No Game Comments: Washington at Chicago 12/24/16

Sorry.  Traveling for Christmas and won’t see this game against the Redskins until Christmas morning at the earliest.

I know a lot of you are pulling for a loss to get a higher draft pick but I’d rather see the team finish on the upswing.  I’m going to go so far as to buck the odds and predict a victory.

Go Bears.

Management

 

 

Average Fan Loses in Network Prime Time Choices

Paul Schwartz at the New York Post comments upon the state of the Giants:

“Gee, wonder how happy the NFL and TV network suits are about their decision to flex Sunday’s Giants-Vikings game to the prime time Sunday Night Football stage on NBC? The Giants could be eliminated before they take the field and might be without [Odell] Beckham, their one true superstar, because of a suspension. “

Beckham has been suspended for the game pending appeal after committing an NFL record six personal fouls with some out of control reaction to the physical coverage he was getting from the Carolina Panthers. The Giants could be eliminated before the game if the Redskins clinch the NFC East with a win over the Eagles Saturday night.

Despite that, I doubt that anyone is regretting the decision to move the Giants. First, the Eagles and the Redskins are both miserable football teams and the game should effectively be a coin flip (the Eagles opened as four point favorites). But more to the point, the game involves the Giants which means CBS and the NFL Network get the New York market. The guess here is that only the Chicago market is more lucrative and that only because the Bears are the only team in town. Like every other NFC North team, the Vikings have a national following and barring a complete collapse they are probably playoff bound.

They could probably find a better game but networks don’t care about the quality of the match up. They care about viewers. Sometimes that means the average NFL fan loses.

Bears Playing Better at Outside Linebacker. Still Need Help.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune evaluates the situation at outside linebacker.

“[Willie] Young got credit for what looked like a coverage sack  [last Sunday] from my vantage point but he still had to finish the play and he’s been playing solid of late and has a sack in four consecutive games for the first time in his career. Expanded playing time opportunity allowed Lamarr Houston to factor in with a team-high nine tackles, according to press box statistics. Houston was making plays in the run game although some were downfield. Both were coming off major injuries from last season. Both are playing better in the second half of the season. Hard to say what the future holds at outside linebacker for the Bears this offseason but I know they can’t afford to get rid of any players until they’ve replaced them. Maybe Young is playing himself into another season here. His contract is flat. He will earn the same $2.45 million in 2016 as he is this season with a $50,000 workout bonus. That’s club friendly when you talk about a guy with 15 ½ sacks now over the last two seasons.”

I’d say both of these men have a future with the Bears. I’d also say that neither is the playmaker the Bears need at the position. As Biggs points out, most of the sacks Young and Houston have collected have been either coverage sacks or sacks that have come when the offense was in the position at the end of the game where they had to pass. Pass rushers can pin their ears back and go after the quarterback without worrying about the run in the latter situation.

That doesn’t mean that these men aren’t valuable. They are. But the Bears still need help at the position opposite Pernell McPhee if they want to put the kind of pressure on quarterbacks that will be needed to force errors rather than take advantage of good play on the back end.

Quick Game Comments: Redskins at Bears 12/13/15

BearsBuzz_wk14_Redskins_121115--nfl_mezz_1280_1024Defense

  1. Washington came out running on first down as they worked their way down the field for their first touchdown. That was the game plan – run on the Bears and wear them down. They were up and down, of course, but generally the Redskins generally executed well.
  2. The Bears looked to me like they played a lot of zone on early downs. It’s possible that they were hoping the Redskins would shoot themselves in the foot if they just kept everything in front of them. It was occasionally effective but it made for a bad look when the redskins executed.
  3. Kirk Cousins generally looked sharp with over 300 yards passing but boy, he lives dangerously. He was accurate. He did a good job reading the blitz and the Redskins did a good job picking it up. But sometimes he loses his mind like on the stupid pass to Matt Jones under pressure late in the game when a turnover would have been a killer. I can see why people knock him. He’s a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
  4. Tight end Jordan Reed (120 yards and 1 touchdown on 9 receptions) is a load. He was quite a match up problem being too big for the safties and way too quick for the linebackers.
  5. Kyle Fuller took a step back and was well on his way to a miserable game until an interception late in the third quarter deep in Washington territory. That led to a touchdown. Fuller fell down on a big third down conversion early in the first half and lost contain on a Kirk Cousins run for a touchdown.
  6. I thought the Bears did a reasonable job of generating pressure but it was mostly when good coverage forced Cousins to hold the ball.
  7. The Redskins had their share of stupid play. They eventually scored the touchdown but its inexcusable to take a delay of game coming out of a time out as the Redskins did with midway through the third quarter. Washington had to call another time out at the end of the third quarter after failing to get a play into Cousins in a timely manner. Although they moved the ball on the Bears effortlessly when they executed, these aren’t the kinds of mistakes that they can afford. Matt Jones literally threw the ball away before he was touched down on one critical play late in the game. He was lucky it bounced back to him.
  8. Eddie Goldman showed up again this week. So did Willie Young and Lamarr Houston with a sack each.

Offense

  1. The Bears came out and tried to run their usual ball control offensive game plan. They struggled, making mistakes and committing penalties, making that kind of game plan tough to execute. The Redskins also dod a good job of stopping the run, holding them to only 87 yards.
  2. The Bears found themselves in third and long far too often. Alshon Jeffery bailed them out on occasion but it was a bad situaiton that the Bears can’t afford to be in.
  3. Jeffery had a good game (107 yards and a touchdown on 6 receptions) after not performing well last week. Like the 49ers, the Redskins put their best corner, Brashaud Breeland, on him but otherwise didn’t do anything special to cover him. He needed a good performance and I thought he did.
  4. Terrance Knighton dominated the interior of the offensive line. Hroniss Grasu looked particularly bad and did not have a good game.
  5. Kyle Long also had a tough day as he gave up two sacks, one of which resulted in a fumble and a turnover. He saw a lot of Ryan Kerrigan, who had a pretty good day.
  6. Jay Cutler was once again, just a little bit erratic, especially deep. He still had 315 yards passing, though.
  7. I’m sure everyone is wondering if Zack Miller’s performance (85 yards on 5 receptions and a touchdown) makes Martellus Bennett is expendable. It doesn’t.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin did a good job. As I mentioned last week, I think Johnston does a particularly good job of noticing and immediately commenting on very relevant aspects of play.
  2. Robbie Gould. Again. Wow.
  3. Like last week against the 49ers, the Bears committed far, far, too many penalties. For example, there was a holding Matt Slauson to make it 2nd and 27 midway through the first quarter. Tracy Porter had a damaging pass interference penalty late in the first quarter. Khari Lee had a holding penalty on a kick off return early in the second quarter and I’m starting to wonder what good he’s doing the Bears after they traded a draft pick for him. A Charles Leno hold brought back a long Zack Miller catch and run in Washington territory late in the second quarter. An offensive pass interference on Marc Mariani followed and took them out of field goal range in the first half. Kyle Long had a false start to put the Bears in a hole as they tried to put a field goal on the board before half time.
  4. Both Jeremy Langford and Matt Forte had drops today. It’s now officially a habitual problem with Langford as this is the fourth game in a row he’s had one.
  5. Turnovers played a major role in this game. With the Bears driving in the first half, Kyle Long got clown suited by Tren Murphy who went on almost untouched to hit Jay Cutler, causing a fumble and a recovery. Kyle Fuller got a huge interception that led to a game tying Bears touchdown late in the third quarter.
  6. Similar to last week, this was a frustrating game to watch. This time, at least, I thought the Redskins were the better team but it was still a game that they hung in and it was winnable, But yet again, time after time they shot themselves in the foot with sloppy play, especially penalties.  I’m a bit disappointed that the team hasn’t played a clean game since beating Green Bay.  I thought the second half of this game was a little less sloppy than the first.  So maybe the Bears are on their way back to playing better football.  They’ll have to be if they want to finish on a high note heading into next year.

Another Challenge for Jay Cutler

Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune takes us through some of the numbers relevant to Sunday’s match up with the Redskins:

“46.6: Jay Cutler’s rating in two career starts against the Redskins, both losses. In 2013, Cutler left a 45-41 loss late in the first half after suffering a torn groin muscle. Cutler also threw a pick six in that game. Three years earlier, he threw four interceptions – all to Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall – in a 17-14 loss at Soldier Field. Cutler’s numbers against the Redskins: 29-for-48, 309 yards, one TD pass, five picks.”

This will be another watershed game for Cutler.

Two games ago on Thanksgiving Cutler took advantage of the opportunity to show critics like myself that he’s a different quarterback this year. Similar to that game, Cutler will be able to show that he can perform in situations this year that he has previously collapsed in. It doesn’t help that he’s coming off of his worst game of the year (18 completions of 31 attempts for 202 yards with a passer rating of 64.2). It was one in which he was more than usually erratic, especially on deeper throws.

Like all Bears fans, I wish him good luck in defeating the demons that have haunted him in days gone by.

Redskins Cancel Practice Ahead of Bears Game. Good Idea? I Have My Doubts.

Rich Tandler at csnmidatlantic.com reports that the Redskins canceled practice ahead of the Bears game on Sunday:

“‘We’re a little banged up here, obviously, and I thought it was important for our staff to get a good plan together and the players to get an extra day of rest, come back tomorrow with a plan in place and get a good day of practice,’ said [head coach Jay] Gruden.”

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea. But I wonder if it really is.

Most coaches, certainly the recent Bears coaches like Lovie Smith, have preached that injuries are not an excuse for failure. Every team has injuries. The Bears are as banged up as anyone besides the Chargers and yet you hardly ever hear the players even mention it. I have to attribute that in part to Bears head coach John Fox, who undoubtedly let’s it be known that the injuries are irrelevant.

I would argue that Gruden is subconsciously allowing the players to use injuries as an excuse not to succeed in practice. That’s only a very small step from being an excuse not to perform in the games, themselves.  I have to wonder if it’s not best for head coaches to ignore the injuries as they would have the players do.  Indeed, I wonder if it isn’t hypocritical not to.

I’m sure that Gruden is like every other coach and I’m sure he preaches that injuries are no excuse for losing. But action speak louder that words.

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.

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.

Quick Comments from Thursday Night’s Game

    • The Giants had a hard time rushing Kirk Cousins. They obviously are missing Jean Pierre-Paul.
    • I was surprised to see Washington come out spreading the field instead of playing to their strength with the run. They went to the running game afterwards and it looks to me like they just wanted to come out and soften up the defense by putting the pass into their minds first.
    • On a related note, Cousins didn’t impress me too much tonight. His accuracy left a lot to be desired. I didn’t see anything that convinced me that the right thing to do wasn’t to crowd the line, blitz and stop the run. That would have solved a lot of the Giants’ problems. Indeed, they started bringing more pressure late in the second quarter.
    • Honestly, I can’t imagine what runs through Cousins’ mind sometimes. He made some terrible decisions and the Giants did a very good job of taking advantage of those opportunities. Unfortunately, if you’re a Redskins fan, this is who Cousins is.
    • Washington did a reasonable job of winning the line of scrimmage against the run in the first half but they had a great deal of trouble pressuring Eli Manning. I was therefore surprised when the Giants came out in the second half and started pounding the ball. I was further surprised by the success that they had doing it. I’m not sure what changed but suddenly their offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage.
    • Tweet of the night: