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Data Responds: Bears at Ravens

| October 15th, 2017

It wasn’t a pretty game to watch, but the Bears got their first road win since 2015 behind an impressive effort by the defense. Baltimore had no business being in the game, but managed to push it to overtime after an impressive series of self-inflicted mistakes by the Bears in the fourth quarter.

Still, the Bears found a way to get Mitchell Trubisky his first career win and improve to 2-4 on the season. Let’s look at some key takeaways from the game.

Offense

  • The Bears continually put their offense in position to fail. There’s no other way for me to say this. They continually run the ball with predictable plays against 8-9 man boxes, which is why their running backs averaged less than 3.5 yards per rush.
  • This led to a number of 3rd and long situations, which was about the only time they actually let quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throw. It seems to me like 3rd and long pass attempts is not a great way to build your rookie quarterback’s confidence and get him into a rhythm.
  • The offense continues to be far too predictable. 1st and 2nd down are almost always runs, regardless of the defensive look. They never run out of shotgun, and rarely pass out of heavy sets. 90% of Tarik Cohen’s carries come to the outside. That leads to a lot of plays where the defense knows exactly what to expect, which is a death knell in the NFL.
  • With that said, credit offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for a beautiful trick play that led to the first offensive touchdown. Tarik Cohen took a pitch, stopped, and heaved a 21 yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach miller, who was wide open in the end zone. That’s the second week in a row the offense pulled off a successful trick play. Now if only the other 99% of his play calls weren’t terrible.
  • Chicago’s personnel usage continues to be baffling. Their best pass catchers are Kendall Wright and Zach Miller, but both are playing limited snaps. The reason they’re not playing is that there are better run-blocking options, but sooner or later you need to give your quarterback somebody to throw to.
  • Given all of this, it’s difficult to evaluate Mitchell Trubisky’s play at quarterback. The coaches are basically not letting him play the position, and are putting him in position to fail when he does. He only had 16 pass attempts, plus 4 sacks and 4 scrambles for a total of 24 plays where he was asked to do anything other than hand off. Several of those were screens, which are basically extended handoffs, and Trubisky had to throw it away several more times.
  • You saw Trubisky’s physical skills with some nice throws down the field, including a pressured bomb on the run to Dion Sims for a touchdown, and some impressive scrambles. He also saved a Baltimore touchdown by corralling a bad Cody Whitehair snap in the end zone, breaking a tackle, and throwing the ball away. You also saw the inexperience as he had trouble from inside the pocket. Trubisky’s only turnover on the day was a fumble when he was hit from the blind side after somebody whiffed on a block. I don’t think you can pin much of that on the quarterback.
  • I had all that about Trubisky written up before OT. Now I have to add a separate point for the outstanding pass he made to Kendall Wright to put Chicago in FG range in overtime. He was forced to throw on 3rd and long after two stuffed runs (surprise surprise), and Baltimore brought the heat. Trubisky avoided the first rusher and made a beautiful pass to Wright for the first down. That is a big-time play that not very many NFL quarterbacks can make.
  • A game plan like this does very little to develop your rookie quarterback. It feels like the Bears need to take the shackles off and let him make mistakes and grow, but a win is a win.
  • Speaking of bad Cody Whitehair snaps, what gives there? He had several more today, continuing a season-long sophomore slump. At first, he had the excuse of bouncing around between guard and center, but he’s been squarely at center now for 3-4 weeks in a row and has no excuse left.
  • Jordan Howard had an outstanding day, with 36 carries for 167 yards. He was able to pick up some yards despite consistently pounding into a stacked box, showing his trademark patience and vision and running through tackles. He also put the team on his back in OT with a 53 yard burst after breaking a few tackles near the line of scrimmage. I can’t help but imagine what he could do if the defense respected the Chicago passing game.
  • Of course, Howard did have a boneheaded play at the end of the 4th quarter, where he ran out of bounds on 3rd and 20 to stop the clock and force Chicago to punt instead of letting the clock run out. It was shades of Marion Barber from 2011, but thankfully the miscue didn’t hurt the Bears this time.
  • Let’s also give a special incompetent shout-out to Chicago’s 2 minute offense at the end of both halves. In the 1st half, they had 1st and 10 at the 35 with 2:07 to go and two time outs left. Predictable run, predictable screen (which Trubisky had to ground since Baltimore was so ready or it), sack, and the Bears had to punt after -9 yards in only 27 seconds. That left Baltimore enough time to get points before the half. Then in the 4th quarter, they got the ball with a tie game at the 25 yard line, 1:37 and two time outs left. The first play was a running back screen to the middle of the field, then a bad snap, then a sack, then a run out of bounds instead of running out the clock. That’s poor coaching and poor execution, a killer 1-2 punch.

Defense

  • Chicago’s defense didn’t give up any points (or even a first down) on the first drive today. That makes the second fast start for the defense in a row, which has been a consistent problem for them under this regime. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been able to stay competitive in both games.
  • Another consistent problem for Chicago’s defense under these coaches has been an inability to force turnovers, but that was not an issue today either as they took the ball away from Baltimore three times. On the first, linebacker Christian Jones caused a fumble, which Danny Trevathan recovered. On the 2nd, safety Eddie Jackson forced a drop with a hard hit, and Bryce Callahan was able to come down with the interception. The third and final turnover was forced by a Kyle Fuller deflection; safety Adrian Amos took advantage with the easy interception, which he returned for what seemed like a game-clinching touchdown. With an offense that struggles to score points, the defense needs to make big plays like that week in and week out.
  • DE Akiem Hicks continued his monster season with several big run stops and a sack. He’s now up to 5 sacks on the season, and is on pace to hit double digits, an impressive feat for a 3-4 defensive lineman. Hicks didn’t get enough national recognition for his breakout season last year, but he absolutely should be in the Pro Bowl (and possibly an All Pro) if he keeps this up.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had another solid game, but he did have one horrible angle that allowed Baltimore to break off a 30 yard run. Still, he broke up a few passes and had solid tackling in other situations. Jackson has already established himself as Chicago’s best safety.
  • Cornerback Kyle Fuller also continued his bounce-back season with an outstanding game. He provided solid coverage throughout the game, including three straight targets in the end zone that Baltimore was unable to complete, and laid out several defenders with big hits. Fuller was also consistently around the ball, logging 3 passes defensed and tipping a ball to Adrian Amos for an interception.
  • 2nd year safety DeAndre Houston-Carson got a few defensive snaps today as a 3rd safety. I’m surprised that came ahead of Deon Bush, and will be something to watch going forward.

Special Teams

  • It was an ugly day for the special teams, as they gave up not one but two touchdowns. The first came after Chicago had just scored to go up 17-3, and Ravens return man Bobby Rainey hit the ground after being tripped up by his own blocker. All the Bears stopped, assuming he was down, but Rainey got up and ran for an easy touchdown to get Baltimore back in the game. Then they gave up a long punt return touchdown where nobody even got close to return man Michael Campanaro. That’s just inexcusable incompetence.
  • Punter Pat O’Donnell had himself quite the game, at least in regulation. He repeatedly pinned Baltimore inside their own 20 when given the chance, and flipped field position in the 2nd half with a booming 67 yard punt.  he then shanked a 33 yard punt in OT, giving Baltimore excellent field position.
  • Special teams ace Sherrick McManis got injured early in the game and did not return. The Bears said it was a hamstring injury, and we can only hope it’s not serious. Running back/special teamer Benny Cunningham also left the game with a hamstring issue.

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Week Six: Bears at Ravens Game Preview

| October 12th, 2017

The Bears entrusted their franchise to this man.

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. And Monday night reinvigorated me.


What’s Next For Mitch Trubisky?

What impressed me about Trubisky in his Monday night debut was the moment never got too big for him. He was poised. He was under control. Did he make a few mistakes? Of course. The kid was making his first professional start! But he recognized the errors and owned up to them post-game.

The talent premiered. Now it’s about improvement. What should we be watching?

  • The Roll Right, Cross-Body Throw. This was the most prominent “mistake” he made in his debut and he made it differently each time, culminating with the game-ending interception. (All three, interestingly, were throws to Zach Miller on plays that has essentially broken down.) Biscuit has to understand how much steam those throws lose and how quickly NFL defensive backs close on the football. Often the smart play is just tuck it and get a few yards with your legs or throw the ball into the sixteenth row.
  • The Left Side of the Field. Trubisky did most of his work to the right half of the field which, if you read this blog, was fully expected. But Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees has been DC for Nick Saban (Michigan State, mid-90s) and Bill Belichick (New England, mid-2000s). Those men approach defensive football the same way. They want to take away the thing their opponent does best. Trubisky should have to open up the field Sunday.
  • Cadence. The offensive line never looked comfortable Monday night partly due to their being off the snap. They also had a few pre-snap penalties, with Charles Leno clearly not knowing the count on several plays, including the strip sack of Trubisky. Are those on the quarterback? Possibly. Only the players actually know. But it’s now on Trubisky to get this group comfortable and that only happens with time and experience.

Tweet of the Week


Three Reasons the Bears Will Win

  • Now that Mike Glennon is on the bench, Joe Flacco is arguably the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Rating barely above 70, a touchdown-interception ratio of 4-6 and averaging 165 passing yards a game is something you might accept from a rookie but not from a player occupying about $50M of dead cap space in 2017. This is not a game the Bears will have to chase with their passing game. Flacco will keep it close.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Shea Needed, Random Thoughts & Halloween!

| October 27th, 2015

audibles

SHEA AND ANTREL MISSED

Yes, Shea McClellin is still learning a new position in the middle of a complicated defense. And yes, Antrel Rolle is on the flipside of his football playing coin. But both are pivotal when it comes to essential elements of playing defense in the NFL. Per Friend of the Blog Adam Jahns:

“Shea McClellin, obviously, getting him back in there at some point, as well as Antrel, from a leadership standpoint, getting guys lined up and understanding how to execute our defense is key,” Fox said. “We’ve got some guys that we’re leaning on right now that will just get better with time until those guys can get back in the lineup.”

If McClellin returns and the defense improves, expect him in the lineup beyond January 3, 2015.

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Money Where My Mouth Is: Three Picks for Week 3

| September 24th, 2015

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Made some overreacting mistakes to the first week of the season, especially in the Rams/Redskins game. Still can’t believe the Rams team that played the Redskins Sunday was the same that beat Seattle to open the year. Lines can be found here.

BALTIMORE -3 OVER CINCINNATI

Here’s the logic: I don’t believe the Ravens are an 0-3 team. And I think they (much like the Seahawks) will be refreshed by playing their first home game and deliver a big effort.  Ravens 30, Bengals 24.

Chicago at Seattle: TOTAL POINTS OVER 43.5

The Bears are going to have trouble scoring points with Jimmy Clausen starting at quarterback but I don’t think that means they’ll be shutout by a defense that has struggled mightily coming out of the 2015 gates. And the Seahawks would be disappointed finishing this game with less than 28 points. I say the game goes over. Seahawks 31, Bears 20

Tennessee Titans Total Points Over 21 vs. Indy

I have been unabashed in my hatred of the way Colts GM Ryan Grigson has built this roster around Andrew Luck. In lieu of offensive linemen or defenders, Grigson has stockpiled aged skill players the team doesn’t need. Luck will probably throw another pick or two and Marcus Mariota should be able to gauge the Colts for large chunks of yardage on the ground. Colts 34, Titans 30.

Season Record: 2-3-1 (-$140)

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Thanksgiving Day Football Thread

| November 28th, 2013

flynn

I know many of you think the Packers, with Rodgers, are a greater threat to the Bears postseason hopes. But that should not matter. With the Lions owning the tiebreaker, the Bears need a one game lead on them and that might be too difficult for this defense to pull off. Root for Green Bay today.

And as always, I give thanks for those of you who’ve spent time on this site over the years. I love this site because of you.

Feel like gambling on Thanksgiving Day? Drink six beers, select a member of your family and tell them exactly how you feel about them. Or bet on sports. I make my three picks for the day after the jump.

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Maligned Defensive Line, Coordinator Save Bears Season

| November 19th, 2013

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It would have been easy.

After being steamrolled by the Baltimore Ravens for the better part of an hour, it would have been easy for the Chicago Bears to walk back into the locker room with their heads hanging lower than 40 time. Facing a lengthy weather delay it would have been easy for players and coaches alike to say, “We’re done. Too many injuries. Backup quarterback. This is as far as we can go.”

It may not have been right. But it would have been easy.

What followed the delay was something even the most fresh-eyed of Bears optimists could not have predicted. David Bass made the kind of play that has defined the career of Julius Peppers and knotted the ballgame up at 10. Peppers used the two-hour delay to fly to St. Augustine, dip his face in Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth and return with a triumphant double-digit tackle, multi-sack performance when the Bears needed him most. Mel Tucker and Marc Trestman realized their error in sliding Corey Wootton back outside and returned him to the three-technique where he has begun to flourish in recent weeks. (Put some more bulk on this kid and he can delivery Melton-like numbers.) This defensive line, marred by injury and ineffectiveness, delivered the type of performance most of us thought them incapable of delivering.

The Pizza Hut delivery man showed up with three sausage pies from Lou Malnati’s. The Schlitz keg was pouring Guinness. Dublin Guinness. Mulligan’s Guinness. It flowed sweetest with the game on the line.

Because the game was over. I challenge any Bears fans, any self-respecting Bears fan, to show me evidence they believed the Bears could hold Flacco and the Ravens on first-and-goal as the clock on the Bears postseason hopes was slowly trickling down to a bunch of zeroes. Three opportunities to find the end zone? Against this defense? With the game on the line and Human Penalty Machine Zack Bowman on the field? How could they not score?

The game was over. Then it wasn’t. Three snaps. Three excellent pushes from the defensive front. The unit that had put the Bears back in the football game was giving them one more chance to save their season; now in overtime. McCown, Bennett and Gould took it from there.

The challenges coming should not be understated. St. Louis, Minnesota, Philadelphia – one back better than the next – will give this defense and its inability to stop the run nightmares. But for one week Bears fans should salute their maligned defensive front and their overly-maligned coordinator. For one Sunday is was not the big weapons on offense that won the Bears a football game. For one Sunday it was Peppers, Cheta, Cohen, Woot, Bass and company.

For one today the Bears reminded us of yesterday.

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Rapid Fire Response to the Bears Victory over Ravens

| November 18th, 2013

bearsravens

So the Bears won. After hours of delay due to a possible tornado, the Bears won. What did I think of the game? I thought it was one of the gutsiest wins in recent memory. Here are my other thoughts:

  • Josh McCown showed his limitations Sunday, unable to get the ball to the hands of his big receivers in the endzone. McCown played solidly, again, but doesn’t have much in the arm department.
  • Brandon Marshall may have played his worst game as a Bear.
  • Alshon Jeffery is a wonderful player but his drops are becoming a storyline.
  • Corey Wootton belongs inside, Mel Tucker. He’s developing into quite the three-technique.
  • I’m not sure Jon Bostic isn’t going to be a great player.
  • Nice work by Julius Peppers. He didn’t play a dominant game but he showed up.
  • Zack Bowman was awful, start to finish. How many penalties do you need to commit on special teams before you stop playing special teams?

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Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears Game Chat

| November 17th, 2013

game

Struggled with a stomach virus this week so the content was a bit lighter than usual. Three final thoughts on today’s game:

  1. It would be hard to make an argument for the Bears 2013 postseason hopes should they lose at home today. Even though the game has no tiebreaker implications, they can’t fall deeper below the Lions in the division or the Niners/Panthers in the wild card race and expect to make up ground on the road over the next month plus.
  2. What if Josh McCown puts together another four brilliant quarters executing the offense? What if the sample size grows from six quarters to ten quarters and a nearly game-saving drive against the Lions? At what point does the conversation switch from “this guy really is a good caretaker of the offense” to “this guy really runs the offense well” or even “maybe this is how the offense should look”? Nobody has been as big a Cutler supporter as myself over the years but at a certain point data is data.
  3. If the Bears defense can’t win a match-up like this at home – no run game, turnover-prone/flaky passing game, punt heavy offense – they have very little shot to win the battles coming further down the schedule. I have three expectations from the defense today. (1) Jon Bostic continues to evolve into the Bears future middle linebacker. (2) Zack Bowman plays a few solid quarters at corner before, of course, getting hurt. (3) Torrey Smith is limited over the top by a resurgent Chris Conte.

 


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Baltimore Ravens at Chicago Bears Game Preview

| November 14th, 2013

bear ravenIt seems, win or lose, the 2013 Bears get sucker punched every week. This week they got Peanut Punched as Charles Tillman was lost for the remainder of the season to a triceps injury. The Bears will now face the Baltimore Ravens without their starting quarterback, their starting defensive tackles, two/thirds of their starting linebackers and the best member of their secondary. So…

Why do I like the Chicago Bears this week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

BUT WHAT FOOTBALL REASONS, JEFF?

  • I think the storyline lost from the Lions game Sunday was just how brilliant Josh McCown was AGAIN coming off the bench. McCown has been the revelation of the 2013 season and I don’t think the Bears offense will struggle Sunday as a result of his starting.
  • Marc Trestman is dealing with the first real criticism of his coaching tenure after deciding to stick with Cutler last Sunday against the Lions. I think Trest responds.
  • Hard not to like to some degree what is developing in the middle of the Bears defense with Corey Wootton and Jon Bostic. Both are learning on the job but show tremendous potential. Be interesting to see where they are at the end of December.
  • Baltimore turns the ball over more than they take it away and the Bears take it away more than just about any team in the league.
  • Ravens have corners with size and can match up with the Bears on the outside. Expect the Bears to attach Baltimore underneath with an intense amount of Matt Forte. Forte will be the best player on the field Sunday.
  • I think the Bears are the better team. They are at home. And they are absolutely desperate for the game.

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