Quick Game Comments: Cardinals at Bears 12/5/21

There isn’t a lot to say about this game. Both teams had similar offensive game plans. As is often the case, the difference in the game was the turnovers. The Cardinals had 4 interceptions that gave them 24 points. Its hard to beat that.

That’s not great insight. But sometimes great insight isn’t what’s needed.

The Cardinals have the look of a team of destiny about them. These are the sorts of things that happen. Interceptions by defensive lineman, tipped passes that result in interceptions. There have been a rare years when the Bears have looked like this over the last 30 years. The 2001 team is the prime example. You have to make the most of them, and I think Arizona is doing that.

Offense

  • The Arizona defensive game plan seemed to be to play zone and let the Bears matriculate the ball downfield and shoot themselves in the foot. Which they did. The Bears concentrated on taking the underneath passes to David Montgomery and running the football. They were limited to less than 5 yards per pass.
  • It seemed to me like the Bears ran the ball pretty well today. So I was surprised to see that the running game only resulted in 112 yards. Nevertheless I can’t imagine what this game would’ve looked like without David Montgomery on the Bears. His 21 rushes for 90 yards and 8 receptions for 51 yards meant a great deal to the Bears offense today. I hate to speculate as to how good he would be on another team that could better take advantage of his skills.
  • I’m used to seeing offenses pick the fenders that are in man demand coverage. That happens all over the league. But I don’t remember seeing teams pick defenders while in zone coverage quite as much as I saw the Bears do today. It was interesting to watch. The slot receiver runs a rude such that he basically cuts off the defender of the outside route. It worked pretty well.
  • Arizona got a lot of pressure on quarterback Andy Dalton through the blitz today and he handled it pretty well. He didn’t rush for a lot (6 yards) but I was surprised at how elusive he was in the pocket.
  • It was nice to see a team other than the Bears get a delay of game penalty coming out of a time out. The Cardinals did so with 2:30 left in the first half.
  • The Bears repeatedly attacked Jalen Johnson and, despite his interception, they had some success doing so. This may be something to keep an eye on as Arizona progresses into the playoffs.

Defense

  • Personally, I think the Bears defense did a reasonably good job today. They were simply put into a lot of bad spots with a lot of short fields resulting from interceptions that the offense gave to the Cardinals.
  • Nevertheless there were a number of mistakes made. They did a poor job of keeping Kyler Murray in the pocket and forcing him to throw from there.The undisciplined pass rush allowed Murray to rush for 59 yards in crucial situations including a touchdown. In fairness, a lot of defenses have failed to do that.
  • Without Murray’s yardage, the Cardinals ran the ball for 76 yards which I consider to be a good day’s work.
  • Although many will be surprised that Kindle Vildor started this game at cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson, I was not. Unlike most of the people in the press box last week, I did not think Artie burns their very good job throughout most of the game. Vildor is certainly less than ideal but of the two he’s the better player.
  • I thought it was interesting that the Bears chose to have Johnson follow DeAndre Hopkins around the field today. Johnson didn’t do a bad job, all things considered. Hopkins is a game record and Johnson held him to two catches for 32 yards, although one was for a touchdown.
  • It’s unlikely that the Cardinals felt the need to target Hopkins much today. They spread the ball around reasonably well to a wide range of receivers and simply attacked the rest of the Bears defense of backfield with some success (11 receptions for 123 yards).
  • The Cardinals seem to like to run the end around play to use their speed to attack the edges. The Bears must’ve seen this on tape and they were well prepared for it. They stopped a couple of these plays for negative yardage.

Miscellaneous

  • Mark Schlereth was the guy to do this game as color analyst. Rainy day where it was largely about what was happening at the line of scrimmage. This is his forte. I thought he and Adam Amin did a good job of highlighting the principal points.
  • The Bears were dropping the ball all over the field in the rain today. At least twoof the four interceptions were passes that should have been caught in my opinion. These sorts of things can be lillers for an offense that struggles to make big plays.
  • The Cardinals were surprisingly undisciplined today with 8, often foolish penalties for 64 yards. They got away with it for this game, though. The Bears had 6 penalties for 45 yards and they didn’t seem to be as damaging to me.
  • Of course, turnovers were the story of the game. The Cardinals got four interceptions and they resulted in 24 points, as I stated above. There isn’t really much more to say about it.

Quick Game Comments: Ravens at Bears 11/21/21

Tony Romo is probably the best football analyst in the game. But I had to laugh when, going into halftime, Jim Nantz made the comment that the Bears head runs so few plays. Romo excused the Bears offensive play in the first half by saying that they had only had “a few miss cues”.

Most observers and fans understand that the NFL is a quarterback driven league. But the truth of the matter is that the talent on most NFL teams really isn’t all that much different. What separates good teams from bad teams is the ability to execute. And that’s what makes the NFL at least as much or more of a coaches league than anything. Ask Bill Belichick.

Week after week I’ve listened to Bears analysts predict victory for the Bears, saying that they are a better team than their opponents despite the record. But what these analysts don’t seem to understand is that it’s not about the talent on the team. It’s about the way that the team executes and that’s what defines what the Bears are. And that is not a very good football team.

The way that this game ended was typical. The Bears did a nice job of running a play which resulted in a long touchdown pass when they needed one to go ahead. They left less than 2 minutes on the clock for the Ravens to go 80 yards ansd score a touchdown after the ensuing kickoff. Most non-Bears fans, probably including both Romo and Nantz, probably thought that the game was over. But Bears fans knew better. A long pass interference call and a broken coverage later and the Ravens were set up on the 3 yard line with less than half a minute to play. The resulting touchdown came as a little surprise.

I’ll give the Bears credit. They were competitive and did have us all holding our breath at the end of the game. They kept it close. But when the spread began to sink earlier in the week after the news that Lamar Jackson was sick and might not play leaked out, this game was going to come down to which coach and staff you trusted most. John Harbaugh or Matt Nagy. In the end it really wasn’t much of a choice.

Defense

  • Kudos to Robert Quinn who had an excellent game with two sacks just in the first quarter alone. He ended with 3.5 total.
  • The Bears seem to have a similar game plan to the Ravens this game. With the Ravens also starting a young quarterback who, while not a rookie, is certainly an experienced the Bears chose to pressure him quite a bit especially on third down. I’d say it had some success. Tyler Huntley seem to do a good job on occasion of getting the ball out quick. Much better than Justin Fields did. And when he managed to get out of the pocket and past the blitzers he ran for a long way. HOwever, you can’t argue with 6 sacks.
  • Huntley wasn’t very accurate early but he got better as the game progressed. He’s not Lamar Jackson, of course. But all in all he wasn’t too bad.
  • I know this is an obvious comment for Bears fans. But Roquon Smith has officially arrived. His mobility really showed up today and he was everywhere.
  • The Bears once again let their opponent out of deep holes, coming out of long downs and distances for first downs. Overall the Ravens were 8 of 17 on third and fourth down. It shold have been less.
  • Tight end Mark Andrews had a wonderful game with 8 receptions for 78 big yards. He’s been buring up the league all year.
  • Kudos to Trevis Gipson Who also had an excellent game. The Bears need Gipson to emerge for their future.

Offense

  • The Bears seem to run a little bit more of the Kansas City offense every week. They still have the occasional play where they keep the tightends in and provide Fields with protection. And those players have a tendency to be the ones that go along way. But every once in a while they’ll spread the team out and go empty backfield and you hold your breath because you know something bad is likely about to happen. The Justin Fields fumble was a prime example.
  • As I said above, the Ravens seem to have a similar plan for Fields as the Bears had for Huntley. They did a lot of blitzing especially on third down. And in my opinion it was much more affective against fields. As he usually does, he struggled to get the ball out fast as he really tried to go for the big play.
  • I was kind of amused when Jim Nantz and Tony Romo kept pointing out the fact that Justin Fields was making just a few small errors on split second decisions where he did the wrong thing. Everyone is being easy on a rookie quarterback. But we have been through this before and you have to wonder how long we’re going to be hearing the same thing said of him over and over again.
  • Although in fairness, Justin fields didn’t throw very many passes. Not enough of them went to receivers other than Darnell Mooney. The same thing could be said of Dalton. I understand looking for your number one wide receiver first but you have to spread the ball around a little bit more than the bears are actually doing.
  • To his credit, Andy Dalton got off to a very good start marshaling a touchdown in just two plays. However, overall I can’t really say that the offense operated a whole lot better under him than it did under Fields. They were out of sync from the get-go. Dalton looked rusty and was not particularly accurate.
  • I’d like to give the Bears wide receivers a little bit of credit for doing a very good job of blocking down field. It was very evident on the screen pass that resulted in the first touchdown. Its an under-rated skill.
  • Although the statistics are not overwhelming, I thought David Montgomery had a very good game. He carried the ball 14 times for 58 yards and an average of 4.1 yards per carry. But they were hard-earned yards and he runs with a lot of effort. Kudos to him.
  • The Bears were just 2 of 11 on third down. Its tough to win ball games that way.
  • Overall the Bears ran for an acceptable 4.6 yards per carry. It was 5.5. at half but the Ravens clamped down after halftime.

Miscellaneous

  • Cairo Santos delayed the beginning of his new streak of made field goals by missing the first one in this game.
  • The Bears committed 6 penalties but none was so damaging as the pass interference call on Deon Bush that set the Ravens up at the 50 yard line with less than 2 minutes to play. In retrospect, it was a killer moment, something that you just can’t have in that situation.
  • Tashaun Gibson’s interception was a big moment for the Beas as the Ravens weer setting up for a go ahead field goal at the time. The Bears need to generate more turnovers.
  • Why does CBS seem to think that so many football fans want to watch yet another cop show starring Queen Latifa?

Quick Game Comments: 49ers at Bears 10/31/21

In the novel Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”

That’s one of the most cynical things I’ve ever read. But there are times when circumstances make me wonder if there isn’t a whole lot of truth in it.

Before their blow out loss to the Buccaneers last week, Bears head coach Matt Nagy held a team meeting to discuss the state of the team. Its one of many that Nagy has had over the years, especially when things aren’t going well, and many of them are to ask the players what they want him to do differently in terms of how the offense or the defense is being run.

“Big picture, I think sometimes as a coach you’ve got to have a feel and pulse as to where your guys are at,” Nagy said Sunday after the game. “Every now and then you’ve got to pull together and have a good talk with the guys where it’s open and it’s everybody. I just thought it was a good opportunity right there to speak from the heart a little bit from where I’m at as the head coach and where we’re at as a team. You can’t have those every week, but sometimes you’ve got to have some that are real conversations and mean a lot. That’s what we did.”

“The question was something about ‘Are you concerned after this type of loss of losing your locker room, losing your team?’ That’s why I responded the way I did. I’m not because I know the feedback I got after that talk. To have that feedback from your players feels good.”

There’s no doubt that Nagy’s players love him. He is easily the most players coach of all the players coaches that I’ve seen anywhere near the Bears. And it’s good to work to get a feeling for how the men in your locker room are feeling. But you have to wonder if all of this is the best thing for the team.

In many ways this is the least disciplined Bears team that I’ve ever seen. Against the Buccaneers, defensive lineman Bilal Nichols was ejected for throwing a punch. Add this to some damaging penalties of a similar nature by Mario Edwards and to the incidents last year involving Anthony Miller and Javon Wims and you have some serious problems with player self-control.

Perhaps the worst thing about these incidents is that Nichols, Miller and Wims were all warned that their opponents were known instigators and not to engage. And they did it anyway.

“We’ve discussed a similar situation like last year with a player that [the Saints] had with a player who was out there today — you know, it was loud and clear …” Nagy said after the Nichols incident. “But our guys understand, they know that every action has a reaction. What we need to do is continue to keep emphasizing it like we are, and guys gotta follow up by not falling into that trap.”

Nagy and his coaching staff have been talking to the team about things like this for an extremely long time now. If they were going to learn from it they would’ve done it by now. The message is evidently not being received. Or, more likely, it is being ignored.

Let’s add in another curious incident that has happened within the last couple weeks. Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson was fined for being late to a meeting. No big deal. Stuff like that happens all of the time in the NFL. But Johnson felt compelled to take a snap shot of the notice he received on Instagram adding the comment, “This shii crazy bruh. walked in as it turned 8:16 and they tax me like this.”

Can you imagine a player on the New England Patriots ever doing something like that? But it happens on Nagy’s Bears among players that regularly express their love for him. Why? Because the players don’t respect the authority of those in charge and don’t fear the repercussions of their actions.

I was struck in this context by a recent comment from well-known sports writer Dave Hyde at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Hyde was asked about whether Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ unlikable personality contributed to their recent lack of success.

“Look at Bill Belichick. He isn’t liked by his players,” Hyde said. “There is a difference between like and respect.

“What do players want? They want answers. They want ‘here’s how we’re going to be better.’ [If a player asks] a question in a meeting and the coach has the right answer… That’s what players want.”

Does that sound like Matt Nagy? The guy who calls meetings and asks the players what they want? Who asks them what he should do?

Players don’t want to have to tell the head coach that they should be using the downhill running game, as Nagy’s offensive line men have told him (twice if you count last year). They think they do but they really don’t. Players want structure. And they want the coaches to tell them how to be better not the other way around. What they want is for the coach to tell them what the right thing to do is and to have it work.

Nagy is well liked by his players and the good news is that he is unlikely to lose the locker room, something that coaches like Flores always risk.

But when you look at the lack of discipline on this Bears team, and especially when you look at the fact that players are warned not to do certain things and to respond to certain actions and they do it anyway, you wonder how much they respect Nagy. And you wonder how that lack of respect leads to their poor execution on the field as they fail to make improvements without fear of consequences stemming from a coach who so wants to be loved.

Perhaps Nagy would be better off if he stopped worrying so much about how his players perceive him. Perhaps instead of asking the players what he should do, he should start coming up with his own solutions. Therein lies the path to respect for his authority and the improved team discipline and performance that comes with that.

And if he can’t do those things, then he’s the wrong guy for the job he currently holds.

Defense

  • What struck me about the 49ers offense is how much it looks like what the Bears are trying to do. A lot of tight ends to help the offensive line, a good running game and play action off of it. They really didn’t start to execute until the second half but this was what the Bears offense could be.
  • One reason it didn’t get going until the second half was the fact that the 49ers had such a hard time catching the ball. There must have been at least four damaging dropped passes in the first 30 minutes and probably more.
  • Another reason was Jimmy Garoppolo’s poor accuracy. Almost all of his passes were at least a little bit off and most were a lot more difficult than they should have been to catch. Garappolo was much better in the second half and that helped spur the offense.
  • But what really hurt the Bears defense was their inability to stop the run. They gave up 467 yards of total offense and 145 of that was rushing. they ripped off some very long, damaging runs against the vaunted Bears defensive front for an average of 6.4 yards per carry before the kneel downs at the end. The defense essentially allowed the 49ers to run out the fourth quarter. This is something that the Bears will surely need to clean up.
  • Eddie Jackson went down with a bad right hamstring early in the game and he was replaced by Teez Tabor, who didn’t play badly to my eye.
  • Deebo Samuel is a man. He led the 49ers in receiving yards with 171 on 6 catches and there were times early on when it felt like he was the only thing keeping them in the game.
  • Not to be forgotten is the effect of not having Khalil Mack in the line up today. The bears struggled to get pressure on Garoppolo all game and had 0 sacks. If they even had a pressure, I didn’t see it. In fairness, the 49ers were keeping in a lot of guys to help. But I still think that we should be able to expect better. Definitely not a good day for the Bears front 7.

Offense

  • The Bears tried to run their usual offense with a lot of run heavy sets and play action off of that. There were times when it had moderate success. And let’s be honest. Twenty-two points against anyone for this team is an improvement. Entering the game the Bears were averaging 14.4 points per game, 30th in the NFL and ahead of only the Houston Texans (13.9) and New York Jets (13.3).
  • The Bears had the worst passing offense in the league before playing today at 871 net passing yards, the fewest through seven games in the NFL in 15 years. Today’s total of 148 won’t help that much. the Bears continue to struggle to get the ball to their wide receivers (11 catches for 117 yards), though we did see more life from the tight ends again today. Jesse James had 3 catches for 38 yards and a nice touchdown and Cole Kmet had 3 for 21 yards.
  • Khalil Herbert looked good and the Bears ran for 176 yards (4.9 yards per rush). Herbert’s low center of gravity makes him very difficult to bring down. They had more success in the first half then in the second, where it was obvious that they if they stopped the run and made Fields play quarterback, they’d have more success. they adjusted accordingly.
  • Having said that, Justin Fields accounted for 103 of those yards. He was noticeably more apt to run early when receivers weren’t open rather than holding the ball and the 49ers didn’t do as good of a job of keeping him in the pocket as, for instance, the Packers did. The Bears also put Fields on the move more often with designed runs and, especially, with roll outs off of play action. As a result, Fields looked more comfortable more often today.
  • Fields wasn’t exactly inaccurate but I did notice a tendency to throw high over receivers heads that I haven’t seen before. There were times during this game when he looked a little more tightly wound than usual. You wonder if the frustration with losing isn’t building a bit.
  • We say a little bit of Damien Williams early in the game but he wasn’t having much success and the Bears shut him down. On wonders about the lingering effects of COVID on him.
  • As usual, whenever I saw Fields in the shotgun with a 5 man protection scheme, I held my breath. Rookie Larry Borom, fresh off of IR in his first start, wasn’t bad. But the offensive line as a whole just isn’t good enough to protect Fields in obvious passing situations without help.
  • One positive. The Bears were 8 of 15 on third down which isn’t bad. At one point in the first half they were 5 of 6.

Miscellaneous

  • Cairo Santos missed an extra point today. That’s his first miss of any kind this year.
  • The 49ers had a dismal day for drops. I lost count at about 4 in the first half. They seemed to clean it up later in the game but Garoppolo’s accuracy also got better then. Kmet dropped a touchdown but it would have been a good catch.
  • Both of these teams really lack discipline and it showed itself in the number of penalties. Statistically the 49ers had 7 for 55 yards and the Bears had only 4 for 30 yards. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. This was a very sloppy game with penalties at the worst times for both teams, especially for the 49ers and the only reason that both teams didn’t have a lot more was because the penalties were often declined because taking the play was preferable.
  • An interesting anomaly, the Bears actually dominated time of possession this game. the held the ball for just over 37 minutes.
  • I would be severely remiss if I didn’t mention Justin Fields wonderful 22 yard touchdown run in the second half. Fields ran right and then, under duress and finding no room, broke several tackles and ran back around the left end and into the end zone. Seeing him reverse field like that brought back vivid memories of Devin Hester kick returns of yore. Here’s hoping its the first of many for Fields.
  • Hey, did you hear that there’s world series game tonight? Because I don’t think FOX telling me a dozen times was nearly enough.

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.