Cutler’s Benching a Question of Trust

David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune and I rarely agree on anything. But I thought this little bit from his column Friday morning after Jay Cutler‘s press conference following his benching was insightful:

“Cutler again flashed the charisma of a guy who appeared more relieved than emotionally wrecked after being benched for the first time in his life. That doesn’t mean Cutler took the news well.”

Haugh was thinking of the sense of relief that comes with now being almost on the outside looking in on a situation where the stress that comes with change permeates the air. There’s probably some of that. But I’ll bet Cutler is also relieved for a different reason.

Cutler has to know that he hasn’t been performing well and he certainly has to know that he isn’t doing what the coaching staff wants him to do. I doubt very much that he trusts anyone associated with the offense to be where they need to be on the field at a given time and that lack of trust isn’t allowing him to be an NFL quarterback in the modern sense. One that throws the ball before a wide reciever comes open, not after. One that can look down field for longer than it takes to glance at his firs read without looking at the pass rush. It seems to me like Cutler is completely unable to overcome those feelings of distrust to do his job. Indeed his biggest problem is that he’s always been completely unable to do so. Upon considering his situation, Cutler’s probably as glad as anyone that he doesn’t have to haul himself out there to struggle with those demons yet again this Sunday.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Saints at Bears 12/15/14

Offense

  1. The Bears came out seemingly determined to run the ball. This time both in word and in deed. Three of the first five plays were runs. The sixth play was a nice play action.

  2. Cutler was really inaccurate to start the game. He also had a really hard time letting go of the ball. He had a horrible game. He’s timid, he’s confused, he’s a complete mess right now.

  3. Given Cutler’s state of inaccuracy, it was fortunate that the Saints had trouble filling gaps on the run defense. It was a contest to see who could be more inept – the Bears blocking or the Saints run defense. Eventually the Saints started crashing the line and penetrating to stop the run and Forte struggled. They had little to worry about in terms of the passing game from Cutler.

  4. The Bears offensive line didn’t help Cutler out much as they had a pretty bad game in protection against the Saints blitzes.

Defense

  1. The Bears mixed it up but played a lot of man-to-man on the Saints offense. The coverage generally wasn’t very good. The Bears are bad in the defensive backfield right now.

  2. The Bears struggled to stop the screen play and, really, that single play was responsible for their scoring opportunities early as the were pretty incompetent running everything else.

  3. The Bears also struggled to get pressure on Drew Brees. Brees generally looked comfortable and he generally performed like it.

  4. And, again, the Bears struggled with misdirection plays as the Saints took advantage of the young defense trying to be aggressive.

  5. Kyle Fuller had a flat out bad game here. He’s either hurt or regressing badly. In fairness he was matched up a lot on Jimmy Graham.

  6. Some really poor tackling out there.

  7. The Saints don’t seem to run the ball much and I was surprised they didn’t challenge the Bears more on the ground. I thought they had reasonable success when they did.

  8. I don’t know who had Josh Hill on the Saints first touchdown of the second half but it was yet another broken coverage, something that’s been all too frequent this year. Ryan Mundy had him but looked like he thought he was passing him off to someone else on the play that he thought was behind him.

Miscellaneous

  1. Mike Tirico was his usual professional self. Jon Gruden was a disappointment. He sounded like he hadn’t done his homework and had mailed in this performance to some extent. There was a lot of off the cuff BS’ing going on. Tirico made most of the good points. Gruden’s contract extension with ESPN wasn’t good news if that’s the way he’s going to perform every week.

  2. The Saints botched a field goal but, being gentlemen, the Bears gave them another shot at it with a holding call by Jared Allen. The Saints missed the second attempt and I swear circus music started playing in my head.

    The Bears also ran a really poor fake punt in the second quarter. not only did it fail but they only had 10 men on the field.

    Patrick O’Donnell had a good game. There were some good kick off returns as well as the Saints kicker had a tough time kicking it deep.

  3. There weren’t many out right drops as Cutler made virtually every pass a difficult one to catch. The Saints did well here, too.

  4. There were an unbelievable number of penalties on both sides. Special teams had a penalty on the very first kick off of the game starting the offense inside the 10 yard line.

    Kyle Fuller had a damaging pass interference call at the end of the first quarter. That led to a touchdown.

  5. Jay Cutler was intercepted on the very first series on a pretty bad pass. The Saints gave it back two plays later on a fumble by Nick Toon. Great start. Cutler’s interception was the first of many and a better team than the Saints would have put up even more points than they did.

  6. On behalf of Chicago Bears fans everywhere we’d like to apologize to the rest of the league for subjecting you to this. Let’s all hope the networks will let the Bears and their fans suffer alone in quiet dignity on Sunday afternoons next season.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, New Orleans Saints | 1 Comment

A Message of Hope. Kind of. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune after last Thursday night’s loss:

    “Yet Thursday’s low point for the Bears wasn’t Tony Romo escaping an unblocked Willie Young to hit [ColeBeasley for the Cowboys’ third touchdown or defensive end Anthony Spencer ripping the ball from Matt Forte‘s grasp to create another costly turnover. The nadir came when the video board announced [ChrisConte‘s back injury and the crowd roared in approval. Stay classy, Chicago.”

    I don’t know who these people are or what hole they crawl out of when they get up in the morning. All I know is that I live near Soldier Field in Chicago and I don’t know a single person who would do it no matter how drunk and stupid they got. Not a single one. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people.

  • According to Ed Sherman at the Chicago Tribune, the rating for the Cowboys-Bears match up was 31% down compared to their Monday Night game last year. It probably doesn’t bode well for ABC/ESPN and the ratings for the Bears December 15 Monday Night match with the Saints. And it serves them right.

    The only good thing about this downward trend in the Bears fortunes is that we might catch a break and get fewer prime time games next year. Sometimes I think there isn’t a network executive anywhere in the country that wouldn’t get down on his or her knees and do terrible things to Roger Goodell if they thought it would help them keep Bears fans up all night for every game.

  • Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times encapsulates the Bears season:

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 1?

    “The Bears have allowed 30 passing touchdowns this year. It’s the most in franchise history and there are three games left, which includes a matchup with quarterback Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.”

    “Damning statistic of the day Part 2?

    “After Thursday, the Bears have been called for 19 false starts this season and there are still three games left. Last year, the Bears only had nine.”

    I’m not normally a stats guy. But poor pass defense and poor discipline account for a pretty big chunk of the Bears problems.

  • I should have started paying attention to Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slideshow at chicagofootball.com earlier in the season. Its excellent. Here he shows, amongst other things, why the Cowboys were able to rip off those long runs in the second half. I’ll give you a hint. The Cowboys blockers are really good. The Bears front seven is not.
  • Coming up with ideas to write two or three articles a day about how awful the Bears are has to be a tough job. But there seems to be no end to the creativity of the writers in town. From Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Opposing quarterbacks this season are completing 66.5 percent of their passes against the Bears, averaging 279 passing yards per game with 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. That adds up to a 103.4 rating. Which means that if ‘Bears Opposing Quarterback’ were an individual player this season, he would have a rating that would rank fourth in the NFL among full-time starters – behind only [Aaron] Rodgers (118.6), Dallas’ Tony Romo (108.8) and Denver’s Peyton Manning (107.8).”

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

      “Should a Day 2 pick be used on a speed receiver (see Sammie Coates, Auburn) to take the top off the defense and keep the safeties honest? — Vic F., Springfield, Va., from email

      “I think the big frames of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery give them separation at times. Yes, a speedy wide receiver would be a nice complement to the offense. No question about it. Just because a player is fast doesn’t mean he’s going to be a good fit in an offense. It’s tough to come up with a draft pick like Johnny Knox, who comes out of nowhere to be productive.”

      As Devin Hester implied earlier this season before the Bears played the Falcons, you need a quarterback who is going to throw to those receivers if you want to draft them. The Bears have big, tall receivers because those are the only ones Cutler can deal with.

    • Jon Bostic will play in place of the injured D.J. Williams at middle linebacker. I can’t get over the nagging feeling the middle is where strong side linebacker Shea McClellan really belongs… Via Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times.
    • Kevin Fishbain‘s All-22 Slide Show at chicagofootball.com reveals that blown coverages are a regular feature of the Saints defense in 2014. Sounds familiar.

      I’m also wondering if Cutler is the type of quarterback who will pick up on them when they happen. Can anyone remember even one pass play by the Bears to a receiver on a blown coverage this season? There must have been some…

    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:

      “From @pancho0721: Is there a scenario where [Aaron] Kromer/[Mel] Tucker/Joe D[eCamillis] all get fired but the Bears somehow bring back Trestman?

      “It is at least 50–50 or better that is exactly what will happen and, ironically, if one of those three were to survive, Kromer could be the most likely candidate. Tucker and DeCamillis were not Trestman hires – they were Phil Emery hires. It would be much less expensive for the Bears to fire all three coordinators together than it would be to fire Trestman, and it is also far less an indictment of Emery’s poor management than having to fire Trestman after two years would be.

      “Rumors were rampant prior to the Kromer escapade that Trestman’s job was safe for another year, and the silence from Bears management since the Kromer deal exploded does nothing to contradict that.”

      50-50 sounds kind of high for all three. And you’d be looking for three new coordinators to join a lame duck head coach. I think if the Bears were to do that it would be better for everyone if they just cleaned house completely.

    • John Mullin at csnchicago.com says that the bears moved quarterback David Fales on to the roster from the practice squad because other teams were interested in taking him. An optimist might say that speaks well of his future.

Elsewhere

  • Ben Goessling at ESPN.com has a note that will be of interest to the Bears, especially when they prepare to face the Vikings for their last game in late December:

    “When the Minnesota Vikings prepared to move into TCF Bank Stadium for two years, they did a temperature study of the stadium that led them to switch from the south sideline — where the University of Minnesota football team sets up at the stadium — to the north sideline. Because of the shadows created by the press box and the suites on the south side of the stadium, the Vikings figured the north sideline would be sunnier, and therefore warmer, during cold-weather games late in the season.

    “What they didn’t know is exactly how big a difference it would make.

    “The Vikings checked the temperature during last Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers — where it was 12 degrees at kickoff — and found there was a 20-degree difference between the north and south sidelines, coach Mike Zimmer said. By the middle of the game, shadows were covering most of the field but the Vikings’ sideline, and Zimmer said he had several players thank him for the Vikings’ decision to switch sidelines. “

  • Arkush on quarterback Jameis Winston:

    “Winston has more than enough talent to be a Pro Bowl quarterback in the NFL but he will not be on my draft board and I can guarantee you he won’t be on at least a third of the team’s in the leagues boards as well because of his off-field issues and on- and off-field immaturity. Remember Mike Vick’s little brother, Marcus?”

    Ouch.

One Final Thought

I’m used to guys like Steve Rosenbloom suggesting that coaches will or should be fired. I usually sit up and start paying attention when guys like Mullin start doing it.

“The future of Marc Trestman for 2015 was fairly assured going into Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Barring a catastrophic, franchise-embarrassing final four games, Trestman is generally expected to be given a third year to try to get this Bears thing fixed.

“That catastrophic piece was forming through three quarters of the Bears’ 41-28 loss to the Cowboys.

“But in the span of less than a full quarter, Trestman’s players may have in fact saved his job after putting it at serious risk (again). Whether they saved some other staff jobs, however, is another matter.”

“As coaches are clear about, coaches don’t cut players; players cut themselves with their performances. The ‘coaches’ equivalent of that is increasingly playing out on defense and special teams.”

I’ve got news for those of you hoping that Trestman will be fired. The Monday Night game against the New Orleans Saints might very well qualify as a “catastrophic loss”. Quarterback Drew Brees is and he knows how to pick apart a soft zone every bit as well as Aaron Rogers.

“It won’t be that bad”, you say? “The Saints are awful this year, too”, you say? I’ve got one response: “October 26 – Saints 44, Packers 23″.

Hold on to your hats.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Cowboys at Bears 12/4/14

Defense

  1. The Bears came out in their standard 4-3 in a zone. They were bringing a fifth man up on the line of scrimmage. There might have been a little more single coverage but the game plan looked like a carbon copy of last week.
  2. The Cowboys started to look more typical in their second series. They converted two fourth downs, one for a touchdown and ran the ball very well. The Bears, of course, brought more guys into the box but the defensive line couldn’t penetrate to stop them and DeMarco Murray got plenty of yards running the ball. The Bears were getting beat at the line of scrimmage and, as so often happens, as that battle goes, so the game goes.
  3. The Cowboys found a lot of yards throwing to DeMarco Murray underneath over the middle.
  4. As in previous weeks there was plenty of room for Cowboys receivers to work in the zones in the Bears backfield. They took advantage.
  5. The Cowboys didn’t run as much play action as I expected but when they did it was devastating. The Bears totally sold out to the run in two wide receiver sets.
  6. I thought the Bears generally had a tough time getting pressure on Tony Romo unless they blitzed.
  7. The Bears did a really terrible job filling their gaps in the second half. It looked to me like most of it was on a young linebacking corp. They were probably wearing down by then, too.
  8. The Bears miss Jeremiah Ratliff a lot when he’s not out there.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out with a run to Fort right off the bat. And ran on first down in the second set of downs. There were all kinds of Cowboys in the backfield and Forte didn’t get anything. The did get some yards on a sweep right after that. The drive stalled when another run got blown up in the backfield on a blitz. I won’t say that the running game was that bad but there’s more to running the ball than just calling the plays. Generally speaking I thought the Cowboys were getting good penetration.
  2. The Bears had took their shots down field with some success. They do real well when they get single coverage and the Cowboys mixed their defenses up.
  3. Jay Cutler wasn’t very sharp again. There were some bad throws out there. At least most of them were low.
  4. A lot of the plays were the same as the ones we always see. Lots of short stuff. Lots of dump offs to mMatt Forte and Martellus Bennett.
  5. I thought Bennett had a good game against his former team.
  6. I give the Bears credit for having the right plays called against the Cowboys blitz. They handled it pretty well.
  7. Cutler just hasn’t had time to develop a connection with Marquess Wilson. They don’t really look in sync.

Miscellaneous

  1. The kicking game was a disaster. The opening kickoff by Jay Feely short. A poor punt by Pat O’Donnell gave the Cowboys great field position near the end of the first quarter. That led to seven points. I really don’t know why the Bears decided to squib kick a kick off in the second quarter. All it did was give the Cowboys good field position. There was a blocked extra point, too.

    The Bears apparently just don’t believe in downing the ball in the end zone and taking it at the 20. I guess the idea is that you’d rather take it at the 15 occasionally and take your shots at a big play. I’m not sure I agree.

  2. I thought the out right drops in this game were minimal and had no impact.
  3. There were really too many penalties on both sides, especially on special teams. There was an illegal touch by the Bears on a punt in the first quarter that was notable. They were offsides on an onside kick in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys had a block in the back on a run back that took seven points off the board. They also had a couple pass interference calls that hurt them.
  4. A fumble by Matt Forte on the first possession of the second quarter was devastating.
  5. The Cowboys broke this game open with some big runs. Really the Bears just got beat at the line of scrimmage and their inexperienced linebacking corp was exposed. The offense looked better to me and they didn’t kick themselves in the backside nearly as often as they have in previous weeks. But the fumble in the third quarter really hurt and they struggled in general to make big plays.

    The Cowboys won this game in typical Cowboy fashion. They just over powered the Bears on offense and prevented the big play on defense. Perhaps the Bears saw what their own future should be on the other side of the ball. If they did, they need to do a better job of getting the right players to do it.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Game Comments | 1 Comment

On the End for Lance Briggs and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com grades the Bears effort against the Lions:

    “There are a number of things that jump off the tape of the Bears’ 34-17 loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving Day.

    “But no matter how many times you watch it, you are drawn back to the failure of Marc Trestman and his coaching staff to put the Bears in a position to win.

    “On offense, the Bears threw the ball 48 times and ran it just eight, including 29 passes and just one rushing attempt in the second half.

    “It is clear from early in the third quarter on that the Lions’ defense abandons any concern about the run and on almost every Bears snap. Detroit’s front four pin their ears back and race to the passer while six and often seven defenders drop into coverage and clog the passing lanes.”

    This was my initial thought as well. However, there are a couple caveats to consider before really taking off on Trestman:

    1. The screen is designed to slow the pass rush. Correctly execute the screen passes and the Lions have to respect at least that much before “pinning their ears back”. So the game plan isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds in that respect.
    2. According to Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriots ran the ball just 15 times in a victory against the Jets this season.

    The real problem here wasn’t the game plan. It was the Bears failure to execute it. The margin for error when you are “dinking and dunking” down the field is extremely slim. Said another way, the Bears aren’t the 49ers of the 1980s, who executed such game plans with regularity, and they certainly aren’t Patriots.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com on the departure of linebacker Lance Briggs:

    “Briggs will probably leave the NFL after this season in much the same way as running mate Brian Urlacher did in early 2012 and Charles Tillman may after this season — still possessed of some skills, an abundance of savvy, but with health and age questions that will discourage pretty much any suitors, including the Bears.”

    Mullin apparently forgets that Urlacher had offers which were commensurate with his remaining skills and health status. He chose to deny that reality and blame the Bears for his situation. Briggs will choose the path he takes in much the same way.

  • John Mullin at csnchicago.com makes a pretty good point. He doesn’t ask whether defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will be fired but asks who will be there to replace him if he is?

    “But the reason the Bears once wound up with John Shoop as offensive coordinator was that in late-2000, then-coordinator Gary Crowton left to coach BYU. Dick Jauron and the Bears finished 5-11 in 2000, a regression from 6-10 in Jauron’s first year. The assumption around the NFL was that Jauron was done after one more year.

    Chris Palmer and others (Marc Trestman was a candidate) were willing to take the offensive-coordinator job but wanted a three-year contract before they made that move. The Bears organization wasn’t willing to make that deal, and Shoop was promoted instead after the Bears won two of their last three.

    “The Bears may have changed and would consider a multi-year deal for coordinators in that situation. Doubtful, though.”

    If I had to choose a new coordinator for this defense it would probably be Rex Ryan, who is almost certainly out as head coach of the Jets. He might be willing to come for the sake of the family history with the franchise. But something tells me the McCaskey’s wouldn’t look kindly on the hire of the bombastic Ryan, preferring someone who is more bland and less likely to embarrass the franchise.

Elsewhere

  • Matt Miller, the NFL Draft Lead Writer at the Bleacher Report has Jameis Winston going to the New York Jets with the fifth pick in the draft. Buckle your seat belts.

    He has the Bears picking Kentucky defensive end Bud Dupree with the 13th pick.

  • Also from Miller:

    “Let’s end the week on a bright note. Any NFL team looking for a new general manager needs to call the Kansas City Chiefs and ask to speak with Chris Ballard.

    “I actually did that this week, but Ballard was unavailable to chat in-season. Here’s what I know of him, though: At least one NFL team wanted him as its general manager last year, and more will this season after watching the Chiefs play much better than anyone expected. He’s smart, dedicated and experienced enough to know how to both evaluate and value talent (something many first-time general managers fail at).

    “If a general manager job comes open and Ballard is given the opportunity to hire his own head coach, he’ll be at the top of many wish lists this spring.”

    Ballard was formerly with the Bears and that “at least one NFL team” who wanted him as its general manager last year was rumored at the time to be Tampa Bay. But Ballard undoubtedly knew that the real GM was going to be Lovie Smith and he undoubtedly knew from bitter experience better that to take that job.

  • Mike Tanier is always entertaining and this preview of the Vikings-Panthers matchup Sunday was no exception:

    “[Teddy] Bridgewater is one of many Vikings players with the potential to get much better, so staying healthy should be a priority for him. In a league where [Robert] Griffin moves in the pocket like it’s his first time on a lobster boat and Cam Newton moves like it hurts to blink, self-preservation may be a young quarterback’s smartest move. The Vikings could be a dangerous team next year. Until then, slide, Teddy, slide!”

One Final Thought

Lance Briggs has slowed quite a bit and he’s been a disappointment as a team leader. But even I was surprised when almost 90% of the same people who blindly expressed their desire to keep local favorite Jordan Lynch on the team .

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 5.52.35 AM

Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times provided what I believe was a thoughtful perspective:

“I suspect we’ll appreciate Briggs more when he’s gone than we did while he was here. He and the city need a break from each other. Fans weren’t happy with his contract demands or with how much his play had slipped the past few seasons. But eventually the memory of a linebacker making play after play will win out. As it should.”

Posted in Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Points of View, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Leave a comment

Has the Newspaper Industry Really Come to This? And Other Points of View

Bears

  • With all of the handwringing over the way the Bears lost to the Lions, at least one significant issue escaped most Bears fans in the immediate aftermath. From Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times:

    Kyle Long did a nice job vs. Ndamukong Suh, who had 0 tackles, 0 sacks and 1 QB hurry.”

    Long had lots of help. But still, you take the positives where you can get them.

  • As long as we’re highlighting rookie performances I didn’t think Will Sutton had a bad game, either. I’d like to see more from Ego Ferguson though.
  • Rick Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times argues that the Bears aren’t as talented as they and the rest of the league thinks. He doesn’t mention exactly where he thinks the deficiencies lie. So I’ll do it. I’m drafting the best available at any of these positions in the top rounds of the draft:
    1. center
    2. offensive tackle
    3. anywhere on defense
    4. developmental quarterback

    As an addendum on the last item, the Bears desperately need to add speed to that linebacking corp and to the defensive backfield. If you are drafting an offensive lineman, concentrate on players who can block the run.

    I know the Bears just drafted two defensive tackles in the second and third round in the last draft. If the best available is a defensive tackle, I’d take him anyway. I’m not entirely sure how Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson are going to work out but I subscribe to the Lovie Smith philosophy of drafting – you can’t have too many good defensive linemen.

    I know that most pundits will laugh at the thought of taking a quarterback near the top of the draft with Jay Cutler sitting there for two more years. They laughed when the Packers took Aaron Rogers, too. If you like one, take him.

    Its way too early to actually be putting together a realist mock draft. But give these sites some credit for at least recognizing where the deficiencies lie. Via the Chicago Tribune.

  • The following list was posted to the Chicago Bears Fan Forum Facebook page by Michael Shoemaker. Here are my comments on each. Signings are assuming that the price is right.

    Lance Briggs – up in smoke before the first game
    Josh Morgan – gone
    Charles Tillman – can he coach?
    Christopher Conte – resign
    Roberto Garza – release. They’re going to need to draft someone here.
    DJ.Williams – release
    Stephen Paea – sign
    Darryl Sharpton – release
    Brian De La Puente – sign as insurance but please don’t plan on him to start
    Jimmy Clausen – sign as insurance but please draft a future here.
    Sherrick McManis – sign
    Danny McCray – sign
    Trevor Scott – sign
    Dante Rosario – sign
    Jeremy Cain – release
    Eben Britton – sign
    Zach Miller – sign
    David Bass – sign
    Blake Annen – who?
    Ryan Groy – who, again?
    Brandon Dunn – are these guys really Bears?

  • Running back Matt Forte via Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com:

    “we’ve got a lot of talent, but talent only gets you so far.”

    I’m not sure if he’s talking about a lack of execution, coaching or intestinal fortitude or all three but… well, that is some straight talk.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune on the roughing the passer call on a third quarter Willie Young sack:

    “Coach Marc Trestman said the explanation was Young had grabbed [Matthew Stafford’s facemask. He disagreed with that. The bottom line is defensive players run the risk if they end up high on a quarterback when they are trying to make a play.”

    I’m pretty sure that Biggs is dead on here. It really didn’t matter what Young did. He came in high on the quarterback and if you do that, the referees are going to find a reason to throw a flag. That’s the way it is.

Elsewhere

  • For those of you who care about teams other than the Bears, you really should be following the comedy that’s playing itself out in the New York Jets facility. The Jets, both players and coaches, correctly concluded after a week 8 loss to the Bills that quarterback Geno Smith was hopeless. But now by the account of Manish Mehta at the New York Daily New, management is likely forcing head coach Rex Ryan to start him again. Admittedly, given that the back up is Michael Vick, the choices aren’t great. Which, of course, leads to the real problem. The Jets are poorly run, dysfunctional franchise from the top down and there are no quarterbacks to start period.

    “Smith fooled the organization with a marginally successful four-game run against non-playoff teams last December. [Jets owner Woody] Johnson shouldn’t let Smith’s play down the stretch in meaningless games cloud the big picture this time: The Jets must draft a franchise quarterback this offseason.

    “Meanwhile, Ryan will try to toe the company line with a straight face.”

One Final Thought

Look, man, I know that things are tough for the newspaper industry. But does the Sun-Times really have to run ads for sites like this one? For heavens sake…

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 6.47.44 AM

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Bears at Lions 11/27/14

Defense

  1. The Bears started well with plenty of penetration into the backfield and good pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Will Sutton looked good in particular.
  2. Matthew Stafford looked very uncomfortable in the pocket when ever the Bears managed to get a crowd around him. He eventually got over it but it wasn’t a good look. The occasional blitz from the Bears helped get pressure on Stafford quite a bit. Eventually they adjusted and Stafford had more time.
  3. The Lions adjusted by getting the ball out quickly and they never looked back. It was pitch and catch from the second quarter on.
  4. The Bears started in a zone defense, mostly cover two, and they stayed with that most of the game. you knew when you saw them in it that it might be a long game. They’re miserable playing zone and have been since the pre-season. Color man Phil Simms attributed much of the problem to the fact that the Bears were giving the receivers a free release off of the line of scrimmage. I don’t think they’re fast enough nor do they react quickly enough in it. Whatever it is they’re really bad at it.
  5. The Bears linebackers once again had their problems in coverage. Lions tight end Eric Ebron gave them a hard time.
  6. Calvin Johnson has been struggling on a bad ankle since September. All he needed was the Bears to get healthy.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out with a game plan that very evidently did not include running the ball under any circumstances. They threw screens which substituted for run plays as they tried to attack the edges of the Lions defense. They didn’t run the ball until the 9th play of the game.
  2. Since the Bears didn’t bother to run the Lions defensive linemen considered it to be open season on Jay Cutler and sold out to the pass rush. Cutler was under siege most of the game, specially when he didn’t get the ball out quickly enough (which was frequently).
  3. That game plan required execution with minimal mistakes. That was the case for the first couple possessions. Then the old Bears offense showed up and it was a comedy of penalties and dropped passes that killed drive after drive.

Miscellaneous

  1. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms were excellent this game. Simms was right on spot with commentary, especially regarding the deficiencies in the Bears defense. The half time show was comical. “James Brown: So now that we’ve talked about the Bears what about the Lions?” Panel: “The Lions are OK but lets get back to the fact that the Bears suck.”
  2. Special teams were actually pretty good on both sides today. The Lions opened the game by pulling a DeCamillis and running the ball out of the end zone to the fifteen. Must be a disease. Pat O’Donnell had a good punt in the first quarter that landed inside the 10.
  3. The Bears dropped passes all over the field. Brandon Marshall had at least two and Martellus Bennett dropped one that stopped a critical drive in the third quarter.
  4. Way too many penalties, too, especially on offense. A second quarter holding call on Roberto Garza killed a drive. A holding call on the Lions took a touchdown off of the board but they scored anyway.
  5. Once again, turnovers played a role in the game. Jared Allen caused and recovered what was a big fumble at the time in the first quarter. It set up the kind of short field that keeps the offense from looking as totally helpless as they actually are statistically. The Jay Cutler interception midway through the fourth quarter led to a field goal that put the game away for the Lions.
  6. Watching game on Thanksgiving was an exercise in frustration at the Shannon homestead in Missouri where I’m from. I’m pretty much left alone most of the time but the minute I sit down to watch the Bears all hell breaks loose. Suddenly I have to look here or there, everyone wants my opinion on something and jobs that could have been done at any time over the last two days need to be done right now with the Bears in red zone. There has to be a bar open somewhere in this god-forsaken state on Thanksgiving and by heaven, next time I’m going to find it.
  7. Well, I figured the Bears were out of the playoff chase anyway but this pretty much puts the final nail in the coffin. Not that they deserve to be there anyway. At some point I’d like to see the Bears get to where they can play a zone defense. I don’t know if that requires a new coordinator or new players or (my suspicion) both. I can only repeat that the defense, especially the linebackers, is too slow. The special teams were better but, once again, it took very little to stop the Bears on offense – mostly things the did themselves. I don’t think they’re going anywhere with Cutler at quarterback anyway but they could win at least some of these games with a little more discipline. But the head coach isn’t a disciplinarian and the Bears evidently don’t have the kind of players that can impose it upon themselves – if such a group of players exists anywhere.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Game Comments | 1 Comment

On the Value of Free Agents and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rick Telander and Jim Morrissey at the Chicago Sun-Times breakdown the Bears “victory” over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday. I had to laugh when Morrissey called the first half “unwatchable” because he literally read my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about what a horrible game it was.
  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on the “win”:

    “Yes, the Bears did get another win over Tampa. But if they play the same game Thursday in Detroit, they could be looking at another massacre of Patriots- or Packers-like proportion.”

    Someone please spare us.

  • I certainly do understand why linebacker Lance Briggs didn’t want to talk to the media about his groin injury. But its hard not to see him leaving the locker room before media were allowed in as yet another example of what a poor leader he is. Via Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times. Briggs’ evident lack of respect for Bears head coach Marc Trestman is not helping matter. As Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune reports, Trestman preferred to keep the extent of Briggs’s injury a secret, describing it as “day-to-day”. But Briggs doesn’t really care much about what Trestman wants to do. Once again he put his personal agenda ahead of the team and announced on his television show that he’d be out a few weeks. If there was any doubt about whether Briggs would be back its got to be long gone. He has to go.
  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune quotes Dave Birkett from the Detroit Free Press on the state of the Lions:

    “No one could have forecast their defense playing this well, and [Ndamukong Suh is] the biggest reason why it has.”

    You’re kidding, right? Who wouldn’t predict that they would play that well? With all of that talent we’ve predicted it every year. All they needed was a dose of discipline. Evidently the focus that comes with getting a new coaching staff was all it took. There’s no excuse for the way that team under-performed under former head coach Jim Schwartz. He was (and is) a punk and his teams reflected that year after year.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune addresses the pending Suh’s impending free agency. His contract ends five days after the Super Bowl:

    “In a late-September report ESPN indicated Suh and the Lions were preparing to part ways and the player was interested in the New York market while the Bears and Cowboys ‘would have some level of interest.’ [Phil] Emery has not engaged in tampering, but he has a track record in three offseasons of being an aggressive player in free agency. He likes making a splash and is driven to put the team in a position to compete for a Super Bowl every season.”

    I have certainly had my problems with Suh over the years (who outside of Detroit hasn’t?). Nevertheless, I’d welcome him to Chicago just like everyone else. Having said that, there’s a part of me that really hopes the Bears don’t try to do this. I’m tired of rooting for a team of mercenaries and I don’t think that this is the way to build an organization. There’s something to the argument that the Bears have built a team of “front-runners”, as one assistant coach from a recent opponent put it (read “the Packers”). Admittedly painting with a broad brush:

    1. free agents who chase the money and/or
    2. free agents who leave organizations to surround themselves with others who can make them better rather than the other way around and/or
    3. free agents who go to organizations that can help them win rather than the other way around and/or
    4. those those who are traded or who force trades because they can’t stick it out where they are…

    No matter how careful you are about who you acquire, I’m not so sure those are the people you build around. Let’s be honest, almost by definition they really are, for the most part, front runners. I’d like to see the Bears stop being the Washington Redskins, stay patient and build the team they want with players who have developed the attitude that they want through the draft.

  • Biggs answers your questions:

    “Why doesn’t the Jay Cutler and Marc Trestman pairing work? Talk of benching, offensive regression and now no passes over 10 yards. — @DarrylConrad via Twitter”

    “The offense has regressed and is certainly in a slump right now. The downfield passing game has certainly been affected. But that’s not just Cutler. It’s the play calling, the offensive line (that has dealt with a handful of injuries) and the wide receivers, who also haven’t been fully healthy this season.”

    I beg to differ. Its now evident that signing Cutler long-term was a mistake. Physically there are no limits to what he can do and this is undoubtedly what led Trestman and Emery to do it. But mentally Cutler is far too limited. He’s a “see it, throw it” quarterback who will never have the ability to throw with anticipation or dissect a defense in the way that is needed to truly succeed at a high level in the NFL. I doubt very much that he’s even trying to extend himself in this direction any more, especially with his money now in hand. All of the things that Biggs mentions are, indeed, problems. But Cutler is the player who is setting the ceiling so low. It might eventually be more than adequate if they start playing with discipline but there’s very little hope that the Bears will ever have a truly elite NFL offense with Cutler throwing the ball.

  • With all of the talk about Trestman losing the team (as he’s apparently lost Briggs) its worth noting the excellent point that Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times makes in his weekly session with Mark Potash answering fan questions. Its at about 1:25.

Elsewhere

  • It used to be that immediately cutting a player after poor conduct sent a message to the rest of the team. Apparently that’s not the case anymore.

One Final Thought

Morrissey argues that there’s something wrong with the world if the Bears get to 6-6:

“Whatever happens Thursday, this team is going nowhere. You can’t fix the defense this season. The offense has turned into a bunch of dump-off passes to running back Matt Forte. Either the Bears officially don’t trust Cutler anymore or Trestman has officially misplaced his imagination. “There are people who subscribe to Bill Parcells’ philosophy of being exactly what your record says you are. But if the Bears get to 6-6, their record will be a big, fat liar.”

I really don’t think Morrissey has anything to worry about. This game shows every sign of being a dumpster fire but I can’t see the Lions giving it away this year like they have in the past. Even then, they beat the Bears twice last year. Arkush elaborates further:

“You like common opponents? The Lions are 5-3 against the Panthers, Packers, Jets, Bills, Vikings, Falcons, Dolphins and Patriots, against whom the Bears are 3-6. They beat the Packers 24-7 while Green Bay has outscored the Bears 93- 31 in the Bears’ two losses.”

It won’t be 55-14. But one of two things is going to happen: either the Lions will blow them out or it will be a “defensive struggle” where neither team has the competence on offense to move the ball out their own side of the field. Either way this one promises to be another painful prime time crap-fest with the added element that this time you’ll be surrounded by relatives that you can’t look in the eye afterwards.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers | Leave a comment

Game Comments: Buccaneers at Bears 11/23/14

Offense

  1. The Bears started in their usual fashion failing to give the ball to Matt Forte on a run play. A false start by Brandon Marshall and a drop from Marquess Wilson helped force a three and out. It was the way the half was going to go.

  2. In fairness the Bears gave the ball to Matt Forte the first play in the second possession. Ka’Deem Carey got it on the second. Coming out in the second half it seemed that they were determined to run the ball more.

  3. The Buccaneers did a good job of getting pressure on Jay Cutler. Some of it was good coverage and some of it was poor protection and some of it was Cutler just not being able to let go of the ball. But most of it was simply the Bucs dominating the line of scrimmage. They’ve got a very good defensive line and they showed up today.

  4. The Bears love that screen play to Matt Forte on third and long. It’s almost too predictable. OK, there’s no “almost” about it.

  5. Like everyone else, Jay Cutler wasn’t very sharp. His accuracy was farther off than usual.

  6. There was a lot of talk about moving Jay Cutler’s launch point more and getting him out of the pocket. If they did much of it, I missed it.

Defense

  1. It looked like the Bears came out playing mostly man-to-man defense with Kyle Fuller on Mike Evans and Tim Jennings on Vincent Jackson.

  2. Vincent Jackson is huge. He’s not just tall but he’s built like a tight end.

  3. The Bucs were picking on Lance Briggs in the underneath passing game, taking advantage of his lack of speed.

  4. The Bears gave up first downs on an awful lot of third downs. I’m a little surprised that they didn’t clamp down harder at the sticks on those plays.

  5. You could see exactly what was going to happen on the first touchdown. They sent Evans all the way to the sideline away from everyone else and it was going to be him and Fuller in press coverage all the way. Fuller even called out as if to tell everyone that they were over there but they were way too far away for him to get the help he was probably supposed to get. It was a good play by the Bucs.

  6. Though they got to McCown on occasion, to my eye the Bears weren’t applying pressure with anywhere near the consistency they needed to. They did a lot of blitzing to compensate. To their credit, they did get enough to visibly affect McCown’s game. And, of course, once they were up by 11 in the fourth quarter, they loaded up and went after him.

  7. Huge game by Stephen Paea. Jared Allen also applied more than his share of pressure.

  8. I was happy to see the defensive players pick up a ball that hit the ground and run after a Josh McCown dump off screen. It was an incomplete pass but you don’t treat it that way until you hear a whistle. That was a lesson learned, I hope.

  9. Some awful, awful tackling on the last Buccaneer drive of the first half. After some bumbling on the part of the Bucs offense it resulted in only three points.

Miscellaneous

  1. Thom Brennaman, David Diehl and Laura Okmin did the game. Brennaman was the odd ball out as both Diehl and Okmin are from Chicago. He’s from North Carolina.

    Brennaman repeatedly asked the question that typified not only the game but also the Bears season – “What’s wrong with that expensive Bears offense?” Diehl made a good point that the Bears defense was spending too much time on the field, implying that they were going to wear down latter in the game if it continued.

  2. Robbie Gould missed another field goal. He’s now officially in a slump as far as I’m concerned. He had an interesting kickoff, dropping the ball at about the twenty late in the third quarter. It could have resulted in another Bucs turnover. It was nice to see a returner on another team constantly bring the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs only to be tackled short of the twenty. A short Bears punt put the Bears defense in a difficult position 8 points down with about 3 minutes left in the game.

  3. Marquess Wilson at least two drops, one on the very first drive. Martellus Bennet had a drop on the second. There were some dropped Bears interceptions that hurt them as well.

  4. Time after time the Bears shot themselves in the foot during this game with penalties. They did it all from false starts to a blocks in the back. Lovie Smith’s team showed an uncharacteristic lack of discipline with penalties like roughing the kicker and a taunting. If possible, they were even worse than the Bears. You can certainly see why they’ve had a hard time winning games this year.

  5. Turnovers were huge in this game, especially for the Bears.

    1. Chris Conte had a very nice interception on the Bucs’ first possession. Stephen Paea deserved a lot of credit for that one as he hit Josh McCown as he threw it.

    2. Jay Cutler gave it back with a fumble of his own. Brian de la Puente at left guard got beat like a drum by Gerald McCoy on that one.

    3. Huge fumble forced by David Bass in the third quarter gave the Bears a touchdown.

    4. That was followed by and interception by Ryan Mundy deep in Buccaneer territory. That led to seven more points.

    5. Another fumble by Vincent Jackson stopped a Buccaneers drive that could have easily led to points. The officials apparently felt that it was close enough to where they couldn’t over turn the call on the field but Jackson’s elbow may have been down.

  6. I’ve been thinking about it. I think I’d take David Diehl more seriously if he lost the mustache. Well, that and if he started pronouncing the names of the Bears players correctly.

  7. Well, you could copy what I said about the Bears offense last week and paste it here. The special teams only hurt them a moderately badly with the short punt near the end of the game so you can mark that down as an improvement.

  8. As embarrassing as it is to have the Packers put up 50 on you, there’s little doubt that the defense has been saving the season for this team. That, and the tendency of teams like the Buccaneers to hand them the game. The Bears are bad but they aren’t so bad that they’re going to ordinarily refuse gifts. That’s what this game was. A present of dumb penalties, turnovers and undisciplined play. Merry Christmas.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | 1 Comment

Bears Matchup Poorly Against the Bucs and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune asks the question of the week in regards to Sunday’s Vikings game:

    “[Bears quarterback Jay] Cutler admitted the Bears knew to challenge [5’10” Josh] Robinson more than fellow Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who at 6-1 and 210 pounds is much more physical. The bigger question is why the Vikings offered up so many looks with only one deep safety as well as the man-to-man coverages the Bears’ passing attack is designed to thrive against.”

    Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer undoubtedly overestimated his defense coming off two wins and underestimated the Bears offense coming off of two miserable defeats. That’s not going to happen again and I’m sure we’ll see something different when the Bears visit the Vikings later in the season.

  • Probably the biggest surprise I got on Sunday was the distinct difference in talent level between the Bears and the Vikings. I hadn’t seen much of the Vikings this year and I was led to believe that their recent drafts had brought them up to a level that was getting close to being on par with the rest of the division. But even as the Vikings took an early 10-0 lead it was evident that wasn’t the case. The Bears had far more talent on both sides of the ball and won the one-on-one matchups all over the field. It was apparent that if they didn’t give the game away that they were the better team.

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 Hub Arkush‘s answer here at chicagofootball.com was on point:

    “From @kirk_skaja: What have you seen from Shea McClellin to suggest he could play the middle linebacker position in the NFL?

    “McClellin has shown the ability to finish when he gets to the ball and he can be sudden and rush the passer when given a free run. He struggles from a lack of natural power, can’t shed blockers and is not good when asked to play in space. Middle linebacker would allow him the most freedom to move with the tackles in front of him most often eating blockers, most of his plays would be made in a confined area between the tackles, saving him from playing in space, and well-timed blitzes from the middle give him the best chance at a free run to the QB as opposed to trying to come off or around the edge. I don’t see a great NFL future for McClellin at any position, but the ‘Mike’ minimizes most of his weaknesses.”

    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.

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