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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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Across The Middle — Week 17

| December 28th, 2016

After two seasons and a combined eight wins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked out for the best interest of their franchise and the development of quarterback Jameis Winston by firing Lovie Smith and replacing him with offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. A year later, the Bears are in a similar position as the most important thing going forward is the ability to find and develop their next quarterback.

I made the case against John Fox last week. Even without looking at his win-loss record without Peyton Manning the last eight years, it’s hard to trust him to develop whoever the next QB is going to be. Dowell Loggains is a good offensive coordinator, who could easily succeed with a rookie quarterback. But, if he does the Bears will lose him to another franchise. While Fox has hired a number of good offensive coaches, he’s never been a part of a team that developed a quarterback.

But, who else are you going to get? As simple as my criteria may be, it isn’t so easy to fill.

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Bears Thump Niners & There’s Plenty To Feel Good About

| December 5th, 2016

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You will hear it across Chicago today: “…but the Niners suck.” And there’s no denying that fact. The Niners do, in fact, suck. They are probably the league’s worst team. (I don’t consider Cleveland a team.) But good teams beat sucky teams convincingly. Good teams play meaningless fourth quarters against sucky teams. And the Bears, with their third or fourth-string quarterback, looked an awful lot like a good team yesterday.

Rapid fire…

  • I’ve been using #barkleytime as something of a joke but, you know, I’m starting to think it might not be. As impressive as Barkley was against the Titans a week ago, he was ten times more impressive in the conditions at Soldier Field yesterday. And if het got a little more help from his receivers, he might have been staring down a gaudy stat line. Nevertheless, a near-100 quarterback rating in the slush when the opposing quarterbacks looked like Abbot & Costello Meet the Snow, is exemplary. (More on Barkley coming later today/tomorrow.)
  • I can’t remember seeing a two-win team play with the emotion the Bears played with yesterday. Defensively, offensively, everything. They were fired up from the opening whistle. Seeing that makes me want to slap all the “they should lose” people across their faces.
  • Jordan Howard. That is all. No, that’s not all. His five-yard touchdown run may be my favorite play of the season. The Niners weren’t keeping him out of the end zone with 18 defenders.
  • Say this about Josh Bellamy: he gets open! And I give the Bears coaching staff/QB credit for sticking with him after the second big drop. I would have sat him on the bench and left him there. They didn’t and they were handsomely rewarded for it.
  • Noah Spence is having a terrific year in Tampa and Joey Bosa is terrific but Leonard Floyd may now be the front-runner (as predicted here) for defensive rookie of the year. If Floyd can get his sack total into double digits, I’m not sure they can keep the award away from him.

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Across The Middle — Week 13

| November 30th, 2016

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The fall guy for the 2016 Chicago Bears is most likely going to be Dowell Loggains and really, it’s too bad.

The Bears are 11 games into a miserable season and next-to-last in points per game, which could tell you the Bears have a terrible offensive coordinator. But I am just not sure that is true. The Bears should’ve won and should’ve scored at least 34 points last week with their JV offense.

This is a results-based industry, I get it. But isn’t there something to be said about having the Bears in the middle of the pack in yards with the majority of their snaps being taken by Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer? No, they didn’t score with Jay Cutler either. But Cutler has been hurt all season. And, come to think of it, the only coaches who have scored a lot of points with Cutler are Mike Martz and Marc Trestman. Even the great Mike Shanahan never finished better than 16th in scoring with Cutler has his quarterback.

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Across The Middle – Week Seven

| October 19th, 2016

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We entered this season believing in John Fox for one reason above all else: Thanksgiving 2015. He needs a repeat performance to restore the faith.

As mediocre as the Packers have been this season, the Bears roster should not be able to compete in this game. They’ll likely be down their top four cornerbacks and three of their top four pass rushers. Oh, and Brian Hoyer is going to be the quarterback. The same argument was made about the Thanksgiving night game last year, but the Bears won because they played their butts off and John Fox was a large part of the reason why.

Fox has never been and is never going to be a good in-game coach. His teams are never going to be known for their discipline and his philosophies will always be simple. But Fox has survived because his players fight for him and give him everything they have. Fox needs to show he can still get that out of them this week.

I don’t know if winning the game is realistic. The Packers are ticked off and the “what’s wrong with Aaron Rodgers” questions are guaranteed to bring out his best. As important as wins and losses are, this Bears season should have never been defined that way.

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Match-ups That Matter: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears

| September 29th, 2016

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The Detroit Lions are putting up big time offensive numbers right now. You can criticize their opponents – and there’s much to criticize there – but that’s irrelevant for Sunday. Kill the Colts, Titans and Packers all you want but all three teams have better quarterbacks than Brian Hoyer and healthier defenses than the Chicago Bears. The Lions are going to score points at Soldier Field. Breaking that match-up down makes little sense. Here’s the match-up that might swing the game.

Jordan Howard & the Bears Offensive Line

vs.

Detroit’s Rush Defense

  • Jordan Howard has opportunity to change the narrative of the 2016 Bears season. Think that’s a bit of an overstatement? It may be. But consider the headlines in Chicago Monday morning should the Bears beat Detroit on the shoulders of a 22 carry, 125 yard, 2 touchdown performance by a rookie running back. Hope for the future is dependent upon the emergence of young stars. Howard can emerge Sunday.
  • It was obvious the strength of this offense was going to be their guard and center play by the middle of the season. Unfortunately the Bears can no longer wait that long. They’ve cut their fullback and a tight end brought in to strengthen the rushing attack. The right tackle is a nightmare, surprisingly in the run game as well as the passing attack. The Bears need Sitton-Whitehair-Long to be the toughest guys in the room. They’re capable of doing it.

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