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Chicago Wins Ugly Affair in Charm City (Rapid Fire)

| October 16th, 2017

Tommy Gilligan – USA TODAY Sports

Listen, it was an ugly affair at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Ravens offense isn’t capable of playing a pretty game. The Bears coaching staff had no interest in one. Thus you get a game like that. Thoughts…

  • Bears ran the ball 54 times, with 50 called runs. I won’t reiterate what Data wrote well post-game regarding the predictability of their rushing attack. I will just say this: the Bears have to stop coaching like Mike Glennon is under center. Their offense seems to be a combination of 1943 and gimmicks. Take the cuffs off Trubisky and let him play football.
  • Someone told you the punt game would play a pivotal role in this game. Who was that again?
  • Jordan Howard, prior to his 53-yard run in OT, was averaging just 3.25 yards per carry. Completely a product of play-calling. Running on obvious running downs and throwing on obvious passing downs won’t beat a team with a competent offense.
  • Kendall Wright is the Bears best receiver. Why can’t the coaching staff see that?
  • Trubisky’s big mistakes in his first start were trying to do too much when the play broke down. Love that he showed growth in his second start and didn’t hesitate to fling it out of bounds.
  • Also loved Trubisky’s slide technique. Don’t take hits you don’t have to, kid. Just look around the league. Quarterbacks are falling Antietam. (Too soon?)
  • Down around the goal line, Loggains has to let Trubisky’s legs be a weapon. These quick, one-read calls have to go.
  • Adrian Amos played his best game as a Bear but my game ball would go to Kyle Fuller. The former first-round pick looked like a complete, shut down corner. Why did Flacco keep throwing at him?
  • Good to see Pernell McPhee flying around. Looked like a different player from the guy on Monday night’s tape.
  • Akiem Hicks has the same number of sacks as Von Miller. He has more than Khalil Mack and Geno Atkins. It’s early in the season but Hicks is starting to put himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. That’s how good he’s been.

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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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213 Comments

Across The Middle: Fox & Co. Officially on the Hot Seat

| October 11th, 2017

Forget, if you can, the clown show on first quarter fourth down in which the Bears were going for it, then they weren’t, then they did, only to have a delay of game. After another game with so many of the same mistakes, it’s hard to have confidence that John Fox is the guy to get the Bears back on track.

Fox’s teams are often ill-prepared and rarely disciplined. That has been a constant since late in the coach’s tenure with the Panthers. His teams commit back-breaking penalties and awful turnovers. Game after game. They never get it right. But even with these fatal flaws, Fox has still won a lot of games. Primarily because he is very good at building talented rosters.

What is truly disheartening is what we saw from Dowell Loggains.

I’ve praised the Bears offensive coordinator’s work with the likes of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. The game he called Monday night with Trubisky was predictable and displayed a lack of understanding his opponent.

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294 Comments

Bears Fall to 1-4, Trubisky Debuts, Fox Flops: Rapid Fire Reaction to MNF

| October 10th, 2017

  • Let’s take Trubisky just on his execution and not on what those around him did. He displayed all the traits that excited Ryan Pace (and me) during the pre-draft period: athleticism, mobility, powerful arm, accuracy. He also tried to do too much several times and made a few mistakes. The interception was the glaring error but the throw that almost killed Markus Wheaton was just as misguided. The touchdown pass was more a physical mistake than a mental one.
  • One thing I liked about Tru’s performance: he ran to throw. He didn’t take off down the sideline when Bears receivers weren’t open. He threw the ball downfield and tried to let them make plays. When he’s got professional receivers out there, this will lead to big plays.
  • Worst performance from the offensive line this season, almost across the board. They were bullied at the point of attack and committed costly penalties.
  • Dion Simms, what the hell? He missed two blocks on pivotal runs and then ran short of the sticks/dropped the ball on a third-down play designed specifically for him. Explain to me why this guy is on the field over Zach Miller. Explain to me why getting Adam Shaheen experience in these games is not more valuable than wasting time on Simms. Money?
  • The fake punt and two-point conversion were spectacular calls. Those are the two positive things I will say about this coaching staff last night.

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197 Comments

Data Responds: Bears vs. Vikings

| October 10th, 2017

In rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s debut, the Bears got the ball to start, and marched right down the field. Trubisky looked sharp on several impressive throws, including one huge third down completion to Tre McBride that set Chicago up on Minnesota’s 9 yard line.

Except a holding penalty by center Cody Whitehair brought the Bears back to 3rd and 20 out of field goal range. One screen pass later, they punted, costing themselves at least three points.

That would lay the foundation for a frustrating first half of missed opportunities, when a long list of penalties (some more dubious than others) led to Chicago getting no offensive points despite passing midfield on four drives.

Unsurprisingly, those missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the second half, as a late Minnesota field goal led to a 20-17 win.

Coaching

  • They get their own section again, which usually means bad things. And we’re starting here, because it was terrible.
  • John Fox took too long to decide whether to go for it on 4th and 2 in the first quarter, which forced the Bears to call a time out. Out of the time out, they took too long to get the play in, resulting in a delay of game and punt. That was an ugly sequence that was 100% the fault of the coaches. Then in the 2nd half, they had to burn a time out when the Vikings had 1st and 19 due to confusion with defensive play calls.
  • The Bears were also incredibly sloppy early on, with several early penalties negating big plays and/or putting them behind the chains. Some of the calls didn’t seem particularly great by the officials, but overall they need to get out of their own way and stop beating themselves. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team.
  • Dowell Loggains also had a terrible game. He fell into predictable patterns we’ve seen through four games, with obvious runs on 1st down and too many horizontal passes. They ran out of heavy sets and threw out of shotgun, with not enough variability mixed into those sets. This routinely set the Bears up in 3rd and long situations, which is not where you want a rookie quarterback (or any offense, really) to be. To his credit, Loggains did have a beautiful play call on a game-tying 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter, but overall he had a rough night.

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Data Responds: Bears at Packers

| September 29th, 2017

Two road games, two blowout losses for the 2017 Bears. Green Bay won the first quarter 14-0 after a great opening drive, followed by a 3-yard touchdown after Mike Glennon turned it over on Chicago’s first offensive snap. Things stayed quiet until the end of the first quarter, when a 47 minute lightning delay led to what felt like the start of another game.

Of course, the Bears still had Mike Glennon in at quarterback, so nothing changed. He turned the ball over 3 more times and shut down the entire offense with his incompetence before racking up just enough garbage time stats to make his performance somewhat defensible if you squint (stop me if you’ve heard that before).

Coaching

  • We’re starting here tonight, beginning with the continued ineptitude making appropriate personnel decisions late in a blowout. With all the practice the Bears’ coaches have gotten in these situations in the last few years, you’d think they would be great at it by now, but they’re not. Down 28 points in the 4th quarter, the Bears rode Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, their two best offensive players, to a meaningless late touchdown. Zach Miller, their best tight end who has made a career out of going to IR, played while rookie Adam Shaheen sat on the bench. Why? This is literally a fireable offense if the team’s management cares about their personnel at all.

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting the 2016 Playcalling Tendencies of Dowell Loggains

| September 5th, 2017

To the dismay of many fans, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is back calling plays for the Bears in 2017. Some coaches have play calling tendencies in different down and distance situations, and opposing NFL teams scout those to help their play calling in response. With that in mind, I looked at down and distance trends for Loggains’ offense in 2016. Let’s take a look and see what we can learn.

First Down

The Bears generally were fairly balanced on 1st down, with 219 runs and 239 passes for a 48/52 split. They were also fairly effective with both, averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 8.1 yards per pass.

Those are quality numbers, and indicate Loggains did a pretty good job calling plays that kept the defense off guard on 1st downs. Let’s see if he kept that up later on.

Second Down

Overall, things were not nearly as good on 2nd down. The Bears were not nearly as balanced, increasing from 52% passing to 60% passing, and their efficiency for both runs and passes dropped significantly (3.8 yards per carry and 6.2 yards per pass).

Of course, some context is needed here. A 3 yard carry on 2nd and 2 is great, but a 3 yard carry on 2nd and 10 still leaves 3rd and long. With that in mind, I split the data into 4 groups based on the distance required to get a 1st down. The table below shows the data.

In terms of yards per play, the numbers on 2nd and short were awful, but they still did pick up the 1st down fairly regularly. It’s also worth noting how consistently predictable they were there; they ran the ball 26 out of 29 times on 2nd and 1 or 2nd and 2. Despite the success picking up a 1st down, I would like to see a few more deep shots scattered in. With a bruising back like Jordan Howard, you have to think the odds of picking up a 1st down on 3rd and short are pretty good (more on that in a minute), so try to get a big play on 2nd down.

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Dowell Loggains Needs To Be Creative with Bears Backfield Duo

| August 23rd, 2017

Tarik Cohen takes a handoff, runs right and immediately sees three defenders in his path. Instead of going down easily and waiting for his next opportunity, Cohen manages to freeze all three, and sprint by for a nine-yard gain.

Nobody can really explain how Cohen managed that run in the first quarter against Arizona. It doesn’t make sense. He should’ve been stopped for a loss. And that wasn’t the first time he’s had an improbable run this preseason. He’s already made a habit of it, just as he did in college and it’s becoming very clear that the Bears have a special player to complement their already special back, Jordan Howard.

But how they’ll manage to get the most out of both remains to be seen.

Howard didn’t play against the Cardinals and Cohen only got one carry in the first two drives before Howard exited the Bears preseason game against Denver. If the Bears are going to maximize their offensive potential this season, they’ll need to be able to use both players together.

It’s not as easy as you might think.

The player Cohen is most often compared to is Darren Sproles, who didn’t have more than 200 yards from scrimmage until his third season. Sproles entered the league with Marty Schottenheimer as his coach but one of the greatest play callers of all time, Norv Turner, took over in 2007. In their first season together, Sproles — used primarily as a return man — managed just 195 yards from scrimmage.

As great as he was, Turner never did figure out a way to get his two special backs involved simultaneously. It wasn’t until 2008 when LaDainian Tomlinson started slowing down that Turner started to use Sproles more. That season he had 672 yards from scrimmage and six touchdown. The next year, he nearly equaled Tomlinson’s production, but LT was 30 and on his way out.

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The Wright Stuff: Veteran Receiver Could Have Big Impact

| August 9th, 2017

It was only one day at camp, but Kendall Wright was running circles around the Bears’ defensive backs.

Admittedly, this is not a great group of corners and safeties, but still one could see the talent that made Wright the 20th pick in the 2012 draft. And it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Bears use him a lot more than Tennessee did in recent seasons.

Part of the reason why Wright is with the Bears is because of his history with Dowell Loggains. Loggains was promoted to offensive coordinator in Tennessee late in the 2012 season. In his first game, Wright had 10 targets, then 9 the following week. The next season, the Titans made an active attempt to get Wright the ball and he racked up 140 targets, catching 94 for 1,079 yards.

(Mike Munchak’s staff — including Loggains — was fired after the 2013 season. Wright had 93 targets with Ken Whisenhunt in 2014, but that total dropped by 32 in 2015 and by 18 more in 2016.)

But there’s reason to believe Loggains will get him back on the right track.

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Across The Middle — It’s Finally Over

| January 5th, 2017

After the worst season in terms of total losses in franchise history, the Bears should have one mission this offseason: find a quarterback.

Two weeks ago, I cited John Fox’s record without Peyton Manning as a reason to fire him. Here’s the counter argument: Fox won almost 80 percent of games when he did have a franchise quarterback. I don’t know how much credit Fox deserves for his time with Manning (a former Broncos player once told me Manning ran the whole show), but I do know that a great quarterback changes everything.

Guys like Jack Del Rio and Mike Mularkey have job security solely because their teams have good, young quarterbacks. The Cowboys went from 4-12 to 13-3 largely because they upgraded from the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel to Dak Prescott. Mike McCarthy was getting fired two months ago but he’s now preparing for a playoff game because Aaron Rodgers put his team on his back.

It takes more than a great quarterback. The Colts continue to prove that. But the Bears have a good system in place and the kind of supporting cast that would be favorable for any quarterback to step into.

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