- 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.