To Huddle or Not To Huddle. That Is the Question.

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the advantages and disadvantages of running an no-huddle offense:

“The success of the hurry-up offense often is born of desperation. At the end of a half or the end of a game, with time running out, the two-minute drill can bring an offense to life.

“When executed properly, it creates the focus, timing and -momentum that give the offense the rhythm any quarterback or play-caller craves — forcing players to only react and giving coaches no time to over-think. And at the same time, it often leaves a defense in a state of frustration — huffing and puffing, on its heels and often a step behind on every play.”

“[Nick] Foles’ affinity for the tempo of the no-huddle has been a recurring theme since he replaced [Mitch Trubisky as the Bears’ starting quarterback.”

One of the things that Potash didn’t mention was that teams frequently go to the no-huddle at the end of games when not only is there a sense of desperation but the opposing defense is often in prevent mode where they are simply trying to avoid the big play. This makes for more apparent success.

Foles’ affinity for the no-huddle was probably born in the time he spent with former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. The fact that Kelly is no longer a head coach in the NFL should tell you something about the long-term benefits of his offense.

The no-huddle is great if it works for all of the reasons Potash documented above. The problem is that when it doesn’t work it’s not the opposing defense that’s “huffing and puffing”. It’s your own guys, who you have thrown under the bus by giving them almost no rest on the side line while you used only seconds off the clock in a three and out.

Like most aspects of offensive play, the no-huddle is great if you have a good offense anyway. On the other hand, when you have an offense like the Bears, it can ruin the only good part of your team.

I like the way that head coach Matt Nagy is handling this. Foles obviously likes it and wants to do it and it can’t hurt too much to go ahead and do it occasionally as a change of pace and see if you can build some momentum. But don’t over do it or serious problems may ensue.

Thoughts on the Bears Running Formations. And Other Points of View.

Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune supplies us with his always insightful ten thoughts after the Bears victory Sunday. I had a couple of thoughts on his “The Questions We Didn’t Get to” section:

“What was the real reason or reasons for the delay-of-game penalty coming out of the timeout on third-and-goal from the 4-yard line? [Head coach] Matt Nagy was clearly being tongue-in-cheek when he said, ‘You know, it’s, I guess it was a little loud. I don’t know. I guess it was a little loud.’ Crowd noise was a total nonissue. Yes, the Panthers had fans in the stands, but the announced attendance was 5,240 in a stadium that seats more than 75,000. This was Nagy’s way of not answering the question. Clearly, there was some kind of disconnect after whatever play they came up with during the timeout was given out in the huddle. I wouldn’t dwell on this too much because it distracts from the bigger picture, which is the offense’s struggle to move the ball and score”

Well, I would say that the offense’s struggles to move the ball might be partly related to the fact that they can’t get their act together on the field coming out of a time out.

As I chronicled in my game comments and as Biggs mentioned earlier in his comments, the Bears had 10 penalties for 92 yards on Sunday. It’s become a common gripe for me as each week the penalties have piled up. This is not a disciplined team. They don’t always concentrate well and, as Nagy pointed out last week himself, they aren’t getting the details right offensively.

Penalties are always an indication of how well dialed in a team is. Even the defense, who did play well at other times on Sunday, had to do so in some tight situations of their own making.

This team is setting itself up for a fall against a good team. It will happen soon, maybe Monday against the Rams.

“Did you forgo the run on third down late in the game because you couldn’t push the ball in from the 1-yard line on a David Montgomery handoff with five offensive linemen and four tight ends on the field? Montgomery was stopped for no gain after a replay review showed his elbow was down before the ball crossed the goal line. The Bears can’t put more beef on the field than this, and the Panthers stalemated them before Nick Foles scored on a quarterback sneak on the following play. The running game is an ongoing issue.”

A comment by color man Jonathan Vilma on Sunday struck me. Vilma pointed out that Carolina was dong the same thing against the Bears defense that the Buccaneers had done a week earlier, namely spread them out and run the ball. When you compared the Bears formations to the Panthers, the difference was obvious. the Bears were playing it like a power team by running out of compact formations. Even the wide receivers are line up close to the formation. And its not working.

It occurs to me that, like the Panthers, the Bears may be better off spreading out their formations and clearing out some of the traffic inside. This will make it more difficult for teams, who are now expecting the Bears to run on first down, to beat players off the snap to converge on the ball carrier.

“Did you have issues with the officiating by referee Adrian Hall’s crew? Nagy is highly unlikely to take the bait with this one because coaches tread lightly when they believe they’re on the wrong end of calls. They don’t want to risk being fined by the league when they can complain directly to the NFL about discrepancies without fear of retribution. The unnecessary roughness call on Kyle Fuller for a hit to the head of Panthers wide receiver Keith Kirkwood was close. Fox analyst Mike Pereira thought it was the proper call. Nagy might disagree, and it looked very iffy. It looked like shoulder-to-shoulder contact, and you don’t want Fuller to become gun-shy. A 33-yard pass interference call against cornerback Jaylon Johnson was also close, but he did pin D.J. Moore’s right arm against his body and really never let go. The play happened directly in front of side judge Dominique Pender.”

Agreed on the call on Fuller. But I have an issue with Biggs interpretation of the Johnson penalty. The position of Moore’s arm between Johnson and himself made it look like it was pinned. But if you look closely, Johnson wasn’t holding on to it. It was a phantom call by a referee who went by what he thought must have happened rather than what actually did.

Bad Officiating in the Bears Victory over the Panthers Went Both Ways

Jason Lieser at the Chicago Sun-Times reports some comments by Bears defensive players about the officiating in yesterday’s victory over the Carolina Panthers:

“The highlight of [safety Eddie Jackson‘s] day would’ve been a pass break-up by cornerback Kyle Fuller that deflected to Jackson at the Panthers’ 17-yard line early in the third quarter. He darted through the Panthers to the end zone, but Fuller was flagged for pass interference for hitting wide receiver Robby Anderson before the ball arrived.

“Jackson chimed in later on Twitter that having his touchdown called back ‘makes no sense.'”

“He took it a step further by adding, ‘If you think these refs dot have something against us you Crazy.’ He deleted that one.”>/p>

“Jackson was not alone venting his frustration with the officials on Twitter. Linebacker Danny Trevathan
added, ‘We need to start fining refs. This is ludicrous.'”

I don’t like seeing players criticize officials publicly under any circumstances but I have a particular objection in this case.

As I chronicled in my game comments, the bad calls went both ways. For instance, the first Bears interception by Tashaun Gibson
came on a hit to the receiver that was pretty obviously early. And though Jaylon Johnson got hit with a terrible pass interference penalty where the refs called what they expected to see instead of what happened near the end of the third quarter, it was almost immediately followed by a pretty awful roughing the passer call on Carolina on the Bears next possession.

Bad officiating? Yes. But I’d be careful throwing around accusations of bias. I don’t see it.

Quick Game Comments: Bears at Panthers 10-18-20


  • The Bears played a lot of man-to-man coverage. The Panthers receivers were tough to handle. They’re quick and they play fast.
  • The Bears were very physical on defense today. They were fast to the ball.
  • The pass rush was pretty undisciplined and they left a lot of of room for Carolina quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to run.
  • Having said that, the Bears front seven looked pretty good today and handled the Panthers up front reasonably well.
  • Jaylon Johnson had a bad, bad day today. Bridgewater picked on him all game, especially with D.J. Moore.
  • The Bears once again struggled in coverage with their linebackers on shallow crossing routes. Admittedly those are tough but its their job and they have to do it.


  • Cole Kmet finally got a touchdown on a good throw to him in double coverage. Here’s hoping its the first of many.
  • Anthony Miller also finally got a ball in the first quarter but wasted it by backing up and giving up the first down that he initially had. It wasn’t a good look.
  • I don’t have the stats but Matt Nagy calls a lot of runs on first down. As color man Jonathan Vilma pointed out, when he didn’t do that, he called for short passes to the outside which were the equivalent. I know the offensive line is largely responsible for the struggles with the run game that the Bears have. But I’m starting to wonder how much Nagy’s play calling is factoring into it.
  • Having said that the Bears got dominated up front by one of the worst run defenses in the league. They ended the game with 3 yards per carry but it seemed like less.
  • The Panthers got a lot of pressure on Nick Foles in the second half. Much of it came on the blitz. This was a terrible game for the offensive line, who were without coach Juan Castillo. Castillo is quarantining after being exposed to someone with COVID.
  • Nick Foles let go of a bunch of wobbly passes under that pressure. He finally got picked off by the Panthers inside the Panther 10 yard line. I understand trying to make a play but you can’t be stupid about it.
  • Foles did do a good job of spreading the ball around today. Most of the receivers and tight ends had a catch. The Panthers were obviously hyper-aware of Allen Robinson, who I think almost everyone in the league believes is the only Bears offensive player likely to consistently burn anyone.
  • Darnell Mooney really does do a good job of getting open by using his speed. Cornerbacks have to respect it and he gets a lot of room.
  • The Bears continue to struggle to throw the ball down field. They had only 5.1 yards per pass, which is a statistic that is a pretty good indication of the overall health of your passing game.
  • David Montgomery still has a habit of running without the necessary patience. But he’s getting better.


  • Kenny Albert, Vilma and Shannon Spake were your announcers. Once again, I liked Vilma, who has warmed to the job after a tough start without Albert at the beginning of the season. Again, I frequently found myself thinking along with him. He made a number of good points, including pointing out that Carolina was spreading the Bears out to run in the same way the Buccaneers did. I’m also a Shannon Spake fan.
  • Special teams: Cairo Santos kicked a career long 55 yard field goal. Joey Slye missed a 54 yard field goal in the third quarter that the Panthers really could have used with the score only 13-6. The Bears took over and eventually scored a touchdown. Slye gave Cordarella Patterson absolutely no chance to return kicks, consistently kicking it through the endzone.
  • The Bears dominated field position for much of the game getting good starting position while pinning the Panthers inside their twenty.
  • Penalties: The referees were letting a lot of early hits on receivers go on both sides today. The penalties should have been pretty obvious. The Bears got rolling with a delay of game on their first possession coming out of a time out on the Carolina 4 yard line. I’ll never understand how that happens. The sequence leading to the Panther’s second field goal was interesting. It looked to me like the Panthers were just trying to draw the Bears offsides but Nagy ran down the sideline in panic and called a time out to set up the defense. The Panthers then came out and did the same thing and, sure enough, Akiem Hicks jumped offside to defend a play that almost certainly wasn’t going to come. That’s bad all the way around. The Bears had not one but Two 12 men in the huddle penalties to sustain a Carolina drive at the end of the third quarter. Jaylon Johnson got called for a terrible pass interference call later in the drive to set up the touchdown. Though the arm was in a suspicious position, on replay you could clearly see that Johnson didn’t have D.J. Moore’s arm pinned. Just so no one thinks I’m saying that the bad calls all went one way, the Panthers drew a terrible roughing the passer penalty on the next Bears possession. The Bears eventually kicked a field goal. It was a bad day for the refs. The Bears finished the game with 10 penalties for 92 yards. That’s too many to consistently play winning football against good teams.
  • Drops: D.J. Moore dropped a touchdown on what was otherwise a pretty good day for him. It was the worst of a few today for him including one on fourth down with less than 2 minutes left in the game.
  • Turnovers: Tashaun Gibson got a nice interception on the Panthers first possession to set up a Bears touchdown. It looked like the hit on the receiver was early but see my comments about the referees above. Akiem Hicks recovered a Mike Davis fumble that Eddie Jackson knocked out in the third quarter. The Bears got the ball on the Carolina 22 yard line. Nick Foles immediately handed the ball back to the Panthers with an awful throw under pressure. Deandre Houston-Carson got the game winning interception off of Bridgewater with less than 2 minutes left.
  • I hate to keep bashing a team that keeps winning but they just aren’t playing well. They ran into a Carolina team that had a bad game today and once again pulled one out. But they have to start playing better, more disciplined football or this simply won’t fly against good teams like the Packers.

Eventually the Bears Are Going to Have to Invest More at Offensive Tackle

Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times says that the problem that the Bears have on the offensive line has no easy solutions. He’s got a good point:

“When the Bears had a quarterback issue, they turned to Nick Foles.

“When wide receiver Anthony Miller’s production dipped, they turned to rookie Darnell Mooney.

“With rookie tight end Cole Kmet still getting acclimated to the offense, they turned to Demetrious Harris.

“But an underperforming offensive line is much more problematic. A team-within-a-team, the issues are often hard to define. They take turns contributing to the problem — Bobby Massie gets beat on one play, Cody Whitehair the next and Charles Leno the one after that.

“And you usually can’t just plug one new guy in and fix it. In fact, that can create as many problems as it solves, given the chemistry and unspoken communication it takes to develop an outstanding offensive line.”

According to offensive line coach Juan Castillo, the Bears think that the solution is simply getting a better performance out of the men they have:

“It’s about fundamentals. It’s about doing something over and over so that you are able to make that block. This is what, five weeks? We still have a few left. The important thing for us, it’s a progression. We’ll get better every week.”

I have my doubts.

Fans clamored for better players along the offensive line all season. But the Bears put themselves in a bit of a bind. They’ve handed out big contracts to Whitehair, Massie and Leno that they can’t walk away from without taking a serious hit to their tight salary cap situation.

According to the Bears had roughly $44 million invested in Massie before 2020 and the cap hit would have been $12.1 million if they had cut him. Similarly, they had $46 million sunk into Leno and cutting him would have resulted in a $7.5 million cap hit.  And that’s not including the price of replacing either or both with starter quality players. The cap hit after 2020 for both is more reasonable.

I wouldn’t have been impossible to move on from these players. But it would have been tough, especially in Massie’s case. They chose instead to invest in Robert Quinn, someone they badly needed, and to put their faith in Castillo.

There is also the problem that general manager Ryan Pace has a bad habit of stubbornly overestimating his talent at obvious positions of need. He did the same thing last year, sticking with the tight ends he had when fans called for more help at the position. The result was a disaster.

Standing pat on the offensive line isn’t looking like it was a much better decision this year.

In any case, no matter how good Castillo is, there’s only so much he can do with mediocre talent. And it’s evident that’s what the Bears have.

I’ve heard it said repeatedly by, among others, Potash himself that the Bears haven’t invested enough first round picks in the offensive line. I’m not sure that’s the issue. Though they haven’t been taking linemen with first round picks, both Whitehair and James Daniels were second rounders.

No, the problem isn’t a lack of investment in high picks. It’s where those picks have been invested.

The Bears and Pace have inherited their offensive line philosophy from the organization that he spent 14 years with before he was hired by the Bears, the Saints. They believe, rightfully I think, that the most important part of protecting the quarterback is keeping the pocket clean in front of him so he can step up. They have, therefore, invested in the interior part of the line with Whitehair and Daniels to go with, until recently, Kyle Long.

But the problem with that is that you are left with mediocre tackles. In pass protection, that apparently works for them. They currently rank 12th in the league with 8 sacks allowed.

But when it comes to the run game, offensive tackles who can win one-on-one blocks are important. And, no matter who the coach is, the Bears don’t have the talent there to play with the top half of the league.

That’s very unfortunate because the Bears have chosen to make the play action pass a major part of their game plan. In order to do that effectively, it helps to run the ball successfully.

True, it’s far more important to keep the opposition honest by continuing to try to run whether it’s successful or not, something Nagy has been continually criticized for not doing.

But if you don’t turn those run plays into yards, you continually end up in third and long. And that is exactly what has happened to the Bears. They currently rank 30th, converting third downs at a 33% clip.

Unfortunately, as Potash points out, there are no easy solutions for the Bears right now. And it is becoming increasingly evident that offensive tackle is going to have to bubble up to the top of Pace’s offseason list of positions to address.

Could the Bears Sign Le’Veon Bell? And Other Points of View.

“With Bell now a free agent, some have linked him as an option for the Bears, but they already have a veteran in the building to kick the tires on. They signed Lamar Miller to the practice squad last week and got a look at him for the first time Wednesday at practice.

“Miller missed last season with a torn ACL in his left knee and was briefly with the New England Patriots in August, starting on the physically unable to perform list before being released shortly after he was activated. The Bears had yet to see how Miller looks because they only held walk-throughs last week in preparation for the Thursday victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”

Bears running backs coach Charles London said he was looking forward to seeing Miller get out there in practice this week.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him run around out there tomorrow, test the knee, get some confidence in it. If Lamar’s healthy, he’s an explosive player. … He’s got a really diverse skill set in the run game, protection, the pass (game). So I look forward to seeing him go out there and competing.”

I have my doubts about Lamar Miller and I doubt that he’s going to be a reason why the Bears wouldn’t pursue Bell. Miller might have plenty left in the tank but torn ACLs take a lot of time to heal. I’m sure he’s ready to get back onto the field but it is doubtful that he’ll have his old explosiveness back until another year has passed.

As far a Bell is concerned, he obviously didn’t think he was being used properly by the Jets. Head coach Adam Gase reportedly never wanted Bell but former general manager Mike Maccagnan signed him anyway. The player and coach never meshed and Bell privately frequently criticized Gase’s game plans in general and his use of Bell in particular. His dissatisfaction finally became public last weekend and he was released as a result.

Though Biggs expressed doubt, the Bears could try to sign Bell. They could use him and they wouldn’t inherit huge Bell’s contract, as they would have had they traded for him. But why would Bell come to Chicago? He’d be sharing snaps with current primary back David Montgomery and the indications are that the Bears offensive line is only a little better than the Jets when it comes to run blocking against good defensive fronts. The Bears certainly couldn’t offer him much money while simultaneously trying to get receiver Allen Robinson signed to a long-term deal.

I don’t see it. But general manager Ryan Pace has surprised me before.

“Do you think it will take a win against the Rams in a couple weeks before national media start believing the Bears are legit? — @boodz22

“I would imagine a road win over the Rams, who also are 4-1, would give the Bears more cachet. That’s assuming they get their third road victory of the season Sunday at Carolina. The Panthers have won three consecutive games but aren’t getting a lot of attention with running back Christian McCaffrey on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain and coach Matt Rhule in his first season taking over a rebuilding project. I don’t think folks can clamor too much about how the Bears are perceived when you consider narrow wins over the Lions, Falcons and Giants in the first three games. Those are struggling teams that took the Bears to the wire. A win over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers helps, but the ongoing struggles of the offense make it tough for the Bears to get a ton of consideration nationally when you see scoring surging all over the place. The Rams are a good team and will provide a good test for the Bears that ought to give us an idea of where they stack up with the midpoint of the season approaching.”

I think the Bears are getting the respect they deserve nationally as a team that is probably near the middle of the pack or just below that.

The problem, if there is one, is that people pay more attention to offense and when they see a really bad one, it can give them the impression that a team is worse than it actually is. Throw in the fact that defensive teams which compete in low scoring games are more likely to see close, one score victories that come down to the last possession and you get the impression that they are just barely scraping by. Which, to an extent, they are. Such teams are always more reliant upon random breaks going both ways over the course of a game because they can’t score enough points to create separation and overcome them.

“Was last Thursday’s performance by Khalil Mack against the Buccaneers a sign that he’s over whatever was physically ailing him with his knee early in the offseason? Seems to me like he was back to his dominant self. — Billy P., Oakbrook Terrace”

“What we do know is Mack was dominant with two sacks against the Buccaneers and a third that was wiped out by a penalty. What we also know is he at least has some type of knee issue the team is working to manage throughout the course of the season.”

I was glad to see Mack have a good game against the Buccaneers last week. But I would caution against any great increase in optimism about his season based upon it.

Mack’s health is certainly a factor but I think there’s far more to his performance than that. To my eye, Mack saw a fair number of snaps against Bucs right tackle Tristan Wirfs singled up on an island. No Bears divisional rival would ever let that happen in anything close to a passing situation.

Mack’s success is directly related to what Akiem Hicks does inside and what Robert Quinn does on the other side of the line. If either or both is a dominant pass rusher who is disrupting the game, it could force teams to occasionally shift their attention away from Mack and allow him to get more opportunities. Otherwise Mack will continue to see double and triple teams against teams who know the Bears better and who are likely to give Mack the respect he deserves.

Quick Comments: Colts at Bears 10/4/20


  • Nick Foles certainly does have his fair share of weaknesses. His release isn’t especially quick and he wasn’t especially accurate. Passes outside the numbers hung in the air like balloons due to his limited arm strength.
  • Having said that, Foles looked to me like a rusty quarterback who really needed a preseason to get his legs under him. He’s the kind of quarterback that has to live by his wits and throw with anticipation. His timing was frequently off and it looked to me like he is still getting to know his receivers.
  • The Colts obviously identified Allen Robinson as the only player that they thought would be able to burn them and they concentrated on stopping him. It was an opportunity for Darnell Mooney to step up. He had a decent game (5 receptions for 52 yards) but nothing that will cause future opponents to shift their attention.
  • Why was Tyler Bray promoted to the roster before the game?
  • Unlike the first three games, David Montgomery got most of the carries with Tarik Cohen on IR. Cordarrelle Patterson didn’t get many carries.
  • The offensive frequently looked discombobulated to me. Members of the Colts front seven got very good pressure on Foles. He needs better protection that that to succeed. They really struggled with the Colts front seven.
  • The Bears really struggled to run the ball. The had 1.8 yards per carry. To their credit, they kept trying and it did occasionally get them some good looks on play action.
  • The Colts defense is very, very well coached. They are athletic and were rarely out of place.
  • The Bears were 3 of 13 on third down. They were a pitiful 4.4 yards per pass until late in the game when the Colts were protecting a lead.


  • The Bears defensive back field didn’t look ready to play. A game after giving up a long pass to Calvin Ridley on the first play of the game last week, most of the players had a rough day right from the get go. Kyle Fuller was flagged for multiple damaging pass interference penalties and gave up the touchdown in the first half to Mo Allie-Cox. Jaylon Johnson got burned for 36 yards to get the Colts inside the red zone on their first possession. Eddie Jackson had a pass interference penalty and struggled in coverage. It was a bad day.
  • On a related note, TY Hilton had a very good game and burned the Bears badly on occasion.
  • Similar to the defensive backs, the Bears were a step behind elsewhere all over the field. It reminded me a little bit of the Raiders game in London last season when they were obviously jet lagged. There were a lot of missed tackles.
  • Roquon Smith, in particular, struggled in coverage. He needs to perform better in this aspect of the game. He did have a better second half as he showed his instincts and speed playing the run.
  • On a good note, the Bears got good pressure on Philip Rivers.
  • They also did a reasonably good job of stiffening in the red zone through out most of the game. They forced a lot of field goals.
  • Brent Urban’s name got called a lot.


  • Greg Gumbel, Rich Gannon and Amanda Balionis were your announcers. This was a good crew. Gannon notices a lot of little details and certainly did a good job of pointing out the many Bears offensive problems. Gumbel is a pro.
  • Like a lot of the team, special teams looked a little behind the eight ball, especially at the beginning of the game. The Bears gave up a blocked punt early in the first half that gave the Colts great field position for their first possession. Ted Ginn was you punt returner with Cohen on IR. The Colts did a good job of blanketing Patterson on kick returns as he took two out of the end zone for less than 20 yards.
  • Khalil Mack dropped an easy interception. Patterson dropped what would have been a good catch deep in Colts territory in the second quarter.
  • There were a lot of damaging penalties, in particular on the Bears defensive backs as documented above. Robert Quinn had a horse collar tackle on a drive that eventually resulted in a field goal. Patterson had a dumb unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking his helmet off while arguing with the referee over a non-call. Special teams were responsible for their fair share of penalties as well. When it was all said and done the Bears had 8 penalties for over 100 yards.
  • Foles threw an interception in the fourth quarter as the Bears desperately tried to get back into the game. Smith had a timely interception in the end zone near the end of the first half which was, unfortunately, rightly overturned on review. The Colts eventually settled for a field goal.
  • This game was moved to late Sunday due to the postponement of the New England-Kansas City game and I’d like to apologize to the rest of the country for subjecting them to the Bears offense.  I anticipate having to do so again Thursday.
  • The Bears were ready to lose going into this game. LAst week they played a sloppy game and got away with it. This game, that just wasn’t going to happen. They were a step slow all game, they committed too many penaties (again) and made too many mistakes, this time against a good team that could take advantage. Here’s hoping the loss finally wakes them up and they pull it together on a short week.