.

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