August 19, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney (93) looks on from the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the third quarter at Heinz Field. The Pittsburgh Steelers won 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE
Chuck Pagano's new hybrid 3-4 defense did not debut with rave reviews. It allowed 428 yards of offense for the Bears to go with 41 points. Jay Cutler threw for 331 yards and two TDs on 35 attempts. Matt Forte had 80 yards rushing on 16 carries and scored one TD. Michael Bush ran for two more scores, much to the annoyance for fantasy football owners around the globe!
Part of the reason Pagano's defense stunk so badly in his head coaching debut was a lack of talent overall. Some of it might have been bad playcalling on the part of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who doesn't exactly have a stellar reputation as a defensive playcaller.
Another reason was Dwight Freeney left the game in the first quarter with an ankle injury.
With Freeney in the game, the Colts defense got a sack on Cutler during the first Chicago series, eventually forcing a three-and-out. On the second series, Indy pressured Cutler into an interception that was turned for a touchdown by linebacker Jerrell Freeman.
After Freeney left, Cutler had virtually zero pressure on him in the pocket. He settled in, and lead the Bears to 17 unanswered points. Freeney's replacement, Jerry Hughes, managed to do... well, nothing.
No stats, period. Not even an assisted tackle. Hughes' inability to set the edge also allowed Forte and Bush to run wild pretty much all day. On Chicago's second third series, with 2nd and 10 from the Chicago 33, Forte ran off the left end for 33 yards.
I'm not saying Freeney is AMAZING at stopping the run. He isn't. However, it was obvious to me watching that the Colts defense changed the moment Freeney left the game. The scoreboard reflected this shift as well.
Freeney is scheduled for an MRI today. Let us all hold our collective breath.