When asked why he was benched in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears, Damarious Randall replied, “Ask the coach.” When coach Mike McCarthy was asked the same question, the great communicator’s response was: “Performance and some things.”
So what actually happened? A review of the game film made even clearer what most fans could easily see throughout the game: Randall was playing about 10 yards off his receiver throughout the game, and then he would drift back further as his receiver would come off the line.
He played so far off Chicago’s receivers that he wasn’t even in position to make tackles after several catches. His biggest embarrassment came with just over two minutes to go in the half. Receiver Joshua Bellamy took a routine pass behind the line of scrimmage in the right flat. By the time Randall came up to make the tackle, Bellamy had a five-yard head of steam, and his stiff arm propelled Randall right into the end zone with him for Chicago’s first touchdown.
Randall’s passive play continued in the second half when Cameron Meredith turned another very short pass into a 17-yard completion. Randall was again so far off the receiver that he fanned on making the tackle.
Going into the fourth quarter, the Bears exploited things further by lining up Alshon Jeffery opposite Randall. On the first play of the quarter, Jeffery faked and went deep, drawing a holding penalty. On the next play, Jeffery broke to the middle of the field, with Randall trailing badly – a 23-yard catch. On the next nearly identical play Jeffrey, picked up by Quentin Rollins, gained 27. Shortly thereafter, and facing a 2nd and goal, Jeffery delayed a bit at the line, then ran a simple slant and, with Randall mostly watching, caught the easiest touchdown pass you’ll ever see — 27-17.
That was enough even for McCarthy and defensive coordinator Dom Capers. Quentin Rollins, relieving Randall, didn’t stop the leakage, but Jeffery and company at least earned their yards the rest of the way. Randall finished the game playing 42 out of 66 defensive snaps.
Chicago’s next drive began at their 33 with 11 minutes left. Jeffery again was the dominant player, but this time he earned his yards via short throws in every direction. Jordan Howard capped off the impressive nine-play, 79-yard drive with a 9-yard run up the middle — 27-24.
After a three-and-out by the reeling Packers, Chicago took possession on its 21-yard line with just under six minutes to go. With Randall on the sideline, Chicago executed a brilliant 14-play drive. Saving the day was Micah Hyde, who knocked down a 3rd and goal pass from four yards out. The ensuing Chicago field goal made it 27-27, setting up the Aaron Rodgers-Jordy Nelson heroics. Though the Green Bay defense was made to look bad in the fourth quarter, the Bears were by then playing inspired football.
It was obvious what Randall was doing wrong, but I don’t have a clue why he repeatedly played so far off the Bears’ receivers – and why it wasn’t remedied by the coaching staff for three quarters.
Randall is now ranked 119th among NFL cornerbacks by Pro Football Focus, slightly above two lower-rated players.
While he missed six games earlier due to a groin injury, Randall played without apparent distress against the Seahawks a week before and had two interceptions that he returned for 47 yards.
Assuming he gets to play on Saturday against the Vikings, can Randall get his head back on straight in time for the critical contest? If not, look for Rollins to move to the outside, as he did on Sunday. Kentrell Brice might also get some opportunities, but he doesn’t appear ready yet, especially for a game of this magnitude.