Quick Game Comments: Bears at Giants 12-2-18

Offense

  1. The Bears obviously came out wanting to run the ball and failed miserably early. They eventually did better but I still don’t think the running game is on point yet.
  2. They evidently liked the match up of Allen Robinson on Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins was playing the short pass all the way and the Bears had little success. You wondered if they were setting Jenkins up for a double move down the line but it never came.
  3. I’m having a hard time understanding what the Bears see in Taquan Mizzell. He seems to be getting a lot of chances to play but I haven’t been impressed, yet.
  4. I was glad to see Tarik Cohen take advantage of a cut back lane in the first quarter on a fourth and short run. Jordan Howard started doing the same thing shortly afterwards. We need to see more of that.
  5. Wonderful 30 yard catch by Allen Robinson early in the second quarter as he went up for another 50-50 ball and took it down off of the defender’s helmet. This seems to be his strength and the Bears need to better take advantage of it.
  6. The Giants did a great job of reading the Bears screen passes and covering them. They seemed to be anticipating them.
  7. Taylor Gabriel totally failed to show up today. He had a bad miscommunication with Chase Daniel in the first quarter and a bad drop in the third that would have been a badly needed first down. I don’t think I even need to mention the horrible fumble in the fourth quarter that essentially allowed the Giants to salt the game away.
  8. The Bears came out in the second half and evidently decided that they needed to go down field more. It resulted in Daniel seeing a lot of pressure from a blitzing defense and, yet, he seemed to have a tough time finding an open man. Something evidently wasn’t operating correctly and the Bears looked out of sync. The Giants had 3 sacks.
  9. The last drive in the fourth quarter with the Bears in general and Tarik Cohen in particular making some huge plays was impressive. The offense came up big when, truthfully, the vaunted Bears defense came up short again late in the game.

Defense

  1. The Giants tried to fed their two stars, Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley. It’s evident that the Bears were very aware of these two and they were determined not to let them beat them. It seemed that it was up to the rest of the Giants to win this.
  2. That worked until the second half when the Giants apparently adjusted and Barkley all of the sudden came alive with some good runs.
  3. The Bears often decided to drop 8 into coverage and only rush three. It was an interesting decision. Eli Manning had a lot of time to throw despite having a weak offensive line.
  4. The Bears mixed it up but they also played a lot of man-to-man. They evidently liked their defensive backs matched up on the Giants receivers. That included Beckham. No one followed him around and they didn’t change their coverages for him but let him match up on whoever was opposite him.
  5. Interesting gadget play for a touchdown as Odell Beckham threw to a wide open Russel Shepard for 49 yards. The Giants pulled out all of the stops.
  6. The third touchdown pass to Odell Beckham was just inexcusable. I’m guessing that Roquon Smith missed him in coverage and he was wide open. Terrible mistake.
  7. Akeim Hicks had a great game as he schooled Nate Solder with penetration and a number of tackles for loss.
  8. Having said that, kudos to the Giants offensive line for the nice job they did of blocking today, especially in the second half when there were a number of big runs.
  9. Eli Manning has a gift for knowing how to ground a ball by throwing it to a player “in the area”. It shows good awareness on his part.
  10. Many people have noted the Bears inability of stopping teams in the fourth quarter. The problem showed up again today and the Bears had a hard time getting a badly needed stop with 5:00 left in the game. The way the defense was playing, I would absolutely have gone for 2 on the last touchdown of the fourth quarter to go for the win rather than waiting for over time.
  11. The Giants really liked the match up of Sterling Shepard on Bryce Callahan. It looked to me like he was getting open pretty consistently.

Miscellaneous

  1. Kevin Burkhardt and Charles Davis were your announcers. I think Burkhardt is a potential star as play-by-play announcers go. He and Davis seem to have chemistry. Davis is fine and I think he hits all of the important points. But it seem that there’s a lot of pointing out the obvious going on with him. There aren’t a lot of, “Wow, I would have never thought of that” moments.
  2. Special Teams
    1. Taquan Mizzell fumbled the opening kickoff.
    2. The Giants were obviously kicking short not believing that the Bears could return the ball to the 25 yard line – correctly.
    3. Neil O’Donnell had a nice 65 yard punt in the first quarter to put the Giants all the way back at the 25 yard line. He was punting form the Bears end zone and kept the Giants from having good field position.
    4. Terrible missed block by Curtis Riley to allow Daniel Brown through the front line to recover the onside kick in the fourth quarter.
  3. Penalties
    1. Mario Edwards had some big penalties as the Giants did their best to shoot themselves in the foot early.
    2. The referees in this game seemed to be throwing flags about every other play. The teams combined for 17 penalties for 147 yards.
  4. Turnovers
    1. Alex Ogletree intercepted the second play of the game. It wasn’t a great start for the Bears.
    2. Kyle Filler jumped an Odell Beckham route as time was running out in the first quarter. Ogletree immediately proceeded to intercept it right back. The Giants went three and out and punted so nothing came of it.
    3. Taylor Gabriel wrapped up a terrible game with a terrible fumble on the Bears 10 yard line with the Bears down a touchdown.
  5. Bears head coach Matt Nagy will get a lot of criticism for calling time out instead of letting the time run out with the ball on the Giants side of the field with 17 seconds left in the half. Saquon Barkley ran the ball for 21 yards and a quick out on the play that followed set up a successful field goal for the Giants. I, also, found the decision to be frustrating. But in fairness to Nagy, the defense has to stop that Barkley run. The Giants were just running out the half and you can’t let that kind of conservative play call go for that many yards.
  6. You frequently got the impression watching this game that the Bears were having trouble with the footing on what looked like a pretty damp day. The field didn’t look like it was in the best of shape. The Bears also evidently had a hard time hanging on to the football.
  7. The Bears inability to convert third downs was a big part of this game. They were only 2 of 13 on third down in regulation.
  8. Terrible loss for the Packers to the Arizona Cardinals. I thought they had a chance to run the table for 9 wins but I don’t think 8 will do it. It going to be really interesting to see what happens to McCarthy after the year.
  9. The Giants definitely deserved to win this game as they played well and with an intensity that the Bears failed to match. The Bears weren’t as flat as they were against the Dolphins earlier in the year coming off of their bye but the long time off between the end of their three game stretch of divisional games on Thanksgiving Day game and the game today obviously had an effect.

    This was a pretty bad loss in terms of the Bears playoff hopes. With games against the Packers, Vikings and Rams left, wins against the Giants and the 49ers were going to be the easiest path to 10 wins and the playoffs. They failed to take care of business here and it may burn them in the end.

Posted in Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Game Comments, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants | Leave a comment

Criticism of FOX Announcing Team a Little Over the Top

Phil Rosenthal at the Chicago Tribune continues to harp on one of FOX’s announcing teams even when they aren’t doing the game:

“Still unanswered is whether Mitch Trubisky will be healthy enough to play. But there’s a collective sigh of relief to news the broadcast team of Chris Myers and Daryl “Moose” Johnston have been assigned to call the Packers-Cardinals game.

“Myers and Johnston have worked Fox’s last two Bears telecasts.

“It’s likely the third time would have enabled them to work out the finer points of the Bears lineup. You know, as in Kyle Fuller, not Kurt; Javon Wims, not Williams; Bryce Callahan, not Brian; and Cody Parkey, not Parker.”

This is at least the third article where Rosenthal takes shots at Myers and Johnston.  OK, I get it. The name thing is a little problem. But enough is enough.

Let’s keep things in perspective here. What’s important isn’t that Myers pronounces names most Bears fans who care already know. Its funny but its not that big of a deal.

What is a big deal is how the game is described. Do the announcers actually tell you things that you wouldn’t know otherwise as they do the telecast? Does Myers clearly describe these things so everyone understands? Does Johnston teach you anything about football? Do both do those jobs in an unbiased way?

These are the things that delineate good broadcasting teams from bad ones, not the occasional mispronunciation of a name. And I would say that Myers and Johnston have done a pretty decent job in those areas.

They aren’t Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels.  But they aren’t exactly the bottom of the barrel, either, and they don’t deserve to be bashed continually in a major metropolitan newspaper.

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Improved Pass Rush Makes Offenses Predictable, Increases Turnover Opportunities

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“The Bears’ interceptions have skyrocketed this season. They’ve only had one game this year without one. If you assigned responsibility for this improvement, how much credit would go to the scheme, the pressure up front and the improvement of the individual players, respectively? — @chriscremer5

“The Bears have been very opportunistic on defense this season and that’s been one of the real keys to their success. Their plus-14 turnover differential is tied for best in the league and few statistics are more central to success than the turnover margin on a week-by-week basis… I would attribute the spike to a much improved pass rush. The more disruptive the front seven, the more chances the defensive backs will have. The scheme hasn’t changed. Yes, the defensive backs are catching the ball more when they get chances to this season but the biggest difference has been the improved pass rush.”

There’s no doubt that the addition of Khalil Mack has made a difference in the turnovers. Just the ones he has accounted for directly by causing the quarterback to fumble are significant. But it goes farther than that.

Teams have taken to getting the ball out quickly against the Bears because of the pressure that Mack and the rest of the front seven has been putting on defenses. This has effectively neutralized the pass rush in that there have been fewer sacks but it has also made offenses predictable. Bears defensive backs don’t have to live in constant fear of getting beat deep on a double move because quarterbacks can’t afford to hold the ball. This has allowed players like Eddie Jackson to jump short routes at key times during the game.

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The Bears Seem to Be Feeling Run Down in the Fourth Quarter. What to Do?

I’m not the only one that has noted that the Bears defense seems to be getting tired in the fourth quarter. Bears defensive back Kyle Fuller admits it himself, albeit in a back handed way:

“Fuller said the defense’s ability to come up with a big stop late during their third game in 12 days showed ’just how focused we are.’

“’(It was) blocking out how tired some people may say you are,’ he said. ’It’s just locking in, going out there, doing what we do, playing hard and getting a win.’”

I don’t know who these “some people” are but given that the game is going on, it must be someone close during the game.

And it is generally evident that the Bears are getting tired. In ten fourth-quarters alone, the Bears’ defense has surrendered 92 points, almost the same number as the total through the first three quarters (96).

There are a lot of reasons for this. For instance, they have often been playing soft coverages while protecting a lead. But generally speaking, the eye test tells me that they look tired and have looked tired since the debacle in the heat in Miami earlier in the year.

I’m not sure what the answer to this is but my gut tells me that the Bears have to have more faith in their back ups. The statistics weren’t available for the Lions game but Khalil Mack played 93% of the defensive snaps in the Vikings game last Sunday. Leonard Floyd played 84%. Kyle Filler, Adrian Amos, Prince Amukamura, Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson all played every defensive snap and Danny Trevathan only missed one.

I get it. You want to keep your best players on the field. But as I’ve previously written, the Bears appear to me to have more depth than in previous years. Perhaps its time to take advantage of it by playing some of the back ups just a little bit more to give the defensive players a breather and allow them to finish strong.

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Lovie Smith as Defensive Coordinator? No. Please, no.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Any chance Lovie Smith is fired? If he is, and Vic Fangio leaves for a head coach job, is it at all conceivable for Lovie to return to the Bears and coach the defense? — Gregory M., South Side

“I’m not qualified to speculate on Smith’s job status at Illinois after a stunning 63-0 loss to Iowa, which tied the largest defeat in team history. I wrote this week that Fangio should be a candidate for head-coaching positions if the defense plays well in the final stretch of the season. But if Fangio were to leave, I think you can rule out Smith as a potential replacement. Both men have been very successful running defenses in the NFL, but their systems are quite different. If the Bears were to have to replace Fangio, I imagine they would seek someone who runs at least a similar scheme to what the team has been using. That would not lead them to Smith.”

Lovie Smith is almost certainly done as a defensive coordinator in the NFL.

If this season has shown us anything, its that predictable defenses, especially, predictable zone defenses, don’t do well in the NFL nowadays. The Bears own destruction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier this year should be ample evidence of that.

Even Smith started to realize this during his time with the Bears. After the Patriots destroyed the Bears 39-7 in 2010, the Bears started to vary things a bit more with more disguises to the defense in 2011. It was never enough, though, and I’d say the game has largely passed Smith by.

Posted in Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Leave a comment

What Has Exceeded Expectations the Most?

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:

“Which aspect of this Bears team has exceeded your expectations the most? — @kylebeckrich

“The Bears have exceeded expectations in a lot of areas to begin 7-3. One area they’ve been much better in is health. After battling through injuries for much of the last three seasons, they’ve been far more durable in Nagy’s first year, and that is a credit to the entire organization. That’s been one of the big reasons for the Bears’ success to this point.”

Biggs is, of course, quite correct in that this is a major factor in the Bears success. But I wouldn’t say that they exceeded expectations in this area in that I had no expectations beyond the usual number of injuries.

And even then, I’d argue that the loss of personnel like Kyle Long for the season should count for something. Losing Khalil Mack for two games (effectively three and a half as he wasn’t healthy for part of the Dolphins game and all of the Patriots game) was a big blow. I’d also point to the loss of Adam Shaheen for long periods of time this year as a factor as the Bears were obviously counting on him to play a major role in the offense as the blocking tight end who could also do some damage in the passing game. In this, Dion Simms has largely been a disappointment, at least in terms of the passing game. Losing Mitch Trubisky (it appears) to injury against the Lions is a factor that will have to be overcome as well.

So, though they have been relatively healthy, they haven’t been that healthy.

The thing that has exceeded my own expectations the most has been the Bears depth. Before training camp, I repeatedly cited this as a major factor for why the team wouldn’t be able to compete in the NFC North this year. But as soon as the preseason started it became evident that I was under-estimating them.

James Daniels and Eric Kush have done a credible job at guard and, along with the acquisition of Bryan Witzmann, they have done a pretty good job so far of making up for the loss of Long. Roquan Smith has effectively added depth to the linebacker position in the form of Nick Kwiatkoski.

But what has really stood out is the unexpected quality play of the back ups at the defensive line and the outside line backer positions. From the very start of the preseason, players like Roy Robertson-Harris, Jonathan Bullard, Bilal Nichols, Kylie Fitts and Isaiah Irving impressed me with the degree to which they developed. In the case of Nichols and Robertson-Harris, that has translated onto the field during the regular season. The others like Fitts and Irving will undoubtedly prove their worth as their chances to do so increase.

It now evident to me that the Bears have the depth to withstand a reasonable number of injuries at most of the positions on the team. To me, that’s the biggest surprise.

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Quick Game Comments: Vikings at Bears 11/18/18

Defense

  1. The Vikings came out and went right at Stefon Diggs matched up on Prince Amukamara. It was obvious that was a match up they were going to like. The Lions picked on Amukamara a bit last week.
  2. The Vikings were also attacking Kyle Fuller, trying to take advantage of his aggressiveness with double moves.
  3. The Vikings were also trying a lot of trap plays in the running game, again taking advantage of the Bears aggressiveness.
  4. Khalil Mack is a monster. The Bears got a lot of pressure on Kirk Cousins and did a nice job of disrupting his play.
  5. The run defense was stout as well. The Vikings had less than 2 yards per rush and very few attempts. Akiem HIcks was a big part of that.

Offense

  1. It seems that the Bears thought they could attack the Vikings offense on the ground to the outside on the right side. They stacked their tight ends to that side and ran quite a bit there. It didn’t work but the Bears kept trying it.
  2. The Vikings had a good game plan very similar to the Green Bay game plan the first game of the year. They blitzed the Bears offense from a lot of angles as often as possible and mixed their defensive looks. To my eye, the Bears handled it much better than they did against the Packers – as they should have, given 9 games in head coach Matt Nagy’s offense.
  3. Mitch Trubisky needed to be patient tonight. The Vikings were giving up the underneath throws and covering the deep routes to Gabriel, challenging them to play mistake-free football and work their way down the field.
  4. The Vikings spent a lot of time in what looked like a two deep zone. The Bears were having a hard time early solving it and, as you might expect from the Vikings, they got a fair bit of pressure on Trubisky.
  5. Not entirely sure why the bears went for two on their first touchdown. The situation didn’t ordinarily call for it. I can only assume that they had a play that they liked. And it worked. A nice throw to Anthony Miller in the back of the end zone.
  6. I was impressed by the concerted effort the Bears put into running the ball this game. They haven’t done it well the last few weeks but they’re working at it and they were better tonight.

Miscellaneous

  1. Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, and Michele Tafoya were your announcers. I’ve said many times that this is the best announcing team in football.
  2. Special teams
    1. Cody Parkey hit his first field goal right down central which was good to see after last week’s adventure when he missed four kicks.
    2. Of course, he followed that up by kicking the ball off out of bounds giving the Vikings great field position.
    3. Parkey’s 48 yard field goal mad ethe Vikings climb an up hill one with less than 3 minutes left in the game. It gave teh Bears a two score lead. Quite a redemption for him.
  3. Penalties
    1. Kyle Fuller had a pass interference call in the first quarter. It gave the Vikings a first down on third and three. Eventually the Vikings Dalvin Cook fumbled deep in Bears territory, limiting the damage.
    2. A holding call on Ben Braunecker in the first quarter pushed the Bears back from the Viking 8 to the 18. The Bears scored the touchdown anyway.
    3. Akiem Hicks got a very damaging roughing the passer penalty that gave the Vikings another shot at a two point conversion. They made it to make it a one score game with about 4 minutes left in the game.
  4. Drops weren’t a major factor in this game.
  5. Turnovers
    1. Khalil Mack forced a huge Dalvin Cook fumble in the first quarter. The Vikings were driving deep into Chicago territory and the turnover saved at least 3 points and very likely 7.
    2. Mitch Trubisky threw an interception and gave the ball back shortly after the fumble recovery. He threw into what looked like triple coverage.
    3. Trubisky had another amaging interception on one of his classic overthrows late in the third quarter that gave teh Viings the ball at the Chicago 31 yard line. It resulted in a Vikings field goal.
    4. That was followed by a fumble by Tarik Cohen that gave teh Vikings the ball on the Bears 30 yard line. That also resulted in a field goal.
    5. Eddie Jackson’s pick six was, of course, a huge play in this game with the Bears offense struggling in the second half.
  6. Well, we figured this game would tell us if the Bears are contenders or pretenders. I won’t say either team played to thier potential offensively but they definitely competed with a pretty good team tonight right to the end. I’m calling them contenders. For now. 🙂
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Guard Spot in One to Watch as the Bears Try to Jump Start Their Running Game

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune comments on the situation at left guard:

“The rotation at right guard ended as Bryan Witzmann started and Eric Kush was relegated to backup status. Witzmann was signed five weeks ago.

“’Obviously there are a lot of things to improve on, just like in any game, but it’s good to get back out there,’ Witzmann said. ’Good to just get the game like feel. You can kind of correct things quicker because if we are rotating the other guy might get a look that is new to you when you’re out there. You can adjust better as the game goes along.’”

The Bears had only 54 yards rushing on 22 carries last week against a Lions defense that ranked near the bottom against the run going into the game. Bears head coach Matt Nagy has commented several times over the last few weeks about how the Bears need to do a better job getting the running game going.

The situation at guard may be a major problem here. For several weeks before the game against the Bills two weeks ago, Kush was rotating with James Daniels at right guard while Kyle Long played on the other side. When Long went on injured reserve, Daniels “won” the job and Kush started rotating with Witzmann.

None of these guys has impressed me much. Both Witzmann and Kush are inconsistent and., though Daniels may have a bright future, he’s a little light at less than 300 pounds right now. He needs an offseason in the weight room.

If the Bears are going to be more than a one dimensional passing team down the stretch, they’re going to need better guard play. they may not have the horses to do it.

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Bears Forced to Pay with Ultra-Short Turn Around Time. Where was the Player’s Union?

Prince Amukamara shares his thoughts on the Bears game against the Vikings this week being flexed from noon to Sunday night. Via Dan Weiderer at the Chicago Tribune:

“’Honestly, I was so excited, Amukamara said. ’Just like: ‘Oh, man! They’re starting to respect us a little bit. We get to play on Sunday night. This is going to be a big game.’

“But then the eighth-year cornerback started doing the math.

“OK, a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on Nov. 18? Then a Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit on Nov. 22 that will begin before noon Chicago time? Just like that, Amukamara’s initial enthusiasm twisted itself into a three-word wake-up call.

“’They screwed us,’ he said.”

They sure did.

Note that this is not just the normal turns around that yo used from Sunday to Thursday.  The Bears were already losing 7.5 hours of recovery time by playing at noon on Thursday instead of the normal 7:30 pm.  Now they’re losing 7.5 hours on the other end.  15 hours of recovery time lost for these these guys is more than half a day.  It’s not trivial.

We hear constantly about how player safety is the first priority for the league. But it all falls by the way side when some cigar smoking TV executive sits in a back room and says, “Let’s put on the Bears. It’ll play good in the sticks.”

Message to the TV execs. The only people watching at the end of that game will be you and whatever bimbo you’re with. The rest of the world works for a living.

But that’s not my major point. I expect greed from people like this. It’s the player’s union’s job to protect the workers from it.

They rumble about strikes and negotiations and they loudly defend criminals when the league tries to suspend them. But where are they when it comes to protesting moves like this where player’s are actually being put at more than the acceptable level of risk? Even if it didn’t change anything, you would think they’d at least say something. Instead all we hear are crickets.

And that’s where Amukamara and his team mates are really being screwed.

Posted in Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings | Leave a comment

Cody Parkey Hasn’t Been Practicing Kicks at Soldier Field. Why?

Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune reports on Bears head coach Matt Nagy’s reaction to kicker Cody Parkey missing two field goals and two extra points during the Bears win over the Lions yesterday:

“Nagy understood the fans’ disgruntlement but said after the game there’s ’zero chance’ the Bears will try out new kickers this week. He insisted Parkey has his trust.

“’It doesn’t affect me going forward, but it affected me today,’ Nagy said. ’And he knew that. In my head, there’s a balance of showing trust to him by putting him back out there, but then there’s also a level of understanding what’s best for the team. Sometimes you just have those days.

“’So my trust is not shot at all with him. I know everybody else is going to feel that way, and I get it and that’s OK. But … he’s going to hit some big kicks for us just like he did last week.”’

Special teams was miserable yesterday and there were a couple of poor kickoff returns. But this adventure in kicking was by far the worst problem and it could cost the Bears in close games if it doesn’t get solved.

As Bears fans know, this isn’t the first time this season Parkey has struggled in a game and it has previously occurred to me to wonder if he’s been practicing kicking at Soldier Field but my assumption was that he was, of course, doing it. Kane finally asked him and to my shock, the answer was “No”.

“[Parkey] said he hasn’t practiced kicking at Soldier Field midweek to get a better feel for conditions there and indicated it wasn’t his place to say whether he should consider such sessions.”

For heaven’s sake, has he asked?

Former Bears kicker Robbie Gould made such a trip along with whatever punter they had on the team every week to practice at Soldier Field in the different wind conditions. No wonder Parkey isn’t comfortable. How is it a “home field advantage” if you haven’t been practicing your kicks there?

I’m starting to have serious questions about the quality of coaching the special teams unit is getting from coordinator Chris Tabor. This is an easy fix and it has to be done now.

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