Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Super Bowl 58 Demonstrated The Importance Of Reliable Pass-Rushers To Close A Game

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The 2023 NFL season came to an end on Sunday Night after the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl 58 with a game-winning touchdown in overtime to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 25-22. It is Kansas City’s third Super Bowl title in the last five years and the second time where they overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win the game. The 49ers’ inability to protect the leads, in both the 4th quarter and overtime, shows how vital it is for the Bears to solidify their pass-rush position this offseason.



The 49ers’ Defensive Failure Should Serve As A Warning For The Bears

In the two Super Bowl games between the Chiefs and 49ers in the past four years, both contests featured very similar outcomes, in that Kansas City fought back in the 4th quarter when trailing to prevail with victories. In Super Bowl 54, All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs’ offense to 21 points in the game’s final quarter, as his team trailed 20-10 at the end of the third quarter. In Sunday’s game, Kansas City trailed by three points twice in the 4th, with Mahomes leading the offense to game-tying drives each time before the game-winning drive in overtime.

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The key stat for both Super Bowls has been a lack of consistent pass-rush pressure created by San Francisco’s defense. In the 2022 championship game, The 49ers sacked Mahomes twice in the final quarter, but only one aided in a Chiefs’ drive ending in a punt. In Super Bowl 54, San Francisco’s defense didn’t record a sack in either the fourth quarter or overtime, which was part of the reason for Kansas City’s three consecutive scoring drives.

The difference between these two Super Bowls and the one that the Chiefs lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021 was pass rush pressure, especially to close the contest. Two of Tampa Bay’s three sacks in Super Bowl 55 came in the 4th quarter during the second-to-last offensive drive for Kansas City. The Buccaneers’ defense consistently applied pressure on Mahomes, which forced him to hurry his throws and throw off target, resulting in numerous incomplete passes.

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Despite only winning seven games in 2023, the Bears’ defense was one of the better defensive units in the NFL, as they led the league in interceptions and recorded 17 sacks in their final seven games. Despite having a consistent pass rush led by Pro Bowl defensive end Montez Sweat, Chicago lost two contests after failing to hold onto a fourth-quarter lead of ten points or more. In the losses, the Bears’ defense did not force a sack on any of the opposing offense’s fourth-quarter scoring drives.

One of the reasons for the lack of pass-rush pressure was that Chicago didn’t have any reliable defensive line pressure to pair with Sweat, especially after the loss of Yannick Ngakoue. Sacks created by the defensive line are vital for the Bears’ Cover 2 defense because it relies on the ability to drop the linebackers in pass coverage. With opposing offensives scheming to neutralize Sweat, there was no one on Chicago’s defense capable of constantly rushing the quarterback when the game was on the line.

Free Agency Could Present Chicago With A Chance Form The Best Pass Rush Tandem In The League

With the new league year set to begin in one month, it appears that the Bears’ are poised to address their pass-rushing needs in free agency, as they could have the second-most salary cap space to operate with after a few roster cuts. With the cap space surplus, general manager Ryan Poles will likely look to add one of the best available defensive ends. Also, Poles could add a veteran defensive tackle via trade, which would further solidify Chicago’s ability to sack opposing quarterbacks.

The two best defensive ends that are likely to reach free agency are the Vikings’ Danielle Hunter and the Panthers’ Brian Burns. Both are considered to be some of the league’s best pass rushers and have been named to multiple Pro Bowls. Hunter has had four seasons in which he recorded 12 and a half sacks or more.

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Pairing either Burns or Hunter with Sweat while adding a proven defensive tackle to the defensive line would give the Bears arguably the best defense in the NFL heading into 2024. The ability to apply relentless pressure on opposing quarterbacks would also create more opportunities for turnovers, whether be sack-strip fumbles or hurried throws resulting in interceptions. More defensive pressure would allow Chicago to win more games, potentially creating a deep playoff run.

San Francisco had the same concern and desire to solidify their defensive pass rush this season when they traded for Chase Young at the trade deadline to pair with All-Pro defensive end Nick Bosa. Young struggled significantly in the 49ers’ playoff run, and neither he nor Bosa were difference makers in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game against the Chiefs. If the Bears plan to make the playoffs or contend for a Super Bowl in 2024, they will need to have a legitimate pass rush capable of finishing off their opponents.

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Feb 13, 2024 7:30 am

Hmmm, The Bears need to do better than Bosa and Young. Good luck. The SF D did an excellent job for most of 3 quarters. But the dumb plays and failure to keep getting first downs gave KC too many chances and they were able to adjust and convert. Much of it was simply Mahomes finding a way to escape and salvage drives. Instead of looking at the last couple of Mahomes big plays we should be looking at what the KC D line was able to do to Purdy. Look how many passes were tipped and batted and look… Read more »

timgjerde56
timgjerde56
Feb 13, 2024 7:25 am

@jmscooby Yep, the secondary of KC is the bomb. But go to the stats and look at the number of pressures Jones had during the game. You shouldn’t be surprised that he was a dominant force in allowing the secondary to do their job even better. Purdy had a 60%+ completion rate or something like that when the ball was out under 3.0 seconds. But over that it dropped to 46% and Jones was the reason. DBs staying in coverage is part of it, but the QB having to reset the pocket is more likely. It’s a synergy thing, not… Read more »

timgjerde56
timgjerde56
Feb 13, 2024 7:16 am

I read a interesting article about the biggest moments in SB 58. It put a lot of emphasis on the pressure KC got on Purdy. This article keeps mentioning sacks. KC didn’t get any sacks in the final moments of the fourth QTR but Jones was consistently in Purdy’s face and line of sight. There is no substitute for keeping a QB uncomfortable in or out of the pocket in big situations. Jaylon Johnson is a must for the Bears, but if the Bears want to sign him to a big contract, they need to do themselves a favor by… Read more »

Last edited 11 minutes ago by timgjerde56
Byron
Byron
Feb 13, 2024 6:36 am

For number one, resigning Jaylon Johnson will negate the money the Bears will get for cutting Whitehead and Jackson. The Bears will have 49 million to sign free agents. I really don’t think they will throw a lot more money on the defensive line after signing Sweat. I think going through the draft is the ticket with high priced positions. signing a center, safety, and depth would be the way to go with extra money. So, the Bears have two premium picks and possibly 3 premium positions to fill if they draft a QB without trading down. However, if they… Read more »

jmscooby
Feb 13, 2024 2:29 am

I felt bad for Dre Greenlaw when he was going onto the field. I’ve come off my couch for nachos awkwardly before. I was lucky it was just a sprain, but the pain in my flactoid muscle was pretty intense for the first few nachos. Bad JuJu.

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