Perhaps the Most Worrisome Problem

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune breaks down a Stefon Diggs 33 yard touchdown pass that seemed to encapsulate the day the Bears had Sunday:

“‘I saw the ball released out of ([quarterback Teddy] Bridgewater‘s) hand and I saw Diggs coming back across the field by himself,’ [cornerback Alan] Ball said. ‘That’s when I realized we were in trouble. … A lot was going on. I need to go back and look and see how that was supposed to be played.'”

Of all the things that bothered Wiederer on this play, and there was, indeed, a lot to digest, the one thing that bugs me the most is that the Bears didn’t straighten this out immediately on the sideline. I think it should have been obvious who had who and not taking care of the problem left the Bears open to making the same mistake again.

What might be worse is if either Ball or Tracy Porter already know who was responsible but was unwilling to be accountable by pointing the finger at himself.

Either way this is a bad sign.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Vikings 12/20/15

vikings_at_bears_2014-624x350Offense

  1. The Bears tried to run their usual ball control offensive game plan. They came out in a double tight end set and tried to establish the run. They eventually found that wasn’t working and tried spreading the field instead but it didn’t really matter.  The Vikings did a good job of getting penetration up front and did a reasonable job of limiting Matt Forte (8 caries, 47 yards) and Jeremy Langford (11 carries, 46 yards) on the ground.
  2. The Bears really got beat up front and that made the difference in the game. The Vikings simply beat both Hroniss Grasu and Kyle Long in particular like a drum. Long got beat for two sacks (one resulting in a Jay Cutler strip and turnover) and the line as a whole gave up five.
  3. The Vikings were, as usual, very effective with the occasional blitz though they really didn’t need it.
  4. Alshon Jeffery scored a touchdown but was really pretty much non-existent in this game as it was his only catch. It may not be a coincidence that it came the play after Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes left the game with an injury. Terence Newman was left to cover him on the play.
  5. Zack Miller (6 receptions for 54 yards) had another reasonably good game and Eddie Royal (5 receptions for 31 yards) came off of the injured list to make his presence felt.
  6. Jay Cutler (26 of 37 for 231 yards) missed Eddie Royal deep on what would have been a long gain and he threw one interception on what was supposed to be a screen to Matt Forte but overall he didn’t have a bad game.

Defense

  1. The Vikings also came out trying to establish the run and they were more successful with Adrian Peterson (18 carries, 63 yards) and Matt Assiata (5 carries, 28 yards). Peterson was running particularly well. Unlike the last time these teams met, the Bears felt the need to occasionally throw eight into the box to stop the Viking running game. They may have felt that Teddy Bridgewater couldn’t beat them. If so, they were obviously wrong.
  2. The Bears got beaten at the line of scrimmage by what has been a miserable Vikings offensive line. This was a pretty poor performance by the Bears front seven.
  3. The Vikings took full advantage of the miserable Bears linebacker situation with a series of short passes over the middle and to running backs out of the back field. Stefon Diggs once again burned the Bears with 3 receptions for a very damaging 55 yards. Kyle Rudolph had a couple receptions for 21 yards and wasn’t the factor I thought he’d be after the Bears were burned so badly by Jordan Reed last week. But the real damage was done by running back Jerick McKinnon, who had 4 receptions for 76 yards. The Vikings were splitting him out wide in the same way the Bears have had a habit of using Forte this year.
  4. Willie Young once again collected a sack, the Bears only one of the day. He’s turning out to be a bright spot this year.
  5. Hats off to Teddy Bridgewater (17 of 20 for 231 yards). He was nearly perfect today. The first touchdown pass to Diggs was a beautiful throw.
  6. The Bears defense got off to a rough start as they looked unorganized with a lot of switching around and pointing on the Vikings first drive. They didn’t look ready to go today.

Miscellaneous

  1. The Bears special teams were better today. They did a particularly good job of returning kick offs for good gains, giving the offense reasonable field position. Sherrick McManis got an onside kick to start the second half (though the Bears lost one later in an effort to come from behind).
  2. The Bears had 6 penalties for 39 yards which is an improvement. But the ones they had were damaging. They’re still getting too many holding calls, including one against Hroniss Grasu on the first play of the game that brought back a Matt Forte 35 yard run.
  3. Drops weren’t a significant factor in the game.
  4. The Bears aren’t going to win many games where they lose the turnover battle. This one was no exception. Kyle Long gave up a strip sack and Jay Cutler threw an interception on an attempted screen pass that I’m sure he’d like to have back.
  5. This game was pretty simple. The better team won. There are all kinds of things like turnovers and penalties that factored in but they really didn’t matter. The Bears lost one-on-one battles all over the field, highlighting their lack of talent and experience. They got beat at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The linebackers got beat by the fast McKinnon. The defensive backs got beat by the receivers like Diggs. The game quite simply showed the difference in where these teams are at right now with the Bears rebuilding and the Vikings rightfully competing for a division title.

Bears Facing a Motivated Vikings Team with Major Weaknesses

Ben Goessling at ESPN describes the Vikings chances of making the playoffs. They’re pretty good.

“The Vikings (8-5) will enter Week 15 as one of only five NFC teams with fewer than seven losses. No matter what happens around the conference in Weeks 15 and 16, they can clinch a playoff spot by winning back-to-back home games against the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. And while they’d be marching into a thicket of tiebreaking procedures if they win only one of their final three, they’d still have a good chance to reach the playoffs, considering the teams chasing them for a wild-card spot are all 6-7 or worse. Essentially, if the Vikings get to nine wins, one of the teams chasing them would have to win out just to be tied with them. And if they get to 10 wins, they’re in no matter what.

“They’re also in control of their own chances to win the NFC North, despite the Green Bay Packers pulling ahead of them in the division with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. If the Vikings win their final three games — including a victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 17 — they would at worst be tied with Green Bay at 11-5 and would win the division by virtue of a better division record (5-1 to 3-3). Even if the Vikings lost to the Bears on Sunday, they’d have a chance to win the division title as long as they’re within a game of the Packers by the time the two teams meet.”

This Sunday, the Bears are facing a motivated team that played pretty well against the Arizona Cardinals last week. But I have my doubts about how capable the Vikings are of showing well down the stretch. They have a miserable offensive line and it will take a successful short passing game an everything their defense could give them to stay competitive with even the teams in the bottom half of the league. Star runningback Adrian Peterson averaged only 3 yards per carry against the Cardinals and it was only 1.68 after he came out with a hot start during the first series.

I was high on the Vikings coming into the season and thought that they had a decent chance to unseat the Packers as the division winners. But I’m afraid that their weaknesses up front will be their downfall. Even with their chances being as good as they are, I can’t imagine that they will go far in the playoffs if they make them at all.

It’s Viking Week and You Know What That Means…

It was in 2001 after a particularly tough loss to the Bears when I found this cry from a Viking fan on the Internet.  Long time readers of my blog posts at various sites over the years know that it has been reposted every season since during Viking week.

My admiration for this anonymous fan is almost as strong as my sympathy for anyone who is stuck rooting for what is traditionally one the most gutless teams in the NFL.  I think that, more than any other organization, the Vikings have probably made the least out of the most talent over the last twenty years.  But I will never be able to express that sentiment with the eloquence of this poet.  Enjoy.

I’ve had it! I can’t take this shit no more! I’m done! THIS TEAM IS A  GODDAMN EMBARASSMENT AND I HAVE HAD IT! I BURNED MY VIKINGS FLAG YESTERDAY, CHUCK FOREMAN GAVE IT TO ME WHEN I WAS A KID! I BURNED THE FUCKING THING AND MY WIFE FREAKED OUT SO I ENDED UP FORKING THE FIERY RAG AND THROWING’ER IN THE WEBER GRILL. GODDAMN RACCOONS! AND GODDAMN THE HEARTLESS VIKINGS AND ALL THEIR GODDAMN EXCUSES! I WANT MY DEVOTION BACK! AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN GAMES, AND ALL THOSE GODDAMN HEARTBREAKS!.

I QUIT. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!.

ARE WE CURSED? ARE WE CURSED?!!

As a bonus addition, I’ve added the radio call of the last Hail Mary pass in the Vikings’ (gutless and predictable) loss to the 3-12 Arizona Cardinals in the final game of 2003.  The loss (and the play) knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs.  Just listening will immediately warm any Bear fan’s heart.

Game Winning TD, Vikings-Cardinals, 2003

Tracy Porter to the Pro Bowl?

Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times takes us through 10 Bears question marks:

“9. Who on the Bears can make the Pro Bowl?

Tracy Porter, maybe? No Bears player leads their position group in fan voting, which runs through Tuesday on NFL.com. Only two NFC North players do: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.”

Porter is the 36th ranked cornerback in the league of 118 rated according to Pro Football Focus.  Kyle Long is also in the middle of the pack at tackle.  Not that that’s the definitive reference. But its all we’ve got.

Porter isn’t one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Indeed, as far as I can tell, the Bears have no Pro Bowlers at all. I consider this to be yet another demonstration of how effective the coaching staff has been at extracting the most out of what talent they have been given.

The Reality of the Bears Situation

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.

Revising Expectations for the Bears

Jon Greenberg at ESPN is revising his expectations for the Bears:

“In the beginning … we predicted 6-10 for the Chicago Bears and it seemed just about right.”

“But then Jay Cutler returned [from injury] ahead of schedule and things settled down, and now, weeks after fans stopped watching games between their outstretched fingers, this looks like, knock on Mike Ditka’s pompadour, it could be a wholly respectable team with a longshot chance of making the postseason.”

The Bears are on a hot streak and Cutler is certainly a big part of that. But Cutler or not, I’m sticking with 6-10.

The Bears are 4-5 and at this point in the season, I think that’s great. But let’s not forget that they are the same team that lost to the Lions a month ago. They’ve won two games since then but they’ve gotten a lot of help from two teams that, frankly, played well below their talent level. Such things have a bd habit of evening out and more often than not, given decent coaching and a good environment, teams end up right where their talent level says they should.

I’m not disparaging the Bears here. I think they’re a well-coached team that is making progress every week. But Denver is a much better team that is unlikely to give the game away with poor discipline in the same manner that the Rams did. And I don’t care how badly the Packers are slipping at the moment, I can’t believe that they won’t pull it together and beat the Bears on Thanksgiving. I also see the Vikings as a loss in Minnesota. After that, the Bears are still a team that’s going to be no more than a coin flip against Washington, San Fransisco, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. If they win half of those, that’s two more wins. And that’s where I’m still sitting.

Quick Game Comments: Vikings at Bears 11/1/15

8001efbd2fbdab541edf5f33bd78595f.cfDefense

  1. Kyle Fuller was given the assignment of covering Vikings break out wide receiver Stephon Diggs for a good part of this game though Tracy Porter did have him on occasion. Both did a reasonable job all in all. Diggs finally beat Sherrick McManis for a long touchdown in the fourth quarter. I’m not sure how the Vikings managed to manipulate the match ups but Diggs ended up with 96 yards on 6 receptions, much of that in the fourth quarter when neither Fuller nor Porter were covering him.
  2. Undrafted Bryce Callahan was the nickel back instead of Sherrick McManis, who has been burned too often lately. He did OK.
  3. The Bears had a hard time getting pressure on Bridgewater against a porous Viking offensive line with their for man rush. They did have some success on occasion with the blitz.
  4. Significantly, the Bears, though obviously keying on Vikings RB Adrian Peterson, weren’t stacking the box to stop him. It looked to me like they were getting mauled at the line of scrimmage in the running game and Peterson had a good game at 103 yards on 20 carries. Some good linebacker play and some timely blitzing did help cover a lot of problems on the defensive line. When you look at the score, you can’t really fault them. They did something right.
  5. For most of two quarters the Bears couldn’t sniff out a screen pass on third down for the life of them. They finally seemed to get the picture about half way through the second quarter.
  6. Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t holding the ball too long as often this week as he did last week against the Lions. He was generally getting rid of the ball quick and relying on Adrian Peterson to run against a Bears defense that refuses to stack the box against him. Like his opposite on the Bears sideline, he could have been more consistent. there were a lot of miscommunications between Bridgewater and the receivers.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out in a double tight end set. Despite that, they weren’t running much out of it to begin the game. Apparently they thought their tight ends were a mismatch for Matt Forte and their tight ends in the passing game. They probably thought they could set up the run later.
  2. The offensive line was patchwork this week but despite that I wouldn’t say they had a horrible game. Patrick Omameh started at right guard, and Vladimir Ducasse could moved to the left guard spot. Charles Leno gave up a sack and they had a hard time pulling and getting out in front of outside runs but overall it was OK.
  3. Despite the fact that it doesn’t ever work that well, the Bears love that wildcat formation with Matt Forte.
  4. As color man Ronde Barber repeatedly pointed out the Vikings really tacklie well.
  5. This was a miserable Bears offensive game for most of the first two quarters. The Bears were afraid to be aggressive with their play calling, probably due to limits to their personnel. I understand being conservative and sticking with the short passing game but that has to be more than wide receiver screens that aren’t working. Cutler finally got off a long pass to Martellus Bennett late in the second quarter and the offense broke out a little bit.
  6. I might also point out that though the wide receiver screens weren’t working, the regular screens to the running back that they started throwing in the third quarter were working. This was a nice adjustment.
  7. Wonderful catch for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone by Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery had a very good game. For some reason the Vikings apparently weren’t giving him a lot of special attention. He was really their only reliable receiver.
  8. It was interesting to see Martellus Bennett line up to block for Matt Forte in the backfield in the third quarter. That might be a good role for him to play on occasion.
  9. I would say that generally this was a typical 2015 Jay Cutler game. Some good movement in the pocket. Some good throws. Some head shakers. All-in-all another decent outing.

Miscellaneous

  1. Chris Myers is a professional and Ronde Barber is OK but sometimes I think Barber is just the master of the obvious. Not a lot of great insight there and I never feel like I’m learning much. Holly Sonders is fine but I miss Jen Hale
  2. Marc Mariani dropped the first two punts of the game. Robbie Gould hit a 55 yard field goal to open the scoring for the game. Gould missed a field goal in the third quarter that they really could have used. The Viking punt return in the first quarter for a touchdown by Marcus Sherels was the result of some terrible punt return coverage.
  3. This officiating crew called more penalties in the first seven weeks than any other group. Despite that I wouldn’t call the number of penalties in this game excessive. Patrick Omameh had a holding call. Sam Acho had a late, helmet-to-helmet on Bridgewater.
  4. There weren’t a lot of drops in this game but Jeremy Langford had a terrible one in the fourth quarter on what should have been a first down to keep a potential game winning drive alive.
  5. The Bears defensive backfield finally broke out with an important interception by Kyle Fuller. It was a nice play by Fuller on what was a poor decision from Viking QB Teddy Bridgewater.
  6. Players were slipping all over the field despite that fact that the field was supposedly in better shape than usual for this time of year. Apparently the turf was loose. The slipping around continued into the second half indicating that either better cleats couldn’t help of the Bears failed to adjust and change shoes at the half.
  7. Those new KFC commercials with the new “Cornel Sanders” are hilarious.
  8. This was the kind of ball control football game that defensive head coaches like Mike Zimmer and John Fox dream about. Zimmer tried to use Adrian Peterson to wear down a Bears defense that flat out refused to do anything special to stop the him. On the other side the Bears, in particular, did a good job of executing and holding the ball, especially in the second half, allowing the defense to rest and keeping Peterson off the field. That they managed to do it with patchwork offensive and defensive lines and almost no talent on the defensive side of the ball is a miracle. Despite the loss, if you are a Bears fan, you have to like a lot of what you saw today.

 

Redskins Potential Once Again Limited with No Answers at the Quarterback Position

Conor Orr has the unenviable task of writing up a blog post on the Redskins – Giants game for nfl.com:

“Where do we begin with Kirk Cousins? Perhaps it was the two times he missed Jordan Reed wide open in the back of the end zone. Maybe it was him getting blanked on play-action passes (and clearly missing two fake handoffs altogether), leading to two picks. Cousins has now turned the ball over 29 times over his last 17 games, this despite a fine, working offensive line and a budding 6-foot-2, 230-pound star at running back. In eight of his 17 career games, he has two or more picks. Would we be stunned to see Colt McCoy next week?”

This was a bad game all around but by far the biggest take away for me was that Kirk Cousins (below) doesn’t have it as a quarterback. Not only did he turn the ball over, but he was incredibly inaccurate with his passes, making receivers reach behind to grab the ball constantly. He was lucky that there were not more drops then there were.

 (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Cousins’ shaky play after the first interception told me all I needed to know about him. Like Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, he’s mentally weak. Unlike Cutler he also has physical limitations in that he has a weak arm and limited mobility.

No, I would not be at all surprised to see Colt McCoy start next week (Redskins head coach Jay Gruden says that he wont). But McCoy’s not the answer either or he’d have been starting before now.

I was one of those who thought that the Redskins were pulling out of the decade long slump with some good play against the Dolphins and the Rams prior to this game. But in the end, given that Robert Griffin III has apparently forgotten how to play quarterback, I think the Redskins are once again looking for someone who can sling the ball. As long as that’s the case, it’s going to put a ceiling on how far they can go.

It’s the Brad Biggs Show Today. And Other Points of View.

Bears

    • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune reviews the film from Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals:

      Eddie Royal looks out of position on the outside, and that’s the way it’s going to be without Alshon Jeffery (and Kevin White). Undrafted rookie Cameron Meredith flashed a little at the very end and might be worth looking at in place of Marquess Wilson, who is not maximizing his playing time.”

      Royal insisted during the preseason that he was looking forward to proving that he’s more than a slot receiver. But I think we all understood that wasn’t what he was signed to do. Wilson has, once again, been a major disappointment. He was targeted five times for only one catch and 10 yards. It may be time to accept that he’s the seventh round pick that he is.

    • Biggs continues:

      “Bennett needed to run a better route on the Jefferson interception, but the ball was behind him. Period. He didn’t get enough chances as he was targeted only six times. With Jeffery out, the Bears needed to do a better job of highlighting him in the passing game.”

      I noted in my game comments that the Bears came out in double tightend, throwing to both Bennett and Zack Miller. But they didn’t carry it through the game.

    • It’s the Brad Biggs show today, folks:

“Right guard Vladimir Ducasse added two more penalties to give him four. Even if the holding call looked questionable, that is a problem. Right tackle Kyle Long is in a tough spot with a cast on his right hand.”

Those who insisted that it was a good idea to move Long to tackle and wonder why it took so long should take note here. I’m not saying it was the wrong thing to do but if Jordan Mills had these kinds of penalties, the town would be burning him in effigy. I’m not at all sure that putting Charles Leno in at tackle and letting him develop wasn’t the right thing to do. He probably wouldn’t be much worse than Ducasse and he has a higher ceiling.

    • On a day when I have to believe that the Bears are desperately searching for a solution at quarterback, I have to once again agree with Biggs that they must surely be looking forward to having Tracy Porter available. He’s been out with a hamstring injury but believes that he’s getting closer to being ready to play. Terrance Mitchell is also a possibility. He got burned by Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday and admits that he made a mistake in hesitating on the tackle, saying, “I should have just come up harder, you know what I am saying?” I do, indeed. But I’m concerned that his football instincts didn’t tell him that. It looked ot me like he lacked confidence and I’m not sure its the kind of thing you can teach.
    • Hub Arkush at chicagofootball.com gives out some pretty harsh grades but with this caveat:

“It is also fair to point out that as well coached as the Bears looked against the Packers, they didn’t appear well prepared for Arizona, and John Fox and company should be looking in the mirror this week as well as at the tape.”

Gotta disagree with Hub, there. I liked the offensive game plan before quarterback Jay Cutler got hurt and there’s only so much you can do on defense with that talent. The Bear biggest problem in relation to their performance in week one was the penalties and the turnovers. I suppose that could be coaching but I’m inclined to believe it was a team effort.

Elsewhere

  • I know that Bears fans are feeling pretty sorry for themselves right now. But at least they aren’t the Detroit Lions. The Lions are 0-2. Their next three opponents? vs. Denver Broncos, at Seattle Seahawks and home vs. Arizona Cardinals. That looks to me like 0-5, folks.
  • I didn’t see the game but by all reports they came out flat and gave a subpar performance again this week against Tampa Bay. I’m starting to wonder if head coach Sean Payton isn’t on the hot seat. If he isn’t, I’m wondering if he should be.
  • It appears that Kam Chancellor made a major miscalculation in holding out for the first three games this year. Yes, the Seahawks were worse without him but they never budged in negotiations. According to Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com Chancellor racked up $1.1 million in fines and the team could demand that he return $500,000 in signing bonus money now that he’s ended his hold out. He’s also missed two game checks. The team would undoubtedly like to be lenient but I can’t imagine that they think they can afford to be so. This is a good team with a lot of players that will undoubtedly want more money over the next couple years. Letting Chancellor off the hook in any way encourages them to follow his lead.
  • Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has the unenviable task of preparing his 0-2 team to play the Bengals this weekend. He says that the Bengals are the best team in the NFL. Right now, to my eye, he’s right.
  • There are a lot of reasons why the Dolphins are not living up to the preseason hype. But Omar Kelly at the Sun-Sentinel is spot on when he says that the team has to get tougher and run the ball more.
  • How good has running back Dion Lewis been for the Patriots? He’s fumbled twice in two games but head coach Bill Belichick can’t afford to put him in his dog house.
  • Michael Rand at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “A younger, dumber, childless version of myself might have been tempted to take a press release from the Vikings about installing breastfeeding/lactation suites at TCF Bank Stadium (and eventually U.S. Bank Stadium) and make a few lame jokes along with the information.” Count me in as being both young and dumb.

One Final Thought

He just now came to this conclusion? VERY, VERY NSFW.