Embattled Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has a reputation for unemotional play, but coolness under fire can be asset, such as this play which delighted Mark Schofield with its resemblance to a fictional favorite.
As a high school football player in the early 1990s, I have a fond appreciation for the movie “The Program.” Starring James Caan, Omar Epps and Halle Berry, to name a few, the film chronicles a season of football at fictional Eastern State University. “The Program” was almost sentimental at times – I still dream of Alvin Mack finally buying his mom the house to go with that door knocker.
However, the movie features many unbelievable scenes, including the team defeating Georgia Tech on the final play of the season to obtain bowl eligibility, on a play where quarterback Joe Kane finds running back Darnell Jefferson (Ed. Note: Link is NSFW) in the end zone with a pass after fumbling the football in the backfield.
Or so I thought.
Trailing by five with :22 seconds left, the Bears line up on a 2nd and 4 play at the Kansas City Chiefs 7-yard line. With one time out remaining, the Bears do not need to attack the end zone on this play, but the clock is definitely a factor. With 11 offensive personnel in the game, Chicago empties the backfield, putting running back Matt Forte (#22) in the left slot and wide receiver Marquess Wilson outside. The Bears have trips right, receivers inside and tight end Martellus Bennett (#83) on the outside. The Chiefs have a dime package in for this play, with three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and six defensive backs:
Kansas City shows Cover 1 on this play, with young and versatile safety Husain Abdullah (#39) in press alignment over Forte, while cornerback Sean Smith (#21) sets up across from Wilson in off man positioning:
Wilson comes off the line and shows a quick in-cut, ostensibly looking for the football, but really trying to impede the path of Abdullah. When the WR cuts to the inside, Forte breaks underneath him and then vertically on a quick wheel route. This is a nice design and play call for the situation, but Wilson needs to be careful not to overplay this, or drift too far downfield, because the risk is being called for offensive pass interference. He can technically “block” Abdullah before the pass, provided he is within one yard of the line of scrimmage. (See NFL Rule 8 Section 5 Article 1)
The receiver does his job, but the play gets off to a rocky start, as Cutler fumbles the snap:
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But the QB does not panic. Rather, he gathers the loose ball, turns his head outside, and while retreating from the diving effort of Jaye Howard (#96), flips a perfectly-placed throw to Forte in the end zone. Thanks to the rub route from Wilson, the RB has a step on the safety and is able to go up for the catch and the go ahead score.
From this angle, you can see both the effort from Cutler, and how the route came together. Wilson did nearly overplay this, but does a good job of selling his “route” after the contact with Abdullah, and since the contact was one yard from the line of scrimmage the referees kept their flags in their pockets:
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The touchdown gives the Bears a one-point lead, and although they failed on the two-point conversion try, Cairo Santos missed a 66-yard field goal try on the game’s final play, giving Chicago the victory. With the win, the ESU Timberwolves… errr… Chicago Bears move to 2-3 on the season, keeping their potential postseason hopes alive.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.