Quick Game Comments: 49ers at Bears 12/4/16

Defense

  1. The 49ers came out mixing it up but it was evident form the beginning that they were going to be much better running the ball and before long that’s what they concentrated on. The blocking up front in terms of this aspect of the game was excellent.One of the questions of the day was whether, with Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan out, Nick Kwiatkowski and Jonathan Timu would be able to stop Carlos Hyde and the 49er running game. The answer as far as I could see was “no”. Thought Kwiatkowski made the occasional play, both linebackers were generally were well blocked and they certainly struggled to play downhill and attack the line of scrimmage. Yards per run.
  2. The blocking was not excellent when it came to the pass rush and the Bears got good pressure on Colin Kaepernick. The Bears had 5 sacks and 4 quarterback hits through three quarters on Kaepernick. They had six for the game including the one for a late safety on Blaine Gabbert.
  3. The 49ers had Timu spotted as a weakness in coverage right off the bat and they were targeting him by sending the running backs out wide as receivers. It looked to me like it might have worked better on a day when the passing game was clicking. That might be womething we see other teams do in the future.
  4. Akiem Hicks had 10 tackles and two sacks and was all over the place. He kept the Bears in the game almost single handedly in the first half.
  5. Colin Keapernick has been performing at very high level. It’s hard to say that his performance today was consistent with that. Kaepernick entered the game with 8 TDs compared to just 2 INTs and his passer rating was 96.0.The problem is that neither team threw the ball much in the first half so Kaepernick was largely reduced to a runner. Of course, he’s athletic and he did a decent job of that.

    In the second half when both teams threw the ball more, Kaepernick’s accuracy was pretty awful. He either missed, underthrew or overthrew a number of wide open receivers in the snow and cold weather. I’d say he took a step back. At the end of the third quarter, the 49ers had -21 yards passing and Kaepernick was 1 of 5 for 4 yards. He was replaced by Blaine Gabbert in the fourth quarter.

    The Bears might have won this game doubly by losing if Kaepernick had looked good. Not would it have put them into a position to draft ahead of the 49ers in 2017 but Kaepernick’s performance would have been one more reason for the 49ers to believe that he’s their future answer at quarterback and it would have given them one more reason not to draft one in the early rounds.

    As it is, the question of what the 49ers will do at the quarterback position next year remains up in the air.

  6. There were pre-game reports that Willie Young might not play due to a knee injury. But he did play and, like the rest of the front seven when it came to the pass rush, he played well doing his part to get pressure on Kaepernick. He had a sack.

Offense

  1. Like the 49ers, the Bears came out running the ball against one of the worst run defenses in the league. It seemed evident from the beginning that was the plan.Of course, the problem with that plan, as with the 49ers, is that you have to execute. The Bears were constantly finding themselves in situations where it was third and long due to penalties and mistakes.
  2. There was almost no passing for almost the entire first half. Then the Bears went into the two minute drill and suddenly they come to life, pass their way down the field and take the lead at half time by scoring a touchdown making it 7-6. Apparent this is Matt Barkley’s specialty and they should run the offense like that all the time.
  3. Perhaps the best quality that Barkley possesses is that he seems to know where the ball needs to go and he gets rid of it quickly to the right spot most of the time. Barkley doesn’t hold on to the ball long. It was hard to say after the first half that he showed that again today just because there was so little passing. But where they did throw, especially I the second half, he generally looked like he did when he was at his bet last week.I thought outside linebacker Willie Young’s quote on Barkley was interesting. Young was a seventh round pick and a long shot to be in the league as long as he has been.

    “Guys like me are few and far between. But if we get an opportunity, the only thing we know how to do is take advantage of it. Whatever happens after that, happens. I play on the edge. I honestly feel like [Barkley] played on the edge also.”

    Despite that, I have to believe that Barkley’s physical limitations probably will keep him as a backup in the NFL and my impression is that is what the Bears see him as. But if they have only found a solid back up, at least it puts them one step closer to having a plan for the position as a whole.

  4. After dropping last week’s game winning touchdown and then another easy catch for a big gain early in the second half, you had to wonder if Josh Bellamy was going to collapse under the weight of his own failures. But he didn’t. He came back to make a nice catch on the same drive that he dropped the ball, setting the Bears up on the 49er 11 yard line. He then made several nice catches on the next drive, one of which brought them to the 49 six yard line. Both drives resulted in touchdowns.
  5. Credit the Bears patchwork offensive line for doing a decent job protecting Barkley. He was only sacked once.
  6. One of the younger players that has caught the Bears attention is tight end Daniel Brown, an undrafted free agent with the Ravens last year. Brown is a pass catching tight end who is a converted wide receiver. He had 3 catches for 24 yards last week in place of Zach Miller and 2 catches for 13 yards this week. Perhaps his best play was when he drew a pass interference call in the endzone that set the Bears up on the 49er one yard line near the end of the half. They scored the touchdown.You get the impression that the Bears think they’ve found something in Brown (he played in 54 of the 81 snaps last week) but its too early to tell whether he will pan out. So far so good.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin were your announcers. I thought that Johnston did a good job of providing insight into what was really a dog game no matter how you look at it. Kudos to this team for not simply phoning it in.
  2. It wasn’t a good game for Bears special teams. It started on the opening kick off where the 49ers returner bobbled the football but still got beyong the 25 yard line and didn’t get better from there.A blocked punt resulted in the 49ers getting the ball on the Bears 4 yard line. Fortunately the 49ers are as undisciplined as the Bears are and an unsportsman-like conduct penalty pushed them back to the 19. The 49ers settled for a field goal. Paul Lasike also dropped a kick off that ended up leaving the Bears deep in their own territory near the end of the first half.
  3. The Bears didn’t do too badly with only 5 penalties.  But the 49ers had far too many with 11 and some, like the pass interference in the end zone that set up the Bears first touchdown, were very damaging
  4. Jordan Howard entered the game leading the league with 7 dropped passes this season. So its good news that he didn’t drop any today that I thought he really should have had. Despite making some good catches as mentioned above, Bellamy still had two bad drops. That really has to stop. The 49ers had some awful drops in the second half as well.
  5. A fumbled kickoff return by Deonte Thompson gave the ball to the 49ers the ball at the Chicago 37 yard line. This was immediately following the blocked punt that handed the 49ers a field goal. So not a good sequence.  Other than that, turnovers weren’t much of a factor this game except that the Bears, one again, didn’t get any.
  6. I thought it was interesting that the 49ers came out “cold” in this game in more than one way. After playing well against the Dolphins last week, head coach Chip Kelly chose to keep them in sunny Orlando where the temperatures were in the 80s to practice all week. Meanwhile, the Bears were practicing in game conditions at Halas Hall. You have to wonder if Kelly’s decision to keep the team in the warm temperatures in Florida factored into the team’s slow start in this game as it was laye din some ugly winter weather.
  7. There were over 13,000 no shows for this game and frankly it looked like it was more than that on television. I guess that’s hardly surprising in cold weather with two of the worst teams in the NFL facing off.I’ve seen it suggested that the Bears don’t care that much about the low attendance because the tickets are already sold. I don’t know what the split is with the Chicago Parks District but I have to believe that the lost revenue from parking and concessions is significant.

    You can bet your life that they care about that.

  8. For those of you who are looking to see if John Fox gets fired after the season is over, you can stop. He and Ryan Pace look to me like they’re joined at the hip. Yes, I know that statistically Marc Trestman’s Bears did better but Trestman lost the locker room and that had more to do with his departure than anything else. All indications are that’s not the case with Fox and unless something changes, he’s not going anywhere.
  9. The Bears are actually a better team than the 49ers when healthy. But you could argue that mediocre teams need seasons like this to get better. With all of the injuries that the Bears have sustained, they are probably going to end up with a higher draft pick than their roster would otherwise dictate. In the end, whether you are elite or not depends on your ability to get impact players. And those are much easier to find at the top of the draft.
  10. I don’t like suggesting it but there were indications that the 49ers flat out gave up late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter in this game. There were a lot of lapses in concentration, a lot of drops, a lot of bad defense being played out there. You have to wonder how much of the problem with that team is simple lack of heart.Fortunately the young Bears don’t seem to have that problem. They seem to hang in and play hard no matter the situation. In this case it served them well as they played a team that had been playing well in tough weather and played better than they did.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, San Francisco 49ers | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Titans at Bears 11/27/16

Offense

  1. Some surprises  on the Bears first possession.  First play of the game is a long bomb that draws a pass interference call.  So much for easing Matt Barkley into the game the way that most teams would do.
  2. Second surprise, the Bears go for it on fourth and one on the Titan 30 yard line.  They didn’t get it.  Perhaps this as much as anything suggests that it this isn’t so much about wins and losses and it is about evaluation.  The Bear have nothing to lose and that, obviously, is going to be the mentality for the rest of the year.  There were plenty of guys out there who looked like they were having fun in their moment to shine in place of injured players.  Marquess Wilson looked pretty happy to just be catching passes and someone named Daniel Brown made a nice catch for the Bears first  touchdown.
  3. Having said all that the Bears really came out running.   Seven of their first 12 plays were runs and they were averaging almost 6 yards per carry.
  4. Titans really look like they came out flat for this game.  There aren’t that many games that they go into as the favorites and you wonder if they didn’t take the Bears seriously.  Whatever it was, it didn’t last long as they quickly began to dominate.
  5. Cody Whitehair had another brain fart as he had a bad snap deep in Bears territory that killed a drive.
  6. Kudos to Matt Barkley for standing in the pocket and looking down the barrel of the gun to deliver some tough throws knowing he was going to get hit.
  7. Give the Bears some credit.  The whole stadium knew they were going to throw in the fourth quarter during their comeback and they did a decent job of protecting Barkley, who got the ball out fast.

 

Defense

  1. The Titans also came out running as expected and they did  a nice job of it.  It nicely set up the play action pass for big games, particularly in the first quarter where at least one long pass was completed to Delany Walker as Adrian Amos was caught flat footed looking for the run.  He’s got to understand that he’s being set up and he should be looking for that throw.
  2. Bryce Callahan wasn’t much better as he was repeatedly burned.  His job has to be in jeopardy.
  3. The play action pass also really helped what is an average Titan receiving corp excel.
  4. The Titans really dominated the line of scrimmage.  They protected Marcus Mariota well and the pass rush rarely gave Marcus Mariota much trouble.  More importantly, they completely neutralized the Bears front seven rush in the running game.  Nearly every run got to the second and third level.
  5. Marcus Mariota did some big damage with his mobility.  He typically dropped back, looked for a target and if he didn’t see someone relatively quickly, he took off.  It was something you expect to see a rookie do but it was still plenty effective.
  6. Mariota has to lose the cheesy mustache and the soul patch.  It looks ridiculous.
  7. Nice catch by Rishard Matthews right before the half for the Titans third touchdown.
  8. Nick Kwiatkowski didn’t do much special but he held his own.  He was the primary force that stopped Demarco Murray from scoring a touchdown last in the third quarter.
  9. Mariota had a wonderful game.  The guy throws a pretty deep ball.

 

Miscellaneous

  1. Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots were your announcers.  I found it to be amusing that the Bears didn’t even rate a sideline reporters.  They weren’t irritating and they did a decent job of accurately describing the action.  Having aid that, I can’t say that I learned much.  When the audio went out briefly in the second quarter I can’t say that I missed it that much.
  2. Special teams weren’t bad.  The Bears pulled a surprise of the type that the Titans have been pulling off recently.  They started the second half with an onside kick and recovered it.  Bears special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers trained under Titans special teams coordinator Steve Hoffman.  Perhaps he’s trying to show that he can coach like the older veteran.
  3. The Titans were really burned by some pass interference calls in the first half.  As it turns out, no harm done as the Bears went for it on fourth and one and didn’t complete the pass on the first one and Matt Barkley threw an interception deep in Titan territory after the second.  The Titans weren’t the only one to have trouble in this respect.  An offensive pass interference by Logan Paulsen eliminated a first down.  A defensive holding from Bryce Callahan kept the Titans alive on the drive that resulted in the their second touchdown, as well.
  4. I was disappointed at the number of drops in this game.  For instance, Jordan Howard dropped a touchdown in the first quarter.  Cameron Meredith had one that stuck out at the beginning of the second quarter that should have been a first down and another in the fourth quarter as the offense worked to make a game of it.  Josh Bellamy dropped a first down near the end of the half and two more in the fourth quarter.  Marquess Wilson dropped a very good long pass in the fourth quarter that would have set the Bears up for a potential touchdown and would have really lifted some spirits at that point.  He then dropped another perfectly thrown ball in the end zone.  And, of course, Bellamy dropped a potential game winning touchdown.  These guys really let Matt Barkley down.
  5. Matt Barkley threw a bad interception behind Ben Braunecker where Wesley Woodyard picked it off deep in Titan territory that took at least three points off the board.  He threw another crushing interception in the end zone while under pressure.  That wasted a good effort coming out after halftime after the team recovered an onside kick.
  6. This was a particularly disappointing game for me because the Bears were not only outclassed talent-wise but because they literally seemed to make every mistake that you can make.  Average Titans receivers ran by defensive backs like they were traffic cones.  Too many penalties, drops, crushing turnovers, bad tackling and even a bad shotgun snap.  You name it, they did it.  I guess the good news is that there’s a lot to work on.  Any consistent improvement will be very easy to see at this point.

 

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Tennessee Titans | 1 Comment

Some Random NFL Thoughts as Week 11 of the Season Comes to a Close

I haven’t had a chance to post much other than game thoughts lately.  Things have been a bit hectic at work and though they show no signs of slowing down, I thought I’d try to get a post up on some NFL thoughts this week as Well 11 wraps up tonight.

      1. Jared Goff didn’t have a great game yesterday.  But that’s understandable.  He’s a rookie in his first start and yet he arguably out played Ryan Tannehill for most of the game yesterday against the Dolphins until a dramatic comeback in the last five minutes of the game stole it away from him..

        Notably Goff has a (perhaps natural at this stage) tendency to panic under pressure.  Whenever he even sensed that a blitz was coming he rushed the pass and it was usually inaccurate.  He’s going to have to settle down and learn to keep calm in those situations.

        I might add that Goff’s accuracy and ball placement were generally a disappointment this game.  In fairness he saw a fair bit of pressure from the Dolphins defensive front and he was throwing on the move quite a bit.  Though he’s certainly mobile, based upon what I saw, that is not his strength and he’s going to have to be given some time in the pocket if the Rams expect his to succeed.

        Many were surprised when Rams head coach Jeff Fisher decided to promote first overall draft pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the starting lineup.  Reports were that reports that Goff wouldn’t play until the Rams were mathematically eliminated. They’re still alive at 4-5, and if Goff gives the offense a spark they could end up in the mix for a playoff berth.  But head coach Jeff Fisher has claimed that Goff is ready.

        “It’s was just Jared’s progress, and the progression week, after week, after week,” Fisher said. “Preparing to be a two, preparing to be a play away from going in. When he got the reps over the last three or four weeks, they were right, they were good, they were good decisions. So it was time.”

        That’s all nonsense, of course.  Goff struggled notably in the preseason and there’s hardly much reason to believe he’s gotten significantly better with no playing time since.

        The truth is that the Rams have little to lose at this point.  The offense had, in fact, done very little under former starter Case Keenum.   Keenum was not the reason the Rams have been so bad but he hasn’t helped. This season he’s completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,169 yards, with nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He was sacked 23 times and the Rams are 24th in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play.

        Keenum’s interception percentage is 31st in the NFL and the Rams are 31st in the NFL in touchdowns per game. In fact, the Rams have not scored more than one TD in each of the past three games.

        Given that is the case, Fisher wisely figured that he might as well let the offense be just as bad while developing their quarterback of the future.  As they have in all of their previous games, they will still rely on their defense to win.

        The real question is whether the Rams even can develop Goff.  Jeff Fisher is a defensive head coach and his Assistant Head Coach/Offense, Rob Boras is a former offensive line/tight ends coach.  That means the person who has been primarily responsible for overseeing Goff’s development is quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke.  Weinke has all of two years of NFL coaching experience – 2015 and half of 2016 with the Rams.

        Goff is a wonderful talent.  But at least as important is who is bring him along.  The Rams have been a waste land for quarterback play since Kurt Warner left St. Louis in 2003. With Sam Bradford being its most recent and notable failure at the position.  You have to wonder if Goff is about to get lost in those bad lands as well.

      2. Speaking of the Dolphins, more and more I’m coming to appreciate the play of Kiko Alonzo.  He’s all over the field and he’s largely responsible for what has been an improved (though still flawed) run Dolphin defense.
      3. One more quick Dolphins-related thought.  I was a bit disappointed when Dolphins center Anthony Steen, who played well in place of starting center Mike Pouncey (hip) today, decided to criticize Alabama head coach Nick Saban last week.

        Steen told the Palm Beach Post that he now regrets waiting until the end of his senior season to have the shoulder surgery he needed, and he thinks Saban’s approach leaves Alabama players hurt.

        “If you can work through pain, you can go. But at ‘Bama, that was the problem,” Steen said. “A lot of things you went through and you shouldn’t have. You should have stayed off of it. That’s why a lot of guys from ‘Bama are hurt.”

        If Steen was actually hurt or had done permanent damage to his shoulder by playing, I agree would with him. But as far as I can tell he hasn’t. So I question whether Saban actually pushed him too far.

        Indeed, it may well be Steen’s toughness and willingness to play hurt was one of the reasons he has made it to the NFL.  One scout from the Bleacher Report before the 2014 NFL draft called Steen “Possibly the very definition of ‘toughness’ as it relates to OL scouting purposes.”  CBS Sports said, “Steen’s technical consistency, toughness and instincts are exactly what NFL teams look for in the ideal guard prospect.”  The statements are ironic given that the Dolphins chose highlight their 2016 draft class by trying to make them into something that they weren’t, characterizing them as “alpha personalities” despite zero independent evidence that scouts ever viewed them that way.  Steen appears to the kind of guy they should have been touting all along if that’s what they wanted.

        In any case, if you ask me Saban did Steen a favor.  He pushed him to play and, while doing so, highlighted what was perhaps his greatest strength.

      4. Greg Hardy is gone but hardly forgotten.

        Hardy infamously was arrest for domestic violence after assaulting an ex-girlfriend by grabbing her, throwing her into furniture, strangling her, and threatening to kill her.  Only the Dallas Cowboys and their win at all costs owner Jerry Jones dared to sign Hardy after he hit the street (One wonders what he told his granddaughter.  “Don’t go dating an NFL player, now darlin’.  Unless he can rush the passer.  Heh, heh, heh.”  [slaps her on the behind]).  However, after a miserable season with the Cowboys in which he under-performed and was a locker room distraction, even Jones let him go.  Hardy has been waiting for another team to sign him ever since.

        Good luck with that.  If he ever had a chance – and I doubt very much that he did – its got to be gone now after he was indicted on one count of felony possession of a controlled substance after a September 25 arrest. He allegedly had 0.7 grams of cocaine in his wallet, which police detected after pulling him over for turning without signaling.

        Hardy was and is a blight on the National Football League, a product of a win at all costs mentality that results in animals like this getting rich off of fans who are forced to root for them against their better judgement.  You honestly wonder under the circumstances how the league has the nerve to wear pink in October while keeping men like Hardy  employed.  Fortunately, we’ll almost certainly never have to deal with watching this particular hard case anymore.  Let’s hope that its extended more and more to others whose behavior calls for sanction rather than adulation.

      5. I find the Green Bay Packers to be like a train wreck.  I can’t look and yet I can’t look away.  Some pundits were predicting that the Packers would be among the all-time best this year with the return of a healthy Jordy Nelson, who was supposed to be the major missing cog in the Packer wheel that caused the apparently decline of Aaron Rogers stats last season.

        That hasn’t turned out to be the case.  Among their notable deficiencies this year has been their problems at running back.  The carousel of running backs in Green Bay this season has included Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis (acquired from Kansas City and released after two games), James Starks and Don Jackson (who was placed on injured reserve). Through it all, the most effective runners have been quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who’s averaging 6.3 yards per run and has three rushing touchdowns) and converted receiver Ty Montgomery (who was the team’s leading rusher in two different games this season).

        The latest hope at running back for the team is Christine Michael, who they picked up from waivers after the Seahawks surprised the league by releasing him.

        Michael had two different stints with the Seahawks, who drafted him in the second round in 2013 (one spot after the Packers picked Lacy at No. 61 overall). As recently as this summer, he had earned praise from his teammates who said he was a different player than he was the first time around.  Indeed, NFL pundits have marveled at Michael’s talent and production and it was thought that he was on his way to a fine season.

        At least publicly the Seahawks have only praise for Michael.  “He’s been busting his tail the whole time he’s been here,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything we’ve said about him has been true and real, and he made a great comeback with us. He was the only guy there for a while, and we’re really grateful to the play that he gave us. He’s a good kid.”

        But privately things may be a little different.  Reports have indicated that Michael was too inconsistent for the Seahawks and that they couldn’t trust him to run within the offense.  He struggled to hit the right hole or trust the design of the play. Those are vital elements of any run game but particularly for the Seahawks. The running back is the conductor of the offensive line. His patience, the number of steps he takes, all those details help a run succeed or fail.

        Whether Michael will be better within the Green Bay offense is an open question.  But they are so desperate to find answers at the position, they may rather have a reasonably productive back who free lances than the answers that they currently have on the roster.  Such is the state of what was supposed to be a record breaking offense this year

      6. Of course, the other major problem is the play of Aaron Rogers, himself.  Rogers at his best drops back, hits the last step in that drop and fires the ball immediately to the open receiver.  But he hasn’t looked like that on a consistent basis for over a year now, preferring to hold the ball and play backyard football while trying to make a play.  Pundits have blamed the fact that his receivers can’t get open for the problem and the return of Nelson this year was supposed to solve it.

        For the first time in his career, perhaps ever, Rogers is taking significant criticism from former teammates and the press.  And he apparently hasn’t liked it much.  Even nice guy Tony Dungy has gotten into the act as both he and not so nice guy Rodney Harrison took off on Rogers on Thursday’s edition of Football Night in Carolina on NBC and NFL Network.  Dungy and Harrison particularly addressed Rodgers‘ recent habit of publicly criticizing teammates and/or coaches during post-game press conferences following losses.

        Dungy: “When you’re losing, you can’t make those kinds of comments. I remember my first year in Indianapolis when we lost a playoff game to the Jets 41-0. Mike Vanderjagt, our kicker, comes out after the game and says, ‘Tony Dungy doesn’t fire people up. He’s just an easy-going guy. We don’t need that.’ Well, that might have been true, but when you lose, it’s not the time to say that.”

        Harrison: “I’m going to say this as nice as possible — shut up and play football. Every time that you mention something in the media, it creates a sense of divide in that locker room. Everything that they think about – say it in-house, and don’t bring the media and everyone outside of that locker room into it.”

        Former Packer Jermichael Finley has also been among the latest to speak out with some particularly damaging comments.

        “Aaron Rodgers is so scared of what guys are going to say that he doesn’t say nothing at all,” Finley said. “He doesn’t get vocal. He goes into his little shell. He’s not a guy who hangs out with the fellas. He’s real self-centered.”

        Finley isn’t the first teammate (former or otherwise) to take his shots at Rogers.  Even when Rogers has apparently been playing well, other players have or are suspected to have done so and they haven’t lasted with the team.  Former Packer and Dolphin guard Daryn College was one such player who called out Rogers in a team meeting for not admitting that he was holding the ball too long when the offensive line was taking heat some years ago in 2009.  Current Bears guard Josh Sitton wasn’t known specifically for doing it but he was outspoken and he was known to have called out the coaching staff on at least one occasion last year.  It would certainly not be surprising if criticism of Rogers miserable play last year came with that

        Rogers isn’t just self-centered.  He appears to be sensitive to criticism.  If he continues to play like he is, he’d better get used to it because it won’t stop until he starts reading the defense, getting rid of the ball, playing within the offense and throwing more accurately.

      7. I know that it seems like it’s a long way away but the later we get in both the NFL and the college football season, the more it feels like NFL draft time.  Indeed, site are already starting to speculate about what teams will need what and none will be more prominent than those who will be desperate for quarterback help.  In that respect, I found this article on NFL.com to be quite interesting.  In the column, former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah looks at six teams who he thinks will be targeting the quarterback position.  Most made sense – the Browns, 49ers, Bears and Cardinals.  However, a couple were, in my opinion, questionable.

        First off, the suggestion that the Jets will be looking to draft a quarterback and/or sign a veteran is popular right now and, I think, pretty suspect.  The Jets drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015 and, though fourth rounders aren’t always slam dunk starters, I’m not sure they given up on him.

        But Petty isn’t the reason I find this opinion questionable.  You might argue about the Jets commitment to his future but there’s not denying that they are committed to 2016 draft pick Christian Hackenberg.  Like Jeremiah, I don’t think Hackenberg is the answer for them.  But the Jets have to believe otherwise.  To draft Hackenberg in the second round and then not commit to him as your future starter would be ludicrous.  They would be, and should be, a laughing stock.

        No, I can’t imagine the Jets not giving Hackenberg the starting next year.

        The other suspect team on the list was the Jaguars, who appeared to have an answer at the position with Blake Bortles.  Bortles started well as a rookie but has regressed this season.  His mechanics are a mess and during the bye week he even resorted to visiting QB guru Tom House, indicating that perhaps he wasn’t getting the help he needed from head coach Gus Bradley and his staff.

        Bradley may be gone after this season but Bortles isn’t going anywhere.  I have to believe that the Jaguars would rather spend the offseason trying to fix Bortles, who at least has showed potential for a couple years before regressing, than starting over by drafting a new quarterback.

      8. Before we jump too far ahead it should be mentioned that one or two of those teams listed above are going to go for a veteran replacement.  Especially if you are a team who thinks that can win now, as in Arizona or Denver (not listed), the possibility of adding Tony Romo is going to be tempting.

        In addition, another quarterback that Dolphins fans are pretty familiar with might be enticing for one of these teams.  Tyrod Taylor entered the weekend needing to show that he could be the future in Buffalo badly.  Time could be running out for Taylor in his quest to convince management to activate the next phase of his five-year, $90 million contract, which would cost them $27 million for next season alone if they decide to kick in the second year.

        Buffalo beat the Bengals on Sunday but they did it with only an average effort from Taylor who went 19 for 27, 166 yards and a passer rating of 70.9.  Hardly the stuff that characterizes a $90 million quarterback.

        The bet here is that Taylors talent and mobility leads someone to sign him in the hope that he will be the future.  We shall see if it comes true.

 

 

Posted in Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Points of View, St. Louis Rams | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Giants 11-20-16

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running the ball on three of the first four plays.   In total, they ran the ball 17 times in the first half compared to 14 pass plays. The Bears made some yardage throwing to Jeremy Langford out of the backfield.   Then Jordan Howard went out with something in his eye and Cutler started throwing it to him in the backfield.  Langford is a pretty decent receiver after working all offseason on it and it was effective.  Indeed, Cutler used him on a blitz to get rid of the ball quickly on the very first series.
  2. Interestingly, despite Langford’s success, once Howard came back they went right back to the power running game, rarely throwing to Howard.  Nevertheless, Langford’s success makes you wonder if maybe they should be using him more as a change of pace.  Indeed, they did use him more in the second quarter and he scored the second Bears touchdown.
  3. The constant use of Howard, even when the running game wasn’t working, opened up the play action pass nicely and helped Cutler and his protection a great deal.
  4. Some credit has to go to the offensive line that came out and controlled the Giants offensive front in the first half.  The success of the entire offense, both the run game which served to set up everything, and the passing game where they gave Cutler pretty good protection, depended critically on them and early in the game they came through.
  5. Cutler made a beautiful throw to Zack Miller, who appeared to me to be well covered by a linebacker.  It was a nice play.  Indeed, Cutler had obviously decided that Miller was going to be his major target in the absence of Jeffery. Miller continued to make plays through out the first half until he had an apparent injury near the end of the period.
  6. While we’re at it, kudos to Cutler.  Coming off of his worst game of the year, he was dropping back in the first half and getting rid of the ball quickly, something he has to do to find success.  Its when Cutler drops back and holds the ball in an effort to make a big play (as he did in the second half) that he gets himself in trouble.  Like most quarterbacks, he’s at his best when he spreads the ball around, reads the defense at the line of scrimmage and gets rid of the ball quickly.
  7. It’s a shame that the Bears good offensive performance didn’t last into the second half when the Giants took over the line of scrimmage.  Cutler was under a great dal of pressure and it was evident that the loss of Josh Sitton may have broken the back of a pretty banged up offensive line.  Mike Adams and Charles Leno took turns giving up pressure.  Adams in particular looked totally overmatched against Jason Pierre-Paul.   And Cutler’s old problem identifying and avoiding back side pressure also started to rear its ugly head.  In fairness to Cutler, he did try to get rid of the ball quickly but the Giants were covering his receivers like a blanket and it was very difficult to find an uncontested throw.

Defense

  1. Giants came out on the first drive mixing it up and executing well.  One thing that you notice immediately is how under-rated Eli Manning’s movement in the pocket is as he avoids the rush with “phone booth quicks”.  Manning really is an under-rated quarterback.
  2. The Bears defense played pretty well in the first half.  They were fast to the ball and aggressive in the way that they need to be.  Generally speaking they tackled well, though when they did miss, especially on the outside as Cre’Von LeBlanc did on 4th and 2 in the second quarter, the Giants burned them.
  3. The LeBlanc play was the second 4th down conversion that they Bears yielded to extend a drive in the first half.  The first was far more damaging as it set the Giants up for their first touchdown.  The Bears need to do a better job of stiffening in those situations.
  4. The Bears didn’t generate much pass rush, that was as much a function of the play of the Giants offensive line as anything else.  Frankly, I’ve never seen a line hold so much and get away with it.  In any case, that lack of pressure burned them in the second half when Manning got things going.
  5. Despite that, I thought Leonard Floyd had a pretty good first half of football.  He was around Manning applying pressure for a good part of the time.  It was a shame to see him carted off on a back board and we can all hope, not just for his own future but for the future of the Bears, that he isn’t seriously injured.
  6. And Manning did eventually get things going.  The Giants snapped out of their funk after half time.  Taking advantage of all of the attention that the Bears were forced to give to Odell Beckham, Manning really started to spread the ball around and find the open man nicely.

 

Miscellaneous

  1. Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch, and Pam Oliver did the announcing.  I’ve never been a big John Lynch fan but kudos to him for at least trying to teach me something as a fan on occasion.  We could have done far worse.
  2. Connor Barth missed the extra point on the first TD.  I’m sure that makes Robbie Gould feel better.  Temporarily.  Gould missed his first extra-point attempt as well, probably making Ryan Pace feel better in his turn in the process.  Overall, it wasn’t a good day for the kickers as Gould missed another extra point and Barth hit the post on a 54 yard field goal.  Deonte Thompson had a pretty good 40 yard return in the first half.  Pat O’Donnell had a good day punting.
  3. Adrian Amos did not do much to alleviate my concerns about his ability to make plays when he flat out dropped an interception that was right in his hands.  Such plays are often the difference between winning and losing.  Marquis Wilson dropped a big third down pass in the third quarter with the momentum having turned against the Bears.  Jordan Howard dropped a huge third down pass with 3:30 left in the game and the Bears down six points.
  4. Olivier Vernon roughing the passer in the first quarter – totally unnecessary.  The Bears stayed out of trouble with penalties (only 4 for 35 yards) but it was ruined by an awful holding penalty on Mike Adams on third and ten near the end of the first half took the Bears out of field goal range.  Ted Larsen had a big holding penalty with 2:39 left with the Bears driving to try to score at the end of the game.  Indeed, both teams played a relatively clean game.  The Giants only had 4 for 35 yards, themselves.
  5. Neither team turned the ball over until the final minute when Cutler threw an interception trying to make a play.  Cutler also gave up a sack and a forced fumble (which the Bears got back) at a critical time with 1:30 left in the game.
  6. Tony Romo repeated a common football mantra this week when he said that if you control the one inside of you, the one across from you really doesn’t matter.  In one respect, the Bears did that today in a season where wins and losses really don’t matter as much as showing progress as the season wears on.  Five penalties for 40 yards and no turnovers until the end of the game is a vast improvement over where they’ve been at for most of the year when they have continually shot themselves in the foot over and over.  The team isn’t good enough to overcome those kinds of mistakes and that was very evident today as they got totally out classed in the second half.

    They were beaten this game by a better team that also managed to play a clean game rather than handing them a win.  But I assure you that if they continue to play like that, this won’t be true every week.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, New York Giants | Leave a comment

Quick Comments: Vikings at Bears 10/20/16

Defense

  1. The Vikings came out running on first down, probably in an effort to slow the pass rush and keep the Bears from blitzing.  The Bears were doing a pretty good job of stopping it with seven in the box.  They held the line of scrimmage pretty well.
  2. That also didn’t keep the Bears from blitzing on occasion and getting pressure with it.  The Vikings have one of the worst offensive lines in football and Sam Bradford has a poor reputation for performing in the face of the blitz.  It was what the Eagles beat them with last week and it was obviously part of the game plan for the Bears.
  3. Minnesota also tried to run the no huddle to wear the Bears defense down but they couldn’t sustain a drive to do it.
  4. Some decent pass coverage by the young defensive backs had Bradford occasionally taking a long time to look for targets.  This gave the four man pass rush a lot of time to get to him on these occasions.
  5. The pass rush itself also was pretty good.  I note that Leonard Floyd had another good game with a sack.
  6. The Minnesota offense just looks terrible.  They’re bad up front, Bradford and the receivers aren’t on the same page, Bradford Is missing big throws.  It’s pretty bad right now.
  7. Big night for Akiem Hicks with 2 sacks.
  8. Stephon Diggs is a flat out star.  He had a good game on what was otherwise a miserable night for the Minnesota offense.

Offense

  1. After a really good start with a good 69 yard run by Jordan Howard the Bears started yet another gaff in the red zone with a poorly executed play where a defensive tackle went completely unblocks and there was a mix up between Jay Cutler and Howard in the backfield.  Cutler followed with a poor throw to Jeffery in the end zone.  Alshon Jeffery dropped touchdown on the next trip to the red zone.  This kind of incompetence has to stop.
  2. One good thing that the Bears did in the red zone was run the ball on occasion.  If you can do that, you’ll score.  And when they did it successfully, they did score.
  3. Cutler was getting the ball out quickly and on time in the short passing game and he was spreading the ball around better.
  4. Having said that, he was erratic tonight with his accuracy, especially early in the game.  There were some bad throws to Alshon Jeffery in particular.  At one point Cutler hit Jeffery in the back of the head when Jeffery didn’t turn for the ball and I could hear big top music in my head and it felt like I was watching clowns at the circus.  They did a better job of connecting in the third quarter when Jeffery scored his first touchdown of the year.
  5. Cutler got decent protection from the offensive line against a very good Minnesota defensive front.  The offense generally did a good job of picking up the blitz despite missing both starting guards.  Also kudos to Cutler for getting the ball out when the blitz came.  He did a nice job of that.
  6. Howard had a good night on the ground and with some of his catches on screens and a shuffle pass.  He’s a good one and he was just good enough to make the play action work pretty well tonight.
  7. Some good play calls tonight.  Some well-timed screens.  Nice job by Dowell Loggains there.
  8. Zach Miller had a good night as Cutler frequently looked to him short.  That’s good.
  9. Nice job of running the game out at the end.

Miscellaneous

  1. I really like Jon Gruden.  He’s pretty insightful and I enjow his commentary.  Sean McDonough is a pro.
  2. Special teams, especially the kick coverage, were fine on both sides. I was underwhelmed by Cre’Von LeBlanc as a returner.
  3. The Bears really cut down on the penalties with only 2 for 20 yards.  One of them, an unsportsmanlike conduct on Cornelius Washington, was pretty damaging in that it gave the Vikings a first down on their way to a field goal in the first half.  Nevertheless, this has been a problem and it was better this game.  The Vikings only had 1 penalty.  So a clean game.
  4. Jeffery dropped a touchdown in addition to the ball that hit him in the back of the head that he didn’t look for.
  5. No turnovers on either side.  Again, relatively clean.
  6. This was a nice win for the Bears against what might be the best team in  the division.  They played a clean game with no turnovers and few penalties, something that they have to do if they expect to win.  Some unknown players in the defensive backfield came up with good performances.  Some young players including Cody Whitehair and Leonard Floyd are looking good.  A nice effort going into the bye.

    The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, are a huge disappointment.  That offense is a huge problem.  The line stinks, just as it did last year, especially when they play anyone any good.  I had hoped that veteran offensive coordinator Norv Turner could eventually make ice cream out of garbage on this team.  But they simply don’t measure up and the defense can’t make up for it.  They’re the Achilles heel for this team which, once again, looks like it will go nowhere in the playoffs, at least at this point.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Minnesota Vikings | 3 Comments

Quick Comments: Bears at Packers 10/20/16

Offense

  1. Brian Hoyer came out and looked at Alshon Jeffery three times in the first five plays.  It looked like the Packers plan was to get physical with him and the other receivers with tight man coverage.  It was effective early as it looked like the referees were going to let them play.  Hoyer eventually started spreading the ball around and things loosened up slightly.
  2. The Bears continued to try to pound the ball up the middle early on first down.  It wasn’t working and it was forcing them to throw on second and third.  It was pretty predictable.
  3. Hoyer overthrew Josh Bellamy who had a couple steps on the safety in the first quarter.  He overthrew him by a long way, reminiscent of a similar play against the Jaguars last week.  Missing big plays like that can’t keep happening.
  4. The offensive line struggled to block the run averaging 3.8 yards per carry.  Jordan Howard appeared to struggle more than Ka’Deem Carey once again.  Defensive lineman tackled Howard on 12 of his 14 carries in the last game not counting his touchdown.  The blocking for him hasn’t been good in particular.
  5. Eric Kush started in place of Josh Sitton.  He’s not very athletic and he struggled a bit, especially when called upon to block and the second level.  It’s a funny comment because Bears offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains chose to start him over Ted Larsen because of his athletic traits and mobility.  Sitton had started 81 consecutive games and 129-of-131 since becoming a starter for the Packers in 2009.  Long came out hurt in the second quarter and was replaced by Larsen, who got the last laugh as they had to play him anyway.
  6. Clay Matthews beat Charles Leno on the play that Hoyer got hurt in the second quarter.  In fairness, Leno had little chance as Matthews looped around to the inside.  Julius Peppers also beat Kyle Long on the play.  The pass protection had been decent to that point but it really started to slip late in the second quarter.  Things went south from there.
  7. Cody Whitehair had a rough game blocking the run last week.  He looked better tonight.
  8. Matt Barkley replaced Hoyer.  He saw some pressure and looked OK as he’s quite a bit more mobile than Hoyer.  He might look better in the future but he’s a third string quarterback and things are looking pretty bleak at the position right now.
  9. The Bears did not make it into the red zone all night.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out playing man coverage and rushing four with the occasional blitz.  Perhaps more than occasional.  It’s obvious that the Bears aren’t confident they can get pressure rushing four.  I suppose you pick your poison but it looked like coverage was working early in the first drive.
  2. Later in the second quarter they changed the plan and backed off the line of scrimmage and played a soft zone.  They also got a bit more pressure, especially when Aaron Rogers was holding the ball trying to make a play.  They let the Packers have the shallow throws underneath when they were in this defense, which Rogers gladly took, however.  After six games this season, Rodgers has an 88.4 passer rating — 10 touchdowns, four interceptions and 60.2-percent completions — with Jordy Nelson (who was hurt last year).

Rogers looked better this game when he was getting the ball out fast.  He generally looked reasonably accurate.

  1. Nevertheless, the strategy appeared to work.  The Bears successfully held the Packers out of the end zone for just 6 points in the first half.

    They mixed it up, back and forth man to zone from there.

  2. Nice play by Cre’Von LeBlanc to knock a touchdown pass away from Randall Cobb.  Looked like a pretty good throw.
  3. Ty Montgomery is a tough matchup.  He lines up either in the backfield or on the line of scrimmage and he’s a handful for even the safeties.  He looks like he’s particularly good catching the ball out of the backfield where he can get some space.  He also looks pretty big for 216 pounds and he runs with some power for a guy that size.
  4. Nevertheless the Bears did a good job of stopping the run in the first half, giving up only 2.7 yards per carry but the Packers ran the Bears over in the second half.  They finished with 4.5.
  5. The Bears looked well prepared to defend the misdirection play action pass where Rogers fakes a hand off and does a naked boot in the opposite direction.
  6. Pernell McPhee was added to the roster before the game.  He looked rusty.  It looked to me like they went with Leonard Floyd and Willie Young at linebacker most of the time.
  7. The Packers dominated the time of possession in the first quarter but finished the half with a field goal drive that made up some of the deficit.  Nevertheless, you got the distinct impression that the defense was going to wear down if the game continued in that vein.  It did and they did.  The time of possession finished at Bears: 20:24 Packers: 39:36.
  8. Leonard Floyd got some good pressure including a sack in the first half.  He combined with Willie Young to cause an Aaron Rogers fumble which was recovered by Floyd for a touchdown.
  9. Tracy Porter looked OK when he was out there but the other cornerbacks sometimes struggled as they committed a some damaging pass interference penalties in the first half.  It looked like they picked on LeBlanc quite a bit.  Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  I’d say De’Vante Bausby struggled the most, mostly with Devante Adams.

Miscellaneous

  1. Jim Nantz, Phil Simms, Tracy Wolfson were all their usual professional selves.  The only good thing about the networks putting the miserable Bears on in prime time over and over again is that they get the best of these guys.
  2. Bears special teams were pretty good.  Very good kick coverage.  Akeem Hicks blocked a meaningless field goal late in the game.  No complaints.
  3. Once again there were too many Bears penalties (10 penalties for 108 yards). Adrian Amos got called for a very obvious pass interference late in the second quarter for a huge penalty of 44 yards.  The Bears stopped the Packers at fourth and goal at the one but they started the next drive practically on their own goal line.
  4. Drops weren’t much of a factor which is unusual for the Packers.
  5. The Floyd fumble recovery was a big part of this game if only because it was the only way the Bears were ever going to score a touchdown.  Again, the Bears continue to protect the ball well.  Barkley threw two meaningless interceptions late in the fourth quarter.
  6. Thank you CBS for bringing back that John Madden Miller Light commercial right before half time.
  7. It was nice to see Leonard Floyd emerge tonight and Bears fans should hope that he continues to develop.  Whitehair also appeared to me to get back on track this week.

    I thought it was interesting that we may have seen a turning point in the Packers season tonight.  After the Bears recovered the fumble in the end zone, the Packer offense came alive.  Suddenly Rogers was dropping back and throwing the ball on time at the top of his drop like the quarterback we used to see in 2014.

    If it caries over into the rest of the season, they’ll look back at that moment as when they gritted their teeth, pulled it together and it all got better.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Green Bay Packers | Leave a comment

Quick Game Comments: Jaguars at Bears 10/16/16

Offense

  1. The offensive line once again did a good job protecting Brian Hoyer.  Even when the Jaguars brought the blitz on occasion they did a nice job of picking it up.
  2. Unfortunately once again I can’t say the same for the run blocking.  Except for one big run last week against the Colts, I thought the Bears struggled.  They did again today in the first half at 2.4 yards per carry.    They did however, begin to run the ball considerably better late in the third quarter and the final stat was 3.4.
  3. Once again, I thought Jordan Howard (15 carries for 34 yards) ran well today given the blocking and once again, I thought he did the best he could with the hand he was dealt.  He was joined by Ka’Deem Carey (9 carries for 50 yards) who made the most of his opportunities as well.
  4. The Bears once again struggled in the red zone this game as they were 1 of 4.  That kept the Jaguars in the game and ultimately allowed them to win it in the fourth quarter.
  5. The Bears went into this game knowing that they had to work on their run-pass balance.  The firing of former Bears head coach and now former Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman graphically demonstrates why.  As he did with the Bears, Trestman frequently abandoned the run with the Ravens, sometimes even when it was working and this has generally been accepted as the major reason for his demise.So how have the Bears been doing?  Despite the fact that the Bears often have not been trailing by much for long periods late in the games they’ve played going into the Jaguars game, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and the offense for the year are running the football just 33.6 percent of its plays. For perspective: That falls below some of the lows in recent Bears history including the 33.7% mark that former offensive coordinator Mike Martz hit through his first six games in 2010 before head coach Lovie Smith ordered more running.Today the Bears did better, running the ball 27 times and passing 30, perhaps indicating that they are on the way back from the brink.
  6. It was generally accepted going into this game that the Bears needed to get Alshon Jeffery more involved in the passing game like he was in the late third quarter and on against the Colts (save for the final play).  Nevertheless, Loggains defended the decisions that Brian Hoyer is making to distribute the ball.”When it’s one-on-one, the ball’s going to [Jeffery]. When they double team him, the ball’s going to go somewhere else.”Loggains is right.  If you do enough damage with the other receivers, as the Bears did today in the first half, the defense will have to come off of Jeffery at least occasionally to sneak over and cover the other receivers.  This is exactly what happened on the final play against the Colts.  Hoyer simply missed it and the Bears played.  But if he hits that pass, it’s a different game.  And that pass is what they’re playing for.

    The first pass of the game was to Jeffery on a short pass to him with off coverage.  It was a sign of things to come.  Jeffery had a very good first half (6 catches for 90 yards) as the Jaguars often left him in loose single coverage rather than double teaming him every play.  He cut loose on a double move late in the first quarter that should have been a touchdown but the throw was too long.Its unfortunate that the Jaguars shut Jeffery down in the second half as he finished with just one more catch for three yards.  But Hoyer did a good job of distributing the ball again today and I’d say it still it paid off.

  7. That having been said, it must be acknowledged that Hoyer didn’t have a particularly good game.  There were a few big passes that weren’t nearly accurate enough that hurt the Bears.  Those can’t happen.

Defense

  1. The Bears, like the Jaguars, appeared to come out determined to stop the run, which they did do successfully  allowing only 2.7 yards per carry and 54 yards rushing.  Unfortunately this loosened up the play action pass and the Jaguars took advantage.
  2. In the passing game it appeared to me like once again the Bears were trying to prevent the deep throw while allowing the Jaguars to try to work their way down the field in the hopes that they’d eventually shoot themselves in the foot – which they frequently did.  There was some bad football out there today.
  3. Eventually the Jaguars found a way to get Allen Hurns open.  He was lining up in the slot late in the third quarter and consistently popping open with shallow play action routes over the middle for big chunks of yardage.
  4. The Bears knew going into this game that Allen Robinson was going to be the guy they had to stop today.  They seemed to recognize that as they put Tracy Porter on him, sometimes with loose safety help.  It didn’t work very well as Robinson beat them in the first half with three catches but for 49 yards and though they stopped him in the second half, Bortles spread the ball around to his other receivers as they did so and he did a great deal of damage with them.  Robinson also dropped a touchdown that Porter eventually intercepted or it would have been worse.
  5. I won’t say the pass rush was all that great but Willie Young once again did get a sack going one-on-one with a tight end late in the second quarter.  That’s the kind of matchup that you have to take advantage of and he did.  Young also caused a Blake Bortles fumble early in the fourth quarter.
  6. As far as the run defense goes, I thought the linebacker play was particularly stout today.  Danny Trevathon, Sam Acho, Christian Jones and Jerrell Freeman all had reasonably good games and didn’t do too badly in coverage to my eye.  (But see the comment about Allen Hurns poping open in the third quarter above.)
  7. The lack of a pass rush exposed the Bears defensive backs and most of the problems in the passing game came at their expense.  Eventually once again they had to resort to occasional blitzes in the second half – and that as much as anything is what cost them the Jaguars go ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as Tracy Porter slipped while covering Arrelious Benn on just such a blitz and there was no one behind him. This will continue until the Bears find a way to get more pressure.
  8. Blake Bortles is frustrating to watch.  Sometimes he’ll make a great throw and he seems to be particularly effective when he’s on the move.  But he also isn’t consistent enough and he makes some very puzzling, inaccurate throws.  The loose fumble in the fourth quarter was also a baffling and very damaging mistake.There’s a lot of potential but in his third year in the league he’s not there yet.

Miscellaneous

  1. Andrew Catalon, Steve Tasker, Steve Beuerlein were your announcers.  You could tell these were guys that were used to doing AFC games because they clearly didn’t like much of what the Bears were doing.  The broadcast as far from completely bereft of positive Bears comments but most calls were assumed to be on the Bears.  For example, “That hit on Hurns was helmet to helmet!  In today’s NFL that’s gong to be called most of the time.  Trevathon will be fined.”  and “Only Sam Acho thinks he wasn’t offside on that play.” and the classic “The Bears appeared to do that to themselves” on a late Kelvin Beachum shove.    Most 50:50 plays were in the Jaguars favor until proven otherwise.Much more importantly, the quality of the broadcast was poor and all of the analysts were frequently washed out in the sound from the crowd and I really didn’t  think anyone provided much insight and I didn’t learn much from them.
  2. I thought the special teams were pretty good on both sides today.Pat O’Donnell had a pretty good game.  He started the game with a nice punt, trapping the Jaguars inside their own 10 yard line.  He did it again just before half time and pinned them inside the 15 yard line midway through the third quarter.  Connor Barth made a 36 yard field goal early in the second quarter (Alleluia!).  He also put through an important 32 yarder midway through the fourth quarter which made it a two score game.  On the other side, Brad Nortman pinned the Bears inside the 15 yard line with a nice punt in the second quarter.  As happened last week, Eddie Royal decided not to catch a punt which rolled 22 yards.  That has to stop.  Jason Myers also was content to kick the ball to the left through the endzone which is one good way to stop the return game.
  3. As noted last week, in the first half alone at Indianapolis, the Bears committed five penalties. For this reason, touchdown situations were turned into field goals.  This is how you gain over 500 yards of offense and score only 23 points.Overall, the Bears had been penalized 35 times for 270 yards this season — 31 times for 240 yards in the last four games. They had 16 pre-snap penalties.  Things didn’t get better today and they committed 10 sometimes critical penalties for 87 yards.Jerrell Freeman had a pass interference in the first quarter deep in Bears territory.  Jacoby Glenn got called for the same thing giving them first and goal.  There was a comical moment late in the first quarter when there were literally three flags on the field and it appeared to be littered in them.  A false start penalty on Cameron Meredith pushed the Bears into a third and 17 deep in Jaguars territory.  They settled for a field goal.  A holding penalty on Cody Whitehair pushed the Bears into a first and twenty late in the third quarter.  In fairness, Hoyer held the ball way too long on the play.

    A roughing the quarterback call on Willie Young  let the Jaguars off the hook and gave them a first down.  A defensive holding penalty later in the drive on the Glenn moved the Jaguars to first and goal from the two yard line.  They scored a touchdown on the next play.  A facemask penalty on Danny Trevathon also let the Jaguars off the hook again late in the fourth quarter to keep a drive alive.  It resulted in a field goal.

    Finally, a critical holding penalty on Howard pushed the Bears back to 3rd and 17 with 1:19 left in the game, pushing them a much longer way from field goal range.

    This can’t go on.

  4. I won’t say that drops had no effect on the game but they hurt the Jaguars more than the Bears.Jordan Howard dropped a pass deep in Jaguar territory in the second quarter.  For once it didn’t hurt the Bears too badly as they got the first down and then the touchdown  anyway.  KaDeem Carey dropped a first down early in the third quarter that could have gone a long way.On the other side, T.J. Yeldon dropped a first down late in the second quarter.  They eventually converted it anyway.  Allen Hurns dropped a first down early  in the third quarter as the Jaguars once again shot themselves in the foot.  They were being shut out at that point.
  5. Porter had a huge interception in the endzone in the first quarter that prevented at least three points if not a touchdown had Robinson caught it (which he should have).  Blake Bortles got loose with the football and Willie Young knocked it loose.  The Bears were clean once again and that kept them in the game for longer that perhaps it should have.
  6. <sarcasm>Hey, CBS, show us some more of that imaginative programing by pushing more cop shows, please!</sarcasm>
  7. I’m frantically trying to take notes on this game while monitoring @BradBiggs on Twitter and suddenly my phone starts going crazy with notifications from the family Slack group.  My sister was trying to get help with my nephew’s homework on a Sunday afternoon during football season.  These people have no respect.
  8. What did this game come down to?  Going into this game the Bears’ offense ranked eighth in yards (372 per game), but 30th in points (15.6).  The Jaguars’ defense ranked seventh in yards (304 allowed per game), but 30th in points (27.4) and, like the Bears have been extremely penalty prone.This game was going to come down to who managed to do better overcoming these deficiencies.  Today it was the Jaguars, as they committed half as many penalties and did a pretty good job of keeping the Bears out of the endzone.
  9. You just knew as the Bears kicked field goal after field goal in this game that they would find a way to lose it.  The frustrating thing about this season is it that it is tough to see how they’re any better than last season. That’s tough on a fan base that only has hope for the future to keep them going.  They’ll be looking for this team to get decidedly better as the weeks roll on.  It didn’t happen this week.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Jacksonville Jaguars | 1 Comment

Previewing the Jaguars and Other Points of View

• Next up for the Bears is the Jacksonville Jaguars. My first thought is that this is a very mineable game for the Bears. Even though Jacksonville beat the Colts in a sloppy, penalty filled game in London, they don’t appear to me to be any better. Quarterback Blake Bortles is the hope for this franchise and he had a pretty good game against the Colts. One thing to note is that the Colts flat out could not cover 6’0” wide receiver Allen Robinson. Stopping him will be a high priority for the Bears. Their pass protection is an issue and once gain the Bears front seven has an opportunity to make an impact in this game, hopefully in both halves of football this time. Also notable was that the Jaguars had a tough time handling the Colts no huddle offense. Look for that to be a staple for the Beas this game.
• As long time readers of this blog know, I have very little sympathy for players who fail to face adversity in the day-to-day competition of the game. Dolphins defensive end Mario Williams is such a player and I notice that he has a new excuse.

Last year Williams blamed Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan for his poor performance last season, claiming that Ryan played him out of position at outside linebacker.

Well, this year he’s back at defensive end for the Dolphins. How’s that going for you, Mario?

“… If we can get guys to hold the ball a little longer,” William said of the sacks. “The ball’s coming out pretty quick.

Ah. So it’s the defensive back’s fault now. I see.

Through five games, Williams has recorded seven tackles (including just two for loss), three quarterback hits and one little sack. He did not appear on the stat sheet at all on Sunday in a loss to the Titans in which there was virtually no pass rush from the defensive line.

Yes, the ball is coming out fast. But Williams knows as well as anyone that’s true around the NFL nowadays. Defensive linemen still manage to perform despite that, through talent and determination. There is an old saying that has been passed around the NFL for decades: “There are a thousand reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.” It’s getting late for Mario Williams to learn that lesson but he needs to do so.
• Some mild uproar was raised in Chicago last week as a fan who ran out on the field during a Bears game wearing a gorilla suit and a t-shirt with a protest logo on it was arrested. The bail of $250,000 was considered by some to be excessive. I’m all for the right to free speech and protest. But you have to be smart about your method for doing so. Running out on the field is not only can result in a dangerous situation for both participants and fans and as an interested viewer I definitely don’t want to see protesters trying it every game. As far as I’m concerned, the more strongly such behavior is discouraged, the better.
Jeff Fisher is 3-2 this season as head coach of the LA Rams and after a reasonable start it appears that his team is on the way back to the 0.500 mark.

Fisher’s MO is that he gets the team very high for divisional games. The problem is that getting the players too high for those games leads them to let down against teams outside the division. Fisher’s record against divisional opponents since 2012 is almost 0.500 but against non-divisional foes it drops to 15-24 with one tie. Hence big wins early in the season against the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. But we’ve yet to see them try to sustain it against teams that they should be able to beat outside the division. Whether his team rises or falls this year will depend upon how Fisher and his players handle those games, something they’ve done a poor job of in the past.
• The Arizona Cardinals are 2-3 and after a poorly played win on Thursday night against the hapless 49ers they appear to be rapidly regressing after an excellent year last season.

The Cardinals were the toast of the NFL after going deep into the playoffs last year under head coach Bruce Arians. Arians’ bravado and forthrightness makes him well respected by members of the media and the team even had a special series produced by Amazon.com about them in the offseason.

Now it looks like the team is falling back down to earth a bit. The now injured Carson Palmer hasn’ t looked like the same quarterback he was last year and he seems to be continuing this year the way he left off in the playoffs last year, a 49-15 loss to the Panthers in which he looked like he allowed the pressure of the game to get to him.

Fans around the league love Arians and he’s ridden a wave of kudos. But now is when he and his staff really have the opportunity to show who they really are. Facing adversity, the question is whether they are good enough to pull the Cardinals out of their funk to finish a season well in which they started so poorly. The bet here is that they do it. But the proof will be in the pudding.

Posted in Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Points of View, St. Louis Rams | 1 Comment

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Colts

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running no huddle.  The Colts came out playing 6 in the box and daring the Bears to run, something which they generally struggled to do, especially in the first half.
  2. The problem is that the Bears simply could not win the line of scrimmage for a lot of this game.  The Colts dominated it in the first half and therefore were able to stop the run.  The Bears had 7.8 yards per carry at that point but take away the Jordan Howard 58 yard run and it was less than 3.  They finished with 6.6 ypc, again that’s 3.5 without the big run.
  3. Cameron Meredith (9 catches for 130 yards) really emerged this game.  He’s a big guy who was very capable of taking advantage of some terrible coverage that wasn’t by Vontae Davis.  He might be a target that will help a great deal in making up for the loss of Kevin White long-term.
  4. Alshon Jeffery  (5 catches for 77 yards) wasn’t much of a factor but the minute they got a matchup with Patrick Robinson instead of Davis, they went right to him for good yardage late in the third quarter.
  5. What was really surprising about this game is that I’m convinced that the Colts defense got worn down in the fourth quarter.  That’s quite a change for a team who is usually watching its own defense get worn to a nub.  It was very interesting because the difference in time of possession really wasn’t that great.  It was 28:20 – 24:36 Bears at the time of their go ahead touchdown with 7:00 left in the game.  I don’t know what that says about the Colt defense but it’s not good.
  6. Also not good if you are a Colts fan is the number of missed tackles all over the field this game.  They’ll be wanting to clean that up.  Along with a lot of their things.  Lots of things contributed as the Bears had over 500 yards of offense on the day.
  7. The Bears failure in the red zone despite all of that yardage was another deciding factor in this game.  They need to get better there.
  8. Brian Hoyer was not sacked.  Many are noting the improvement in the protection that Hoyer is getting over Jay Cutler.  The improvement was notable against the Cowboys in Week 3 and was very evident last week against the Lions.  However, its worth noting that Brian Hoyer also deserves a great deal of credit for this.  He gets the ball out fast, throwing with anticipation to receivers, making it very hard for pass rushers to get to him.  So credit the change in quarterback for this as well.
  9. Hoyer (33 of 43 for 397 yards) didn’t have a bad day but there were times when I thought his accuracy wasn’t there.  Receivers like Eddie Royal were going to the ground to get balls when they really shouldn’t have had to.
  10. Zack Miller (7 catches for 73 yards) has come alive with Hoyer’s ability to spread the ball around the field to different receivers.  Cutler seemed to have a hard time finding Miller when he was playing the first two games, targeting him just 7 times.  Hoyer targeted Miller 11 times in his first two games.  Miller had another good game today.
  11. I really thought Jordan Howard (16 carries, 118 yards) also had a good game as he made the most out of his runs as far as I could tell. He continues to show what he can do to give Bears fans some hope for the future.  Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune a good note about Howard in his comments after the Lions game last week.  Rookie running backs, who are neither used to the NFL grind nor the frequency of the games, have a habit of wearing down after they take a pounding over a few games. So far so good for Howard.

Defense

  1. Indianapolis also came out running no huddle.    The Bears were also daring the Colts to run, often staying light in the box and dropping 7 or 8 into coverage.  The Colts ran the ball with great success in the first half, averaging 7 yards per carry.  The Bears did a better job in the second half as that average dropped to 4.7.
  2. The reason was that the Bears were getting dominated at the line of scrimmage.  Not only were the Colts running all over the Bears but Andrew Luck, who had been under siege the first quarter of the season, was getting plenty of time in the first half.  In fairness, the Bears defense again did better getting pressure on him in the second half in part because they started rushing more than four on occasion.  Willie Young in particular was pretty effective again with three sacks.
  3. Luck is unbelievable.  Some of the throws that he makes are amazingly accurate.
  4. Allowing Luck to have forever to throw exposed the Bears secondary which was getting beat all over the field.  I understand that T.Y. Hilton is good.  But knowing that, how can you let him get that open, even in what was mostly zone coverage?  It was very frustrating to watch him make catch after catch.
  5. Also frustrating was watching Luck extend plays time after time.  He’s very mobile inside and outside the picket and that, combined with his size makes him very tough to bring down.
  6. One thing the Bears did do a good job of was keeping the Colts out of the end zone.  They managed to force Adam Vinetieri to kick field goals for most of the afternoon and that’s really what kept the Bears in the game.
  7. Jerrell Freeman had a reasonably good game with 7 tackles (5 solo) which has to be nice for him.

    How important was this game to the former Colt?  Well, according to him, no hard feelings for allowing the Bears to outbid them in free agency.

    “It’s a business; can’t take things personally”

    Of course, then this feature came out on Freeman in the Chicago Tribune on Saturday where he said this:

    “Every team I play, it’s ‘You could have had me.’ There are a lot of things I think of right before the game when I turn into something else that people don’t see.”

    So, yeah, I think it was important to him.

Miscellaneous

  1. I was shocked when Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Erin Andrews drew this game.  As bad as the Bears have been, to see them draw one of the best announcing teams in the NFL is an insult to the league and its fans.  All did an excellent job as usual.
  2. Special teams weren’t good.  Punt and kick coverage was particularly patchy.  The Bears allowed a good 35 yard return in the second quarter and allowed another 20 yard punt return early in the second half as well.  Connor Barth missed another field goal but appeared to luck out as T.J. Green stupidly ran into him.  Then he missed it again.  Compare to Adam Vinatieri, who is amazing, it wasn’t a good look.  Again.
  3. Drops weren’t a huge part of this game for the Bears but the Colts had a few big ones as usual.
  4. Penalties, on the other hand, were a huge factor.  Drive after Bear drive was killed by penalties as they committed 6 for 55 yards in the first half alone and finished with 10 for 80 yards.  Jordan Howard had  a very damaging facemask penalty on the Bears first drive that probably cost them 4 points as they settled for a field goal rather than scoring a touchdown.  A holding penalty on Long killed a first down early in the second quarter.  The Bears settled for a field goal.  Logan Paulsen also got caught holding and that killed a Bears touchdown. An illegal contact penalty gave the Colts a first down early in the second half.
  5. Turnovers weren’t a big factor until the end of the game as both teams did a reasonable job of protecting the football.  This was bad news for the Bears, who are under-manned and who I think are always going to need some help from the other side in winning a game.  Instead, Meredith fumbled the ball deep in Bears territory and helped the Colts to carry away a victory.
  6. The Colts’ season reached a crisis point last Sunday in London with a loss to the Jaguars that dropped them to 1-3. Afterward, players spoke openly about a need for greater professionalism and the Colts then cut Sio Moore and Antonio Cromartie.  Colts are a desperate team. Did they play like it?  Well, kind of.  There wasn’t a great deal of intensity and they still aren’t very talented but they did a very good job of limiting the mistakes that they made against the Jaguars last week.  They also protected Luck much, much better in the first half with some help by the Bears who rushed four for most of time.
  7. You understand that the Bears are a young team and that they will take time to develop.  Mistakes due to misplays we all can certainly understand.  But this game was different in that the Bears not only lost the turnover battle but, even worse, continually shot themselves in the foot over and over again with penalties.  That I don’t think fans should accept.  I expect to see better next week.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Indianapolis Colts | Leave a comment

Quick Comments: Lions at Bears

Offense

  1. Brian Hoyer picked up where he left off last week going to tight end Zach Miller on the first play. That connection continued all game.
  2. Bears were apparently determined to run the ball. Jordan Howard doesn’t look like much but he certainly moves the pile and finishes the run, something we heard all offseason Jeremy Langford was trying to work on but which yielded few results.  The team averaged 4.1 ypc in the first half and they rarely lost yardage.  They finished the game with 4.5.
  3. The run game opened up the play action pass, which appeared to work well as the Lions were obviously concentrating on stopping the run.
  4. Interestingly, the Bears ran Howard an awful lot to the left side. Supposedly the right side of the line was going to be the strongest in this respect with Bobbie Massie definitely having a reputation as a better run blocker than pass blocker.  But the Bears evidently believe that running behind Josh Sitton and Charles Leno is a better option.
  5. To my surprise, Darius Slay was not following Jeffery around. The Bears obviously consider Jeffery a mismatch on the other cornerbacks (and maybe on Slay as well).  So they started the game concentrating on getting the ball to him a little more than they have.
  6. The Lions were stunting a lot up front in an effort to get pressure on Hoyer. The offensive line generally did a very good job of exchanging men and handling it.  They generally picked up the blitz reasonably well, too.  They seem to be shaping up nicely as a unit.
  7. Cody Whitehair looks very solid up front now. He’s obviously settling in and showing his potential.   He’s got some power.
  8. Eddie Royal was on fire again. He seems to have a gift for popping open from the slot, which is absolutely his best position.  The Bears should never, ever put him outside again.
  9. Brian Hoyer was doing a good job of spreading the ball around. He’s also accurate and that quick release is something else.  He fits the ball very well into tight spaces.  Hoyer does two things that we never see from Jay Cutler.  He throws with anticipation and he often manages to get rid of the ball when the defense sends an unblocked man on the delayed blitz.  He was still sacked by Darius Slay on such a blitz in the first quarter, though.  So that problem isn’t completely solved.
  10. Somewhat surprised to see Joique Bell get significant snaps in this game only a week after he was signed. He got up to speed fast.
  11. There were a lot of positives about how the Bears moved the ball this game. But the bottom line is that they couldn’t turn it into points. That’s disappointing and they still have work to do finding ways to finish. 

Defense

  1. The Bears had a similar defensive game plan to the Lions. They sank back in coverage and tried to keep anyone from getting the ball deep.  The idea was evidently to let the other team make mistakes and stop themselves.  I’d say it worked for the most part for both teams.
  2. The Bears got sporadic pressure on Matthew Stafford in part because they were only rushing 3 or 4 for most of the game. Stafford did not have a good start to this game.  The Bears managed some good zone coverage, sometimes dropping as many as eight into coverage, and Stafford appeared to be a bit unhinged.
  3. The Lions spent a good deal of the game shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes and penalties. It looked to me like they were simply struggling to execute.
  4. The Bears did a pretty good job of stopping the run in the first half allowing only 2.7 ypc. The final stat was 3.7.
  5. Nick Kwiatkoski isn’t the most athletic linebacker and we aren’t going to see him roaming sideline to sideline like Brain Urlacher. He made his share of mistakes but he seems stout against the run.
  6. Despite Kwiatkoski’s play, the Bears did once again miss Danny Trevathan. The Lions took advantage of the Bears linebackers in coverage for a lot of yardage today.
  7. I thought Will Sutton held up better against the run this week. That’s encouraging with Eddie Goldman out.
  8. One thing that I’d like to see the Bears do more of is disguise their coverages. Whether it was man or zone – which they played an awful lot of today – there was never much doubt about what they were trying to do.
  9. Kudos to the Bears for stiffening and making a stand in the third quarter with the Lions having 1st and goal inside the 5 yard line. They forced a field goal, keeping the score 7-6 at the time.
  10. I think Stafford is channeling his inner Jay Cutler. His body language today every time something went wrong was deplorable.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston, Laura Okmin. Always glad to have Johnston doing a Bear game.  He often points out things that the fans can’t see and I usually learn something from him.
  2. Allowing a punt return for a touchdown with 2 minutes left in a two score game is a terrible travesty. Just awful.  Deonte Thompson with a nice return to start the game.  Eddie Royal had a good put return in the first quarter as well.  Too bad it was called back after a block n the back penalty.  The boos rained down on Connor Barth as he missed a 50 yard field goal from the left hash.  Admittedly its not a chip shot but Ryan Pace and John Fox didn’t win any friends dropping Robbie Gould for him.
  3. Logan Paulsen dropped what was admittedly a tough catch in the first quarter.
  4. Both teams had more than their share of penalties in what was a sloppy game where is seemed that each team was shooting itself in the foot every time you turned around. Deonte Thompson with a stupid holding penalty early in the second quarter.  That killed the drive.
  5. The interception right before halftime by Jacoby Glenn was huge in that it saved at least three points for the Bears. It was evidently a miscommunication between Stafford and Golden Tate, who Stafford apparently though was going to cut his route short.  Glenn was facing Stafford and saw the whole thing develop very well and got a good jump on the ball.  At least as important was the second Stafford interception, this time in the fourth quarter with the Lions moving the ball well and threatening to cut the Bears lead to one score.  Deandre’ Hall was the one in the right place at the right time this time.  Hoyer, on the other hand, did a good job of protecting the ball.
  6. I’m seeing more of Peyton Manning now than I ever did when he was playing. We seemingly can’t have a single commercial break without seeing his face.  I like the guy but I’m already getting very sick of seeing him.
  7. Oh, and the point at which I was seeing Marshawn Lynch too many times was the first time. For a guy who never talked to the media he sure does seem to be on television a lot.
  8. There were times during this game when I didn’t think either side deserved to win. With 18 penalties for 131 yards, the game was terribly sloppy and both teams seemed to take turns killing themselves with mistakes.  If you are the Bears, you take a win any way you can get it.  But the message I took away was that both of these teams have a long way to go before they are going to truly compete for the division.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Game Comments | Leave a comment