Quick Game Comments: Packers at Bears 10/17/21

Ex-Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.”

Lombardi was a jerk.

OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. Winning is always the goal. But it’s not the only thing. In fact, it’s not even the most important thing. Ex-rugby great Martin Johnson found that out after he retired and expressed the sentiment in perhaps the best terms I’ve heard.

“You hear a lot of people talk at the end of their careers about wins and losses. They are great and special days but it is more about the togetherness of trying to achieve. People say, ‘You won X, Y and Z’ but I played in all the competitions far more times than I won them.

“If you are in something where you have a purpose and fighting for it, that is what you want.”

Or perhaps, if you want it expressed more succinctly, you can look at a recent Russell Wilson tweet which stated simply, “I love adversity.”

If winning was all there was to sport, the NFL would have 31 miserable fan bases at the end of every year. If being a billionaire was the only thing, 99.9% of human life on earth wouldn’t be worth living. Instead, fighting to overcome adversity is what it’s all about, pulling together to overcome the little lows to produce the little highs day by day, week by week, year by year.

Adversity can bring out the best in all of us. It forces us to evolve and can make us different, better people.

We can., I hope, expect that will be the case as the Bears emerge from yet another loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Bears head coach Matt Nagy is no 1-10 against the Packers and this was a pretty decisive win.

The Bears just can’t seem to solve the puzzle that the Packers present. It isn’t just the presence of Rodgers. There was a lot of good effort out on the field today and it looked to me like the players were up and ready to play. The Bears have their won growing young star quarterback in Justin Fields, who just isn’t quite ready yet. But despite this, the Packers, as usual, seemed to be just a little bit better disciplined, a little bit better coached, and a little bit better.

The Packers present a challenge year after year that the Bears must continue to work harder and harder to match.

And they will. They will fight. And we will watch. Because we know that it’s not the win, itself, that is the whole story and that they and, through their example, we, will all be better for it.

Defense

  • The Bears ranked seventh in points allowed (20 ppg) going into this game and the 24 that they gave up wasn’t that far off of that. But they needed better with an offense that struggled to come from behind. That was the story here.
  • The plan was to try to confuse Rodgers with the typical blurry looks that Vic Fangio has brought to the league
  • “He definitely runs the show,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said earlier this week. “You can see being out there on the field how he changes the offense, how he changes routes, how he changes calls, how he really just dissects the defense and really sees what you’re in and once he really understands what you’re in he molds the offense to beat what you’re in. It’s really just about changing up disguises, not giving him too much pre-snap indicators of what we’re doing. So it’s really just about being able to mix it up and give good disguises.”

    Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was having none of it. He completed 17 passes on 23 attempts for 195 yards and didn’t seem to let much of anything bother him today.

  • Among the things that didn’t bother him was the Bears pass rush, which was pretty good. The Bears entered this week as the NFL leaders in sacks with 18. They added three more today, one by Khalil Mack, one by Robert Quinn and one by Akiem Hicks. The Bears defensive line played well with their typical stunts and games up front in a losing effort.
    But once it became evident that they were running amuchk early, Green Bay adjusted and Rodgers went to shorter passes to get the ball out. After that it was just a matter of execution and Green Bay did a good job of working their way down field on some long drives that ultimately were the difference in the game.
  • The Bears had a difficult time with tight ends a year ago, allowing 12 touchdown receptions to them, Green Bay accounted for four of those. That continued today as Green Bay distributed the ball among Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, and Josiah Degara for some damaging yardage.
  • The Bears had more than the usual amount of trouble stuffing the run today, allowing 154 yards rushing on 31 carries (5.0 ypc). Many of those were short but some long runs by Aaron Jones (13 carries, 76 yards) and A.J. Dillon (11 carries, 59 yards) made a big difference in the game. The defnese needed to be more consistent here.
  • I was dissatisfied with the way that the Bears decided to handle Devante Adams (4 receptions, 89 yards) this game. They had Jayon Johnson, their best corner, travel with him around the field. i would have rather seen the Bears double Adams and put Johnson on whoever they decided the second best receiver was.

Offense

  • There was a thought going into this game that the Bears might have to open the offense up a little bit. I wasn’t buying it because the Packers have an ordinary run defense and my gut was telling me that they were probably perfectly willing to make Fields beat them with his arm. More on that below.
  • Here’s how Lazor responded to a follow-up about the offense looking “confining” in Las Vegas last week: “I felt that after the game, but I just blame me for that. Seriously. When the game is going that way, that’s just how we thought to win the game. I’d rather have 500 yards, but winning’s more important.”

    In any case, it did look to me like there were hints of a more open offense at the beginning of the game. The Bears had a 50:50 run-pass ration at halftime. When they came out of halftime, it looked like they recommitted to the run and stayed with it for as long as they could. Eventually they had to play from behind and throw the ball around and they just couldn’t do it.

  • The Packers aren’t a great run defense and they weren’t great today. The Bears ran 26 times for 140 yards (5.4 ypc) and I can’t get past the idea that if they’d done it just a little more in the first half this would have been a differnt game.
  • The Packers defense has been absolutely dreadful inside the red zone and that also held up today as the Bears scored both times they were in the red zone. But they were only in the red zone two times so…
  • Jimmy Graham had no catches but the Bears did get Cole Kmet far more involved today. this was probably Kmet’s best day as a Bear as he had 4 catches for 49 yards and looked pretty good doing it. They finally sent a tight end down the seam in the second half and found success. Here’s hoping they do more of it.
  • Justin Fields constantly amazes me with his accuracy because it was something that you just didn’t hear anything about as he came out of Ohio State. But its really elite.
  • Fields really struggled today at times because the Packers worked very hard to keep him from escaping the pocket. The result was 4 sacks and a lot of pressure throws, some of which were good and some of which weren’t. It would have helped Fields tremendously if the Bears had stuck to the plan of helping out the offensive line with protection by keeping in more tight ends to block. They were still doing it but not nearly as much, especially late in the game. Far too often Green Bay got pressure as the Bears tried to protect Fields with five linemen on long developing plays that he didn’t have time to make. They simply aren’t good enough to do that.
  • But Fields has to bear some responsibility as well. Rodgers should serve as a great example on tape of how it is done. When pressure is arriving that quickly you have to get the ball out fast. You can’t hold the ball and wait for a play to open up. Good defenses will keep you in the pocket and, though you may extend the occasional play, as Fields did today, it will never be enough.

    The offense needs work or its never going to be able to stand up against a decent defense that is playing well, as Green Bay did today.

  • I’ve been looking for the Bears to start throwing to the running backs out of the back field and Khalil Herbert has a reputation for being able to catch passes. But I didn’t see many if any throws to Herbert on pass routes in the same way that, say, the bears might use Tarik Cohen. I’d like to see them try this.
  • Nevertheless, Herbert ran for 97 yards on 19 carries and had a good game.

Miscellaneous

  • Jakeem Grant was electric on returns today and he’s bound to break one soon.
  • Teh Bears dropped at least 4 balls and probably more today and they were all catches that they needed as they tried to work their way down field. They have to clean that up.
  • Similarly they had 7 penalties for 54 yards in a game that wasn’t very well officiated. Fiedls threw an interception on what he thought was a free throw after the Packers jumped offsides. The penalty wasn’t called. The Packers lost a Equanimeous St. Brown touchdown on a poor pass interference call.
  • Nevertheless the Bears had plenty of damaging legitimate penalties including yet another stupid one for Mario Edwards as he was taunting Rodgers after a play.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Raiders 10-10-21

In the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great devised the list that we now know as the “Seven Deadly Sins”: pride, envy, anger, sloth, greed, gluttony, and lust. But the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas added what is, in my mind, the most important observation about the list: that before a person could lust like a rabbit or go green with envy, he first had to commit the sin of pride. This made pride not only the deadliest of sins, but “the beginning of all sin.”

When it comes to football, there flat out is not deadlier sin than pride. Players and coaches have to ruthlessly suppress their egos to come together to be the best team that they can be. And that goes doubly for head coaches.

Giving up play calling might be the hardest thing that Matt Nagy has ever done in his life. I’d say the odds are extremely good that its the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in football. Play calling was part of his identity. It was “his thing”, something he took great pride in. He’s had difficulty even talking about it.

But two weeks ago, Nagy realized that for the good of the team, he had to give up play calling. The Cleveland Browns destroyed the Bears offensive line, which gave up 9 sacks and Nagy realized that he had quite simply failed to adjust his game plan to accommodate the fact that the line needed help.

Its hard to do, calling plays on the side line where the head coach has to reside. Its chaos, really, with the action constantly swirling around you. Its hard to stay cool and concentrate, especially when all of the other responsibilities that come with being a head coach are weighing on you. So Nagy handed over play calling to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in the booth for the Lions game last week. The results have been positive.

“That’s the one thing I like,” quarterback Justin Fields said. “Coach [Nagy], it’s hard for him to be calm if he has to focus on the defense, focus on special teams. [Lazor’s] voice is calm. He’s up there in the box seeing the field well and he did a great job calling plays today.”

Nagy suppressed his pride for the good of the team and, I firmly believe, for his own good as well. He now can concentrate more fully on his head coaching duties. And free of having to constantly think about the next play call, he can take a broader view of the offense and see more clearly what has to be adjusted in game to make it more successful.

Pride truly is the greatest of all sins and it has no place in a team game. To Nagy’s credit, he knows it and lives it and avoidance of it has benefited all.

Offense

  • The Bears came out running the same offense that they ran against the Lions. A lot of help for the offensive line in the form of tight ends and running backs blocking and a heavy reliance on the ground game (37 carried for 143 yards). The Bears ran 57 offensive plays in the game, and Fields was under center for 31 with 26 snaps coming in shotgun formation. It looked like roughly the same proportion this week. There was a sense that the Bears would have to do more against a much better Raiders defense than they did against the Lions. But the plan worked well enough with a good defensive effort to hold the score down and the Bears prevailed.
  • Unfortunately the Bears did not use the middle of the field again this game intil the fourth quarter. NOt coincidentally, those throws were among the most successful of the game at a time when the Bears offense had really stalled out. Going into the game they were 29th in the NFL in passes between the hashes with 8 (they were 29th in 2020). They need to do more over the middle if they expect to have success against good teams in the future.
  • Though the loss of David Montgomery’s power and contact balance stings, happily running backs Damien Williams (64 yards on 16 carries) and Khalil Herbert (75 yards on 18 carries) did a good job of taking up the slack this game.
  • The tight ends got slightly more involved today. Jasper Horstead caught a touchdown pass and Cole Kmet had two receptions. Of the two “speed receivers” that the Bears were going to use to such good effect this year, Marquis Goodwin had one catch and Damiere Byrd didn’t make the stat sheet. Jimmy graham didn’t make the stat sheet either. So I’d say that the offseason plans that the Bears made aren’t coming to fruition.
  • I’d say that Justin Fields is making some progress. Fields expressed a desire to not repeat mistakes during the week. “You just have to learn from those mistakes and try not to make those mistakes twice,” Fields said. “Every snap I get I’m going to see what I could have done better and try not to make those mistakes twice.” He was partially successful. If he was holding the ball too long again this week, it wasn’t evident as he escaped the pocket and got on the move fairly regularly. But he’s still missing blitzing defensive backs as the Raiders occasionally brought late blitzers to take advantage, especially early in the game.
  • The Bears still aren’t moving Fields around a lot, though there were a few roll outs that weren’t present last week. In fact, the touchdown pass to Horstead was on a rollout. One thing to note, Field nearly always rolls to his right. I’m sure defenses will pick up on that if he doesn’t vary it.
  • There were also a few designed runs for Fields that I’m sure made the whole city of Chicago a little nervous. Fields took a lot more hits this game than anyone would like. Here’s hoping this colms down or he wont’ stay healthy.

  • Kudos to the offensive line for playing better on the road this week than it did against Los Angeles and Cleveland? The Bears ran for 3.9 ypc and Justin Fields was sacked twice, both times by Yannick Ngakoue. They got a lot of help. But they also got a lot of good push at the line of scimmage. It was a good day.

Defense

  • The Bears defense did a good job of stopping a good Raiders offense today. Coming into the game tThe Raiders ranked fifth with 406.5 yards per game, including 326 passing yards per game, second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They didn’t play particularly well. There was some sloppy execution, a lot of penalties and some bad dropped passes. But give the Bears defense credit. They played well.
  • A good part of the reason that the defense played well was because of the pressure that the defense put on Derek Carr. The Bears had 3 sacks, one each by Khalil Mack, Tashaun Gipson and Trevis Gipson.
  • The Raiders offensive line has been in flux. It was completely rebuilt in the offseason and is missing veteran guard Richie Incognito. First-round pick Alex Leatherwood had been practicing at right guard after playing right tackle the first four weeks. He missed a block on a stunt that resulted in a Khalil Mack sack.

    The game plan that the Raiders laid looked an awful lot like the Bears to compensate. Although the plan wasn’t quite so conservative nor quite so protective of the line, there was generally no shortage of tight ends and running backs to help them.

  • Although he didn’t have a sack, Robert Quinn had another good game, getting a lot of penetration into the Raiders defensive back field.
  • The Bears once again had a couple instances of broken coverage when it looked like communication was an issue. Darren Waller was left uncovered in the first half and Bryan Edwards dropped a long pass when he was completley uncovered later in the game. This needs to be fixed.
  • Tight end Darren Waller, possibly the Raiders best receiver, was held to 4 catches for 45 yards, and did not play up to his usual standard.
  • No Akiem Hicks, no problem. Well, maybe that’s going to far but the Bears held the Raiders to 3.2 yards per rush with a rotation involving a lot of defensive tackles. Its probably the deepest unit on the team.

Miscellaneous

  • I’d say that Jakeem Grant showed his usual dynamism in the return game although it didn’t result in anything spectacular. He definitely moves better than anyone else the Bears have had doing the job this year. One thing to note about Grant. He had a great deal of trouble hanging on to the ball when he was with the Dolphins, which is probably the reason he is no longer there. He’ll get you points in the return game. But he’ll cost you points too. The over all result can be frustrating.
  • Cairo Santos was 2 for 2 very valuable field goals that help secure the win in the fourth quarter. He has not missed a field goal in a game in more than a year for a streak of 34 made field goals now.

  • drops
  • I was sorry to see Germaine Ifedi injured but I have to say here that the guy is a penalty machine. He jumped again for a false start on the second play of the game.
  • The Bears were clean in the turnover department, which was a major reason for the victory. But there were 8 penalties for 70 yards, which is really too many. Fortunately teh Raiders were worse with 10 penalties for a damaging 82 yards.
  • Bears fans didn’t out number the Raiders fans but they were definitely heard as the crowd was basically dead for most of the game. Nice job.

Quick Game Comments: Lions at Bears 10/3/21

Robin Lopez when discussing the lessons he learned as an NBA basketball player once said, “Steve Nash, Grant Hill, they were always preaching whether you win or lose. You have to keep an even keel, keep a level head.”

This always struck me as the fundamental difference between good teams and subpar teams. Good teams are consistent. They are, to the extent that it possible, the same high quality almost every time they hit the field. Teams that aren’t good aren’t. They flash well one week with a big win or a fine performance and find themselves on an emotional high only to fall the next week as they let down and fail to concentrate and prepare with the same intensity. Especially with the younger teams, the season is an emotional rollercoaster.

This is what we saw today. The Bears, coming off of a miserable physical and mental beating in Cleveland, went back to the drawing board and redrew the plan. Practices all week were reported to be at a special intensity as they worked extra hard to pick themselves up. Many of my friends were surprised that the Bears opened as 4 point favorites in this game after the brutal loss to the Browns. I wasn’t. If they were going to bounce back with a good performance, it was going to be this week.

The Lions, on the other hand, lost to the Baltimore Ravens last week on a last second field goal in what can only be termed as a special effort from what many consider to be a miserable team. The 19-17 loss was shocking in how well the Lions played and how close they came to beating one of the best teams in the NFL. What wer ethe odds that this team was going to pull off the same performance two weeks in a row? Not very high. And they didn’t. The Lions defense reverted back to form after a wonderful effort last week and th Bears took advantage of big gaps in their coverage on some well timed play action passes.

Last year, Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune once quoted a source associated with gambling in Las Vegas as saying, “We see the Bears as being the same as the Lions.” Its not entirely true. But there is some truth to it. Neither of these teams is going to be competitive until they can perform at a consistently high level week in and week out.

Today it was the Bears week and they deserve to be congratulated (as I mostly do below). We will all celebrate. The Bears will dance in the locker room. All will be light and happiness. But another week is right around the corner – for all of us – and, let’s be honest, it could be like the Lions or it could be more like the Browns. You never know with this team. And that’s the problem.

Offense

  • Going into this game the Lions ranked 29th in yards per play allowed and 32nd in passing yards per play. The were allowing 10.3 yards per pass attempt, and opposing quarterbacks had a 123.2 passer rating. The Lions had allowed 384 yards per game and 6.7 yards per play. Nagy’s offense through three games ranked last in the NFL with 191.7 yards per game and 3.34 yards per play, and the Bears were second-to-last with 13.3 points per game. Something had to give. As it turned out, it was the Lions defense that reverted to form after a yeoman’s effort last week against the Ravens. In fairness to the Lions defense, the Bears generally executed better with a much better plan than last week for the demolition at the hands of the Browns. But in the end, the Lions defensive back field was what, onace again, did them in giving up 191 yards net passing to a Bears team that had only 1 last week.
  • A good part of the Bears success was due to a drastically different game plan from compared to last week. I’d be surprised if the Bears ran double tight end sets less than 35% of the time and I’ll bet quarterback Justin Fields was under center about half the time instead of spending all of his time in the shotgun. And I swear a little tear came to my eye every time I saw J.P Holtz line up at fullback in an I-formation.
  • This game plan made a lot of sense to me. If I’m calling plays for a team and they are having trouble protecting the quarterback, my first instinct always is to go back to basics. To me that means running the ball. And that’s where this plan started today.

    The results, in my opinion, were dramatic. The Bears ran the ball effectively down hill for 188 yards and that allowed Fields to make hay off of the play action pass. It was football the way it was meant to be played at Soldier Field and, although he tried it briefly once before, I never thought I’d see Matt Nagy, even in the state of desperation he must be in, consent to do it again. Here’s hoping that he stays with it this time because the game plan helped Fields out tremendously and gave us a chance to see what he could do.

  • Last game Damiere Byrd played 34 snaps and had zero targets, while Marquise Goodwin played only 10 snaps. Goodwin had 1 carry and neither receiver had a catch today. One wonders what happened to the plan to use speed at the third and fourth receiver slots to threaten defenses. Bad plan? Or bad execution?
  • On a related note, against the Bengals, Nagy called a game with one target to the tight end position that he has always claimed is so huge for the offense. In Cleveland, there were five passes thrown to the tight ends. Only one was caught. and though I really haven’t been as impressed with Cole Kmet as the Chicago media have, statistically he hasn’t exploded and neither has Jimmy Graham this year. Today was no exception. Kmet had 1 catch for 6 yards and Jimmy Graham didn’t make the stat sheet. Again, what happened to the plan that involved the Bears choosing to keep Jimmy Graham over Kyle Fuller in the off season cap crunch?
  • It was difficult to tell who called the plays today and it may well have been both Matt Nagy and Bill Lazor. Certainly the game plan was different and it made me think that Lazor may have begun the game doing the job. But Nagy had the play card in his hands and he was obviously calling plays over the head set in the fourth quarter.
  • Congratulations to the offensive line, who played well today in a game plan that emphasized its strengths. I thought even last week that the Bear offensive line did a better job of run blocking and they certainly did well today. The Bears were in max protect a lot and never, as far as I could tell, went to four wider recievers, let alone five. So th eline gat a lot of help and it showed.
  • Fields had a wonderful game today. The game plan helped him out, as well, and allowed him to perform to his abilities. His accuracy was impeccable (11/17 for 209 yards total). The protection and the use of play action allowed him to go down field (10.3 yards per pass) and defensive backs were unable to simply sit on short routes.
  • It wasn’t a perfect game for Fields by any means. He still holds the ball too long in an effort to allow the big play to develop instead of simply checking it down and it hurt him on occasion today. And he still has a hard time picking up the free blitzer.

    But there’s plenty enough time to harp on such things another day. For today, nice job. It was a relief to see him bounce back so well from the mental and physical beating he took last week.

  • Interesting that, though the Bears helped Fields in so many ways, we didn’t see the roll outs and run-pass options that fans and some media were screaming for. The Bears forced Fields to be a professional quarterback today. He’ll probably be better in the long run for it. But I’d still like to see him on the run just every nce in a while like he was on just a few occasions last week.
  • The Bears were 1 of 8 on third down today and I’d say this continues to be an area of concern.
  • Special kudos to David Montgomery who ran 23 times for 106 angry yards (4.6 yards per rush) for 2 touchdowns. He’s all heart and it was not a feel good to watch him limp off the field in the second half with an apparent injury to his left knee. Here’s hoping its not a bad as it looked. Damien Williams, who also had a touchdown earlier in the game, did a good job picking up the slack as he ran for 55 yards on 8 carries (6.9 yards per rush).
  • Darnell Mooney also deserved special mention today and he caught 5 balls for 125 yards, one of which was a spectacular diving catch early in the game and another of which was for 64 yards. Its worth noting that Fields had time for that throw because, once again, the Bears provided excellent protection with two tight ends and a running back lined up before the snap. Contrast with last week if you dare.

Defense

  • It was an interesting day for the defense. Generally speaking, I thought that they played bend but don’t break today. The Lions moved the ball for a lot of yards (348) but in the end, only put up 14 points. Far too often, the Lions would get into the red zone (5 times) and not come away with points (4 of those 5 visits). They shot themselves in the foot and generally failed to execute. Perhaps that was the Bears plan. If it was, kudos to them because it worked. But it was a tough watch for the rest of us.
  • Though the Bears played a fair bit of man coverage, their bread an butter was still the zone defense. And I’m just slightly disturbed by the way they’ve been playing it.
  • For instance, Browns tight end Austin Hooper had a 13 yard touchdown reception with 19 seconds remaining in the first half last week that looked like a mix up in coverage. The linebacker (Roquon Smith) thought the safety was going to pick him and the safety obviously thought the linebacker was going to carry him.

    Fast forward to today. The Lions are on the Bears 25 yard line. Lions quarterback Jared Goff hits Kalif Raymond for a touchdown pass as he runs right by safety Deon Bush as linebacker Alec Ogletree failed to carry him.

    This is a mistake that should have been cleaned up last week. It’s mildly worrisome that it wasn’t.

  • Eddie Goldman played today and, even though he wasn’t on the stat sheet, I thought he was disruptive and played well. Same for Khyris Tonga and Bilal Nichols. All three were generally disruptive and Nichols made arguably the play of the game by catching an early snap that bounced off of Goff in the shotgun.
  • The pass rush was also pretty good today as Smith, Trevis Gipson, Robert Quinn and Khalil Mack all had sacks. Unfortunately, the Bear had a bad habit of letting the Lions off the hook with penalties and other errors which decreased the effectiveness of these plays. But it was a good sign that they continued. Special kudos to Quinn who played well and is rapidly shedding his “free agent bust” label.
  • I’m glad to say that Duke Shelley played well today. Nickel corner was a particular problem the first few games. No complaints today.
  • It wasn’t all roses and rainbows for the defense. The Lions ran over them (90 yards rushing, 3.6 yards per rush) in an effort that was worse then the statistics indicated. Deon Bush has a rough game in coverage and will be under scrutiny this week if Tashaun Gipson isn’t ready to play.

Miscellaneous

  • I dislike Aqib Talib as an announcer even more than I disliked him as a player. And that’s saying something because I thought he might possibly have been the dirtiest player in the NFL. I learned nothing today.
  • The Bears weren’t very disciplined to day with 7 poorly timed penalties for 61 yards with several being declined. Defensive offsides was an issue. I usually don’t get too alarmed about these until you get up closer to 10 violations. But today I’d say they’re lucky they weren’t playing a better team.
  • The two fumbles that the Bears recovered today were huge. the Bilal Nichols recovery, really catch, of an early shotgun snap that bounced off of jared goff as he approached the line to adjust the protections saved at least three points and quite possibly more. It makes such a difference when you win the turnover battle.
  • I thought Jared Goff struggled with his accuracy today. It makes me wonder if the Lions don’t make this game a lot closer on a better day for him. The rematch of these two teams in Detroit will be interesting. Nagy has gone 5-1 against the Lions in his career, but the one loss was particularly damaging for him. It was a 34-30 Lions comeback in December that had many convinced that Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace weren’t going to make it into the offseason (including me). They play in Detroit this year on Thanksgiving with the whole world watching.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Browns 9/26/21

American author Simone Elkeles once said, “I want to try making things right because picking up the pieces is way better than leaving them the way they are.” That’s the task facing the Bears this week. Because leaving the pieces the way that they were today is going to make for a very long year.

The spread for this game opened at the Browns -7.5 over the Bears on Sunday and never moved all week. I heard a few Bears media members question the spread wondering, not just why it was so large, but why the Bears weren’t actually favored. I think now we know why. They were out played and out coached in virtually every area today.

It was a tough game for quarterback Justin Fields in his first NFL start. The rookie looked exhausted at the end of this beating and you could understand why. The Browns threw a variety of stunts and blitzes at the Bears offense and you have to wonder, even if they had seen them all on film and prepared for them, if they could have stopped them. It was impossible to even begin to judge his performance because he never had a chance. Fields has certainly never played in a game like that in his entire life. You only hope now that he has what it takes to fight back and recover rather than allowing this game to psychologically damage him to the point where his chances of success in the league are seriously affected.

At least some of the sacks were on Fields. But most of them were a result of an offensive line that was overwhelmed and unprepared for the onslaught and which got very little help once it because evident that they were having trouble handling it. If the Bers were going max protect to help their beleaguered quarterback, I didn’t see it much.

The Browns defensive backfield, supposedly the weakness of their team, had a field day against the Bears receivers in man coverage. Knowing that the Bears had to get the ball out fast, they sat on short routes and made it impossible for Bears receivers to get open.

It will be on head coach Matt Nagy to clean up this mess. It is now his task and that of his coaches and players to face the film, try to get a handle on the many problem that this game exposed and to formulate a plan to tackle the massive task of correcting them. It going to be a long week and beyond as the team pulls itself together. We will find out what they and their young quarterback are made of in the process.

Defense

  • The Bears appeared to play a lot of two deep zone defense today as they usually do. Quarterback Baker Mayfield did a good job of trying to hit the soft spots in the zone and was generally effective despite some problems with his accuracy.
  • It was a really good day for the Bears defensive front today. It would not be going to say that the front seven was dominant when rushing the passer, putting Baker Mayfield under good pressure for most of the day. Khalil Mack had 2 sacks despite leaving the game early along with Akiem Hicks. Both came back. Robert Quin had 1.5 sacks as he continues to recover from a miserable year last year. The team as a whole had 5 as Bears defensive coordinator continued to scheme sacks for them in a way that Chuck Pagano never did.
  • It helped that the defensive line got Mario Edwards Jr. back from a two-game suspension. He reportedly was one of the best players in training camp, constantly getting into the backfield. He had 1 sack and was disruptive as was Jeremiah Attoachu.
  • The Bears allowed 215 yards rushing (5.1 yards per carry) and you could say that the loss of Eddie Goldman to a knee injury affected the game. But in fairness, the Browns have two dynamic runners in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and a strong offensive line. And it didn’t help that the Bears defense wore down after being left out on the field for almost 40 minutes as the Browns dominated time of possession.
  • Duke Shelley gave up a lot of key completions last week and had a miserable day. Cooper Kupp got loose against the Bears in the opener as he caught four passes for 83 yards going against Marqui Christian. Shelley replaced Christian against the Bengals, and they completed six of seven passes targeting Shelley for 72 yards and a 109.5 rating. According to Pro Football Reference, opponents had a 118.1 rating throwing against Shelley last season. However, I didn’t see that much wrong with what Shelley did today. It was a nice job of recovering after such a terrible game and the effort may make Bears fans feel better about the nickel corner back position from here on out.
  • The Bears linebackers had a tough day in coverage. Both Hunt and tight end Austin Hooper had big chunk gains against the Bers defense. Running back Demetric Felton also had some good gains early.
  • I’m surprised Alec Ogletree hasn’t been exposed that much in coverage yet. Most of the burden appears to have fallen to Roquan Smith and doesn’t look like he’s been asked to do it much. Ogletree has generally looked OK and is more mobile than Danny Trevathan at this point in his career. Before today he has been on the field for 80 of 107 defensive snaps (74.8%) and has eight tackles with a quarterback hit that led to defensive lineman Angelo Blackson’s interception Sunday.

  • The Bears also really struggled to cover Odell Beckham in his first game back after suffering an ACL injury last year. Beckham really made a statement as it didn’t matter who was covering him. He couldn’t be handled.
  • Its notable that the Bears got burned by the back shoulder throw a couple times this game, once by Beckham and once by Donovan Peoples-Jones. This pass is almost uncoverable when executed well and I’ve wondered why more teams don’t do it more often.

Offense

  • The Browns gave up 544 yards passing in the first 2 weeks of the season. The Bears had 86 yards passing last week against the Bengals. This game was always going to come down in large part to which was worse, the Browns secondary or the Bears passing offense. I think that statement was definitively made. The Bears had 41 yards of offense and 2 first downs at halftime. Their game total was a miserable 47 yards with 1 yard passing. You read that right – 1 yard passing. The time of possession was only 20:26 as they were dominated in every phase of the game.
  • The Browns defense have two game-wrecking pass rushers in defensive ends Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney (2 sacks) and both showed their quality, especially Garrett who had a career day with 4.5 sacks. The Bears offensive line was virtually helpless giving up 9 sacks total. Not all of them were their fault. But most were. Pressure came from the outside, it came from the middle, it came from everywhere. Browns defensive coordinator Joe Woods put together a package of stunts and blitzes for Fields, at least some of which the Bears had likely not seen. Fields may have been part of the problem but the offensive line was the vast majority of it as they handled everything poorly today. It was noticable that head coach Matt Nagy did very little to help the line out. I didn’t see much max protect out thee and I don’t think the tight ends gave a lot of help to the offensive tackles.
  • We saw the Bears make a more of an effort to push the ball downfield against the Bengals but the Bears were still near the bottom of the league going in yards per attempt going into the game today. This game won’t help (0.0 yards per attempt!) as the Bears had to get the ball out fast to protect Justin Fields from the vicious Browns pass rush. This also allowed the Browns to smother the Bears receivers knowing that they weren’t going to be going downfield with the ball. I was worried that the Bears weren’t going to be able to beat man coverage when the season started. I’d say this game didn’t ease those concerns.
  • Justin Fields threw 13 times last week and virtually every meaningful pass was to the outside. Its hard to judge when there is so little success offensively overall and ahough they didn’t complete many (if any), I was glad to see that they at least attempted a few over the middle today.
  • A big story going into this game was going to be whether head coach Matt Nagy was going to do anything to help Justin Fields out. It’s very hard to judge under the circumstances but I would say that Nagy did. Nagy made a concerted effort to help Fields by running the ball with a heavy doese of David Montgomery. I saw some designed runs and some roll outs and a fair bit of play action. So I think its fair to cut Nagy some slack on that front.

Miscellaneous

  • In some ways this was a clean game. There were no turnovers and few if any dropped passes. The Bears had 5 penalties (44 yards) and the Browns had 7 with only a 48 yard pass interference call thtat was really damaging – and it was a very poor call by the official. Bears special teams had a little trouble in coverage and the Browns special teams unit had at least two penalties by my count so there might be some things to clean up there. But over all it wasn’t bad.

Quick Game Comments: Bengals at Bears 9/19/21

American Poet Mark Strand once said, “The future is always beginning now.” Never was that more true than today. Most Bears fans will agree that this game was really about Justin Fields emergence from the sideline to play his first significant half of football. And, oh, by the way, they also won the game over the Bengals.

I wouldn’t call this a great game by Fields but I will say that he looked like he belonged and he deserves credit for doing just enough to help the team win.

Some felt that putting Fields out onto the playing surface for isolated plays here and there was too disruptive to the flow of the game for both Fields and Andy Dalton. Well, no one will be saying that today. After Dalton injured a knee near the end of the first half, Fields entered the game. Dalton came back in for a series but in the end he had to go to the locker room, perhaps never to play again for the Bears. It was evident that he thought he could still play. They Bears decided that they wanted to see more of Field. He got the rest of the game to show what he could do.

To me the big question with Fields has been whether he can play from the pocket. No quarterback can truly succeed in the NFL long term without being able to do that. The evident goal has been to get Fields to the point where he could and he hadn’t shown it to this point. Most of his best plays were when he made his read, didn’t find a receiver and ran. That was true again today.

Fields was just a little bit off for most of the half. He generally held the ball too long. His balls tended to be just a tad bit late and/or just a little bit too far out in front of the receivers. He looks like he still needs to work on his timing. He had some trouble with some false starts when it looked like he was trying to get the snap and he was laying back on his back foot in anticipation of getting it. He’s going to have to clean that up. And, of course, he threw a bad interception deep in Bears territory with the team up by 10 points late in the fourth quarter. It resulted in a Bengals touchdown and a razor thin 3 point lead which the Bears managed to hold onto in the end.

So Fields was generally up and down when he wasn’t running with the ball. But as expected, it was his mobility that made the difference and he used it to good effect to make plays to finish the game out.

It wasn’t a great start. But it was a start and probably a new future for a franchise badly in need of one.

Offense

  • The Bears didn’t do much play action last week despite the fact that the running game worked quite well. So it was nice to see Andy Dalton throw a play action pass the first play the game. I wish they had done more of it as the game wore on.
  • And that’s because David Montgomery picked up where he left off from last week and came out running well. Montgomery ran 20 times for 61 very tough yards where he frequently made a few yards out of nothing. Overall the Bears ran for 123 yards and it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Montgomery was the beating heart of the offense.
  • Last week the Bears hardly ever threw the ball beyond 10 yards. They threw at least four passes beyond that much on the first drive alone, ending the drive with a pass to Allen Robinson. Over the course of the game they averaged a very disappointing 3.1 yards per pass and that has to come up. But I’ll give them credit for at least taking their shots on occasion. Now they just have to complete more of them.
  • The Bears were not good on third down and terrible on fourth down last week against the Rams despite working on this aspect of their game all summer. They were a substandard 6 for 15 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth down today. So more work needs to be done in this critical area.
  • Supposedly the Bengals were going to play single high safety man-to-man coverage. However the Rams had a lot of success playing a two deep safety zone against the Bears last week. As it turns out the Bengals chose to follow the Rams game plan this week. However the Bears attacked the zone this week instead of simply throwing short and the results were better and they moved the ball to much greater effect. Eventually they went back to man-to-man And although they weren’t pressing the Bears like I thought they might, it was still more effective.
  • I thought that it was interesting that the Bengals started off by rushing three and trying to confuse Fields by playing coverage. It didn’t work very well as Fields was left with all day to survey the field and wait for someone to come open. Eventually they started to blitz him and that had a much greater effect. Assuming Fields continues to start, I think that’s what we’ll see a lot of until Fields shows that he can burn the teams that try it.
  • My guess is that smart defenses will avoid fancy adjustments and simply play the Bears offense in the way that best fits their own strengths from here on out figuring that they can beat the Bears if they make them play their own game the way that the Rams and, ultimately, the Bengals did.

  • Tough day for the interior of the Bears offense of line. They gave up a number of sacks and pressures and were generally dominated by the Bengals defensive tackles. That has to get better. They are supposedly the strength of the unit.

Defense

  • To my surprise, the Bengals came out and attacked Jaylon Johnson this week. I would’ve thought they would’ve gone after Kindle Vildor, who you would think was the weakest link on the outside in the Bears defensive backfield. On the other hand they also attacked Duke Shelley, who started this game after he was a game day inactive last week. And that was not a surprise. Shelley reclaimed the job today after spending the offseason as the starting nickel cornerback. But coaches went with Marqui Christian against the Rams. It didn’t matter as Shelly has a miserable game.
  • I think we can officially consider nickel cornerback to be a serious issue.

  • Sean Desai did a good job of designing pass rushes upfront to take advantage of the talent in the Bears front seven. There were lots of twists and stunts and other games that were being played upfront that were reasonably effective at getting pressure on Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
  • The Bears have been starting young draft picks at quarterback in an effort to save cap space at other positions for 5 years now. Starting with Mitch Trubisky and now with Justin Fields, not having to pay a franchise quarterback allowed the Bears to pay money to a lot of other players at a lot of other positions. They’ve invested money into the pass rush (Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn) and into safety (namely Eddie Jackson). And over the last two years the players at these positions have consistently failed to live up to their billing. And their salaries.
  • Today was different however and I thought these players came through. Khalil Mack had a sack as did apparent free agent bust Robert Quinn. Quinn also looked like he was penetrating and generally causing some havoc today. Eddie Jackson caused a fumble that resulted in a Bears field goal in the third quarter. All in all a good day for the Bears cap space. That needs to continue.

Miscellaneous

  • The Bears looked flat in their first game last Sunday and they needed to play with an edge today. I thought that they came out and played with much greater energy at the beginning of the game this week. I found that to be encouraging.
  • The Bears opened as a 3 point favorite against the Bengals at home but it was a bad sign when that line fell to only 2 points on Friday when the sharp money came in. Apparently the bookies had it right in the beginning. Although the Bengals looked to me to be the better team when I watched them play the Vikings last week, I thought they came out just a bit flat today after what was probably a big win for them.
  • As it so often is, turnovers were the story of this game. The Bears really made hay on them today as a fumble caused by Jackson resulted in three points and a pick-six by Roquan Smith resulted in seven more. An interception by Johnson would have given the Bears three more points but in offensive pass interference Cole Kmet took the Bears at a field goal range. The situation was saved by and Angelo Blackson interception on the next pro possession which resulted in a field goal.
  • On the negative side was Fields’ his first career interception deep in Bears territory with the Bears up by 10 points. The Bengals pulled to within three points with the resulting touchdown. This is a situation where you just can’t throw it late in the game while protecting such a lead and it could have led to a disastrous finish.

  • This was a game where the Bears coaches had to make corrections, especially in the Bears defensive backfield and I’m not sure that they did so successfully.
  • Last week the Bears picked up right where they left off last season: they had an offense that couldn’t score and had a defense that is no longer dominant and may not even be top 10 in the league. It was the performance of that defense that was most disappointing. In particular, the tackling was poor and this veteran defense committed a number of mental errors, allowing the Rams to score quickly,
    often and far too easily.
  • The Bears defense has been living off of its reputation far too long and it is time for it to stop talking about setting a high standard and to actually start living it. That process needed to start this week as the defense needed to make adjustments and corrections based upon the many mistakes that it committed last week. Veteran players needed better preparation and better concentration during the game to avoid costly mental errors that the Bears deficient office could not make up for.

    “(It was) just making sure that we focus on little things,” cornerback Kindle Vildor said. “The stuff that we got beat on, it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, this person was just better or stuff like that.’ It was little, small fundamental things that we didn’t make sure we took care of. So we pretty much buckled in on that this whole week to get ready for Sunday.”

    It was inattention to the little details that killed the Bears defense last week. You could argue that its been inattention to the little details that prevented the Bears as a whole team from executing and performing to the level of a championship caliber team for going three years now. So I was a bit disappointed to see some of those problems continue today.

    Bengals’ receivers were frequently left all but alone as they wandered through the Bears secondary. Both Johnson and Vildor let receivers get behind them deep in the fourth quarter as the Bears were protecting a 17 point lead. Penalty after penalty, some of them extremely stupid (I’m looking at you Quinn and Gipson) cost the Bears time after time as poor Montgomery had a couple very nice long runs eliminated. In the first quarter deep in their own territory the Bears once again called a time out as the play clock wore down and, coming out of the time out, got a false start penalty.

    The Bears organization thinks that they have a good, competitive team here. But these are things that good, competitive teams cannot do. Eventually they have to come to an end if the team is going to have a chance to beat teams near the top of the league.

Game Comments: Bears at Rams 9/12/21

Was this really unexpected?

I mean, really, did anyone outside of Halas Hall think this team was going to win this game?

Its the “outside of Halas Hall” part of that question that is most relevant to the Bears team and its fans. Since January 2019 every single move that the Bears as an organization has made has said one thing: “we are a Super Bowl contender.” They’ve used every resources at their disposal to accomplish that one goal. They use all of their cap space and borrow well into the future. They trade future draft picks. They exhaust every future resource. All in order to accumulate the best possible players for the present time. You only do that when you think you are contending for a Super Bowl.

Many fans have wondered why general manager Ryan Pace kept his job in January. They wonder why rookie Justin Fields isn’t the starting quarterback. Well, a good part of the reason is because he has been telling team president George McCaskey that this is a Super Bowl contender and they aren’t ready to concede games while a rookie quarterback gets his feet under him. Pace told him that that this team was a contender after the 2018 season. He told him that after the 2019 season. And he told them that again after the 2020 season. Every team transaction tells you that.

And McCaskey has chosen to to give him one more chance to prove that 2019 and 2020 were not representative of what this team is. The entire organization said after each season that they were disappointed that the team was 8–8 and that the team was better than that. And they really believe it.

And there lies the problem. Because outside of her Halas Hall, everyone – and I mean everyone – knows that this simply isn’t the case. Mike Sando at The Athletic polled NFL executives around the league and found that the Bears ranked 14th out of 16 NFC teams in their opinion this year. In 2019 and in 2020 almost every single time the Bears came up against a winning team they failed to perform to a competitive standard. The result today was completely in line with that.

And this is why, against all apparent logic, Bears fans should know that the result tonight is a good thing. Because every single time the Bears lose to a team that actually is competitive, it hammers home the fact of who they actually are – again. And hammering home that fact one more time is the key to getting better.

The famous American playwright Eugene O’Neill once wrote:

“If a person is to get the meaning of life he must learn to like the facts about himself – ugly as they may seem to his sentimental vanity – before he can learn the truth behind the facts. And the truth is never ugly.“

This is a process that has already begun at Halas Hall. And this is why Bears fans should embrace the result tonight.

Because this game emphasizes who are the Bears actually are and understanding who they are is the key to team eventually becoming something that we can all be proud of.

Here are some specific comments from the game:

Defense

  • The performance of the office in this game was no surprise. But the performance of the default defense has to be a major disappointment to most fans. It was hope that new defensive coordinator Sean Desai would bring back the days of Vic Fangio’s defense. But the new regime definitely got off to a rough start. They didn’t stop either pass or the run and things looked pretty grim for most of the night.
  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune quoted a scout last week
    on why pass rusher Leonard Floyd had so much success with the Rams last year:>
  • “What they did last year better than probably any team in the NFL was scheme their pass rushers and put Floyd in situations in which he could win more favorable one-on-ones. They also used plenty of games and stunts off the edge to get him easier rush paths to get home to the quarterback.”

    This is completely consistent with what the Bears under Fangio did with Floyd. And what Chuck Pagano didn’t do. And this is why there was some hope going into the game that the Bears under Desai might generate more pass rush. Didn’t work out that way as they had only one sack. The problem, of course, is that when you play games upfront in order to generate a pass rush it takes time. Which means you have to be able to cover. The Bears did a poor job. The pass defense was horrific allowing 11.6 yards per pass.

  • I think the Bears were surprised that Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford rolled out as much as he did and it threw them off and made it a bit more difficult for them to get a pass rush on him. Stafford wasn’t under that much pressure very often and he handled it well.
  • Marqui Christian is your nickel cornerback and Kindle Vildor played much of the night on the outside. You wonder if that might change in the near future. It was a tough night.
  • As they did on occasion during the preseason, the Bears Missed quite a few tackles this game. That is simply something they are going to have to clean up or it’s going to be a very long year.
  • The Bears decisively won time of possession in this game having the ball just over 35 minutes. Usually that’s a good sign. But unfortunately in this game it means that the Rams scored so fast that they didn’t need to keep the ball very long or run that many plays. It was a funny statistical anomaly.
  • Given the time of possession stat, I wasn’t too pleased to see the Rams steam roll the Bears in the fourth quarter to close out the game. Frequently when this happens it’s because the defense has been left out on the field too long. But there were no excuses this game. I’m not too sure this wasn’t just lack of heart.

Offense

  • David Montgomery start of the game off with a good long run at 41 yards. That would be his long for the entire game unfortunately. So at least the Bears weren’t bad statistically at 5.2 yards per rush. They had 26 attempts. Give credit to Montgomery for showing the contact balance that he supposedly had when he was drafted and looking pretty good tonight.
  • The problem, of course, is that if they couldn’t pass the ball. At 4.4 yards per pass the Bears were off the charts bad in this area. And although we are all proponents of running the ball effectively, it’s a passing league and you need to be able to use the run to set up the pass. So it’s no mystery as to why they couldn’t move the ball.
  • As Cris Collinsworth pointed out very well on the broadcast, the Rams were playing a lot of deep zone to limit the big play. Big plays are at a premium in this situations and it forces teams to execute. The Bears struggled with that. As they often do.
  • Marquise Goodwin emerged as the queer number three receiver behind David Robinson and Darnell Mooney. Those three receivers accounted for more than half of the Bears pass receptions. It’s also evident that the Bears are going to rely more on Cole Kmet this season at tight end. Jimmy Graham had only one reception and wasn’t much of a factor.
  • The Bears struggled a bit with pass protection. The Bears generally got the ball out quickly and I wouldn’t say that Andy Dalton was under siege but Jason Peters definitely struggled on the left side as he returns to the league at an advanced age. He didn’t last the first half before leaving the game with an injury. He was replaced y fifth round rookie Larry Borom. Then Borom went down near the end of the third quarter and he was replaced by Elijah Wilkenson. This could be problematic.
  • Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor talked last wee about the Bears troubles on third down and in the red zone in 2020 and what they were doing this year to improve it:
  • “We tried to zero in on the concepts in practice that we felt confident we could carry through the year,” Lazor said. “Not every concept’s good against every defense. But if you start with your staples, things you feel like you have an answer versus everything and get really good at those and build confidence in it, they can carry the bulk of your red zone throughout the year.”

    The Bears were two of three in the red zone but only five of 11 on third down And 0 for 4 on fourth down.. So I’d say more work still needs to be done there.

    Thought it was interesting that head coach Matt Nagy chose to bring in Justin Fields while the team was in the red zone on the first set of downs. It occurred to me that it could be an indication that he thinks he needs an extra boost in that area and that Field’s mobility might help him with that. Sure enough Fields came in near the end of the third-quarter and ran for a touchdown. It looks like Nagy might be using him as a red zone weapon while he develops.

  • Not a big fan of criticizing play calling. But it did frequently look to me like the Rams knew what the Bears were going to run before the place started. There’s definitely the possibility that the league has caught up to Matt Nagy. And passed him and left him behind.

Miscellaneous

  • Khalil Herbert had a 50 yard kick return to start the game. Looks like he’s going to be there kick returner at least in the near future.
  • Distantly this was a pretty clean game penalty wise. The Bears had only three penalties. The Rams had only four. Call commence fall start on the first set of downs didn’t help. You could argue that it played a major factor in leading to the interception in the endzone that took place there.
  • The Bears lost the turnover battle with a fumble and an interception. The game was all downhill after Dalton threw the interception in the endzone in the first set of downs.

A Few Comments on the Bears-Bills Preseason Game

I never do a full commentary on pre-season games. But here are a few thoughts on the game against the Bills.

  • Once again, I’m impressed by Justin Fields. His throws were generally on the money. He just doesn’t have the talent around him to make plays. But his mobility gives him something to use against a defense that Andy Dalton just doesn’t have. So far so good.
  • Its easy to talk about keeping Fields in the pocket. But its not too easy to do. He backs out of the pocket and runs around the ends sometimes in the same way that Patrick Mahomes does. You can do that when you have a good strong arm to throw from deeper in the back field like Fields does.
  • The Bears starting offense once again struggled in press man coverage. I’ve a feeling that once again we are going to see a lot of that this year. The Bears don’t have the talent at wide receiver to beat it.
  • The Bears offensive line was not good. The run blocking was especially poor. They occasionally had protection issues. Elijah Wilkinson just isn’t a left tackle. If Jason Peters doesn’t still have it at almost 40 years old or if he gets hurt, the Bears are in deep trouble.
  • This wasn’t a good game for Damien Williams. He wasn’t gaining much and the fumble near the end of the first quarter wasn’t a good look. His roster spot probably isn’t in danger, though.
  • Rodney Adams looked good again with a nice touchdown pass from Dalton.
  • Once again, tight end Jesse James showed up to play today. He’ll add good depth to the only room on offense where you can feel good about the depth.
  • Personally, I didn’t think Dalton looked bad. But he’s surrounded by bad talent and he’s not the kind of quarterback that is going to be able to overcome that.
  • Both teams broke the mold and neither played defense as vanilla as the Bears and Dolphins did in the first pre-season game. The Bears were blitzing with some frequency as were the Bills, who were also disguising their coverages. Obviously the Bills handled it far better.
  • By far the biggest issue defensively was missed tackles. The Bears were poor all over the field. That has to get cleaned up before the season starts.
  • The Bears also had a few busted coverages that didn’t help. That needs to be cleaned up.
  • Alec Ogletree had a poor game after a good showing last week. The Bills offensive linemen were getting to the second level and took him out of the game.
  • Duke Shelly played nickel back while Kindle Vildor spent his time outside. Neither did anything special. The Bills completed a lot of slant passes, especially to whoever was lined up off of the line of scrimmage.
  • To their credit, the Bears defense wasn’t too bad against the run. Khyiris Tonga had a good showing and was solid in the middle. They may need him as Eddie Goldman has had a flaky camp. And they occasionally got pressure on Trubisky. But the Bills carved up their defensive backfield. Its going to be a long year if this is an indication of how the regular season will go.
  • Charles Snowden showed up again today with some nice pressures in the second half He’s a guys to keep an eye on. Sam Kamara got a coverage sack. That’s two weeks in a row that he’s showed up. On the other hand, Trevis Gibson didn’t have a great first half with the starters as he looks to take the next step this year. GM Ryan Pace traded up for him two years ago and right now it doesn’t look like a great move.
  • I thought Mitch Trubisky looked good. He hit the wide open receivers and made a throw or two into tight windows. He got less accurate late in his appearance.
  • Khalil Herbert got a good look on kick returns and didn’t impress. He bobbled one in the second quarter.
  • It wasn’t a good day for special teams. Once again the punt coverage was atrocious and the Bears failed to clean that up from last week. They gave up a 54 yard return in the second quarter and a 79 yard touchdown in the third. They had a blocked extra point.
  • Man, this was a long game. They should disallow coaches challenges in pre-season games. It was almost 3 hours in and there were still 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. There’s no excuse for a pre-season game lasting this long.
  • The first boos were heard in Soldier Field mid-way through the second quarter of the second pre-season game. And the Bears deserved every bit of it. Talent-wise, this doesn’t look like a good team and what talent they have out there isn’t performing well right now.

Some Thoughts on the Bears Pre-season Game against the Dolphins. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • I never do a full commentary on pre-season games. But here are a few thoughts on the game against the Dolphins.
    1. I thought Deon Bush showed up ready to play. He wants a job. If he keeps playing fast he’ll have one.
    2. Alec Ogletree is fighting an uphill battle for an inside linebacker job as the Bears would almost certainly have to keep an extra-linebacker to keep him. But he’s definitely showing up on defense. He was everywhere against the run but maybe showed his weakness against the pass when Dolphins TE Mike Gesickie burned him badly. In fairness, not many linebackers in the league can cover Gesickie and if he’s in man coverage with one, its because someone called the wrong defense. He’s going to have to show up on special teams.
    3. The Bears wide receiving corp is a very weak group (see below) and they struggled badly against a good group of Dolphins defensive backs in man coverage. Let’s hope this isn’t a season preview because its going to be miserable to watch if it is.
    4. The Bears did a good job of stopping the run and a decent job of getting pressure on Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa. But its worth noting that the Dolphins offensive line is a poorly rated group that they hoped would be better this year. It didn’t show this game, especially when blocking the run.
    5. Having said that, OLB Trevis Gibson stood out. Now let’s see it against some good starters.
    6. Rookie QB Justin Field‘s first series. Third and 8. Two penalties. Third and 18. You aren’t at Ohio State anymore, my man.
    7. I thought Fields had a good outing for a first preseason game. He was accurate enough but he struggled due to his poor receiving unit and the good Dolphins coverage. His mobility showed and he used it to his advantage to open up receivers while looking down field. My only complaint? He has to go down sooner. You can’t be held up helplessly by one defender while a second one flies in to wallop you. He won’t last long if he keeps dong that.
    8. Tagovailoa looks noticeably better than he did last year. The accuracy that he showed at Alabama was finally on full display and he went down field rather than constantly checking down. So far so good for him.
    9. OLB Sam Kamara showed up late ion the game. For all of these guys like him a lot comes down to special teams. I didn’t notice him if he played.
  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic writes about how the defense believes that it will improve. He particularly addresses Robert Quinn‘s situation. Quinn is threatening to be the biggest free agent bust in franchise history:
  • Providing hope for a Quinn rebound is the team’s switch at defensive coordinator.

    “I mean, if you want to be honest, if you’ve known my career, if you know me, you know where I like to be,” Quinn said. “I think (new defensive coordinator Sean Desai) knows where I’m most dominant at. But at the end of the day, you’ve got to do what best fits the team but also what best fits the players to get the best out of the player.”

    This sounds suspiciously like finger pointing to me. I’m having a hard time believing Quinn’s miserable two sacks last year was a result of former defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano not putting Quinn in a position to succeed. He put him out at outside linebacker on passing downs and said, “Go get the quarterback”. When a guy is getting paid what Quinn is, that should be all it takes.

    Its hard to understate how badly Quinn hurt the Bears defense last year. Teams basically have two choices. They can sink their money into defensive backs to cover while they take their time, playing games up front to rush the passer. Or they can sink their money into the pass rush. The Bears did the latter. And it didn’t work, largely because Quinn couldn’t beat a man one-on-one to get a sack, leaving Khalil Mack to get hung out to dry with triple teams on the other side.

    Pass rush opposite Mack is the most important defensive need this year. Hopefully Quinn can recover and provide it. But if he can’t, it has to come from somewhere else or they will never be anything more than a good defense that’s another year older.

  • Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times says that center Sam Mustipher is bigger this year:
  • By his listed weights, the 6-2 Mustipher is virtually unchanged from 2020 — from 311 pounds to 314. But he likely was lighter than 311 last year and is a much more fit 314 this year. Working with Bears sports-science coordinator Jennifer Gibson, Mustipher not only got bigger, he got stronger and in better shape.

    “I don’t think it’s the weight as much as it is muscle,” Mustipher said. “I think I’m at the highest amount of lean body mass that I’ve ever had in my life, which was huge.

    Mustipher is very popular with the Chicago media after playing reasonably well against poor competition down the stretch at the end of the season last year. The problem that I have is that I can’t find anyone outside of Chicago with a good work to say about the guy. He rated 28th out of 32 center at Pro Football Focus heading into the current season.

    If he doesn’t do better than that, offensive tackle may not be the only problem the Bears face along the offensive line.

  • Potash also addresses head coach Matt Nagy‘s self-improvement goals for the year. But before you can do that, you have to define the problems:
  • Since he rode the wave of a fabulous defensive performance in 2018 and looked like an inventive offensive coach ready to take the Bears’ offense to the next level, Nagy has struggled in almost every facet of managing the offense. He failed to develop Trubisky. He struggled to outfox opposing defensive coordinators. He just looked out of sync and consumed by the immense challenge of turning a bad offense into a good one.

    Nagy’s made a lot of poor decisions over the last 3 years. to his credit he’s learned from them. But that simply isn’t good enough.

    The Bears have a bad habit of hiring inexperienced first time HCs. Dave Wannsedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman were all first timers. Recently, hiring hot shot young, “innovative” offensive head coaches is the league trend.

    But Nagy can’t just make all kinds of mistakes and correct them. He has to start making more decisions right the first time. You can’t always be learning the hard way. All head coaches, no matter their level of experience, are confronted with unique problems. At some point your instincts have to tell you the right thing to do. Otherwise, you may just have to face the fact that you weren’t cut out to be a head coach.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times predicts the 53 man roster:
  • Wide receiver

    They’ll likely keep: 5

    He’s in: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Dazz Newsome

    He’s on the bubble: Riley Ridley, Javon Wims

    He’s out: Rodney Adams, Justin Hardy, Thomas Ives, Jon’Vea Johnson, Chris Lacy, Jester Weah

    The lowdown: The Bears have spent years waiting for regular contributions from Wims and Ridley; instead, they have 38 catches over five combined seasons. This is the year one of them joins Anthony Miller on the list of receivers the Bears can’t wait around for any longer.

    They said it: “He does what he’s supposed to do. He’s simple. He knows his role. He’s fast. He’s a smooth runner.” — Nagy on Byrd

    The Bears have a problem at wide receiver.

    Robinson is definitely a number one on any team. He’s middle of the league as number one receivers go. But he’s definitely a top guy.

    They’re depending a lot on Mooney taking the next step to be a legitimate number two. But I’ll say that the potential is there.

    But after that its a bunch of speedy guys who are about 5’9″ and who have been average in their best years in terms of production.

    So its Robinson and a whole lot of desperate hope. The depth is deplorable.

  • Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune reports that some of the Bears are wearing helmets with padding on the outside at practice.
  • I always wondered why they never tried this. I doubt that it would actually decrease the number of concussions but I do think that it would likely decrease the number of injuries caused by helmets to other players.

  • Fishbain and Adam Jahns note that Nagy is adding some new kinks to practice:
  • Nagy is here to challenge Desai and his defensive coaching staff, too. That played out late in practice Saturday, where their communication was tested.

    “You could see more coaches on the sideline trying to figure out the personnel we were in,” Nagy said. “We just don’t script, so we’ll just play it out. We call it a play-it-out series. They’ve got to adjust to what our personnel is, and then I script the down and distances and the situation going into the practice and then those guys, it makes them think.

    “Sean loves it because he’s never called a game before, at least in the NFL, so he’s got to be able to adjust and adapt, and I think that helps him get to that point”

    To Nagy’s credit, he seems to e doing more this year to make his players and coaches think on their own. He’s also
    added the “sudden change” drills where he suddenly stops practice and sets up a situation for players to perform in with no scripting for the players or coaches.

    I think that’s a mature change to Nagy’s coaching style. We’ll see if it helps.

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
  • With both tackles temporarily out and the roster being shy of solid tackle backups, why hasn’t Ryan Pace brought in a veteran as insurance? It would seem to be a priority. — Marc B., Nashville, Tenn.

    Definitely a fair question and one that will become more pressing if Teven Jenkins misses more time or if the backup plans begin to falter. I would say a couple of things in regard to this. First, the shelves at the left tackle store are pretty much bare. It’s not like there’s product the Bears can go out and buy right now. Second, it makes sense to look at the depth the team has built on the offensive line. Would the Bears prefer to be evaluating Jenkins right now? You bet. But they’re getting looks at other players getting a lot of reps, and that will speed the evaluation process across the board.

    The only tackles out there are going to cost more than they are worth and the Bears have little cap space and won’t have much next year either. I think we’re looking at picking up line depth in the final cuts right before the season starts.

  • Another quote from Biggs:
  • What struck me Tuesday morning before the practice at Soldier Field was coach Matt Nagy talking about the turning point for the Bears offense a year ago when it started to put up better numbers in the final six weeks or so.

    “It was really simple for me,” Nagy said. “We got that offensive line in sync. Done. It was really that easy.”

    Yeah, it wasn’t that easy. The ears finished their schedule against some of the worst teams that they saw all year.

    I’m not saying that the offensive line wasn’t better. They just weren’t all that much better.

One Final Thought

Biggs quotes QB Nick Foles as the Bears seek a trading partner for him:

“I don’t want to just go somewhere where I don’t know them, I don’t know the offense,” he said. “I’ve gone done that road before and it’s not fun. There are plenty of quarterbacks that go down that road. You’ve got to be in something that you know, something that you’re comfortable with, so you can pull that trigger as fast as you can.”

As I read this article a couple things occurred to me.

First of all, he had all of those things when he came to the Bears. It didn’t work out too well.

Second, and more importantly, Foles doesn’t exactly come across as a guy who is preparing to overcome adversity. And overcoming adversity is what the game is about. Things are rarely perfect. For any of us.

Too Early for Alarm. But Keep an Eye on Fields’ Accuracy. And Other Points of View.

Bears

  • Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune comments on the performance at quarterback in the Bears first training camp practice on Thursday:
  • [Andy] Dalton is much crisper [than Justin Fields] with his reads, especially when he scans the entire field. Fields was a little late with some of his decisions and a little off with more than a few throws.

    This should not be alarming and certainly in another three weeks, Fields probably will be crisper. It’s an example of the learning curve for rookies — highly drafted rookies — face when they enter the NFL. The action happens faster, the windows are smaller (and aren’t open for as long) and the rush is at a different level.

    Adam Jahns concurs a day later while adding in a complement.

    Two practices in, the misses have outnumbered the hits for Fields, but he does seem to produce at least one throw in every practice that features a tantalizing quality or two.

    Glad to hear it. But the knock on Fields has been that his foot work isn’t up to snuff and that it causes him to miss short throws that should be relatively easy completions. That makes his early struggles with these balls particularly significant.

    Cause for alarm? No. Something to keep an eye on? Absolutely.

  • Patrick Finley at the Chicago Sun-Times doesn’t seem to be too impressed with what the Bears got for wide receiver Anthony Miller:
  • The Bears’ return for receiver Anthony Miller was predictably paltry.

    The trade, agreed to on Saturday, became official Monday. The Bears will send Miller and their 2022 seventh-round pick to the Texans for their 2022 fifth-round pick.

    Actually, that sounds like a pretty darned good return to me. It seems that GM Ryan Pace agrees. Via Colleen Kane at the Chicago Tribune:

    “‘It just became a situation where, hey, both parties can benefit,” Pace said. ‘Once I realized we could get a fifth-round pick out of this — we’ve had a lot of success in that area of the draft.'”

    The last I heard, the compensation was likely going to be for a switch of late round picks. A fifth round pick, which could net, and has netted on the past, a starter, is far more valuable than a seventh rounder. Especially given that the Texans don’t look like a very good team on paper and the pick could be reasonably high in the round.

  • The writers at the Chicago Tribune answer four questions before training camp. One had to do with the most interesting position battle:
  • Biggs: Third wide receiver job.

    Turning to the slot receiver position, if the Bears are going to become more potent offensively, they’re going to need more productive playmakers. Former second-round pick Anthony Miller was cast off to the Houston Texans, and since his arrival Damiere Byrd has been the logical candidate to join Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney… Byrd should emerge ahead of Riley Ridley, Javon Wims, Marquise Goodwin, Dazz Newsome and others, but keep an eye out for someone excelling in the next several weeks.

    When I looked at The Athletic‘s 2021 Bears fan survey, one of the questions addressed the third wide receiver. I couldn’t believe how paltry the list was. Frankly, my answer would have been none of the above had it been an option.

    On paper this looks like the weakest position on the team. And that’s saying something because I am not overly impressed with what I see at cornerback beyond Jaylon Johnson.

  • Kevin Fishbain at The Athletic has thoughts as training camp gets under way:
  • “Coming off a disappointing first season in Chicago — 15 games, two sacks and six QB hits — veteran edge rusher Robert Quinn didn’t participate in OTAs or minicamp.

    “The 31-year old showed up to Halas Hall early for training camp, and Pace feels good about a player who last year looked like one of the team’s worst signings.

    “‘He’s been working hard,’ Pace said. ‘He’s looked good, and (outside linebackers coach) Bill Shuey’s doing a great job with him, so you guys will see him out at practice when you get out there and we feel good about him right now.’

    “Now, this is the most optimistic time of year for NFL teams. Every player is in the ‘best shape of his life.’ Every team is confident. But the simple fact that Quinn has been in the building for a few extra days is a good sign.”

    If the Bears are going to have any success this year, Quinn simply has to come through.

    Some teams like the Patriots and the Dolphins build from the back to the front, spending resources on the defensive backs and counting on good coverage as the defensive line wins with time consuming games and stunts up front. But the Bears are the opposite. They’re resources are tied up in their pass rush and it has to get home for them to have any success. Its as simple as that.

  • Dan Wiederer at the Chicago Tribune passes on the fact that Elijah Wilkinson will be the primary competition for rookie Tevin Jenkins at left tackle.
  • Wilkinson has primarily played right tackle in the NFL. Add that to the fact that most draft experts had Jenkins as a right tackle and you have to right tackles competing for the left tackle job.

    We haven’t seen anyone in pads on the field yet. But I just can’t imagine that this can be good.

  • If I haven’t made it clear yet, it ill be in the coming months. I’m not a big fan of this roster on paper. Having said that, Bears QB Andy Dalton does have some valid thoughts on this topic:
  • “In Cincinnati when I got there, everybody predicted us to not win a game. And we ended up making the playoffs that year. So you can’t worry about what went on before you (arrived). Put your head down and focus on what you can control.”

    Fair enough. The Bears, in my opinion, are going to have to be very healthy and they’re going to have to have almost everything go right for them this year if they are going to be competitive for a playoff spot.

    But its true. You never know.

  • Jahns and Fishbain quote tight end Cole Kmet on what he picked up working with Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce in the offseason:
  • “The big thing with Travis is don’t run the line in the book, and that’s a big deal with him. Stay on the quarterback’s timing and be where you have to be, but be creative with your routes just as long as you’re on that quarterback’s timing and you get in the right spot and you’re open, I mean, no one’s going to say anything.”

    That sounds a lot easier said than done to me. Freelancing and then getting to the righ tspot at exactly the same time every time sounds like something a Travis Kelce can do. I’m not so sure about a Cole Kmet.

    We’ll see.

One Final Thought

“When I think about like, ‘Yeah I did this.’ You know, ‘I’m so great. I had 30, I had 25-10-10,’ or whatever the case might be. Because you’re going to think about that. … Usually the next day you’re going to suck. Simple as that. Like, the next few days you’re going to be terrible. And I figured out a mindset to have that, when you focus on the past, that’s your ego.”

“And when I focus on the future, it’s my pride. ‘Yeah, the next game, Game 5, I’ll do this and this and this. I’m going to dominate.’ That’s your pride talking. Like, it doesn’t happen. You’re right here. I try and focus in the moment. In the present. And that’s humility. That’s being humble. That’s not setting no expectations. That’s going out there and enjoying the game.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo before Game 5 of the NBA Finals earlier this month

Tevin Jenkins May Fit Well With the Bears

Adam Jahns at The Athletic on new Bears offensive tackle Tevin Jenkins:

In a Zoom call with Chicago media, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy continuously stressed that challenging Jenkins would be crucial to his development and success at the NFL level.

“He’s just started to really get into football over the last 18 months,” Gundy said. “Now I know that sounds funny, but when you’re as gifted and talented as he is, you can get by being a good college football player without having that grit and toughness like he’s just developed over the last 18 months. So he really brought that to our program just recently.”

The Bears will want it as soon as he settles into his locker at Halas Hall. Gundy’s comments did have a “red flag” vibe to it. Dan Pompei, a national writer for The Athletic, wrote on Monday that some teams had questions about his commitment level before his final season at Oklahoma State. Scouts surveyed by Bob McGinn before the draft raised concerns, too.

“This year, he played mean,” a scout told McGinn. “In 2019, there were times you scratched your head and said, ‘What the hell are you doing, man? Get after it.’ He’s got kind of a soft personality, but if you watch the 2020 film, he’s not soft. Talent-wise, it’s there.”

Gundy indicated that a change in Jenkins on and off the field occurred.

“You look at him and you say it took that long for (him) to realize that (he was) a special talent and it really did with him, because he had such a laid-back personality and I don’t think he ever saw himself being that good of a football player,” Gundy said. “That’s why I’m saying, ‘Within the next couple years, the NFL is going to be really shocked at what you have.’ Because when we asked him and challenged him to be as good as he can be and dominate a player, we had a lot of success with him on those days.”

These comments do, indeed, have a “red flag vibe”. But I’m going to say that the Bears were thinking about Jenkins fit with them specifically when they drafted him and that may have made this a good pick.

The hunch here is that the Bears had offensive line coach Juan Castillo in mind when considering Jenkins. Unlike his predecessor, Harry Heistand, who was reputedly more of a technician, Castillo is a motivator. Two minutes of listening to him talk tells you that.

I do have concerns about Jenkins. Most evaluators saw him as strictly a right tackle and the indications are that the Bears would like to see him start on the left side. Along with the selection of huge fifth rounder Larry Borom,it seems that the Bears are going size, strength and aggressiveness over mobility on the outside and that makes me wonder about what speed rushers will do to them.

And, personally, I haven’t been overly impressed by Castillo and I don’t think he got the most out of the Bears offensive linemen last year. But I think there’s a good chance that he can get the most of out Jenkins and that could make the difference.