- Perhaps the best feature that Mike Glennon demonstrates and has demonstrated throughout his career is that be protects the football. That perhaps, was the biggest reason why his game on Sunday was so disappointing.
Glennon could be ineffective in a lot of ways but two picks, one a pick six, and a fumble aren’t going to cut it on a team run by a defensive coach like John Fox. That’s why Jay Cutler isn’t here any more. It will be why Glennon loses his job sooner than expected no matter how many excuse you make for him and no matter much pressure he faces from a defensive front seven like Tampa Bay’s.
It doesn’t matter if the Bears resort to recruiting high school players for their offensive line or to play wide receiver. Glennon can’t have many more games like this with Mitch Trubisky waiting in the wings.
- There are a lot of reasons not to start Trubisky over Glennon right now. Probably the biggest is that Glennon is already playing in an offense with one arm tied behind its back with no wide receivers to speak of. Dooming Trubisky to trying to learn to play quarterback in this environment seems less than ideal.
Having said that, there is one good reason to consider starting Trubisky. All training camp we heard that the major difference between Trubisky and Glennon was that the deep ball was part of the offense when Trubisky was on the field.
It’s possible that Trubisky could get more out of these miserable receivers in that area. I’m not saying it would happen – there’s only so much you can do with the talent you are given – but its possible.
In any case I wouldn’t look for the Bears to start Trubisky before Week 5. After having a good game against Atlanta, Glennon will get at least another game. After that, its Thursday Night football against the Packers on a short week and it’s doubtful that the Bears would start Trubisky under those conditions.
I’d look for Monday Night football on October 9 as the earliest date we’d see him.
- One thing that should be legitimately questioned after the Bears loss Sunday is the disappearance of the tight ends from the offense. Dion Simms got one target and it was intercepted. On a team with no depth at wide receiver, that’s something that seems to have “failure” written all over it.
- Brad Biggs 10 Thoughts column on Monday afternoon is almost always the best thing I read all week. This week I will mildly disagree with one point:
I thought the defense, by and large, was OK. They didn’t give up the big play. It’s not like the Bucs ran all over them on the ground. They did face some tough spots with short fields. Another thing the Bears did was allowed long drives. Tampa had drives of 13, nine, eight, 11 and 16 plays. Good defenses find a way to get off the field.
The defense didn’t play badly. But it most certainly was not OK.
Those long drives were a result fo the Tampa Bay offense picking apart a Bears zone defense, one that they were forced to play because defensive coordinator Vic Fangio doesn’t trust his corner backs to cover one-on-one.
When they did cover one-on-one, Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston’s eyes lit up as he threw deep to wide open receivers who were on out matched cover men. Had Winston not consistently over thrown those receivers, the Bucs may have put up a fifty burger, something that may well happen with Aaron Rogers on the agenda in two weeks if something doesn’t change soon.
- The Bucs were spreading the Bears out and attacking the middle of the field, especially the linebackers, in coverage in the passing game.
- They spent a lot of time picking apart the Bears zone coverage and moved the ball well. Whenever the Bears dared to put a corner into single coverage, the Bucs attacked the Bears corners. This was an excellent game plan by the Buccaneers in taking advantage of the weak Bears defensive backfield.
- The good news is that, like last week, the Bears did a good job of stopping the run again despite being in a lot of zone coverage.
- The first drive was stopped on a bad 3rd and 13 pass that looked like a TB miscommunication. This made me wonder if the Bucs were going to suffer from some first game-type problems that the Bears would avoid. Unfortunately we had no opportunity to find out as the game got out of hand early.
- Surprisingly, the Bears were occasionally putting an eighth guy into the box to stop the run and dared the Bucs to pass. It seemed they were often right and the Bucs often ran into the teeth of it. I wonder if there was a tell that the Bears picked up on film.
- Jameis Winston struggled with the deep ball, today, over throwing several oen receivers.
- The Bears started the game with two runningbacks, 2 tight ends and a full back. Ran the ball for a loss of two. Not a good start.
- Bears were once again using the runningbacks as receivers. No surprise with little depth at wide receiver on the team.
- The Bears were using play action more than they did the first game. That’s something they need to do as the running game is all they have to threaten with right now.
- No surprise, the Bears threw lots of little short routes over the middle. The Buccaneers began sitting on the short routes as you might expect. they crowded the line of scrmmage and dared the Bears to throw deep which, of course, they are incapable of doing. Game over even without the turnovers.
- Not a great game for many members of the offensvie line. For instance, there was a total miss by Charles Leno on Levante David early in the game on a run that lost yardage. Leno looked practically helpless on the play. Bobby Massie didn’t have a great game.
- I wouldn’t lay this loss entirely at Mike Glennon’s feet but he certainly didn’t help. He wasn’t very accurate at times and it led to at least one interception that was entirely on him. Some might say that he was under pressure and the line didn’t have a great game. But truth be told the offensive line wasn’t that bad in protection for most of the game, especially considering that both Josh Sitton and Tom Compton went down to injury. Glennon really has no excuses.
- This kind of blow out is a tough game to do as an announcer. Dick Stockton and Mark Schlereth weren’t awful.
- I wouldn’t say that the special teams were really awful this game on either side. Once again, Bears kicker Connor Barth got a kickoff into the endzone for a touchback.
- Jordan Howard had another drop in the second quarter as did Josh Bellamy, Tanner Gentry and Kendall Wright (twice) in the fourth. Awful.
- An unbelievable number of defensive holding calls hurt the Bears continually. For instance, a holding on Danny Trevathan extended the ver first Tampa drive. The drive ended in a field goal. Another one extended a second quarter touch down drive by the Bucs giving the a fresh set of downs at the one yard line.The Bears ended the game with 8 penalties for 59 yards.
- Leonard Floyd picked up a Pernell McPhee strip fumble in the third quarter. Of course, it was way too little way too late.The Glennon interception in the first quarter was thrown behind the receiver. Fortunately the defense hold the Bucs on their own side of the 50 and forced a punt. Unfortunately Tarik Cohen stupidly tried to pick up the ball inside the 15 yard line and turned it right back over. Touch down.Mike Glennon fumbled a ball on a blitz up the middle right into the hands of Lavonte David.Robert McClain intercepted Glennon late in the second quarter for a pick six.Tough to win that way.
- Probably a lot of people will argue that Mike Evans was out of bounds on the Tampa touch down in the first quarter. It was close but I think right foot way down when he caught the ball and that the referees probably got it right.
- Just a quick reminder from twitter in the first half to those who will spend this week calling for Mitch Trubisky:
Hardly ideal to put Mitch in down 23 with O line problems and these receivers.
— Dan Pompei (@danpompei) September 17, 2017
Amen. I wouldn’t want to doom anyone to being the quarterback of this team right now. And I really wonder how much anyone could learn under these circumstances.
8. This was one of the toughest game I can remember having to watch. My only comfort is that it wasn’t the Packers. Yet.I can go on and on about penalties, turnovers and the fact that the Bears are going to have a very hard time competing with no wide receivers and no cornerbacks. But let’s just bottom line this.This miserable franchise is a national laughing stock. Again.
Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reports that the Bears claimed kicker Roberto Aguayo off of waivers Monday.
The kicker has a very strong leg but his accuracy has been suspect since he was drafted in the second round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Aguayo’s accuaracy was only 71% in 2016, last in the NFL.
The Bears agreed to pay his $500,000 guaranteed salary and though head coach John Fox said that the money wasn’t “significant enough to not take a look” it indicates that this isn’t just a question of signing camp competition for kicker Connor Barth.
Barth is extremely accurate within 35 yards but you never got the feeling that the Bears were completely happy with him, especially after he had a bit of a rough start last year before pulling himself together for the majority of the season. His range is limited and, though Barth has a history with special teams coordinator Jeff Rogers, the Bears front office may figure that it’s time to sign a kicker who can do a little bit more.
It’s hard to know what’s been going on with Aguayo but guaranteeing him half million dollars may indicate that the Bears have an idea of what is wrong with him and how to fix it. If its mental, that may be tough to do but Aguayo was considered to be one of the best prospects ever coming out of college at Florida State where he must have faced at least some high pressure situations. The Bucs traded third- and fourth-round picks to move up 15 spots in the second round last year to select Aguayo.
According to Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune at least one unnamed special teams coordinator said Aguayo was confounding to him because the kicker struggles to replicate the same mechanics from kick to kick. The Bears appear to be betting that Rogers may be able to help with that in a way that the Buccaneers coaches couldn’t.
It will be interesting to see how it works out.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. And mine:
“Mike Glennon seems to be getting lost in the midst of all of the [Jimmy] Garoppolo love. What are the odds the Bears go in his direction? — @bearingthenews
“Glennon is going to be an unrestricted free agent and there will no doubt be some interest in him. Will the Bears go in his direction? I don’t know about that. But I do know the Bears cannot reach the opening of free agency without having thoroughly evaluated every single quarterback that could potentially be available. There seems to be more love for Glennon now than there ever was when he was starting for the Buccaneers. He last took a meaningful snap in the 2014 season before the Bucs acquired Jameis Winston with the No. 1 overall pick. Glennon has started 18 games in his career so there is a lot more tape to evaluate than there is with Garoppolo. Glennon has completed 374 of 630 passes (59.4 percent) for 4,100 yards, 30 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. The 27-year-old was has been sacked 56 times and at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds, and he’s not particularly mobile. He’s going to have a chance to play for someone but most of the scouts I talk to are lukewarm on him. He’s a little robotic and I tend to believe the buzz surrounding Glennon is partially a result of skepticism people have for the crop of quarterbacks in this draft class. No one can say with certainty that there is a big-time franchise quarterback on the horizon.”
I wrote this question in early February and it was published on February 9. It was motivated by the fact that for the two previous offseasons, speculation about whether the Bucs would trade Glennon was an annual rite of spring. He was behind Winston on the depth chart and, as Biggs said, given the supply and demand for quarterbacks, he was seen as a young, viable prospect that at least some teams evidently felt could still be developed. Since then, Biggs has reported that the Bears have interest in signing Glennon in free agency and it really came as no surprise to me. Despite the lukewarm feeling you get from Biggs’s response to the question, there’s a lot there to like about him.
The Bears are reportedly very interested in the intangibles when it comes to determining their future at quarterback. In this respect, Glennon is hard to judge. He was known as a calm, collected leader who had the respect of his teammates when he came out of North Carolina. Not a red flag but not really a strength, either.
Having said that, I went back and looked at some of the tape of Glennon with the Buccaneers in 2013. He’s a big, tall player at 6’7” and throws the ball on a rope with a really big arm. Furthermore, he’s accurate and, as the statistics indicate, he takes care of the ball, throwing it with anticipation but usually only where the receiver can catch it.
That last aspect of his game, the ability to protect the football, cannot be understated. Everyone once in a while, a Bears fan will write in to express his or her love of Matt Barkley. I can state with surety that you can forget about the Bears ever re-signing him. Last season, Barkley threw 3 interceptions against the Packers in week 15. Knowing that he needed to improve that aspect of his game and not let it happen again, he came back the next week and threw 5 against the Redskins. He followed that with 2 more in just over 3 quarters of play against the Vikings in week 17. At that point, Barkley’s future with the team was sealed and the Bears had to know that he was a hopeless case.
John Fox is a defensive head coach. He can live with mediocre quarterback play such as that which Brain Hoyer displayed in relief of Jay Cutler last year. But he absolutely cannot have a turnover machine at the position. Whether its Barkley or Cutler, who is all but gone, no one will be playing quarterback for the Bears unless he can protect the football. Glennon does that.
As Biggs points out, Glennon is a statue in the pocket and that’s probably the biggest reason why the Buccaneers felt that they had to draft Winston. But I’m not so sure that means that Glennon should simply be classified as a “bridge quarterback” on the way to something better should the Bears sign him. My gut tells me that there’s a lot to work with there. The Bears probably have a better offensive line than the Bucs did, particularly up the middle, and they may do a better job of protecting a less mobile quarterback. Furthermore, the work that Dowell Loggains did with Hoyer and particularly Connor Shaw last year before injuries derailed them seems to have convinced the Bears that he might get more out of a guy like Glennon than the Buccaneers did.
Even if the Bears sign Glennon, they still have to draft a quarterback. They have to reverse the trend that they’ve established in recent years by starting to take swings at the position and drafting real potential starters in the first three rounds.
But based upon what I’ve seen of Glennon, if they can get him to step up, shuffle his feet and move around just a bit more inside the pocket, the Bears might surprise some media and fans locally by getting more than is generally expected from him. I’m not at all convinced that Glennon doesn’t still have a future as a very good NFL starter and if the Bears sign him, you can bet that they probably see what I see. That along with the potential development of Shaw and a good, solid draft pick could quickly put them in a good spot at a position that up until now has been a neglected, barren wasteland for the franchise.
Joe Bucs Fan tries to climb into the mind of Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith by posting excerpts and/or highlights from Smith’s book, “You Win in the Locker Room”. He doesn’t think much of this part:
“The biggest theme in Smith’s book is all about ‘culture.’ Joe thinks this may be an empty word bordering on misleading. Every coach preaches culture. Hell, former Bucs commander Greg Schiano was huge on this. But what happened? It blew up in his face after some head-scratching personnel moves and a quarterback going mental.”
“If you have, say, Chucky drafting the players and Lovie Smith coaching the players, Joe doesn’t give a damn what kind of culture a guy preaches, no talent and not knowing how to use that talent will get you fired very quickly. It’s all about winning. Culture doesn’t mean a damned thing.”
There’s some truth to this. You certainly aren’t going anywhere without talent and good coaching.
But beyond that I have to disagree. Players interact as a group and anyone who has ever played competitive sports, hell anyone who has just been part of a crowd that watches competitive sports, knows that people feed off of one another in that type of environment.
Expectations are set in part by the people around you and what they do. If you are part of a group where the majority stay and do the extra work and put forth the extra effort to do the little things to win, you are much more likely to do that yourself. That maximizes talent and leads to a better chance of winning on the field.
I wouldn’t under-estimate the power that lies in this type of interaction. A core group of players doing the right thing can lead weaker members of the team onto the right path. That’s why the Patriots can, say, add Martellus Bennett and expect him to succeed where he failed with the Bears. They have a culture where such antics as his aren’t tolerated, not just by the coaches, but by a large group of veteran players who know how to win.
Establishing a “culture” of winning is a real thing. It’s something that can be the difference between a talented team that consistently finds victory and one that more often than not falls short.
Dag Hammarskjöld once said, “It is when we all play safe that we create a world of the utmost insecurity.” I doubt he was thinking of former Bears head coach Lovie Smith when he said it. But Smith certainly seems to fit the expression.
Austin Murphy at SI.com details the history of Carolina head coach Ron Rivera with Smith. Smith let Rivera, his defensive coordinator, leave after the 2010 Super Bowl. Rivera has now climbed his way back to participate in Super Bowl 50. For some, this will be ancient history but I found it to be good reading:
“Dan Hampton puts a finer point on [Rivera’s departure], as is his wont: ‘Lovie stabbed him in the back,’ says the former Bears defensive tackle and Hall of Famer.”
“They were not necessarily aligned, philosophically. Smith, who’d coached linebackers for Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay from 1996 to 2000, was a proponent of his mentor’s Tampa-2. Rivera preferred a more balls-out, attacking style. He’d played for Buddy Ryan, father of the famed 46 defense, then served a second apprenticeship as Eagles linebackers coach from 1999 to ’03, soaking up knowledge from the late, legendary Jim Johnson, a DC known for his ultra-aggressive, blitz-happy schemes.
“That creative tension seemed to be working. Blending elements of those schemes, the Bears limited opponents to 15.9 points per game during their Super Bowl run in ’06. ‘A dissenting voice in the room is a positive thing,’ points out ex-Bears wideout Tom Waddle, a one-time Rivera teammate who is now a prominent media presence in Chicago. ‘And I can guarantee you, Ron Rivera as a dissenting voice is not a negative or destructive voice.'”
Murphy goes on to detail Smith’s tendency to hire coaches out of “loyalty” and how this led to his downfall both in Chicago and, especially, in Tampa Bay.
To some extent, Murphy misses the point, either because he doesn’t see it or he doesn’t want to be too hard on Smith. Smith doesn’t just hire coaches out of loyalty. He hires them because, having worked with them, he knows what they think. You and I and Waddle see creative tension as a good thing. But a very proud and sensitive Smith sees it as insubordination and there would be none of that on a coaching staff littered with his friends.
Given that Smith was replaced in Tampa Bay by hiring his own replacement in Dirk Koetter, one of the few coaches on his staff that he’d never coached with before, I think it unlikely that he’ll be changing his ways if he gets another chance at a head coaching gig. Smith did a lot of good things in Tampa Bay and they were getting better. But you have to wonder if his insecurities will always limit his success.
- Tampa Bay played a familiar Lovie Smith-style bend but don’t break defense but the blitzed more than is usual, presumably to put pressure on the somewhat weak Bears offensive line. It was reasonably effective.
- The Bears responded by trying to be patient and limit mistakes in a ball control, run first offensive game plan.
- The Bears game took a while to get going, as usual. The Bears have scored only 41 points in the 1st quarter this year.
- The offense got going better after the first quarter. The Bucs helped them along to their first touchdown with a timely facemask penalty followed by a pass interference. They also executed better and played cleaner.
- The Bears were double teaming Gerald McCoy whenever they could with Vlad Ducasse and Kyle Long. This was particularly evident in short yardage where they ran right over the spot where they double team was. It seems that the Bucs may have been blitzing so often in an effort to prevent this double team by occupying both Ducasse and Long. This led directly to a sack given up by Ducasse isolated on McCoy in the second quarter in the red zone.
- The Bears offensive line had a very hard time protecting Cutler against that blitz. Tampa Bay only had one sack but Cutler was constantly under pressure.
- The Bears also had some success running to the right with Matt Slauson pulling to that side. This was a good plan against a Tampa Bay defensive line that always works to penetrate and get up field first.
- Tampa Bay did a good job on the Bears screen plays. Teams are preparing well for this now.
- Matt Forte (11 carries for 54 yards) ran very well today. This great vision was more evident than usual as he cut back and picked out holes. Jeremy Langford didn’t do badly (19 carries for 93 yards) but he looked like he still has some things to learn from Forte in comparison today.
- The Bears struggled a bit on third down (6 of 15) as the Bucs came through with some big plays. They also settled for field goals in the red zone when they needed touchdowns, again.
- Ka’Deem Carey scores not only a a good, hard run but actually catches a pass for the second touchdown. Who saw that coming? Probably not the Bucs.
- Zack Miller (7 catches for 64 yards) had a sneaky good game and led the Bears in receiving.
- Jay Cutler didn’t have to do that much but came through when he had to and statistically (20 of 27 for 156 yards, passer rating 100.2) he was excellent.
- Tampa Bay obviously is a run first team and they do it effectively with Doug Martin. The Bears countered with a lot of nickel defense but with eight in the box. This gets an extra defensive back on to the field to prevent those easy throws to running backs and tight ends that have been burning the linebackers so badly lately. That’s a good, smart adjustment that paid off.
- The Bears only rushed three in some obvious passing situations, probably in an effort to make Jameis Winston force a stupid throw. Winston did a reasonably good job of not doing that, trying to run out of trouble instead. He’s not dumb, that’s for sure. Having said that, he threw an interception under pressure from Christian Jones on the blitz in the third quarter in the red zone that was pretty bone-headed. So they still have to pound some of that out of him.
- The Bears didn’t appear to me to be blitzing much and they weren’t getting much pressure on Winston. This was a major advantage for Tampa Bay as they threw deep a number of times to burn the Bears after Winston was given forever to throw. Never was the need to acquire a pass rusher in the offseason more evident for the Bears.
- Harold Jones-Quartey had a good game and made a case for himself as a future Bear. He had a big hit that caused a fumble in the second quarter and stood out occasionally in coverage. His interception in the third quarter with the Bucs driving in the red zone was huge.
- Doug Martin (17 carries for 49 yards) had a mediocre first half. He come out after half time and ran very hard as the Bucaneers came out even more determined to run. They ran five straight times until Charles Sims caught a touchdown pass. The Bears responded by keying on the run with renewed attention and did a good job of stopping them.
- I’m not sure what the reason for it was but an awful lot of Buccaneers were getting open deep in the second half. Every time you looked up there was a wide receiver running free with a Bears defensive back trailing about three yards behind. That needs to stop. Fortunately Winston also has what appears to me to be a bad habit of under-throwing receivers deep. The Buccaneers would have blown this game wide open in the second half had he connected on more of those throws.
- The defense did a good job on third down, allowing just two conversions out of eight tries.
- Sam Rosen, Matt Millen, Peter Peter Schrager did a reasonably good job. Millen has a bad habit of being wrong and then having to correct himself but he also does a good job of going back to break down plays and show them exactly why they worked. He’s a surprisingly good teacher. I like him.
- A blocked Bears punt by Jeremiah George led to a Doug Martin touchdown. It looked like LaRoy Reynolds may have failed to block George. Robbie Gould had a good game, connecting on three field goals. His problems a few weeks ago seem to be over.
- Neither team committed that many penalties but some of them were very poorly timed, especially by the Buccaneers. A false start by Kyle Long turned a third and goal from the four to a third and goal from the nine. A holding penalty by Vlad Ducasse late in the fourth quarter killed a first down. They settled for a field goal. On the Buccaneers side, a big facemask penalty brought back a William Gholston interception. A facemask followed by a pass interference penalty set up the Bears touchdown in the second quarter.
- Eddie Royal dropped a touchdown. Mike Evans returned the favor by dropping one in the fourth quarter.
- Turnovers were huge here, of course, as the Bears won that battle 3-0. The Bears got a fumble caused by a hit by Harold Jones-Quartey. It was recovered by John Timu. Timu recovered another big fumble in the third quarter at the Bucs 22 yard line. Jon Anderson appeared to make the big hit. Harold Jones-Quartey came up with a big interception in the red zone in the third quarter.
- You hate to see injuries, especially to guys like Hroniss Grasu and Eddie Goldman, so late in the season. Grasu eventually returned. Here’s hoping the Goldman injury is similarly minor. Jarvis Jenkins, who has had a reasonably good season, left the game early and would also be missed. The defensive line wasn’t a strength to begin with.
- It’s debatable but I thought the Buccaneers were the more talented team, today. But turnovers and a few key mistakes burned them badly and the Bears played cleanly enough to take advantage. That doesn’t sound exciting but its darned important. When the Bears aren’t committing penalties and shooting themselves in the foot, they can win games they shouldn’t be in. Today was a prime example of that.
David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune praises former Bears head coach Lovie Smith but at the same time under-states the positives of current head coach John Fox by stating that there’s not much difference between the two:
“The praise heaped on Fox comes mostly because he benefits by comparison to predecessor Marc Trestman, the cerebral interloper more suited as a life coach than an NFL head coach.”
“Truth is, Fox re-established credibility at Halas Hall by doing the job much the way Smith did for nine seasons: treating players like men and employing a philosophy built on a strong defense and conservative offense… If Smith could hire offensive coordinators as well as Fox has, perhaps he could have returned to a Super Bowl with the Bears.”
“Fox’s consistency in approach — something that always helped Smith connect with players — gives the Bears hope for the future no matter what their 2015 record is.
“Meanwhile, history gets a little kinder to Smith every week.”
I think everyone recognizes Smith’s accomplishments here and I think everyone recognized them when he left. But we also recognized his faults and there’s no doubt that Fox is a great improvement as a head coach. Fox has almost all of Smith’s positive attributes with out the baggage brought by Smith’s weird combination of both arrogance and insecurity.
It was the arrogance that made him insist on more power over personnel than he should have had in Chicago. It’s what’s gong to end up holding the Buccaneers back with Smith in charge of personnel there. As former bear general manager Jerry Angelo put it:
[James Winston is] right on the cusp of being a franchise quarterback. They were a really bad team a year ago and they’re not really that much better this year except for him.
My mother could have drafted Winton or Marcus Mariota.
It was his insecurity that caused his poor record of hiring coordinators. Smith insisted they have experience working with him before because he was afraid of the creative tension that might be brought on by someone with a different point of view. He also lived by the tenant that you should never hire anyone good enough to be your own replacement. Even if you discount these speculations the fact remains that Smith couldn’t attract the best coaches.
Fox has none of these problems as demonstrated by the fact that he hired offensive coordinator Adam Gase and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, the two best available coordinators of 2015. He stays in the background and helps them do their jobs rather than doing it for them as Smith did with the defense after firing Ron Rivera for the sin of occasionally disagreeing with him.
In many ways Smith was a wonderful head coach and despite his flaws he brought some good years to Chicago and I’m grateful. But I don’t miss him. Looking back, the Bears are much better off now than they ever were then.
Things you should know about the Buccaneers as the Bears head out to face them this Sunday in Tampa Bay:
- Buccaneers running back Doug Martin has 1305 yards rushing on the year in a contract season. That’s only nine yards behind the Vikings Adrian Peterson for the league lead. The Bears did an adequate job stopping Peterson on Sunday and they’ll have to do the same or better against Martin. It will be interesting to see if they choose to put eight in the box against Martin as they did against Peterson or if they choose to try to stop him with the standard seven which has been more their habit this season when facing good running backs.
- Not to be forgotten in the running back mix is Charles Simms. Simms is one of the best at catching balls out of the backfield this year. He is one of only four running backs in the NFL with at least 400 yards rushing and receiving. The others are Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram and Giovanni Bernard. He’s averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Add in the threat of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who returned this month from a shoulder injury that had left him sidelined since week 2, and this is all bad news for the Bears who have struggled to cover both running backs and tight ends with their linebackers. Look for the Buccaneers to take full advantage of that match up.
- Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will have a reasonable opportunity to get back on track this week. Of course, the Bucs defense might be saying the same thing about the Bears. The Buccaneer’s secondary has been their biggest weakness this year. Opposing quarterbacks have completed a NFL high 69% of their passes against them this year. Opponents have a passer rating of 100.3, fifth highest in the NFL, and its 107.9 the past three games. They’ve made Ryan Mallett, Matt Hasselbeck and Case Keenum look like franchise quarterbacks.
- On the other hand, the Bucs have been very good against the run. They held Rams rookie Todd Gurley to 48 yards on 21 carries on Thursday. They are tied with Denver for the league lead at 3.3 yards per carry. Again, this doesn’t bode well for the Bears who rely on ball control and defense when they are playing well.
- This game will be a contest to see who will have the worst first quarter. Like the Bears, the Bucs are becoming notorious for their slow starts. They have averaged just 3.4 points in the first quarter. Greg Auman at the Tampa Bay Times reports:
“‘It affects your game plan when you’re playing from behind, obviously,’ rookie G Ali Marpet said after Thursday’s 31-23 loss. ‘Our mentality is to run the ball first, and it takes you out of that, which is frustrating.'”
Tell me about it.
- The Bucs are also struggling on special teams. They gave up two long kickoff returns to the Rams, a 44-yarder on the opening kickoff to set up a touchdown and a 102-yarder that led to a fourth-quarter field goal. We can hope the Bears are headed in the opposite direction after a good effort Sunday against the Vikings.
Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune reviews the problems that the Bears have to overcome in order to continue to win football games.
“Jay Cutler’s turnover-free night? Well, Quentin Rollins dropped a shoulda-been interception in the first quarter. And Cutler had to make a desperate hustle recovery to avoid disaster on a fumbled fourth-quarter snap.
“That spirited defensive effort? The Bears still are getting pushed around up front and proving way too vulnerable against the run.
“This list could go on for awhile. And it’s why the Bears can’t take their newfound position as favorites against the 49ers and Redskins as a sign that they can exhale. They still have a razor-thin margin for error and haven’t enjoyed a three-game winning streak since September 2013.”
He’s got a good point. In talking to Bears fans around town and around the Internet, there’s considerable optimism about how this team is going to finish the year. What I’m hearing a lot is, “With that schedule? They’re going to the playoffs.” Much though I like what I see, I think fans are setting themselves for disappointment.
Looking ahead, I see San Fransisco, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. Are those winnable games? You bet. But I feel compelled to point out that those teams are saying the same thing about their game against the 5-6 Bears. And with the exception of the Vikings, all of them are on the upswing, just as the Bears are. And the Vikings were pretty good to begin with.
San Fransisco just limited the Cardinals, possibly the best team in the NFC, to 19 points. Tampa Bay has won three of their last five and is in contention for a playoff spot. Washington has also won three of five and are the favorites to win their division. The Lions just beat the Packers three weeks ago in Lambeau, matching what the Bears just did, and they absolutely destroyed the Eagles on Thanksgiving. And both the Vikings and the Lions beat the Bears earlier in the year.
Could the Bears finish strong and be in contention for the playoffs? No doubt. But much more likely fans will be sitting at the end of the year and be happy that the Bears gradually improved over the course of the season with a bright future ahead of them. But only if they stay grounded in reality.