Game Comments: Vikings at Bears 11/16/14

Defense

  1. Surprisingly the Bears came out playing the pass with seven in the box, allowing the Vikings running game to get going.
  2. It looked to me like the Bears came out well prepared scheme-wise this week. They looked like they had done a good job of studying the Vikings tendencies and that they were on top of what they were doing. Nice work.
  3. It was hard to tell much about Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater because they were being careful not to ask too much of him. But he was plenty accurate and considerably more composed than veteran Jay Cutler was for the Bears. Despite all we’ve heard and read about the Vikings success in the draft, it looks to me like he needs more talent around him. He’s been struggling with throws outside the numbers and he did so again today. I also expected his arm to be stronger. Nevertheless he shows promise.
  4. Kudos to Jared Allen who was matched up against Matt Kalil, who has been struggling all year. Allen looked great coming off of the end, beating Kalil regularly.
  5. Really, the entire defensive line played well. On the other side, the Vikings offensive line looks like a serious weakness. They were losing one-on-ones and blowing assignments, allowing blitzers to get to Bridgewater. That’s a bad combination if you are a Vikings fan.
  6. Nice work from the defensive back today a well. Bridgewater had a really hard time finding receivers beyond 7 yards or so. The linebackers were where they needed to be as well. Everyone was aggressive. Lance Briggs looked particularly good.

Offense

  1. I’m surprised that the Bears came out throwing. With all of the (justified) criticism about not getting the ball to Matt Forte, I expected to see more running plays in the initial set of downs. It looked like Cutler might have been simply counting the men in the box and running when he thought it was favorable. That’s fine but it can make you one dimensional.
  2. Some poor tackling out there by the Vikings.
  3. A lot of screens this week as the Bears apparently were trying to attack the edges and neutralize the Minnesota pass rush. As opposed to attacking the middle of the field. More evidence that we’re looking at a finesse offense that can’t attack with a physical front (in contrast to what GM Phil Emery believes they can do). In fairness, they executed them well.
  4. The Vikings started to blitz quite a bit late in the first quarter and early in the second. The Bears did a good job of picking it up and it didn’t hurt that they were doing a lot of short quick passing. It was pretty ineffective and they eventually stopped doing it.
  5. The Vikings did a much better job against the run in the second half.
  6. Heck of a pass from Jay Cutler to Alshon Jeffery for the Bears first score in the second quarter. Jermon Bushrod let Cutler feel the pressure and Cutler had to escape to extend the play.
  7. Speaking of Bushrod, he struggled mightily this game. The Bears left him one-on-one with Everson Griffin quite a bit early. He was over-matched.
  8. The Vikings did a good job of moving Cutler off of the mark but Cutler was able to step up in the pocket and often escaped to make a play.
  9. Anthony Barr is a good looking player. He’s quick, he’s in the right spots and on top of plays. I was impressed.
  10. I really didn’t think the Vikings did enough to stop Alshon Jeffery. He needed to be double covered more often. Or at least the Safety needed to provide more help.
  11. Really a nice drive by the offense at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a very nice catch for a touchdown to cap it. They ate almost half of the quarter away.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kevin Harlan and Rich Gannon and Stacey Dales were surprisingly good. Well, Harlan’s always good. But Dales actually added a bit to the telecast giving a candid report about the mood from the Bears sideline early. I thought perhaps that she got a bit more than the usual amount of face time for a side line reporter. Gannon impressed me after diagraming out the Bears second quarter touchdown. He frequently ready my mind as he broke down the team play, particularly the quarterback play. He also endeared himself to Bears fans with criticism of the non-aggressive way that the Bears approached the end of the first half, essentially running the clock out.
  2. What was going on with the initial chip shot on the opening kickoff? Is Cordarrelle Patterson that dangerous? Robbie Gould missed a field goal in the first quarter. They gave up forty-nine yards on a fake punt as no one did their job by staying at home and sealing the end. That resulted in seven points. Return teams were subpar. Gould kicked off the ball out of bounds midway through the fourth quarter to give the Vikings some life at the 40 yard line.Honestly, all I want is for the special teams not to totally kill this team. Is that so much to ask?
  3. Let’s see… In the first set of possessions:
    1. Willie Young had an offsides on the first set of downs and eliminated a stop. It cost the Bears three points.
    2. An illegal formation call eliminated a first down in the Bears initial possession.
    3. That was compounded by a Kyle Long false start.
    4. Then Jay Cutler got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty right after that.

    All of that added up to a missed field goal. Another great start.

    Its unbelievable how undisciplined this team is this late in the season. Far, far too many penalties. A young Vikings team did a much better job.

  4. Two interceptions from Cutler and the second could have been a killer as the Bears defense had just stopped the Vikings backed up near their goal line. Fortunately the Vikings somehow found a way to waste the break and miss the field goal. A better team would have scored a potentially demoralizing touchdown.Bridgewater threw one under pressure trying to make a play with about a minute left. I understand the tendency but that’s won you keep in your pocket. There was still plenty of time to get the needed touchdown.
  5. I’m usually not much of a second guesser and maybe its just me but don’t you take the field goal to go up by seven in the third quarter rather than going for it on fourth and one? I guess when you’ve got three wins you’ve got nothing to lose.
  6. The NFL needs more Kate Upton commercials. Way more.
  7. You take a win when you can get it but, really, the Vikings had no business being in this game. The talent gap between these teams was pretty big. The Bears dominated both sides of the ball but their undisciplined play on offense and on special teams continues to be disturbing. I might add that there wasn’t much fancy in a vanilla game plan on either side of the ball. That works when you are going up against a definitively inferior opponent but it isn’t very encouraging for the future. Frankly, I’m not sure they’re capable of executing anything more complicated right now.

    Having said that, kudos to a much maligned defense that played aggressively and dominated the line of scrimmage. The linebackers and defensive backs were aggressive, tackled well and were fast to the ball. It was as good as they’ve looked since Lovie Smith was fired.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Minnesota Vikings | Leave a comment

The Value of Hope and Other Points of View

Bears

  • David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune has a point:

    “‘We’ve got to … put the San Francisco game on, the Jets game on and see why we were able to play four quarters against Atlanta in competitive football games,’ [head coach Marc] Trestman said.

    “No need for videotape to remember why the Bears won those games. For starters, the 2-8 Jets and 3-6 Falcons stink. And the 49ers gifted the Bears the victory when quarterback Colin Kaepernick ‘Cutler-ized’ his offense by committing four turnovers. To hear Trestman wax poetically about those victories, the Bears beat the Broncos, Seahawks and ’72 Dolphins.”

    In fact, the opponent handed the Bears all three games on a silver platter. It wasn’t a question of who played better. It was who played worse.

    Perhaps the biggest misconception that Bears fans and, apparently, the Bears themselves have about this team is that they are inconsistent. They are, in fact, very consistent. It’s the teams they play that determine their fate.

    As to the rest of Haugh’s column, I don’t put much stock in calling for firing Marc Trestman or any of the coaches mid-season. My view tends to match that of Brad Biggs, also at the Chicago Tribune:

    “Midseason shakeups rarely are successful in the NFL. If defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is blamed and sent packing, I don’t know that that will accomplish anything. Someone needs to answer for these repeated failures, but canning Tucker and moving to the next guy looks a lot like Lovie Smith laying blame on offensive coordinator after offensive coordinator and moving on without ever sustaining success.”

    Biggs is right but I will say this. Someone needs to identify what’s wrong before it can be fixed. Based upon what’s coming out of Trestman’s mouth, right now no one can do that. If that’s true, then they’re eventually going to have to hire someone who knows what they’re doing.

    Fans live on hope. Its hard to do that when your head coach is “confounded” and “disturbed” and admits that he can’t understand why their great practices don’t translate on to the field. If someone doesn’t do something, faithful fan base or no, there won’t be many of them left in the stands come December.

  • Biggs continues:

    “The other question worth exploring was whether Trestman believed the roster had enough talent to compete.

    “‘The only thing I am going to say to you is we’re not good enough right now,’ [Trestman] replied. ‘As I told our players, there is a good team in there somewhere because we have seen signs of it this year. We’re not a good team right now.'”

    I’ve said this before but its worth repeating. When you watch this team live the first thing you notice is how slow they are on defense, especially at linebacker. Whatever the problems are on offense, that’s where I’d start on defense. It’s not going to be a quick fix.

  • Biggs also quotes left tackle Jermon Bushrod on how the Packer’s defense managed to dominate the Bears:

    “‘They did a lot more movement than they did in the first game,’ Bushrod said. ‘In the first game we were able to dissect everything and figure everything out. They were running line games and T-E’s (tackle-end twists) and run plays. That is something we don’t really see much. We tried to make the necessary adjustments and then they would bring something else. We’ve got to find a way to get it done.”

    This is what’s so frustrating about being a Bears fan (or the fan of any bad team) right now. You see what other teams do, playing multiple fronts and coverages and executing it to the point where the opposition is in total disarray. You want that for your team. But you watch the Bears and they can’t execute even the simplest plays without something going wrong. Multiple fronts? They can’t even successfully execute a pre-snap change from cover two to cover three.

    We can talk about lack of talent but this is lack of preparation and coaching. Players are simply not in the right mindset when they hit the field and what they do on the practice field doesn’t translate to the game. There’s simply no other explanation.

    I’m not a coach and I don’t know how you fix it. But I’m tired of seeing the Packers do it time and again as they find a way to win while the Bears couldn’t execute their way out of a paper bag. Never has the difference between the Bears and the elite organizations in the NFL been so apparent.

    Yes. I haven’t been this frustrated with the team in quite a while.

  • Biggs on the move that wasn’t of Jordan Mills from right tackle to left guard:

    “‘That is why we shuffled one day, we looked at it,’ [offensive line coach Pete] Meyer said. ‘He did a nice job; it just wasn’t natural. It would have been different probably if it was the right side because he wouldn’t have to shift his stance.

    “‘We’re gonna work with him in the offseason and he wants to do it, too. It’s something we’re going to look at just like we’re working different combinations right now because of the position we’re in. The offseason is a good time to do it.'”

    Mills’s move was precipitated by the loss of Matt Slauson for the remainder of the season. If they move Mills to guard in the offseason, who sits?

  • I’m not looking forward to seeing what New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees might do to that Bears defense.
  • What the hell is wrong with you people?

One Final Thought

Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune gets credit for the best quote of the week:

“The team has been put together more as a fantasy football squad than a living, breathing entity. An assistant coach for a recent opponent called them the ‘biggest collection of front-runners in the NFL.'”

Couldn’t agree more. I’m sure the assistant coach had Jay Cutler particularly in mind when he said because he’s the classic example of someone who goes as the team goes, not the other way around. But it probably applies to a large part of the rest of them. Packers receiver Randall Cobb may have put it best:

“We knew that if we got up early on them, they may lay down on us.”

This team needs leadership and a large infusion of pride and guts in the worst way.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Points of View | 1 Comment

Game Comments: Bears at Packers 11/9/14

There’s absolutely nothing I could possible say here that wouldn’t be a waste of both your time and mine.

See you next week.

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

The Best News You’ve Heard All Week. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • I probably shouldn’t be surprised by this. But Patrick Finley and Adam L. Jahns at the Chicago Sun-Times report that there are “Lovie guys” in the locker room who, apparently, still haven’t moved on.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com on a national report that the Bears are in a shambles and that “the organization feared for Trestman’s job”.

    “It is bad form among reporters to judge their peers or challenge the veracity of their reporting short of a flat out violation of journalistic ethics, so I will forgo comment on the reporter in question.

    “I will however respectfully suggest he might want to reconsider his sources before his next big scoop.”

    I’m under no such restriction. The report was from Jason La Canfora at CBS Sports. And since we pretty much all know that Arkush is around the team almost every day and that he, more than reporter in Chicago, wouldn’t hesitate to confirm that the Bears were actually in such a state, I’d say its likely that La Canfora doesn’t have a clue about what he’s talking about.

  • Brandon Marshall‘s brother, Bijon Massie-Marshall sounds like a bright fellow. From the Tribune. The emphasis is mine:

    “Citing court records, the channel said Massie-Marshall is alleged to have stolen a car in Colorado’s Douglas County while on probation in June 2013, and that county prosecutors filed charges for aggravated motor vehicle theft in May 2014. It said he was arrested in June and posted bond in August.

    He is then accused of robbing an elderly Denver woman at her home in October with what appeared to be a handgun. 9NEWS said Massie-Marshall was arrested, bonded out, and that four days later he was wearing a GPS tracker when he allegedly robbed a store with what appeared to be a handgun. He was arrested again on Oct. 21.”

    Insert comment about similarity between brothers here.

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune addresses what the Bears need to do on defense to make the Packers game more competitive this time around:

    “In Week 4, [Packers quarterback Aaron] Rodgers completed 22 of 28 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. His 151.2 passer rating that game stands as the third-best of his career.

    “The Bears repeatedly tried to rush four and drop seven in coverage, but defenders couldn’t get off blocks and Rodgers dissected the Bears’ zone coverage. Cornerbacks on the perimeter consistently allowed Packers receivers cushions of at least five yards, and that enabled Rodgers’ quick-passing game.

    “Bears coaches have said they plan to adjust the defensive game plan, but Trestman emphasized the unchanged reality that rush and coverage must work together.”

    The guess here is that they’ll mix it up more and we’ll see more man-to-man. Certainly they’ll probably try hard to disguise the defense. But, as Trestman implies, its still going to come down to the pass rush from the front four. You’re not going to get anywhere against Rogers by blitzing him over much.

  • Here’s the best news you’ve heard all week. Every single Tribune writer (not counting Steve Rosenbloom) picked the Packers. There’s not a chance in hell the Bears lose this one.

Elsewhere

  • The Lions are gaining a lot of respect around the league and the #5 ranking that Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune has given them is representative of that. Biggs has the Packers at #10. It’s going to be interesting to see how the division shakes out and if they can improve themselves and play to their talent level, the Bears are going to have a chance to play spoiler here. They’ve got two left against the Lions after this week’s Packers game. The Packers might be glad their games against the Bears came closer to the first half of the season than the last half. To my eye the Vikings are getting better as the season rolls on, too. Star running back Adrian Peterson could still be back in uniform this season.

One Final Thought

Biggs answers your questions:

“Does anyone remember that Packers coach Mike McCarthy was 8-8, 13-3 and 6-10 in his first three seasons in Green Bay? Are we not completely jumping the gun on voicing our severe displeasure in this Bears team?
– Todd Y., Melbourne, Australia, from email

“I’d agree there has been a rush to judge the Bears, coach Marc Trestman and GM Phil Emery after a half-season. That means half of the season remains and it is certainly worth seeing how this plays out. The team has been hit with some injuries, no question, but find me a team across the league that isn’t in the same position.

“I don’t know if a comparison to McCarthy is appropriate here. For starters, the Bears are not going to reach 13 wins this season. The six-win season for McCarthy, the worst season he’s had, came when Aaron Rodgers was in his first season as the starter and Green Bay was hit with a slew of significant injuries.”

Aaron Rogers aside, the Bears are considerably more talented than Green Bay is or ever was under McCarthy. I wasn’t as high on the Bears this year as most fans but even I wouldn’t hesitate to say that they are under-achieving. I’m not sure that McCarthy’s teams did.

Having said that, we can hope that the Bears will have a better second half. Hell, what else can we do?

Posted in Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Points of View | Leave a comment

The Season Isn’t Over. Yet. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Bears safety Ryan Mundy after the Bears blow out loss to the Patriots last Sunday:

    “‘We’re definitely frustrated, ­upset and disappointed — all those emotions,’ Mundy said. ‘We’ve just got to stick together — that’s the most important thing. At times like this, it’s really easy to have the worst in people come out, especially with all the arrows that are being thrown our way. Our job as a team is to stick together.'”

    There’s a lot of truth to that, of course. But more importantly I think your job as a team is to do your job as individuals. Right now its pretty rare to find a play where all 11 guys have been doing that. Tight end Martellus Bennett might have put it best (via Patrick Finley, also at the Chicago Sun-Times):

    “‘It’s not just Jay [Cutler]. It’s the offensive line. It’s the running backs. It’s the tight ends. It’s the wide receivers. He’s the quarterback, so everybody always looks at him. But we have to make sure all the guys around there are doing their jobs.

    “‘Jay does his job, we do our jobs and we’re O.K. I think that’s the biggest thing: that everyone around has to look at themselves. I’m not here to judge Jay or talk about Jay. I only can look in the mirror and see what I have to do and what I can do better to help my teammates out. And that’s what it’s really about.'”

  • From Brad Biggs‘s film review in the Chicago Tribune:

    “Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner had their way with [Brandon] Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. The duo combined for only 72 receiving yards before Cutler was pulled. Marshall was unable to create separation and Jeffery didn’t fare much better.”

    Miami’s Cortland Finnegan also blanketed Marshall the week before allowing double coverage on Jeffery for much of that game. This is a major issue. I’m wondering if Marshall is still hurt. He has that look about him. Biggs would seem to agree:

    “Maybe it is a sign that Marshall, while healthy, isn’t all the way back from that ankle injury. But who knows what to believe? One week he feels explosive. The next week he says the injury should have kept him out a month. But it is one of the issues plaguing an offense that is short on explosive plays.”

    In any case if these two don’t start getting open more, the Bears season will end even worse than most fans suspect at this point.

  • I’m sure everyone has pictures of this billboard. But just in case:

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com answers your questions:

    “From @imx007: What’s the chance (the) Bears owners follows lead of the Blackhawks and Cubs and actually put real football people in?

    Ted Phillips is the team President and he has no football background at all. He is a very good accountant and was the team’s finance guy when Virginia McCaskey replaced her oldest son Michael with him. Actually, Michael was elevated to Chairman of the Board and Philips became President but the net effect was to move the family out of the day-to-day operations of the team. To Phillips’ credit, his first major move was to change Michael’s policy of not having a GM;…[Jerry] Angelo and [Phil] Emery were and are football people. The two questions are: 1. Are/were they the right football people; and 2. Should they be reporting to a football person? The first answer is it’s starting to look uncertain, but it’s still too soon to give up on Emery. The answer to number two, I think, is most definitely yes.”

    There’s a flaw in this logic in that ultimately a non-football person has to decide which football person to hire. I see little difference between Phillips doing it in collaboration with ownership and ownership simply doing it on their own.

    In the end, Phil Emery is making the football decisions. I don’t have a problem with that. As Arkush says, its a little early to tell, but I think the team’s drafts have gotten decidedly better, especially at the top, under his leadership. Whether Marc Trestman was the right hire as head coach is debatable but there is certainly a lot to like about him as an offensive mind and quarterback coach. I applauded this hire at the time for exactly those reasons. We’ll just have to wait and see if his leadership style either catches hold with the team or changes with the circumstances.

  • Biggs makes the point that the biggest adjustment that the Bears have to make in the second half is to get the running game in order. This is one traditional way to beat the zone defenses the Bears have been seeing this year:

    “There’s too much window dressing to the ground game and not enough brawn and muscle. Alshon Jeffery coming in motion on a fake jet sweep isn’t leaving opposing defensive coaches studying film deep into the night. The Bears must commit to running rough, dominating the line of scrimmage.

    “‘We have an offensive line that can block the run,’ Trestman said. ‘And we have a very good running back.'”

    The latter is definitely true. Whether the former is true is yet to be seen.

  • Honestly, does anyone care what Michael Irvin thinks?

One Final Thought

Could this possibly be the ever cynical Hub Arkush that we’ve come to know and love?

“From @mosconml: Let’s not kid ourselves, the playoff hopes are done. Who’s looking good at MLB, SS and FS in the draft?

“Well, first of all you’re wrong. In my preseason predictions, I had the Bears at 4-5 coming out of Lambeau, and winning six of their last seven to go 10-6 and claim a wild card. I don’t feel that way anymore, but to say it’s no longer possible is just wrong. Apparently you haven’t been watching the NFL recently. Two weeks ago the Saints were done at 2-4 and now they’re in first place in the NFC South. Many times even 9-7 can get you into the playoffs. I hate what the Bears have done so far like everyone else, but let’s let it play out at least three more weeks before we bury them.”

Couldn’t agree more.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, Points of View | Leave a comment

What Leadership Looks Like

Some rube wrote in with this question for Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune:

“Is any player stepping up to provide leadership on that side of the ball? — Tom S., Chicago, from email”

“I thought Jared Allen did a really good job of addressing this issue so let’s hear from him first on this:

“‘I don’t want this to sound bad,’ Allen said Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall. ‘We talk about leader. What does that look like to people? I think we have great leaders here. Leaders don’t necessarily have to stand up at the podium and make some big speech. Matter of fact, if someone gets up every week and has to have, ‘Coach is out, let’s have a (meeting),’ that’s lame honestly. What’s that gonna do? That is rah-rah.

“‘Leadership comes from the guys that show up every week, go out and work during practice, be in their playbook, they know what they are doing, go out on Sunday and they give it everything they’ve got. Leaders, in my opinion, you don’t know what they do. You don’t know what is said behind closed doors to someone. You don’t know if someone is struggling; a true leader will go and talk to them in private.”

“‘So I think that is what we do well with this team. So I would say we have good leadership. Maybe from the outside looking in you guys are looking for a vocal person with an ‘S’ on his chest to do something but those aren’t the guys typically I find people respond to.'”

“Now, I don’t know if I agree with Allen that the Bears have the best leadership possible on the defensive side of the ball. A lot of folks have been writing wondering when the next Mike Brown is going to wander along and grab everyone’s attention by exclaiming, ‘We suck!’ That Brown speech made a lot of fans happy. It acknowledged things were not going well. It didn’t do anything to the product on the field on Sundays.”

Like many of the fans that Biggs is speaking about, I had Mike Brown in mind when I was thinking of this question. But in fairness to myself, I also had Brian Urlacher in mind. Urlacher would have been the last person to proclaim “We suck” but there’s little doubt that teammates considered him to be a team leader and they looked to him in many different ways to be that.

The first part of Biggs’s response after the Allen quote was what I was after. I totally acknowledge that leadership demonstrates itself in many different ways but the one thing that has to be true is that everyone has to look to that guy to lead the way. He has to be the guy that others gravitate toward who can help pull them together into a unit in times where its needed. It takes a unique combination of both personality and on-field ability. I don’t see it and I haven’t read anything other than general comments similar to Allen’s to make me think that someone is doing a lot of it in ways that I wouldn’t see.  It has been a serious issue for this team and, as far as I can tell, its going to continue to be a serious issue.

Posted in Chicago Bears | Leave a comment

Bears to Get Run Game Going as Packers Try to Stop It

John Mullin at csnchicago.com thinks that the move of Michael Ola to right tackle will improve the Bears run game:

“Coaches were clearly pleased with the results in the run game with Ola at right tackle. Matt Forte rushed for 114 yards against the Patriots to go with 33 from Ka’Deem Carey, together averaging nearly six yards per carry.

“And since Trestman laid out the intention to balance the offense better, Ola is the presumptive right tackle until further notice.

“‘We got to do a better job of [balance] because we have offensive line that can block the run and we’ve got a very good running back,’ Trestman said. ‘We’ve got to do that.'”

If they’ve got an offensive line that can run block they sure haven’t shown it the last two years. Maybe Ola can make the difference on the right side.

Its also fairly clear that running the ball is something the Bears are going to have to do if they want to beat the Packers coming off of the bye. The Saints burned the Packers for 193 yards on the ground last Sunday and Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy sounded none to happy about it. Via Rob Demovsky at ESPN.com:

“‘We need to tackle the damn ball carrier and put him on the ground. That’s what we’ll be focused on.’

“McCarthy and his staff have the bye week to figure out if they can salvage their run defense, which has not ranked higher than 30th at any point during in the first half of the season and slipped back to 32nd (last) after Sunday’s 44-23 loss.

“‘The run defense was our Achilles’ heel clearly on defense,’ McCarthy said. ‘Too many missed tackles.'”

Missed tackles and dropped passes were problems last year with the Packers and despite devoting much of the offseason to solving the latter problem, it’s still there this year as well. We’ll have to wait two weeks to see how much help they are going to give the Bears.

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

Game Comments: Bears at Patriots 10/26/14

Offense

  1. The Bears came out running right away. The Patriots didn’t even disguise the fact that they knew it was coming, putting an extra guy in the box from the get go.
  2. Quarterback Jay Cutler was not accurate again this game, making his targets work for their catches when they could reach them.
  3. The Patriots did a very good job of covering the Bears underneath and limiting yards after the catch. So the Bears were having a tough time even getting their usual yards between the 20s.
  4. Having said that, the Bears did get some room for Matt Forte to catch some balls out of the backfield in the second quarter. It resulted in a touchdown.
  5. Half time adjustments included throwing the ball more to Brandon Marshall. Again. When we we be at a point where they’ll do that from the beginning and that won’t have to be an adjustment anymore?  By the way it didn’t work.  What else is new?
  6. The Bears also came out aggressive after the half. The Patriots weren’t exactly in a prevent defense but it was obvious that they were playing softer to prevent big plays that might let the bears back into the game.
  7. Nice catch from Martellus Bennett for a touchdown near the end of the third quarter.
  8. The offensive line was particularly bad in protection today. Stunts, blitzes, it didn’t matter. They weren’t picking anything up. It didn’t help that Cutler was missing some reads.
  9. Having said that, the run blocking wasn’t below average and Matt Forte had his usual good game.

Defense

  1. The Bears came out in nickel and were apparently not prepared to get run over. Which is what happened. Again. In fairness they did eventually stop the bleeding later in the first half through the end of the game though it was at the expense of their pass defense.
  2. Having established the run early, Tom Brady did pretty much whatever he wanted in the passing game with play action.
  3. What’s interesting is that the nickel didn’t even work. It was undoubtedly meant to stop the Patriots from passing to secondary receivers but the match up of Rob Gronkowski on Ryan Mundy wasn’t even close.
  4. Brady was extremely accurate hitting even well covered receivers in areas where they could catch it.
  5. It doesn’t seem fair that the Bears make a great goal line stand at the beginning of the fourth quarter, stopping the Patriots on fourth down, only to have to give up a field goal due to a field goal because of a Patriots penalty. Give the Bears defense credit for being ready for the no huddle and to run back on the field on a last second switch by the Patriots to go for it on fourth down.
  6. Chris Conte had some good open field tackles.
  7. I like Al Louis-Jean’s potential allot. But Brandon LaFell ate him alive.
  8. Not that it matters but it certainly did seem to me like the Bears got screwed on the Gronkowski touchdown near the end of the first half. Gronkowski dropped that ball.
  9. The injury to Lamarr Houston. [head shake]

Miscellaneous

  1. I had no unusual problems with Sam Rosen, John Lynch and Pam Oliver. They are what they are and they were what they usually are. Lynch was, perhaps, sharper than he was last time we saw him making, some good observations that fans might have missed. For example, he pointed out that Forte’s touchdown in the second quarter resulted from a route adjustment by the running back. He also pointed out that Cutler was staring down receivers like a rookie again this week.Then, of course, there was that wonderful moment in the broadcast when Joel Nobody sent the audience back after an update from the Houston-Tennessee game to “the Patriots versus Southwest Missouri State”. Hilarious.
  2. Some poor punting in the first quarter didn’t help the Bears offense out much. The coverage teams struggled, too. The Patriots first punt was near the end of the third quarter so not much that can be said there.
  3. The Bears didn’t have many obvious drops. Alshon Jeffery had a very bad one on fourth and 10 to stop a drive at the beginning of the first half. The Patriots got away with dropping too many this week but they’ll eventually want to clean that up.
  4. A holding call on Martellus Bennet effectively stopped the first drive forcing the Bears to pass when they were trying to establish the run. Matt Slauson got the Bears offense off to an awesome start on the second series with an immediate false start. It was all a part of a great beginning to a great game. And all part of yet another game where the Bears committed too many of them. I’m sure that the Patriots will hear about it from head coach Bill Belichick as well and they had more than their share, too.The officiating was bad. Which is the new normal. Maybe its just all part and parcel of a bad day but an awful lot of those bad calls seemed to go the Patriots’ way. They really didn’t need the help.
  5. You guys think Jay Cutler turns the ball over too much? Try Geno Smith with three INTs against the Bills. In the first quarter.Of course, that doesn’t excuse Cutler. It isn’t the reason they lost but how Cutler could have dropped the ball at the end of the first half, resulting in a Patriots recovery for a touchdown, I simply can’t understand. I know he was trying to throw the football but come on, man. Can’t you just limit the damage and get the hell out of there?
  6. As a NFL fan the phases you go through as you watch a definitive loss to a better opponent from beginning to end are very similar to the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I went through them all. In the first quarter and a half.After that it was all total embarrassment.
Posted in Chicago Bears, Game Comments, New England Patriots | Leave a comment

Leading the Leader and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune points out that Cutler continues to overthrow receivers and attributes it to poor mechanics. But he then offers no specifics about what is wrong with those mechanics and gives us nothing to look for. Frustrating.
  • I’m not in the business of bashing quarterback Jay Cutler. Too much. But I found this article by Campbell to be pretty amusing. He first starts off by quoting an exchange between GM Phil Emery and a fan on the Bears website:

    “Q: ‘Given Jay’s enormous contract in the offseason – how happy are you with his performance thus far? I’m a huge Jay Cutler fan, but he can’t seem to make that leap to elite status and just makes too many mistakes.’

    “Emery: ‘Jay Cutler is a winning quarterback in this league and no matter how you analyze the history of quarterbacks in the NFL, if you have a winning record you are an elite player at that position. I’ll say it again: Jay has enormous skills and he continues to improve in all areas as a football player. I know he has some throws he would like to have back, but all of our players have had plays that they would like to have back.'”

    He then quotes the statistics (only some of which I’ll include here):

    “Cutler’s teams have a 59-52 record in games he has started during his eight-plus NFL seasons.

    “The Bears, for whom Cutler has played the last six seasons, are 42-32 when he has started. Since coach Marc Trestman took over before the 2013 season, the Bears are 8-10 when Cutler has started.

    “Cutler is 1-1 in the postseason, having beaten the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks in 2010. The Bears lost the NFC championship game at home that season to the Green Bay Packers. Cutler did not finish the game due to a knee injury.”

    OK. Maybe it’s not so funny.

  • Biggs answers your questions:

    “How is it that nationally, Matt Ryan is not held to the same scrutiny that Jay Cutler is?””– Brian C., from email”

    “The difference between Ryan and Cutler over the course of their careers is Ryan has experienced sustained success. His record as a starter in his first five seasons was 56-22. He experienced two 13-3 seasons and helped the Falcons to the playoffs in four out of five years. Cutler is in his sixth season with the Bears and they have reached the postseason once. The Bears have been unable to sustain success under Cutler and that is probably the best explanation for the difference in perceptions nationally for the quarterbacks.”

    Nationally Cutler is most criticized for his tendency to turn the ball over. Even I’m surprised to see that he has 8 fumbles this year compared to Ryan’s 1 fumble.

  • Here’s another interesting response from Biggs:

    “Why is no one talking about the inability of the Bears to tackle properly?””– John J., from email”

    “This is a question I could pull out of the mailbag five or six times a year.”

    “But I think most observers would agree the Bears have been better tackling in the open field this season. Open-field tackling is difficult, for starters. When it’s one-on-one, that’s not always an easy play to make. How many times do you see tight end Martellus Bennett slip by a defender? It happens usually at least once a game. So tackles are missed on both sides of the ball.”

    I couldn’t agree more. I’m usually one of the first people to start criticizing tackles on a game-to-game basis. But you can’t do it unless you are seeing it consistently over and over again. Seeing players miss the occasional tackle is not unusual and its not a big deal. There are lots of things to criticize about the Bears this year. This isn’t one of them. Yet.

One Final Thought

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times describes the reason given for the fact that the Bears ran so little in the first half Sunday:

“Cutler said he made the right decisions when changing plays from runs to passes in the 27-14 loss Sunday to the Dolphins, even though he handed the ball off only two times in the first half.

“He changed two runs to passes and decided to throw on two more run/pass options. One, a deep ­incompletion to Alshon Jeffery on third-and-one, stalled the Bears’ first drive and seemed to mire them in a funk that lasted the first half.”

Translation: They couldn’t pass against a run defense.

The excerpt highlights what is wrong with the media focus on Cutler’s performance last week. Most writers have emphasized the fact that Cutler has mental breakdowns which result in turnovers, something that Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune does a particularly good job of highlighting here. They also ridicule the idea put forward by the team that turnovers are a team statistic. But perhaps they shouldn’t be so hasty as, in a way, this is particularly true of Bears.

The Bears insist that Cutler is an elite quarterback, something that is patently absurd. The Packers Aaron Rogers is an elite quarterback. He makes everyone around him better. Cutler depends upon everyone around him to make him better. And that’s the rub.

Cutler is the kind of guy who is going to be a great quarterback when things are going well. But when the going gets tough, Cutler’s not going to get going. That’s what happened last Sunday. The Dolphins were blitzing and playing the run and the Bears receivers were getting blanketed in single coverage. The team was sinking and in those situations Cutler isn’t going to be the life raft that keeps them afloat. He’s going to be a lead weight that takes them to the bottom.

That’s why Cutler’s turnovers are a team statistic. Most media and fans are laboring under the mistaken impression that Cutler’s turnovers are causing the team to underperform. Its the other way around. Like it or not, whether you think its the way that it should be or not, its the team’s poor play that is resulting in Cutler’s poor play.

If the Bears want to get better, they’re wasting their time if they are depending upon making Cutler better first. They should certainly try but he’s 33 years old and everyone has to accept that he is what he is. The only way the Bears are going to get better is by coaching up the other positions and making them better. If they do that, Cutler will follow.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Points of View | Leave a comment

A Question of Style and Other Points of View

Bears

  • Rick Telander at the Chicago Sun-Times on quarterback Jay Cutler after the Bears loss to the Dolphins Sunday:

    “You know what’s sad? This from Dolphins intercepting safety Reshad Jones: ‘After watching film all week, we saw [Cutler] was looking where he threw the ball. He was always looking at his receivers and never looking off. We tried to take advantage of that, and it paid off.’”

    Rick Morrissey, also at the Chicago Sun-Times, says that wide receiver Brandon Marshall reportedly called out Cutler after the loss (amongst others).

  • Former Bears Blake Costanzo on Twitter. Via Morrissey:

    “[Head coach Marc] Trestman [sic] has made the bears soft. I took pride in wearing that jersey. [Mike] Ditka, [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs. Unreal man. No respect”

  • Here’s one thing Morrissey said that I can totally agree with:

    “‘We have no identity,’ cornerback Tim Jennings said. ‘We still don’t know who we are. We win on the road; we lose at home. That’s the most frustrating thing about it. We don’t know who we are just yet.’

    “He might want to consider the very real possibility that this is exactly who the Bears are.”

    So might the fans. As Jeff Dickerson at ESPN.com put it, “This team seems to be destined to be 0.500.” My suggestion is that fans relax and deal with it.

  • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com after the loss:

    “Could it be these Bears think too much of themselves and that just arriving at Soldier Field should be enough? Are they playing hard enough and giving 100 percent effort?”

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune shares my concern here:

    “The other thing that jumped out was running back Matt Forte receiving only two carries in the first half. That couldn’t have been part of the game plan in the ‘good week of practice,’ right? The offense runs through Forte and there the Bears were on third-and-1 from their own 47-yard line on their first possession. Shotgun formation? Check. Press coverage from the Dolphins? Check. So throw it deep to Alshon Jeffery with Brent Grimes in coverage? Uh, check.

    “Trestman called it the right move when Miami opted to press the wide receivers. But it was a low-percentage shot and reinforced one thing: The Bears do not always seem comfortable running the ball in short-yardage situations.”

    I didn’t have the big problem with this call that most fans had. You take your shots down field when you can and the call would have been a brilliant surprise move if it had worked.

    But I’m still bothered by the overall situation. The Bears have had trouble blocking in short yardage situations for two years now and it led me after last season to call for changes in the offensive line. The Bears opted to stick with the same five guys and they are reaping their reward.

    Its OK to take a shot down field on a play like this on rare occasions. But if you aren’t confident enough to run the ball on third-and-1 and get it the vast majority of the time its a problem. The Bears resort to passes or trap plays and other types of techniques to get leverage instead because they aren’t strong enough up front to block a run play without it. They need to be able to occasionally just blow off the ball to get a yard. Because good teams simply won’t be finessed.

  • Biggs makes an outstanding point regarding wide receiver Brandon Marshall‘s post game tirade:

    “Former Bears receiver David Terrell was a likable guy with a playful personality. But Terrell had an act from time to time like winning was more important to him than anyone else in the locker room. I’m not comparing Terrell to Marshall at all. Terrell was a bust. Marshall is a big-time offensive producer. But the idea that one guy takes winning and losing more personally than 52 others doesn’t pass the smell test. The locker room is full of professionals and it requires a professional approach. No other player wants to hear another guy in the locker room say it hurts more for him.”

    Rich Campbell and Dan Weiderer, also at the Chicago Tribune try to pass Marshall’s tirade off as something that happens every week. I don’t buy it.

  • Offensive guard Kyle Long on his criticizing the fans in a postgame interview:

    “Long backtracked Monday, telling WXRT-FM (93.1) that ‘it was wrong for me to point fingers at the fans’ and that it was up to the Bears to give the crowd a reason to cheer.

    “‘I just think (reporters) had asked everybody in the locker room how they felt about (fans booing), and a lot of the guys didn’t take the bait,’ Long said. ‘Obviously emotions are running high after a game. Obviously if we were giving them something to cheer about there would be a lot more cheers coming off the field at halftime. Hopefully the score would be a little bit closer as well.”

    The impression of both the players and the media that the fans were booing the poor first half performance as the Bears went in at half time might not be totally off base. There was certainly a lot of frustration and venting at that point. But I can tell you that, right or wrong, the fans around me were most upset by Trestman’s decision to take a knee with time left on the clock rather than taking a time out and to move into field goal position. My impression was that the reaction at the time was more about that than anything else.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times places the blame for the Bears not running the ball in the first half squarely on Cutler. He quotes Trestman as saying that the change to more of a run-based offense after half time was because the Bears took the option of changing the plays from Cutler:

    “‘We took some of the options off, and we handed the football off,’ Trestman said. ‘And we got more of what we would expect out of our offense — a good, solid drive.'”

  • With all of the talk of concern about the lack of leadership from Cutler and Marshall, (and Trestman) no one seems to be talking about the obvious void – the lack of leadership on the defensive side of the ball. This was, of course, supposed to fall to Lance Briggs but he has pretty much proven now that its not his bailiwick and I’ve yet to hear of anyone stepping into his shoes.
  • No matter how much criticism Cutler takes he still goes home after every game to this:

Just sayin’

One Final Thought

Morrissey is also questioning Trestman’s leadership style:

“Those of us who respect Trestman and appreciate his mind know that neither respect nor football knowledge necessarily makes a successful NFL head coach. There’s more to the game than X’s and O’s. There’s the matter of dealing with large, talented human beings who, because they have been coddled their entire lives, believe they can do anything they want. It takes a real leader to tell them they can’t. Allow them to run free, and, well, this happens.”

Anyone up for some Double Nickel barbecue?

Posted in Chicago Bears, Miami Dolphins, Points of View | Leave a comment