What Should the Bears Do? “Run, Run, Run the Ball.”

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

I keep hearing guys say “run, run, run the ball.” Didn’t they try that during the early Mitch Trubisky development stage and teams just packed the box and dared Mitch to beat them in the air? — @nfrankie5

The Bears have to have success running the ball. They have to be balanced on offense. They have to keep defenses off balance. They need to be able to set up play-action and bootleg opportunities for Trubisky. Absolutely, they have to run the ball more effectively. Maybe, just maybe, the success they had in Sunday’s loss in Green Bay can carry over to this week’s meeting with the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

Biggs is right on here. The only hope the Bears have, especially under the conditions at Solder Field in December, is to run the ball.

And I truly believe that this was the game plan on Sunday against a Packers defense that not only struggles to defend the run, but has a defensive coordinator who actually doesn’t believe it’s necessary.

That’s not an exaggeration. Mike Pettine is known to believe that explosive plays in the passing game are what lead to defeats. Despite the lesson taught him by the 49ers in the playoffs last year where they ran over the Packers in an ugly loss, he really doesn’t believe a team can win by simply running the ball and that they have to pass. If you can stop that, you’ll come out on top on the score board.

And the pathetic thing is that he’s often proven right, as he was at Lambeau Field over the weekend.

The Bears almost certainly came out of the bye week thinking that the way to get back on track was to play complimentary football. That meant getting Trubisky under center and to start by running the ball. And it looked to me like it might have worked. From veteran columnist Dan Pompei at The Athletic

  • The offensive line reshuffling — Cody Whitehair to left guard, Sam Mustipher to center, Alex Bars to right guard and Germain Ifedi to right tackle — wasn’t all bad. They might have stumbled onto some solutions there.
  • It was a rough night for Charles Leno Jr., who looked like he was playing hurt.
  • If every player on the Bears’ roster performed like David Montgomery , that’s a W. He’s never run better.

The problem is that when you try to execute such a plan, you are also leaning on your defense to hold the score down. When that didn’t happen, the game plan flew out the window. With the Bears behind, they were forced to pass and play right into Pettine’s hands. And that put the contest into Trubisky’s hands. Game over.

But that didn’t mean that the game plan was flawed. It just didn’t work on what turned out to be a miserable night for the defense. That shouldn’t happen in most games for the Bears. In most games with an ordinarily very good defense playing to its potential, a patient, down hill run game that opens up play action passing almost certainly seems to be the way to go.

Let’s put it this way. Would you rather see the Bears play like they’re the Chiefs and try to throw the ball all over the field in an effort to work a pass first offense that they don’t have a quarterback to execute? Head coach Matt Nagy would almost certainly love to do that. But I think he’s smart enough to know that the conditions aren’t right for it and to adjust to what he has.

Will the Lions pack the box if the Bears find success running the ball? Man, I hope so. Because that would be a huge improvement after what we’ve seen in the last 6 games with Nick Foles in the shot gun where teams did nothing special to stop an anemic Bears rushing attack.

I don’t know if the Bears would pass the ball better in such a situation. But it would almost certainly mean seeing inline tight end Cole Kmet and running back David Montgomery matched up on linebackers. And that can do nothing but help.

So sorry, Frankie. My message to the Bears is to “run, run, run the ball.”

Trubisky’s Path To Improved Play Lays Less with Personal Growth and More with Growth of the Offense Around Him.

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Matt Nagy
on why he thinks quarterback Mitch Trubisky may be improved as he takes back the starting job for at least one more week against the Packers:

Don’t be surprised if Trubisky does the same some day.
But probably not here. Trubisky returns with a worse supporting cast then when he was benched. And while you can’t blame Nagy for his positivity, his support of Trubisky just rings hollow at this stage:

“I was really impressed with his huddle mechanics.”

“I like the way that he’s practiced this week.”

“I’m very impressed with how he’s grown week to week … I’ve seen a change in him and for the good. It’s a good feeling. It comforts you. It’s exciting, because you know how good of a kid he is.”

That last sentiment didn’t pass the smell test.

None of it passes the smell test.

Trubisky says that he was “blind-sided” when Nick Foles took the job from him in week 3. He says that it has served as motivation and that he has focused more on improving.

But didn’t we hear the same thing all off-season when Trubisky was supposedly upset after they signed Foles and he was competing for his job? If Trubisky was truly capable of focusing more and improving his performance, wouldn’t it have become apparent in training camp? Or in the first three games of the year when he looked exactly like he did in 15 games last year?

It’s true that sometimes sitting on the bench clears your head as you watch the other guy play and you think about the things that you could have done better. But after so much time of being the same guy, I’m not holding my breath waiting such a thing is going to happen here.

Trubisky has the look of a guy who needs a fresh start in another town and with a better offensive coaching staff in a low pressure environment where he can sit and get better as a back up for a season or two. If you ask me, he looks like a great project for Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints.

In any case, I’m not buying any of it.

If the Bears offense is going to improve, it will be because the running game improved. And that will help Trubisky far more than any professions of renewed motivation or more “good feelings” from his head coach.

Quinn Contract Is Not Proving to Be Money Well Spent. Again.

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times quotes Robert Quinn on the substandard year he’s having sacking the quarterback:

“My season? I’ll be honest, it’s been very average. Not up to my standards,” Quinn said. “We’ve got six more games left — anything can happen. I know how I prepare. I know how I train. Statistically it just hasn’t been my season. Effort, charisma, all that stuff’s been there. It’s just getting the numbers up that we’re all looking for.”

“If I knew [what was wrong], I’m sure [the problems] wouldn’t be there,” [Quinn] said. “I don’t know. It’s just been one of those years. Just hasn’t been one of my best years, but we’ve still got a chance [to make the playoffs]. And even though my performance [is below standard], we’re still holding together as a great defense. It’s not all just about me.”

I would guess that one big problem for Quinn is that the team hasn’t been playing with a lead very often. Most sack artists pile up statistics at the end of games when they know the other team has to pass. At such times, Quinn can just cut loose and rush the quarterback full bore with no need to worry about anything else. But there hasn’t been much blood in the water for Quinn or Khalil Mack or any of the other pass rushers this year. That’s not an excuse because there are no excuses. But it probably does explain a lot.

Like virtually everyone who addresses Quinn’s issues, Potash also inevitably brought up a comparison to Leonard Floyd, who has seven sacks with the Rams this season. The Rams defensive coordinator in Brandon Staley, who coached linebackers under Vic Fangio when he was the Bears defensive coordinator.

I can hardly blame the Bears for letting Floyd go. He under-performed and wasn’t worthy of keeping while playing here. Yes, he’s playing better with the Rams but Staley has undoubtedly done what Fangio did for Floyd his rookie year. He schemed pass rushes that were specifically designed to give Floyd a free rush at the passer. The disadvantage to doing such things is that it takes defensive players out of position to make a play if the offense doesn’t do exactly what you think they’re going to do. It also basically takes the other pass rushers out of position for a sack as they are usually sacrificing themselves for Floyd.

Fangio eventually stopped doing this, preferring to let multiple pass rushers have their shot and, especially with Mack on board, Chuck Pagano has followed the philosophy as well. Floyd was and is far less suited to that sort of situation as he struggled to beat offensive linemen one-on-one.

All that being said, Quinn has been a $70 million bust and a costly mis-evaluation for GM Ryan Pace. Pace went for broke this year and signed Quinn to a back loaded contract with only a $6.1 million cap number for 2020. But that number balloons to $14.7 million in 2021 with $24 million in dead cap if they cut him. Which, of course, they won’t. Instead, they’ll try to renegotiate and push the problem off into future years.

So, bottom line, Pace has tied himself to a player who can’t do the same thing Floyd couldn’t do – take advantage of Mack on the other side to rush the passer one-on-one. Right now, it looks like yet another personnel blunder for a GM who, along with his head coach, has made too many already.

As Our Nation Suffers, NBC Refuses to Remove the Bears from Before Its Eyes

Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune quotes NBC announcer Mike Tirico, who will be calling the game on Sunday night, on televising the Bears-Packers rivalry in prime time:

“It’s the Bears and the Packers. I know I’m going to get a good, tough game. It’s going to be cold. Fingers crossed, it snows at Lambeau. It’s a chance for 3½ hours to get yourself out of the malaise that has been this year … and just kind of escape. You almost feel like the world’s normal again.”

Let me tell you something, Mike. If you are looking to shake yourself out of a malaise, watching the Bears offense is only going to make things worse.

A lot worse.

I have this vision of television executives sitting around board room table and cackling while raking in cash generated by Bears fans. Meanwhile young, potential football fans all around the rest country blow rasberries as they turn their TV off.

Honestly, at what point does the league finally step in and say, “Look, you can’t do this. We’ve got the future of the game to think about and watching the Bears makes the baby Jesus cry”?

Like most of the rest of the country, Bears fans are wondering just how bad the team has to be to be flexed out of prime time. Why can’t they just be saved the additional embarrassment and have their team stink in anonymity at noon?

It’s bad enough that all over Chicago, our own eyes are being forced to bleed. Must we blind the rest of the country, as well?

So Who the Heck Is Malik Willis?

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times has ten things he’d like to say about the Bears:

8. Malik Willis Watch: The former Auburn backup quarterback (a nephew of former Bears linebacker James Anderson) completed 13 of 32 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 44 yards in Liberty’s 15-14 loss to North Carolina State. Willis previously had thrown four touchdowns passes without an interception in victories over Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

Potash has been highlighting Malik Willis every week in this 1st-and-10 column. Like the rest of us, he obviously is looking for potential gems in the draft that might fall low enough for the Bears to take. So my curiosity was piqued.

Potash is a veteran reporter who has been around the block. Though I listen to their pod-cast on my walk into work, I usually pick and choose the articles I read from the Sun-Times depending on how much time I have in the morning. But I nearly always read the things that Potash writes. And I usually pay attention to what he has to say. I don’t always agree. But I always pay attention.

Willis is listed at 6’1″ for Liberty. That’s a tad bit short for the SEC and, needless to say, for the pros. But pro scouts haven’t paid as much attention to height as they used to with the success of quarterbacks like Russell Wilson. That’s particularly true for guys like Willis, who, like Wilson, is a dual threat quarterback in the mold of a Kyler Murray.

In nine games, Willis has just under a 68 percent completion rate this year with 15 passing touchdowns, one interception, and nine rushing touchdowns. He has 700 rushing yards.

Willis is a winner, too. The loss to North Carolina State was the first of the year for the Flames, who are now 8-1.

So why would he be available for the Bears? Well, Liberty isn’t exactly a team that plays a lot of Power Five competition. Willis also wasn’t considered to have a particularly strong arm just coming out of high school, let alone college. And worst of all Willis is just a one year starter. That would be a tough pick for a team that just got burned taking Mitch Trubisky, who the Bears drafted under similar circumstances.

Every once is a while Liberty pops up on ESPN. I’ll probably stop changing the channel now every time I see them and start paying attention.

Who knows? GM Ryan Pace obviously is out of tune with the rest of the NFL in that he seems to believe that every quarterback he likes is being over drafted. He also obviously drafts more for immediate need than he does with an eye towards the future at the most important position in sports. That is, of course, in contrast to, say the Green Bay Packers who compete every year by making the position a priority regardless of need.

But precisely because of this past history, Pace has put himself into a position of desperation this year. He’ll have to take a quarterback and the rest of the league will know that he has to. Willis could be the one he’s forced to choose. We’ll see.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy Will Not Be Fired. But Should They Be?

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at key questions as the Bearws enter the last 6 weeks of the season:

Under what circumstance would general manager Ryan Pace and [head coach Matt] Nagy keep their jobs in 2021?

With the relatively quick or unexpected trigger at Halas Hall in the last 10 years — the firings of Jerry Angelo, Phil Emery and Marc Trestman, in particular — change can happen with anything less than a playoff berth. There are still six games to go, but a second consecutive season of regression on offense tilts the ledger against Pace and Nagy.

This one took me by surprise a little bit. It’s one thing for fans to ask such questions at this stage. It’s another thing for a veteran Bears reporter who has been around as long as I have to do it.

Barring a total collapse, I don’t think the Bears are looking to replace Ryan Pace. I would guess that when they hired him, they knew he was going to have to grow into the job and though you’d think that he’s had enough time to do that, I think it likely that the Bears are going to try to be patient with a guy who has at least shown himself to be, unlike Emery, competent professional.

Whether Pace should remain is, of course, a different story. The decision to stick with virtually the same offensive line personnel in 2020 that performed so poorly in 2019 was strikingly similar to the one where Pace decided to stick with the same tight ends in 2019 that under-performed in 2018.

Make a mistake? It happens. Make the same mistake twice? Hmmm….

The other half of this equation is Nagy. At this point, Nagy is joined at the hip to Pace in more ways than one. Comparisons of Nagy to Trestman are as unfair was comparisons of Pace to Emery. Nagy hasn’t lost the locker room and the team continues to at least try to perform for him. It’s not a situation that requires a quick hook.

Also similar to Pace, the question of whether there should be a firing is a different story. Nagy’s obviously in over his head as he tries to get the offense to perform with all 11 men dong their jobs at the same time on the same play. Similar to what I said ages ago about John Shoop, Dick Jauron‘s offensive coordinator, the best way to describe Nagy’s offense is “uncoordinated”. That’s not good.

To top it all off, Nagy has saddled himself with some poor personnel choices like Nick Foles and some of the gadget players that he has undoubtedly had a hand in convincing Pace to go out and get.

But, having said that, if we are going to bottom line this, no. Assuming that they don’t actually lose out, right or wrong, Nagy and Pace aren’t going anywhere.

There’s Plenty Enough Blame to Go Around for the Bears Subpar Offensive Roster

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers another question:

If the Bears finish below .500, will both Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy lose their jobs? While Nagy’s play calling has been consistently questionable this season and last, it was Pace who saddled him with inconsistent QB play, a porous offensive line, gadget players rather than full-timers. — @ld1306

Ownership evaluates everything at the end of the season, and frustration is running high for fans and everyone inside Halas Hall with the team on a four-game losing streak. We’ll have to see what direction the season takes over the final six games and how the Bears get to their final record. If the offense is flat-lining when the team reaches the finish line, that wouldn’t reflect well on the GM or the coach. But it’s premature to say the Bears are definitely headed in one direction or the other. An evaluation of the football operation takes into consideration the entire scope — the entire season — and the Bears are in a bad stretch right now. We’ll see if they can change their trajectory.

I have a little bit of an issue with the premise of the first part of this question. Pace’s desk is definitely the place where the buck stops when it comes to the roster problems. But putting everything on him may be a bit off base.

I’d bet money that signing those “gadget players” was at Nagy’s instigation. Pace didn’t sign those kinds of players when John Fox was the head coach. It was only Nagy’s obsessive search for mismatches that led to these players being on the roster. Which would be OK except that most of his choices have been proven to be ineffective when used on a regular basis for other teams. But coaches have huge egos and they always feel that they can get more out of players if they are just “used right”. And that’s the kind of thinking that has gotten the franchise to where its at with some of these guys.

You think Nagy said, “No. Bobby Massie can’t do the job and we need a left tackle because Charles Leno doesn’t have what it takes”? Really?

Inconsistent quarterback play? Nagy said, “No, its hopeless with Mitch Trubisky and there are no good free agent options. Draft someone and let me concentrate on developing him rather than wasting my time with Trubisky.” You think that that Pace ignored his objections and pushed Trubisky on him anyway?

You think Nagy told Pace not to sign Nick Foles? Any reasonable fan would know that it had to be exactly the opposite. Foles was the guy Nagy wanted. There can be no doubt about it.

Does Pace deserve his share of the blame here? You bet. He’s at the top of the food chain and he makes the final decisions. Nagy was his guy and if some of the personnel decisions his hand picked head coach suggested weren’t the best, well ultimately that’s Pace’s fault. The final decision on all of this was his.

But let’s not fool ourselves here. Matt Nagy saddled himself with the personnel on this roster every bit as much as Pace did. And if Pace goes down, Nagy should and will go with him. And it won’t be because he couldn’t call plays for men who couldn’t execute them. It will be because he helped pick them every step of the way.

Bears Problems with Ted Ginn Represent a Change in Team Direction that Isn’t Working.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers another question:

Regarding Ted Ginn’s release from the Bears, it seems like Matt Nagy was looking for someone (anyone) to blame for the loss to the Rams, and, yes, Ginn didn’t have a great game fielding punts against one of the best punters in the NFL, but the punts were going to land inside the 10-yard line anyway. I guess I’m confused as to why they let an experienced, super-fast, inexpensive receiver go from the team, when it’s apparent they need more options for Nick Foles? I also thought it was interesting that the coach said that Ted only caught four passes as a Bear, but you can only catch them if they throw you the ball. Seems like they were trying to make Ginn a scapegoat. To be fully transparent, I’m a neighbor of Mr. Ginn’s in Chicago, and it just bums me out to watch the family packing up to leave Chicago. Thoughts? Do you think he’ll get picked up by another NFL team? — Chip F., Wilmette

I understand what you’re saying, but I didn’t think Ginn was productive as a punt returner in the games before the one in Los Angeles after Tarik Cohen went out for the season with a torn ACL. He didn’t look to have that skill anymore, and you need to remember it has been at least three seasons since he did it on even a partial basis. On offense, Ginn wasn’t factoring into the game plan on a weekly basis. They signed him to add a speed element to the offense and then wound up drafting Darnell Mooney in the fifth round. Mooney is playing a significant amount, and his development is more valuable than anything Ginn could add to the offense. If Ginn isn’t going to return punts and isn’t going to be on the field as a wide receiver, it’s hard to make a case for him having a spot on the 53-man roster.

I thought Biggs’ answer to this question was kind. It’s obvious that this fan is biased because Ginn was a good neighbor and a friend.

The truth is that Ginn showed zero interest in fielding punts. From the very first game they asked him to do it, that was evident.

Let’s be honest here. Being a punt returner is a dangerous job. Generally speaking it’s either a hungry, young man’s game for players interested in proving themselves in the league, or it’s a niche for veterans who have shown a talent for it but who haven’t been able to get on the field regularly with the offense or defense.

Ginn almost certainly doesn’t consider himself to be in either of those categories. He certainly is no longer young and he probably feels like he’s proven enough in the league. And he’s probably not ready to accept being in the latter category and probably never will be. He’s made his money. At this point, he’d probably rather his career just ended rather than to be forced to risk his body fielding punts for a living.

With Mooney being much younger and, let’s face it, performing better than Ginn could at this point or, in my opinion, at any point in his career, there just wasn’t a place for Ginn on the roster unless he was willing to use his skills on special teams.

I think this is all interesting because the Bears haven’t seen this problem in recent years. Now they not only have had it with Ginn, but they are dealing with it from Foles, who is having trouble standing in the pocket against the pass rush, trouble that he almost certainly didn’t have when he was younger and dumber.

Up until this year, the free agents that the Bears have signed have generally been young men under the age of 30. But in the 2020 offseason, GM Ryan Pace switched to “win now” mode, signing Robert Quinn (30), Foles (31), Ginn (35), Jimmy Graham (33), and Barkevious Mingo (30). They also chose to resign Danny Trevathan (30) over 26-year old Nick Kwiatkoski.

Suddenly they have become an older team with older team problems. And that’s on top of the fact that the “winning now” isn’t working out the way that they’d hoped.

Getting back to Ginn, it’s entirely possible that this is the end of the road for him as a player. If its any comfort to Chip, above, if his attitude towards the risks of taking punts is an indication of his level of desire in general, that might just be OK with Ginn.

If Subpar Quarterback Play Has to Be Accepted, The Bears Should Start Trubisky, Again.

The blog hasn’t been as active as I’d like lately. Part of it is that I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I don’t put up comments on night games. Instead, I just go to bed and watch the condensed version of the game on Game Pass the next day. It’s much easier to do that when the Bears can’t run a decent offense, as has certainly been the case (again) this season.

It’s also a busy time of the year and, though I love teaching my students, the fall courses that I run don’t allow for much time to write. It makes this blog a better read in the offseason.

In any case, I’m hoping that with the Thanksgiving break I can get a few posts up before things get super busy again.

With that out of the way, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

At this point neither Nick Foles nor Mitch Trubisky has impressed me. Actually, Trubisky has a slightly higher passer rating. If you look at the Baltimore Ravens, Lamar Jackson is a running quarterback who passes when he needs to. I think he is a better athlete than Mitch and the Ravens have intelligently devised an offense to complement his skills. Matt Nagy has tried to make Trubisky into a pocket passer. He will never excel that way. His talents are more like Jackson’s, and Nagy has failed to devise an offense which helps Trubisky. I have a feeling that once Trubisky is released, another team and coach will figure out how best to use him. Perhaps he will become a premier quarterback; players go elsewhere and flourish. In any case, why not play him, giving him option plays. If he succeeds, no need to look for another QB, and if he fails, the Bears move up in the draft. In either case the Bears win. What do you think? — Peter B., Baltimore

You need to understand that high-level quarterback play has to include the ability to not just function but succeed as a pocket passer. That is the NFL. So any coach who has Trubisky would be working with him to improve that aspect of his game. I don’t look at Trubisky and Jackson as being real similar in terms of their skills. Trubisky is dangerous when he runs the ball, but he’s not going to threaten defenses like Jackson does on a weekly basis. The other issue you have is Trubisky has now had shoulder injuries in three consecutive seasons, so there is a bit of a durability concern when you talk about designed runs, which are a big part of the Ravens offense. We’ll see what the coaches aim to do if Trubisky gets back on the field

So there are a couple things to unpack here. Let’s start with the idea that Trubisky is primed to go somewhere else and succeed where he failed with the Bears.

I find this statement to be easy to believe for a couple reasons. First and foremost, I think Peter is right. Matt Nagy really believes in that Kansas City scheme and he didn’t want to have to cut his play book down to ask Trubisky to do less with greater success in his fourth year with the organization. Had he done so – again – I think Trubisky would have done better. He still wouldn’t have been good. But he would have been netter.

Having said that, I can hardly blame Nagy for replacing Trubisky with Foles. It was evident that Trubisky just wasn’t developing and he obviously wasn’t the future here if they were going to run any semblance of the offense Nagy eventually wants to run.

Could Trubisky go somewhere else and develop? I think its possible. One, there might be a better longer term scheme fit out there with simpler reads off of a play action run game. But even more than that, I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Trubisky is just slow to develop. It took him years behind a mediocre quarterback at North Carolina to finally get the starting job. There’s a reason for that. But once he got to the point where he was ready, he was really good. Perhaps that may happen with a new team if Trubisky is given time to develop with a good coaching staff.

Any debate about whether the Bears should actually bring Trubisky back to start should start with the obligatory comment that it all is predicated with the assumption that his shoulder will be healthy enough after the bye to allow him to play. You can consider this to be that statement.

The truth is that there that isn’t much reason for Trubisky to want to risk further injury playing for an offense that is unlikely to highlight his skills for future employers. But I’m sure, like most players, he chose this profession because he wants to play. So I’m guessing he’ll come back if he can.

I hate to advocate for Trubisky to start again because it feels like it’s taking a step back. Trubisky simply wasn’t very good and didn’t look significantly different in the first three games of the season than he had his previous three years as a starter. Bringing him back now seems an awful lot like simply giving up and accepting the fact that you won’t have quality quarterback play for the rest of the year.

However, as Peter pointed out above, it isn’t like Nick Foles has been any better. Foles hasn’t shown the ability to stand tall in the pocket against the pass rush and his mechanics have occasionally been atrocious as a result. True, to my eye he’s better throwing off of his back foot than Trubisky was. But the Bears are last in the league in yards after catch largely because of Foles’ inability to place the ball to a receiver in stride so that a run can result.

It may be necessary to bring Trubisky back. And having said the above, bringing him back might have one or two significant advantages.

I don’t put much stock in the suggestion that Trubisky’s superior mobility is going to bring a lot more production to the offense. Like Biggs above, I believe firmly that in order for a quarterback to be successful in any NFL offense, he has to be able to throw from the pocket. Good teams will contain Trubisky and keep him from burning them by running too often. True, it could provide a boost in isolated spots here and there, but it won’t bring sustained success to the offense over the course of an entire game, let alone all six of the games that are remaining in the season.

But there is one thing that I think might help the offense if Trubisky came back and became the starter again.

At the beginning of the year the coaching staff was putting Trubisky under center far more frequently than they had in the past years. I’m an old-school football fan, a child of the 70s and 80s, and I believe firmly in the sort of downhill running game that putting a quarterback under center can produce along with the kind of play action passing game off of it that can result.

When the Bears switched to Nick Foles to my eye they largely abandoned this philosophy and went more to the shotgun again, something that is more consistent with what Nagy was used to in Kansas City, and probably where Foles felt most comfortable running the offense.

Going back to an offense where the quarterback is under center could improve the run game in the same way it did for the first three games of the year (against inferior opponents, it must be said). That could improve the offense as a whole.

I don’t like it. But it seems evident to me that good quarterback play isn’t going to happen for the Bears this year. And if you accept that, bringing Trubisky back to start again might be the right thing to do.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Titans 11/8/20

Defense

  • Of course, the ultimate question here was going to be whether the Bears could stop the Titans run game without allowing the play action pass to burn them. The Bears did do a good job of stopping the run (2.5 yards per rush at halftime, 3.2 for the game) and I think they did about well stopping the play action pass as you could expect. But the play action pass over the middle was there for the Titans more than occasionally. They did gain some chunks of yardage on it but there were some drops that limited the damage.
  • The Bears did a good job of beating the Titans on first down. That’s eventually putting the Titans in third and long, something they are not built to handle well.
  • Buster Skrine had really good coverage on A.J. Brown on the Titans first touchdown. Sometimes this stuff happens.
  • The Bears got really good pressure on Ryan Tannehill. They had 3 sacks at halftime.
  • Tashaun Gipson has some tackling issues that need to be addressed. Eddie Jackson missed some, too.
  • I’d say the Bears defense did as well as you could expect. It was a good effort totally wasted.

Offense

  • The Bears came out attacking the edges of the Titans defense, apparently believing that they didn’t have the speed, nor the cornerbacks to defend it. They had very little success on the ground (2.8 yards per rush). But much of what they had on the ground did come to the outside.
  • Matt Nagy made a gutsy decision to go for it on fourth and one from the Titans 34 yard line. They didn’t get it behind the re-shuffled offensive line. Not that they would have gotten it behind the starters. Running such a play up the middle is a bit tone deaf. Whether he thinks they should be able to get the yard or not (they should) Nagy should know he doesn’t have the personnel to do it by now.
  • For whatever reason, the Bears largely went with Cordarella Patterson at running back early in the game rather than David Montgomery. Perhaps Nagy thought he was more of a threat to the outside. They certainly had very little success with Montgomery running up the middle. In any case, personally I don’t have a problem with this as I don’t think Patterson’s instincts are as bad as some have made them out to be. But I like Montgomery better and I’d rather see him in there. Eventually he started getting a lot more snaps.
  • Foles struggled with pressure in his face much of the time. It was an anemic Titans defensive line but they brought a lot of pressure to my eye and the Bears re-shuffled offensive line couldn’t handle them. The run blocking also was poor. All in all, the back ups didn’t step up this week as they do on good teams around the league when needed.
  • Foles also showed the fear in the pocket that we saw last week. This is very, very disturbing.
  • The Bears were miserable on third down. They were failed to convert on 13 of 15 until garbage time.
  • For much of the first half it looked to me like Jimmy Graham was the only receiver who could get open and that wasn’t much. The Bears must have adjusted at halftime because more receivers got involved at that point. We finally had a Riley Ridley siting.
  • Few if any targets for Cole Kmet this week. Kmet is an inline tight end and I think its hard to use a guy like that if you don’t have a running game. We didn’t see much from Demetrius Harris either.

Miscellaneous

  • Dick Stockton, Greg Jennings and Laura Okmin were your announcers. I would say that Stockton was his usual self. I’m not as critical as many but he won’t be the favorite of many people. Jennings wasn’t great and added something to the broadcast that I could appreciate only a few times.
  • Special teams
    • Although Pat O’Donnell had a good game, the Bears punt coverage team occasionally got its tail kicked with a number of good returns for good chunks of yardage. I targeted this unit for criticism last week as well.
    • The fake punt and run by Barkevious Mingo was clever (and successful).
    • The Titans made an interesting decision to kick the ball short on the kickoff to open the second half. It was an indication that they were reasonably confident that they could stop the Bears offense with good field position and they didn’t want Patterson to blow open the game with a big return.
    • The Bears kicked a field goal with 12 minutes left in the game and you have to wonder if at that point it was more about not getting shut out than it was about winning the game.
  • The Titans had some open play action passes over the middle open but they didn’t make as much of it as they could have due, in part, to drops. Teams that live and die by such plays need to make those plays all the time.
  • Fourth and one early in the third quarter. False start Arlington Hambright. False start Jimmy Graham. Punt. Typical. The Bears had 5 penalties for 35 yards which is an improvement for a team that entered the game leading the league.
  • Just as the Bears looked like they might finally be able to kick a field goal in the third quarter, Montgomery fumbled. Desmond King brought it back for a touchdown. Anthony Miller’s fumble with 3:45 left in the game extinguished any slim hope the Bears had of coming back.
  • This Bears offense is about as bad as I’ve ever seen right now. And I’ve seen some really bad Bears offenses. Some of the units from the early 2 thousands scarred me for life. One thing is certain. The Bears can’t keep rolling Nick Foles out there at quarterback if he won’t stand in the pocket, as he again failed to do, especially in the first half. No matter how bad the blocking is, you can’t have a guy in there who won’t take advantage on the occasions when they actually do keep the pocket clean. I get it. It’s an easy thing to say when you are sitting on your couch at home. But its not my job. It’s Foles’ and he has to step up and do it or the Bears have to find someone else to step in.