Overall the Vikings played better and with more discipline than the Bears, probably reflective of some good coaching. And maybe with Adrian Peterson in the lineup, things would have been different. But that aside I still think they have a long way to go before they are going to be able to consistently compete with the Packers, Lions and even the Bears.
- I thought this excerpt from Brad Biggs‘s Ten Thoughts column at the Chicago Tribune was interesting:
“…veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was practically poking his ears inside the Minnesota huddle and then communicating with his line mates. I asked Ratliff if he had picked up something in terms of the signals.
“‘Why would you ask me that,’ Ratliff said.
“I told him what I saw and he replied: ‘Whatever tidbits or any information you can get, you use. If there is poor huddle integrity, I try to take advantage of that. Maybe that is what you saw. That is not uncommon. Once you hear certain calls, you know the formations they should be in. After a while you develop the ability to read their body language and see where the ball is going. You will have a pretty good idea if it is good info or not. You have to echo the call.’
“Of course, if a team uses a dummy call it could set a defense up for a big play but Ratliff says you know what information you’re processing if you have been doing it long enough.”
- Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribunewrites about the challenge that Bears head coach Marc Trestman is facing to his leadership philosophy this season:
“‘One of Marc’s greatest values is leadership — leadership of men, leadership of programs, leadership of people,’ said tight ends coach Andy Bischoff, one of Trestman’s closest confidants. ‘I would just say when you’re not winning, that’s an easy target.'”
That’s true enough. But most people have a tough time with self-discipline. Trestman might be one of the few people out there who doesn’t. He’s going to have to realize that everyone isn’t like him. The team won’t really be disciplined unless he imposes it form the top.
I thought the comments of right tackle Michael Ola may have been the most interesting:
“‘Tres’ job is to have us understand what we’re supposed to do from a schematic standpoint and assignment standpoint, alignment and adjustment,’ he said. ‘Our job is to execute that. Where the disconnect is is somewhere between when it comes in my ear and when I get on the field, and I have to do it.'”
In other words the players aren’t in the right frame of mind when they hit the field. It’s the coach’s job to put them there.
- Someone needs to tell Brandon Marshall to delete that damned Twitter account and concentrate on doing his job.
- Biggs answers your questions:
“Was that the Bears’ best offensive line combination last week? — @TomOMalley23 from Twitter
“I don’t think so. For starters, left guard Matt Slauson is out of the lineup and given the choice between him or center Brian de la Puente playing guard in a pinch, you’re going to go with Slauson every time.
“I thought Michael Ola struggled in the run game, too. On the plays where Matt Forte was stopped for no gain or a very short gain, Ola struggled. Vikings defensive tackle Shariff Floyd beat him on a handful of occasions. Ola has shown real versatility in playing three positions but a healthy Jordan Mills is a better option at right tackle, in my opinion, and the Bears are going to go back to Mills at right tackle when he is healthy. That might not happen this week as he’s still slowed by a rib injury.
“That being said, the line did a pretty nice job against a Vikings defense that has had success rushing the passer this season. Quarterback Jay Cutler was in concert with the line and the offense moved the ball efficiently.”
Agreed on all counts. The Bears offensive line generally struggles with blocking the run and that was made worse with Slauson out. There was a lot of talk early in the season about de la Puente permanently taking the center position from the injured Roberto Garza but I think we all know now that the Bears are better off with the 35 year old Garza in that spot. Calling Mills better than Ola at right tackle is like being the tallest man in a land of midgets. I’d say that the Bears will be in the market for a right tackle and, maybe, a center next year.
- Similarly, I thought at chicagofootball.com was on point:
I think most of us have concluded that if McClellin is going to succeed anywhere now, it will be in the middle. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s what the Bears have in mind and the bet here is that he stays on the strong side until he either succeeds or GM Phil Emery is fired.
One Final Thought
Quarterback Jay Cutler basically acknowledges his limitations with this quote. Via Campbell:
“‘[The Bucs are] going to keep the ball in front of them,’ Cutler said. ‘They’re going to zone you out — not a ton of man. They’re going to rely on that front four to get the pressure, bring some pressure from time to time. So we’re just going to have to control the ball, run the ball. We’re going to be throwing into zone coverages, so find your check downs and just try to keep the chains moving.'”
Heaven forbid you might use some of the standard cover-2 beaters that teams all over the league execute when they see this kind of coverage on a consistent basis. But Cutler, a “see-it-throw-it” quarterback, is far too limited to be able to pull off such plays. If you aren’t throwing a “go up and get it ball”, a hook where the receiver can use his body to shield the defender or a check down to a running back or a tightend, he’s out of his depth. So you are left hoping that you can run the ball against such a defense (which is hard to do if you are 21 points down in the first quarter) or you are out of luck.
I hate this match up from a schematic stand point. The Bears have struggled with two deep zones all season and I see little reason to believe that they will do better tomorrow. If this isn’t a game dominated by defense, the Bears may be in trouble.
Unfortunately, on the other side, with two good, tall receivers who will be difficult to cover one-on-one, a zone defense for the Bears is optimal. But the 2014 Bears aren’t generally fast enough or disciplined enough to play zone for most of a game and teams have been carving them up when they’ve done it since the preseason.
The only game left on the schedule after this one that the Bears might be favored to win is the last one against the Vikings – and that’s not a given with it being on the road. They need this one if for no other reason than to prevent the season from going further off the rails. But I really doubt they’re going to get it unless they show me something I haven’t seen yet in week 11.
- David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune has a point:
“‘We’ve got to … put the San Francisco game on, the Jets game on and see why we were able to play four quarters against Atlanta in competitive football games,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said.
“No need for videotape to remember why the Bears won those games. For starters, the 2-8 Jets and 3-6 Falcons stink. And the 49ers gifted the Bears the victory when quarterback Colin Kaepernick ‘Cutler-ized’ his offense by committing four turnovers. To hear Trestman wax poetically about those victories, the Bears beat the Broncos, Seahawks and ’72 Dolphins.”
In fact, the opponent handed the Bears all three games on a silver platter. It wasn’t a question of who played better. It was who played worse.
Perhaps the biggest misconception that Bears fans and, apparently, the Bears themselves have about this team is that they are inconsistent. They are, in fact, very consistent. It’s the teams they play that determine their fate.
As to the rest of Haugh’s column, I don’t put much stock in calling for firing Marc Trestman or any of the coaches mid-season. My view tends to match that of Brad Biggs, also at the Chicago Tribune:
“Midseason shakeups rarely are successful in the NFL. If defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is blamed and sent packing, I don’t know that that will accomplish anything. Someone needs to answer for these repeated failures, but canning Tucker and moving to the next guy looks a lot like Lovie Smith laying blame on offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator and moving on without ever sustaining success.”
Biggs is right but I will say this. Someone needs to identify what’s wrong before it can be fixed. Based upon what’s coming out of Trestman’s mouth, right now no one can do that. If that’s true, then they’re eventually going to have to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.
Fans live on hope. Its hard to do that when your head coach is “confounded” and “disturbed” and admits that he can’t understand why their great practices don’t translate on to the field. If someone doesn’t do something, faithful fan base or no, there won’t be many of them left in the stands come December.
- Biggs continues:
“The other question worth exploring was whether Trestman believed the roster had enough talent to compete.
“‘The only thing I am going to say to you is we’re not good enough right now,’ [Trestman] replied. ‘As I told our players, there is a good team in there somewhere because we have seen signs of it this year. We’re not a good team right now.'”
I’ve said this before but its worth repeating. When you watch this team live the first thing you notice is how slow they are on defense, especially at linebacker. Whatever the problems are on offense, that’s where I’d start on defense. It’s not going to be a quick fix.
- Biggs also quotes left tackle Jermon Bushrod on how the Packer’s defense managed to dominate the Bears:
“‘They did a lot more movement than they did in the first game,’ Bushrod said. ‘In the first game we were able to dissect everything and figure everything out. They were running line games and T-E’s (tackle-end twists) and run plays. That is something we don’t really see much. We tried to make the necessary adjustments and then they would bring something else. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”
This is what’s so frustrating about being a Bears fan (or the fan of any bad team) right now. You see what other teams do, playing multiple fronts and coverages and executing it to the point where the opposition is in total disarray. You want that for your team. But you watch the Bears and they can’t execute even the simplest plays without something going wrong. Multiple fronts? They can’t even successfully execute a pre-snap change from cover two to cover three.
We can talk about lack of talent but this is lack of preparation and coaching. Players are simply not in the right mindset when they hit the field and what they do on the practice field doesn’t translate to the game. There’s simply no other explanation.
I’m not a coach and I don’t know how you fix it. But I’m tired of seeing the Packers do it time and again as they find a way to win while the Bears couldn’t execute their way out of a paper bag. Never has the difference between the Bears and the elite organizations in the NFL been so apparent.
Yes. I haven’t been this frustrated with the team in quite a while.
- Biggs on the move that wasn’t of Jordan Mills from right tackle to left guard:
“‘That is why we shuffled one day, we looked at it,’ [offensive line coach Pete] Meyer said. ‘He did a nice job; it just wasn’t natural. It would have been different probably if it was the right side because he wouldn’t have to shift his stance.
“‘We’re gonna work with him in the offseason and he wants to do it, too. It’s something we’re going to look at just like we’re working different combinations right now because of the position we’re in. The offseason is a good time to do it.'”
Mills’s move was precipitated by the loss of Matt Slauson for the remainder of the season. If they move Mills to guard in the offseason, who sits?
- I’m not looking forward to seeing what New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees might do to that Bears defense.
One Final Thought
Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune gets credit for the best quote of the week:
“The team has been put together more as a fantasy football squad than a living, breathing entity. An assistant coach for a recent opponent called them the ‘biggest collection of front-runners in the NFL.'”
Couldn’t agree more. I’m sure the assistant coach had Jay Cutler particularly in mind when he said because he’s the classic example of someone who goes as the team goes, not the other way around. But it probably applies to a large part of the rest of them. Packers receiver Randall Cobb may have put it best:
“We knew that if we got up early on them, they may lay down on us.”
This team needs leadership and a large infusion of pride and guts in the worst way.
There’s absolutely nothing I could possible say here that wouldn’t be a waste of both your time and mine.
See you next week.
I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this. But Patrick Finley and Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times report that there are “Lovie guys” in the locker room who, apparently, still haven’t moved on.
on a national report that the Bears are in a shambles and that “the organization feared for Trestman’s job”.
I’m under no such restriction. The report was from Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports. And since we pretty much all know that Arkush is around the team almost every day and that he, more than reporter in Chicago, wouldn’t hesitate to confirm that the Bears were actually in such a state, I’d say its likely that La Canfora doesn’t have a clue about what he’s talking about.
Brandon Marshall‘s brother, Bijon Massie-Marshall sounds like a bright fellow. From the Tribune. The emphasis is mine:
“Citing court records, the channel said Massie-Marshall is alleged to have stolen a car in Colorado’s Douglas County while on probation in June 2013, and that county prosecutors filed charges for aggravated motor vehicle theft in May 2014. It said he was arrested in June and posted bond in August.
He is then accused of robbing an elderly Denver woman at her home in October with what appeared to be a handgun. 9NEWS said Massie-Marshall was arrested, bonded out, and that four days later he was wearing a GPS tracker when he allegedly robbed a store with what appeared to be a handgun. He was arrested again on Oct. 21.”
Insert comment about similarity between brothers here.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune addresses what the Bears need to do on defense to make the Packers game more competitive this time around:
“In Week 4, [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers completed 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. His 151.2 passer rating that game stands as the third-best of his career.
“The Bears repeatedly tried to rush four and drop seven in coverage, but defenders couldn’t get off blocks and Rodgers dissected the Bears’ zone coverage. Cornerbacks on the perimeter consistently allowed Packers receivers cushions of at least five yards, and that enabled Rodgers’ quick-passing game.
“Bears coaches have said they plan to adjust the defensive game plan, but Trestman emphasized the unchanged reality that rush and coverage must work together.”
The guess here is that they’ll mix it up more and we’ll see more man-to-man. Certainly they’ll probably try hard to disguise the defense. But, as Trestman implies, its still going to come down to the pass rush from the front four. You’re not going to get anywhere against Rogers by blitzing him over much.
Here’s the best news you’ve heard all week. Every single Tribune writer (not counting Steve Rosenbloom) picked the Packers. There’s not a chance in hell the Bears lose this one.
The Lions are gaining a lot of respect around the league and the #5 ranking that Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has given them is representative of that. Biggs has the Packers at #10. It’s going to be interesting to see how the division shakes out and if they can improve themselves and play to their talent level, the Bears are going to have a chance to play spoiler here. They’ve got two left against the Lions after this week’s Packers game. The Packers might be glad their games against the Bears came closer to the first half of the season than the last half. To my eye the Vikings are getting better as the season rolls on, too. Star running back Adrian Peterson could still be back in uniform this season.
One Final Thought
Biggs answers your questions:
“Does anyone remember that Packers coach Mike McCarthy was 8-8, 13-3 and 6-10 in his first three seasons in Green Bay? Are we not completely jumping the gun on voicing our severe displeasure in this Bears team?– Todd Y., Melbourne, Australia, from email
“I’d agree there has been a rush to judge the Bears, coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery after a half-season. That means half of the season remains and it is certainly worth seeing how this plays out. The team has been hit with some injuries, no question, but find me a team across the league that isn’t in the same position.
“I don’t know if a comparison to McCarthy is appropriate here. For starters, the Bears are not going to reach 13 wins this season. The six-win season for McCarthy, the worst season he’s had, came when Aaron Rodgers was in his first season as the starter and Green Bay was hit with a slew of significant injuries.”
Aaron Rogers aside, the Bears are considerably more talented than Green Bay is or ever was under McCarthy. I wasn’t as high on the Bears this year as most fans but even I wouldn’t hesitate to say that they are under-achieving. I’m not sure that McCarthy’s teams did.
Having said that, we can hope that the Bears will have a better second half. Hell, what else can we do?
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears safety Ryan Mundy after the Bears blow out loss to the Patriots last Sunday:
“‘We’re definitely frustrated, upset and disappointed — all those emotions,’ Mundy said. ‘We’ve just got to stick together — that’s the most important thing. At times like this, it’s really easy to have the worst in people come out, especially with all the arrows that are being thrown our way. Our job as a team is to stick together.'”
There’s a lot of truth to that, of course. But more importantly I think your job as a team is to do your job as individuals. Right now its pretty rare to find a play where all 11 guys have been doing that. Tight end Martellus Bennett might have put it best (via Patrick Finley, also at the Chicago Sun-Times):
“‘It’s not just Jay [Cutler]. It’s the offensive line. It’s the running backs. It’s the tight ends. It’s the wide receivers. He’s the quarterback, so everybody always looks at him. But we have to make sure all the guys around there are doing their jobs.
“‘Jay does his job, we do our jobs and we’re O.K. I think that’s the biggest thing: that everyone around has to look at themselves. I’m not here to judge Jay or talk about Jay. I only can look in the mirror and see what I have to do and what I can do better to help my teammates out. And that’s what it’s really about.'”
- From Brad Biggs‘s film review in the Chicago Tribune:
“Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner had their way with [Brandon] Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The duo combined for only 72 receiving yards before Cutler was pulled. Marshall was unable to create separation and Jeffery didn’t fare much better.”
Miami’s Cortland Finnegan also blanketed Marshall the week before allowing double coverage on Jeffery for much of that game. This is a major issue. I’m wondering if Marshall is still hurt. He has that look about him. Biggs would seem to agree:
“Maybe it is a sign that Marshall, while healthy, isn’t all the way back from that ankle injury. But who knows what to believe? One week he feels explosive. The next week he says the injury should have kept him out a month. But it is one of the issues plaguing an offense that is short on explosive plays.”
In any case if these two don’t start getting open more, the Bears season will end even worse than most fans suspect at this point.
- I’m sure everyone has pictures of this billboard. But just in case:
- Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:
“From @imx007: What’s the chance (the) Bears owners follows lead of the Blackhawks and Cubs and actually put real football people in?
“Ted Phillips is the team President and he has no football background at all. He is a very good accountant and was the team’s finance guy when Virginia McCaskey replaced her oldest son Michael with him. Actually, Michael was elevated to Chairman of the Board and Philips became President but the net effect was to move the family out of the day-to-day operations of the team. To Phillips’ credit, his first major move was to change Michael’s policy of not having a GM;…[Jerry] Angelo and [Phil] Emery were and are football people. The two questions are: 1. Are/were they the right football people; and 2. Should they be reporting to a football person? The first answer is it’s starting to look uncertain, but it’s still too soon to give up on Emery. The answer to number two, I think, is most definitely yes.”
There’s a flaw in this logic in that ultimately a non-football person has to decide which football person to hire. I see little difference between Phillips doing it in collaboration with ownership and ownership simply doing it on their own.
In the end, Phil Emery is making the football decisions. I don’t have a problem with that. As Arkush says, its a little early to tell, but I think the team’s drafts have gotten decidedly better, especially at the top, under his leadership. Whether Marc Trestman was the right hire as head coach is debatable but there is certainly a lot to like about him as an offensive mind and quarterback coach. I applauded this hire at the time for exactly those reasons. We’ll just have to wait and see if his leadership style either catches hold with the team or changes with the circumstances.
- Biggs makes the point that the biggest adjustment that the Bears have to make in the second half is to get the running game in order. This is one traditional way to beat the zone defenses the Bears have been seeing this year:
“There’s too much window dressing to the ground game and not enough brawn and muscle. Alshon Jeffery coming in motion on a fake jet sweep isn’t leaving opposing defensive coaches studying film deep into the night. The Bears must commit to running rough, dominating the line of scrimmage.
“‘We have an offensive line that can block the run,’ Trestman said. ‘And we have a very good running back.'”
The latter is definitely true. Whether the former is true is yet to be seen.
- Honestly, does anyone care what Michael Irvin thinks?
One Final Thought
Could this possibly be the ever cynical Hub Arkush that we’ve come to know and love?
“From @mosconml: Let’s not kid ourselves, the playoff hopes are done. Who’s looking good at MLB, SS and FS in the draft?
“Well, first of all you’re wrong. In my preseason predictions, I had the Bears at 4-5 coming out of Lambeau, and winning six of their last seven to go 10-6 and claim a wild card. I don’t feel that way anymore, but to say it’s no longer possible is just wrong. Apparently you haven’t been watching the NFL recently. Two weeks ago the Saints were done at 2-4 and now they’re in first place in the NFC South. Many times even 9-7 can get you into the playoffs. I hate what the Bears have done so far like everyone else, but let’s let it play out at least three more weeks before we bury them.”
Couldn’t agree more.
Some rube wrote in with this question for Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:
“Is any player stepping up to provide leadership on that side of the ball? — Tom S., Chicago, from email”
“I thought Jared Allen did a really good job of addressing this issue so let’s hear from him first on this:
“‘I don’t want this to sound bad,’ Allen said Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall. ‘We talk about leader. What does that look like to people? I think we have great leaders here. Leaders don’t necessarily have to stand up at the podium and make some big speech. Matter of fact, if someone gets up every week and has to have, ‘Coach is out, let’s have a (meeting),’ that’s lame honestly. What’s that gonna do? That is rah-rah.
“‘Leadership comes from the guys that show up every week, go out and work during practice, be in their playbook, they know what they are doing, go out on Sunday and they give it everything they’ve got. Leaders, in my opinion, you don’t know what they do. You don’t know what is said behind closed doors to someone. You don’t know if someone is struggling; a true leader will go and talk to them in private.”
“‘So I think that is what we do well with this team. So I would say we have good leadership. Maybe from the outside looking in you guys are looking for a vocal person with an ‘S’ on his chest to do something but those aren’t the guys typically I find people respond to.'”
“Now, I don’t know if I agree with Allen that the Bears have the best leadership possible on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of folks have been writing wondering when the next Mike Brown is going to wander along and grab everyone’s attention by exclaiming, ‘We suck!’ That Brown speech made a lot of fans happy. It acknowledged things were not going well. It didn’t do anything to the product on the field on Sundays.”
Like many of the fans that Biggs is speaking about, I had Mike Brown in mind when I was thinking of this question. But in fairness to myself, I also had Brian Urlacher in mind. Urlacher would have been the last person to proclaim “We suck” but there’s little doubt that teammates considered him to be a team leader and they looked to him in many different ways to be that.
The first part of Biggs’s response after the Allen quote was what I was after. I totally acknowledge that leadership demonstrates itself in many different ways but the one thing that has to be true is that everyone has to look to that guy to lead the way. He has to be the guy that others gravitate toward who can help pull them together into a unit in times where its needed. It takes a unique combination of both personality and on-field ability. I don’t see it and I haven’t read anything other than general comments similar to Allen’s to make me think that someone is doing a lot of it in ways that I wouldn’t see. It has been a serious issue for this team and, as far as I can tell, its going to continue to be a serious issue.
John Mullin at csnchicago.com thinks that the move of Michael Ola to right tackle will improve the Bears run game:
“Coaches were clearly pleased with the results in the run game with Ola at right tackle. Matt Forte rushed for 114 yards against the Patriots to go with 33 from Ka’Deem Carey, together averaging nearly six yards per carry.
“And since Trestman laid out the intention to balance the offense better, Ola is the presumptive right tackle until further notice.
“‘We got to do a better job of [balance] because we have offensive line that can block the run and we’ve got a very good running back,’ Trestman said. ‘We’ve got to do that.'”
If they’ve got an offensive line that can run block they sure haven’t shown it the last two years. Maybe Ola can make the difference on the right side.
Its also fairly clear that running the ball is something the Bears are going to have to do if they want to beat the Packers coming off of the bye. The Saints burned the Packers for 193 yards on the ground last Sunday and Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy sounded none to happy about it. Via Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com:
“‘We need to tackle the damn ball carrier and put him on the ground. That’s what we’ll be focused on.’
“McCarthy and his staff have the bye week to figure out if they can salvage their run defense, which has not ranked higher than 30th at any point during in the first half of the season and slipped back to 32nd (last) after Sunday’s 44-23 loss.
“‘The run defense was our Achilles’ heel clearly on defense,’ McCarthy said. ‘Too many missed tackles.'”
Missed tackles and dropped passes were problems last year with the Packers and despite devoting much of the offseason to solving the latter problem, it’s still there this year as well. We’ll have to wait two weeks to see how much help they are going to give the Bears.