Quick Comments: Bears at Broncos 2019-09-15

Defense

  1. The Bears defense was excellent, as usual. They stopped the run and got pressure on Joe Flacco.
  2. The Broncos were trying to get the ball out fast to prevent the Bears pass rush from getting to them. They had limited success, especially early. They did a good job of mixing the run and pass.
  3. The Broncos occasionally had success running right at Khalil Mack. We’ll probably see more of that as the season wears on. Phillip Lindsay had a good game running the ball.
  4. The Broncos also had some success throwing underneath and running after the catch, especially Emmanuel Sanders. On a related note, the Bears could have tackled better. Roquon Smith especially seemed to hesitate against receivers in the open field.
  5. It looked like the Bears rotated in quite a few players this game in an effort to rest their players at the high altitude, as well. Aaron Lynch and Isaiah Irving got playing time.
  6. Despite doing what they could to limit it, the Bears defense really looked worn down in the fourth quarter.
  7. Perhaps on a related note, the Bears missed some big tackles down the stretch.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running and promptly got stuffed. They stuck with it however and did find some success with both that and the short passing game. They were able to sustain some long drives in the first half which allowed the Bears defense to rest in the thin Denver air. The Broncos did not choose to load the box to stop the run.
  2. They were also trying to wear the Broncos defense down. The didn’t, though, as far as I could tell.
  3. Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery did a good job of making yards on their own. Cohen’s quickness makes him tough to bring down. Montgomery had both patience and vision and he found some cracks and slipped through.
  4. Trubisky really still didn’t have a good game. Like last week, his accuracy was off. The Broncos coverage was generally pretty good and Bears receivers had a hard time fighting them off for the ball. Chris Harris in particular did a nice job of covering Allen Robinson this game.
  5. Ted Larsen reported as eligible for the pass late in the third quarter? Really?

Miscellaneous

  1. Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth were you announcers. I usually like Schlereth because he provide some insight into offensive line play that you often don’t get from other analysts. But today I thought his enthusiasm might have been a little overdone at times.
  2. Special Teams
    1. Eddie Pineiro made two field goals in the first half, one from 52 yards. He was the Bears offensive output in the first half.
    2. The Broncos did a good job of playing field position and the Bears started from inside their own 20 yard line quite a bit.
  3. Drops didn’t have much to do with the outcome.
  4. Penalties
    1. Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles had a tough time in the first half. He had two holding penalties and was called for a third that was declined in the first half. He was called for four for the game. It didn’t help that he was blocking Khalil Mack for most of the game.
    2. Charles Leno didn’t want Bolles to feel lonely apparently because he come out after half time and got two quick holding penalties, himself.
    3. Chris Harris had a big holding call near the goal line late in the third quarter. The Bears got the touchdown on a David Montgomery run.
    4. Eddie Goldman had a big penalty in the fourth quarter. The call looked questionable. The Bears forced a field goal anyway.
    5. Buster Skriene was off side on the conversion for the Broncos when they missed the kick. That allowed the Broncos to go for two points and the win. To top it off, they had 12 men in the huddle while driving for a field goal.
  5. Kyle Fuller had a huge interception in the fourth quarter with the Bears defense worn down and with their backs to the goal line.
  6. This was obviously could have been a tough loss. The Bears defense wore down in the fourth quarter and it allowed the Broncos to drive the field not once but twice, the second time for the touchdown. I don’t think it would have made a difference but there will be plenty of people questioning whether playing in the preseason would have made gotten the defense in better shape. I really , really doubt that 40 snaps or so would have made the difference.The Bears now avoid an 0-2 start and they won’t face the uphill battle in the division against the now 2-0 Packers they could have. But if they are going to compete, the offense has to come a live and score some points. To do that, Mitch Trubusky has to complete every open pass. This has to get better.

Quick Comments: Ravens at Dolphins 2019-09-08

Defense

  1. I was looking forward to seeing Lamar Jackson have to pass the ball this game. Unfortunately there was little reason for him to have to do it early. The Dolphins run defense was extrememly poor to start the game. The defenisve linemen couldn’t keep the blockers off of the linebackers and they were not free to move to the ball. This is essential to the success of the Dolhons defense.
  2. I was, perhaps, most disppaointed with the defense up the middle which, coming out of the preseason, I had as a Dolphins stength. Needless to say, they have some roster building to do here.
  3. Once the Dolphins started to concentrate on stoppoing the run, it opened up the passing game for Jackson. And he did not disappoint his defenders. He ahd a great game passing the football. He dropped ;some beatiful deep passesfor touchdowns this game. A mobile quarterback who fcan really throw an accurate bal could change the game. Looking forward to watching him against a better defense.
  4. Dolphins pass coverage was really poor. They gave up a deep ball in the first half rushing 3 men with the other 8 incoverage. And yet, the Baltimore receiver still go behind the defense. Everyone not named “Howard” was culpable. Jamal Wiltz, Eric Rowe, Walt Aikens, Bobby McCain. All had poor fundamentals in coverage at some point. This has to be claened up.
  5. I’ll give this much to the Dolphins defense. They didn’t give up. They were will fighting for pride in the 3rd and 4th quarters despite the blowout. That’s encouraging.

Offense

  1. Baltimore came out putting pressure on a suspect Dolphins offensive line. It was obvious that the plan was to hit Ryan Fitzpatrick as often as possble. No quarterback likes to be hit but the older quarterbacks really, really don’t like it and they tend to get gun shy. To a certain extent this strategy worked. Fitzpatrick’s interception in the first quarter came with no one reallyin the vicinity.
  2. Having said that, Fitzpatrick didn’t really fall apart under pressure. once the Ravens built a big lead and backed off just a bit late in the second quarter, he was given more room to work and he took advantage. He was reasonably accurate under those conditions and theDolphins started to move the ball just a bit.
  3. I thought it was interesting that the Dolphins thought they could beat the Ravens defense by attacking the edges. They came out with some passees to the outside to Kallen Ballage and to Albert WIlson on the wide reciever screen. Baltimore quickly adjusted and shut it down. But I think its an indication that the DOlphins, at least, think they might have a bit more speed to the outside than people think.
  4. If you are going to have Albert WIlson in teh wold cat, could you at leat be more creative than a run right up the middle?
  5. Kudos to Devante Parker with a nice catch in the second quarter. The DOlphins need him to make more of those – indeed, have needed him to make more of those for years now.

Miscellaneous

  1. Special Teams were poor, Jakeem Grant had a flash back to the stone hands he had his rookie year as he fumbled away a punt return deep in Dolphin territory. A Ravens fake punt gave them the ball on the Ravens 10 yard line. They converted that into a touchdown.
  2. Preston Williams had an awful drop in the endzone that cost the Dolphins 4 pionts as they settled for a field goal. Allen Hurns had a big drop in the second quarter. That needs to be cleaned up.
  3. Other than Grants bobbled punt, we also had the Fitzpatrick interception. Baltimore had no turnovers. Porr start with Josh Rosen as he threw an interceptionon his first set of downs as a Dolphin. Marlon Humphrey made a good play on the ball.
  4. What is the deal with the defensive holding calls on the Dolphins? Time after time these penalties killed them this game. Again, that needs to be cleaned up.
  5. I understand that the Dolphins are out manned on the field and I’m willing to cut them some slack because of that. But there is not excuse, no matter waht the talent level, for poor fundamentals. Poor tackling, penalties, turnovers, poor technique in coverage. These things goe beyond talent.

    The one thing that Dolphins fans have to look forward to is seeing the improvement in the play of their young players. And there’s a lot here to improve on.

Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears 9/5/19

Offense

  1. The Packers tried to make Trubisky uncomfortable by crowding the line and disguising the blitz. And it worked. Trubisky never looked comfortable with what the Packers were doing all night.
  2. Trubisky didn’t have a good game. His mechanics were frequently off as he would sometimes throw the ball off balance even when there was no pressure. When he was solid in the pocket and throwing from a good base, he was pretty accurate. When he wasn’t, things got rough.That’s understandable when there’s pressure. Not acceptable but understandable. But when the pocket is clean and you are still doing it, that’s bad.

    This needs to be cleaned up. There’s no excuse for it this year.

  3. The Bears basically lost the line of scrimmage tonight. The ground game was rough going for long stretches. David Montgomery was tough to bring down and he did make some yards on his own. But generally speaking the Packers were fundamentally sound with their tackling. The interior of the offensive line struggled, especially James Daniels at center. Unlike playing at guard, it’s evident that he’ll need a few games to adjust to the speed of the NFL while having to worry about snapping the ball at the same time.
  4. The Packers played mostly man-to-man coverage and really did a superior job tonight. Open receivers were tough to find. This, along with Aaron Rodger’s mobility, was the difference in the game.
  5. Allen Robinson had a really good game and it wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to say that he was the Bears offense. The Packers covered him well but Robinson has a gift for going up to get 50-50 balls. Its evident that Trubisky knows that. It looked like Robinson was the only receiver on the field he trusted in tight coverage. Indeed, he may have been too reliant on Robinson. Hence, the interception at the end of the game when he went to Robinson one too many times on what could have been a better thrown ball.
  6. The Bears could have helped Trubisky a bit more by having him roll out. He’d be more comfortable n the move and it would have forced the Packers defensive backs to come up to play the run. Probably Trubisky could have found some running room against the man-to-man coverage with their backs turned to him.

Defense

  1. I’d have to see the stats but it looked to me like the Bears played far more 3-4 base defense under Chuck Pagano than Vic Fangio did last year. Fangio, like many teams around the league, essentially played a nickel defense as his base.
  2. Because they played so much 3-4, Eddie Goldman was on the field more. And that’s a good thing. He had a deceptively good game clogging the middle and getting push into Arron Rodgers face up the middle on the pass rush.
  3. Despite some fundamentally sound Packers blocking (while getting away with some holding), the Bears got a good pass rush on Rodgers and that was a key to the game. Not coincidentally, the one series of downs they didn’t get pressure was the one where the Packers drove the field for their only touchdown.
  4. A expected, the Bears did blitz a bit more under Pagano than when Fangio was calling plays. But not that much more to my eye. Pagano doesn’t really need to do it and I think he knows that. Why take the chance when you can get good pressure with a four man rush?
  5. Rodgers did a good job of putting pressure on the Bears defense with his ability to move outside the pocket. Defensive backs had to hold their position close to the line a beat or two longer and that opened up some passes behind them that might have been tighter otherwise.
  6. Rodgers did a very nice, credible job of trying to run the Packers offense. He got the ball out quickly the way Matt LaFleur designed it most of the time. This is good news for Packers fans. There were many points on the field but they won’t all be like this one. This will work better against less than superior defenses. Rodgers was excellent when he had time to throw (which wasn’t often).
  7. Speaking of LaFleur, I though ht he did a credible job play calling. He caught the Bears blitzing several times with good calls for decent yardage.
  8. Like the Packers, the Bears got some good pass coverage of their own. Kyle Fuller and Buster Skrine both had notable pass break ups. If you appreciate good defense, this was the game for you.
  9. Having said that, Prince Amukamara did give up a big play to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in man coverage. Deon Bush was probably supposed to give him some help but he was held closer to the line of scrimmage on that side by the play action and respect for Rodgers mobility outside the pocket.

Miscellaneous

  1. Not much needs to be said here. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth did their usual wonderful job. Collinsworth is the best in football and he provided a lot of insight into the relevant events. Everyone knows I hate night football. Collinsworth is the only good thing about it.
  2. Special teams weren’t really anything special tonight. I thought the Packers punter, JK Scott, did a nice job. Eddie Pineiro made his only field goal but had a kickoff go out of bounds.
  3. Drops have been a Packer trait for years. It didn’t seem to be an issue tonight. On the Bears side Tarik Cohen and Adam Shaheen both had notable drops.
  4. Penalties were horrendous on both sides. Green Bay had 10 for 71 yards. The Bears had 10 for 107 yards. Both teams had holding calls that were badly damaging as each tried desperately to keep back a good pass rush. Charles Leno had a really bad drive in the 4th quarter where he had a holding call and a illegal hands to the face call back-to-back. David Bakhtiari had a rough game with a couple Packers holding calls.

    The Bears had two delay of game penalties in the 3rd quarter along with some other rough spots. They basically didn’t play in the preseason.

  5. There was only one notable turnover and it was a big one. Trubisky’s interception as he tried to force one more to a well covered Allen Robinson. Trubisky didn’t get it far enough towards the sideline and he threw it just a little too deep, making it an easy interception for Adrian Amos drifting over from the middle of the field. The Packers Kevin King dropped a gift interception from Trubisky in the first quarter.
  6. Wonderful defensive effort on both sides of the ball tonight. I think the Packers just did an exceptional job in coverage and that really made the difference, what little there was.

    It was interesting to compare Trubisky and Rodgers tonight and it was an indication of how far Trubisky still has to go. As stated above, Trubisky never really got comfortable with what he was seeing. While Rodgers took his opportunities and got the ball out on time, Trubisky frequently held it just a beat or two too long waiting for receivers to come open. There probably weren’t a lot of open windows but had he simply let it go, thrown with anticipation and trusted his receivers more, he probably could have had a better night.

    They won’t all be like this one. These divisional games are going to be close. The Bears aren’t fooling anyone anymore with their offense which has always been a lot of window dressing disguising something that really wasn’t terribly complicated. Don’t get me wrong. Its a good offense. But nothing good defensive coordinators can’t figure out with time to study it. And within the division, they’ve got plenty of time to do that. The Bears will look closely at what the Packers did tonight and they’ll be well prepared later in the season when the teams meet again.

    So, really, its going to just be mono a mono. Tonight the Packers won the battle.

Programming Note

As some of you have noted, this blog has gone noticeably quiet over the last few weeks. Things have gotten busy for me and I have a lot of irons in the fire right now. Frankly, they will only get worse through mid-to late-October.

The NFL is not helping as they allow the networks to make a greedy cash grab by forcing people who work for a living to stay up at all hours of the night to watch their team.

I’m going to be honest. I may not be able to watch every Bears game this year. But I assure you, I’m going to watch this one and I’ll get up game comments for it. It just might not be immediately after the game.

Please bear with me for a while and things will get better. As always, thanks for reading.

An Assessment of the Competition for the Third and Fourth Tight End Spots

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“How many tight ends do you see the Bears carrying to the 53-man roster? Is Bradley Sowell a roster lock since the Bears have pretty much asked him to alter his entire career to match their need for a Y tight end? — @gumm006

My best guess is four tight ends will make the 53-man roster with Sowell having an edge over undrafted rookie Ian Bunting for the final spot behind Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen and Ben Braunecker. I would not describe Sowell as a “lock,” and his contract certainly doesn’t give him any kind of protection because of guaranteed money. The Bears would not promise him anything in asking him to change positions either.

I think Bradley Sowell is a virtual lock to make the roster on this team. Head coach Matt Nagy used a third offensive tackle to block last year in a variety of short yardage situations, especially near the goal line. I think he wants to do that again this year with Sowell but in situations where he’s more versatile as a receiving threat rather than the target on a one time gadget play.

The guy I’m wondering about is Braunecker. He’s a four phase special teamer but based upon his performance in last week’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Bunting looks like he has a lot more to offer the offense.

Bunting had big highs and big lows over the course of the game and he needs to show more consistency. That might make him a practice squad candidate. But I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Braunecker will be a surprise cut if the Bears think Bunting has improved enough and/or they don’t think they can get him through waivers to the practice squad.

Aaron Rogers Undermines His Head Coach Every Time He Opens His Mouth

Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers characterizing critical comments that he’s creating “outside noise” as “click bait”:

“If Rodgers doesn’t want to be ’put in that news cycle,’ he should quit saying things that naturally flow into that news cycle. When he complains to Mike Silver of the NFL that Rodgers wants more freedom at the line of scrimmage than the [head coach Matt] LaFleur offense gives him, Rodgers puts himself in that news cycle. When Rodgers complains to reporters about joint practices and, more surprisingly, specifically says it’s not ’smart’ to have close-to-live kickoff drills that are sure to catch the attention of the NFL Players Association, Rodgers puts himself in that news cycle.

It more than that. Rogers is using the media as a weapon to undermine the head coach.

He wants more freedom at the line of scrimmage? He doesn’t work it out with LaFleur internally. Instead, he runs to the media and complains. The next thing you know, Green Bay fans are saying, “Yeah. He’s a veteran, he should be able to change the play.”

That adds pressure on LaFleur to change his policy, even though he knows the way he runs his offense will work if given a chance. In the mean time, the whole issue undermines his authority with both the fans and the media.

Rogers is playing LaFleur and their fans like a fiddle. And he’s using the media to do it.

Fortunately, the media knows when its being used though they didn’t bother to try to point it out while former head coach Mike McCarthy was the victim, at least some are apparently trying to give LaFleur a little bit more of a chance. For now.

The Montgomery Dilemma: To Play or Not To Play. That is the Question.

Adan Jahns at The Athletic comments upon risers and fallers on the Bears roster after the first preseason game. In particular, he highlighted the situation of running back David Montgomery:

The Bears’ exhibition loss against the Panthers Thursday night produced a healthy dilemma for coach Matt Nagy.

Do the Bears really need to see more of running back David Montgomery in the preseason?

It wouldn’t be surprising if Nagy is now leaning toward “no” after his prized rookie totaled 46 yards on six touches and scored on an impressive 7-yard touchdown run in his NFL debut.

Montgomery. like most rookie running backs, has to learn to pass protect if he wants to play. Not that he did a bad job. But all of these guys need work on it because they did it so rarely i college. This is why Jordan Howard didn’t start out of the gate. They can’t just roll these guys out there and get Trubisky killed, no matter how well they run.

Montgomery will start out of the gate or at least get a lot of playing time. That is clear.

I think that makes it all the more important that he get as much practice protecting the quarterback before then as possible. Yes, its a risk. But its better to risk injury to Montgomery in the preseason than to risk losing your quarterback to a rookie mistake once the season begins.

Bears David Montgomery Strength? He’s All Football Player.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the performance of Bears rookie running back David Montgomery last night:

“Six touches for rookie running back David Montgomery was all that was needed to feel really good about him — and the role he’s going to play in this offense.

“Montgomery already looked the part in training camp, running hard through tackles in some rare live action in Bourbonnais. But a chance to see him go against the Panthers, albeit a brief chance, was enough to confirm what was expected. Montgomery looked really good in the open field. He looked good in the low red zone, running to daylight after a jump-cut at the line of scrimmage on a 7-yard touchdown. He looked natural catching the ball. If you were seeking validation that general manager Ryan Pace made the right move in paying a pretty hefty price to trade up and select Montgomery, this was a heck of a start.”

My first impression of Montgomery is similar to what my first impression of former Bears running back Jordan Howard was – he isn’t going to be running away from guys very often. And unlike Howard, Montgomery isn’t particularly big though his center of gravity is lower to the ground than I thought it was. But, similar to what I eventually concluded about Howard, I can see why the Bears like him. Montgomery is a football player. And that’s probably more important than superior physical talent.

Don’t get my wrong. Talent is important and you have to have at least some of it to succeed. But you don’t have to be the fastest guy on the field. In Howard’s case, his ability to find small cracks in the line and to slip through to make gains was a huge strength for a big back. It looks to me like Montgomery has some of that vision when he bounces the ball outside. Defenses are going to have to play the run with discipline whenever Montgomery is on the field or he’s going to burn them for big gains.

You can also see where Montgomery could succeed in the passing game. Get him into space and his quickness and ability to break tackles starts to show itself. He’s got instincts and he runs with effort.

Yeah, the guy probably is going to get caught from behind a few times this year. But overall, I like what I see and I think Montgomery’s strengths could far out weight his weaknesses. I see a guy who could quite possibly match the production of a Matt Forte as a very good running back that could provide yet another aspect to what is looking like its going to be a versatile offense.

The Bears Kicking Competition Has Many Subtle Aspects to Consider

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Is there any benefit, cap-wise or other, to the Bears keeping one kicker or another? — @steveoatms

“There is no way the Bears will base the decision on the kicker for this season on money or cap space. Fry and Pineiro are each signed for $495,000 this season and would count that much against the cap, so there is no difference in that regard. I can’t see a kicker who would become an option for them between now and the start of the season who would cost a lot. Robbie Gould was never an option as the 49ers franchise-tagged him.

“Everything I’ve read so far from camp has both kickers performing well. But if it comes down to a little more leg strength or slightly better consistency, which would the coaching staff choose? — @chriscremer5

“In that scenario, I think the Bears would choose the kicker with better consistency. What is more important? A kicker who is money from 30 to, say, 45 yards or a kicker who has a better chance of banging one through from 55? I think you go with the more consistent guy for the kicks that are going to come up much more often. But it’s hard to believe a final decision will come down to issues that black and white.”

There is one aspect of this kicker competition that Biggs didn’t mention. The Bears give up a seventh round pick to the Raiders if Pineiro is on the Bears roster for 5 games. They’ll happily give that up if he works out. But it is an issue if all else is equal.

There is, however, one subtle advantage that Pineiro has. Pineiro apparently won the job with the Raiders before going on injured reserve last season. That means that the Raiders liked him. That can have an effect upon the decision making process. Somewhere in the back of the minds of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, they are probably thinking, “Well, the Raiders liked him. So shouldn’t we like him, too?”

That’s not a major factor – these guys definitely have their own minds. But if its close, it could be the thing that tips the scales.

The Silence from Kyle Long Has Been Deafening

Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic says that Bears guard Kyle Long is ready for 2019:

“Last January, the seventh-year Bear was looking forward to a surgery-free offseason after everything he went through from 2016 to 2018. He’s been available throughout the offseason program and training camp after having to take ’veteran days’ last summer.

“Nagy has heard Long, a three-time Pro Bowler from 2013 to 2015, is in ’the best shape, condition, strength, mental’ as he’s been as a Bear.

“’Where he’s at right now is in a good place,’ Nagy said. ’And so he’s worked hard for that. He’s all-in. He’s committed. Even today, he’s out there running around when we gave some other guys similar in age a vet day. And so that’s a credit to him, and we want to just make sure that he gets stronger and stronger, and then when we get to Week 1, he’s at the best he’s ever been.”’

There’s been a lot of talk in the offseason about Long’s age and various fans, if not media members, on Twitter have suggested that at 30 years old his best days might be behind him. Long landed on injured reserve in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Particularly given his large personality, Long’s silence since camp has started has been deafening. It could be because he doesn’t like the doubts being expressed about him. That might not be such a bad thing. A healthy Kyle Long with something to prove could prove formidable once the season starts.