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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s Offense

| November 6th, 2017

With the extra time over the bye, this is a good chance to take more of a big-picture look at how the Bears have done so far this year. Thus I’m going to be looking in-depth at both their offense and defense to see what lessons we can learn and areas for improvement in the second half.

Today we’re looking at the offense.

Chicago’s offense has generally been bad so far in 2017. They’re 29th out of 32 NFL teams in yards per game, 31st in passing yards per game, and 28th in points per game. The one area where they are not bad is running the ball, where they are 4th in yards per game and 8th in yards per attempt.

These basic stats are easy to look up, but there’s a lot of information that they don’t tell you. In order to break it down a little bit further, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s offensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing attempts by areas of the field to see where they target the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Rushing Attack

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing attack in 2017. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses (all ranks through week 8 only). The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

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Across The Middle: Bears, Back to Life

| October 4th, 2017

I grew up on Bears vs. Packers.

As most DBB readers already know, I grew up in Wisconsin, right near the Minnesota border, and had to sit on the sidelines while Packers and Vikings fans battled it out. But the two times a year the Bears played the Packers were the best two weeks of the season. They were my Super Bowl simply because I knew the Bears had no shot of getting to the actual Super Bowl.

I’ll admit there were times when I cried after the Bears lost to the Packers. One of the happiest days of my life was the Walter Payton game. The 2010 NFC Championship was one of the worst. The Bears beating the Packers meant everything to me.

Last Thursday’s game meant nothing. I didn’t have any hope. Something wasn’t right in my Bearsmosphere and I’m damn glad they fixed it.

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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 Responds: Bears vs. Steelers

| September 24th, 2017

 

  • Bears win! It’s been so long I’ve forgotten what that looked like. Hell, I had forgotten what it looked like for them to have a lead, as this was the first game that happened at any point since the first half of week 15 last year.
  • Good teams find ways to win close games, and bad teams find ways to lose them. Despite trying their best to throw this one away with a litany of stupid plays, the Bears still found a way to win. Hopefully they can build off of this going forward.

Offense

  • We’ll start with the good and focus on all three running backs, starting with a monster day by sophomore Jordan Howard, who looked like his rookie self for the first time this year. He ran hard, was decisive, and finished runs with power. Holes were there better than they’ve been so far this year, but credit Howard for playing better as well to take advantage of it. Howard did have a 3rd quarter fumble (though on replay it looked like he was down) that let the Steelers back in the game, and he had to leave the game twice with his injured shoulder in the 2nd half. Still, he came back and finished the game in OT, and finished with 138 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Just for good measure, Howard also led the Bears with 26 receiving yards.
  • Tarik Cohen rebounded from a poor week 2 effort as well. He made a big play in the first half and a huge play in OT that jump-started the Bears’ offense and should have won the game (he was incorrectly ruled out of bounds, costing him a tochdown). His electricity showed up in limited touches (though 16 is still too many). Perhaps equally important, the Bears finally started using him properly. His small size means that he can’t sustain as many touches as he’s been getting, so this week they started using fakes to him to open things up for others. They ran him around on a fake reverse several times, and this helped open up the running game for Howard.
  • While we’re talking about running backs, Benny Cunningham was back from an ankle sprain today and made a few nice plays on 3rd down. Twice he caught checkdown passes way short of the sticks and turned them into a new set of downs for the Bears.
  • Now for the quarterback, which is a lot less fun to talk about: it’s been 3 weeks and 3 bad games for Mike Glennon, who completed 5 passes (none of them to wide receivers) on 8 pass attempts for 31 yards in the first half. Despite this incompetence, the Bears still held a ten point halftime lead; just imagine how good this team could be if their quarterback wasn’t completely terrible. It stunts their entire offense, from the play calling to the run game.

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Across The Middle: Coaching Collision Course?

| September 20th, 2017

Whether this is just a rumor or if it actually happened is anybody’s guess.

The story goes that before the Bears Week 17 game in 2014, Ted Phillips and George McCaskey brought Phil Emery into the principal’s office and asked him what his plan was. Firing Marc Trestman was a no-brainer but the Bears needed to know Emery had a solid plan to replace him. Emery’s response was a guy he had worked with before: Mike Smith.

Smith had success in the past. The Falcons won at least nine games in his first five years, but they’d gone just 10-22 since then. He wasn’t sexy and wasn’t someone any other team was going to consider. Emery liked him because he knew him and he felt Smith did a good job in helping turn the Falcons around. The Bears brass never really responded to Emery. They watched the Week 17 game together and the next time they spoke was the last. Emery was fired the next morning.

If things keep going the way they’re going, Ted and George are going to have the same talk with Ryan Pace. And, like Emery, there’s a good chance Pace is going to be able to mention a familiar name. Only this time, that name will have a Super Bowl ring.

But is Sean Payton the answer?

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The Story is Glennon Until He’s Gone

| September 18th, 2017

John Fox said it.

I heard him.

He said it.

Sunday’s loss was not on Mike Glennon. Nope, Glennon’s constant throwing behind receivers was not the problem. Glennon blowing off an open Adam Shaheen to throw the ball to a linebacker was certainly not the problem. Glennon fumbling the football because he has the least amount of pocket awareness in the history of professional football was clearly not the problem. Glennon’s awful pick-six, predicted seconds before it happened from a New York City bar stool, was definitively not the problem.

Sure, the Bears made a ton of mistakes yesterday and were more than likely not winning even if they received adequate quarterback play. But they didn’t receive adequate quarterback play. They received the type of quarterback play anybody who has studied the tape of Mike Glennon’s career would expect. This performance was not surprising. It wasn’t abnormal. It is exactly who Glennon has always been.

And when a reporter dared to ask John Fox if Mitch Trubisky will be starting next week against Pittsburgh, Fox answered with a simple “No”.

Next week, and every week Glennon starts, the Bears will lose. Not because they don’t have good enough players to compete but because the organization has chosen to do so. The Bears have selected failure.  People wonder why this space has been obsessed with Glennon since the start of training camp? Yesterday you saw why. He renders the team non-competitive.

And worse, he renders the games unwatchable. And I really, really like watching Bears football. At least I did until September 2017.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bucs

| September 17th, 2017

Well that was ugly. The Bears turned the ball over 4 times in the first half, trailed 10-0 after one quarter, and 26-0 at halftime en route to a 29-7 final score. I’m going to focus most of my comments on the first half, because that’s all that mattered. The 2nd half was just playing out the string.

  • First, let me just start in general with the coaching. All three phases made huge mistakes in the first half as the entire team looked unprepared, and that is 100% on the coaches. They had key blown assignments, early wasted time outs, too many dumb penalties, and lots of sloppy turnovers. Somehow, Chicago’s coaches need to figure out how to get their team ready to play.
  • Can whoever has a voodoo doll for the entire Bears team stop already? Nick Kwiatkoski, Kendall Wright, and Tom Compton all left in the first half, though at least Wright returned. In the 2nd half, Josh Sitton and Akiem Hicks added to the walking wounded, though Hicks also came back into the game. For those scoring at home, that means the Bears left week 2 without their top 4 WRs, 3 of their top 5 interior OL, and 2 of their top 3 ILBs, plus their top CB has yet to see the field this year. Mark this as the 3rd year in a row where injuries are a defining story of the season, meaning the Bears need to figure something out with their conditioning and training staffs.
  • The coaches also continue to show zero feel for how to manage playing time in a blowout. You think they’d be better at it with all the practice they’ve gotten in the last few years. Somehow Akiem hicks and Josh Sitton were both playing so that they could get hurt in the 4th quarter down 4 scores, and the already overworked Tarik Cohen still saw touches in the 4th quarter as well.  Zach Miller, who might be Chicago’s best healthy pass catcher and is made of glass, made multiple catches on the final drive despite having a rookie drafted in the 2nd round sitting behind him. Why?

Offense

  • I’m starting at quarterback this week, because there’s nowhere else to start. Mike Glennon turned the ball over 3 times in Chicago’s first 3 possessions. He threw two terrible interceptions and showed zero pocket awareness on a fumble. By that point, the game was over at 23-0, and it was yet another terrible day for the former Buc. Glennon was far from the only bad Bear in this game, but he was the worst. His time as Chicago’s starting QB has already gone 2 games longer than it should have, and now it officially needs to be over. Yet with this pathetic coaching staff, I don’t doubt that Glennon will be starting next week, especially after showing “promise” in a meaningless 4th quarter (where he missed several throws and had another INT dropped by not one but two defenders).
  • Glennon was inexplicably not benched at any point during this game, and finished the day 31/45 for 301 yards, for a poor 6.7 yards per attempt. But that doesn’t accurately reflect just how bad he was, even on the non-turnover plays. He hit a bunch of throws underneath that any NFL QB should be able to make, and also forced several incompletions on short passes that went to his targets’ feet and/or behind them. We know what Glennon is, and it’s not good. There’s absolutely nothing he does at an above average level, but many things he’s quite bad at.
  • Tampa Bay came into the game focusing on stopping the run and keying in on Tarik Cohen in the passing game. This should have been predictable to Chicago in their game preparation, as those were basically the only things that worked last week, but they couldn’t come up with anything else effective. The 1st half yielded 16 rushing yards (on 14 attempts), 3 offensive turnovers, and 0 points. The passing game actually got some work going underneath in the passing game, but that approach requires long sustained drives without a mistake, which they are not capable of doing.
  • Speaking of Cohen, he came back down to Earth a good bit in week 2. Tampa Bay unsurprisingly focused on him after his big debut last week, and successfully shut him down. He also had an incredibly stupid punt return where he picked up a ball off the bounce when surrounded by Bucs, was immediately hit, and unsurprisingly fumbled.
  • The coaches needed to anticipate Tampa Bay’s defense would key on Cohen and use him as a decoy in this game. They failed to do that, which led to the offense being too predictable. Those edge runs that Cohen was able to turn into gains in week one were all snuffed out and contained this week. Their touches for Cohen became too predictable, and he continued to get too many (17, when the goal should be 10-12 for a player of his size, like Darren Sproles consistently gets).
  • Kendall Wright was featured more today after being completely ignored until the 4th quarter last week. I’m surprised it took that long for Chicago to realize they should try involving their best WR in the game.
  • In all the OL shuffling as Compton and then Sitton got hurt, 2nd year man Cody Whitehair moved from C to LG to RG. Continually moving one of your best players around seems like a poor strategy to me. Let him get comfortable and dominate at one spot.

Defense

  • Another week, another opening scoring drive by Chicago’s opponent. As Andrew Dannehy has been all over, this is a worrying trend for the defense, and one that leads to them losing games. Somehow, the Bears need to figure out how to stop putting themselves in a hole at the start of nearly every game.
  • Two other bad trends for the Bears showed up repeatedly in this game as well: the inability to force turnovers and the inability to get off the field on 3rd down. In the 1st half, Tampa Bay was 4/7 on 3rd down, including 3 3rd down stops negated by penalties.
  • Perhaps more worrying, the Bears failed to force a turnover until after the game was out of reach. They even had a great chance on the 2nd play from scrimmage, when Danny Trevathan tipped a ball up in the air that hung forever. Somebody needs to come up with an interception there, but no defender got even close. Pernell McPhee (it was good to see him for more than 4 snaps this week) finally forced a fumble in the 3rd quarter, which Leonard Floyd picked up.
  • Speaking of Leonard Floyd, the Bears need much more from him. Chicago’s supposed budding superstar has been mostly invisible through the 1st two games, though he finally showed up with a few plays in the 2nd half (after the game was over). They need him to be a difference maker. When that didn’t happen in the first half, the defense got zero pass rush and looked pretty mediocre.
  • Pretty much the only positive from the first half in my book was Kyle Fuller. Tampa Bay’s passing game moved the ball well, but everything went towards Marcus Cooper. By my count, Winston was 0/4 targeting Fuller in the 1st half. Of course, Fuller did drop an easy INT in the end zone in the 4th quarter, so it wasn’t all good.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had a solid game too. He put in good work in coverage (largely on Fuller’s side, where Winston had much less success) and plenty of sure tackling, including a nice tackle for loss in the run game.

Overall

  • That’s all I have from this nightmare. I feel like I put in more effort than the Bears today.
  • Seriously, we’re two weeks into the season and this team already looks lifeless. They didn’t even get excited after finally forcing a turnover in the 3rd quarter. It feels like the players have prepared themselves for another long, losing season.  Can you blame them?

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Bears at Bucs Game Preview

| September 14th, 2017

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. (But a man can only take so much.)

Tampa Bay in 2016

Aside from their thumping of the Bears, on a day when Jay Cutler couldn’t stop turning the ball over, the Tampa offense was mediocre or worse for the duration of the 2016 season. Their rankings:

  • Yards per game: 18th
  • Passing yards per game: 16th
  • Rushing yards per game: 24th
  • Points per game: T-18th

The fact that a team with these stats won more games than they lost is impressive. But the Bucs made two significant additions to their offense this off-season: DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard. Always. Be. Adding. Weapons.

On Jerrell Freeman’s Injury

Bears had 22 projected starters in July. 11 on offense and 11 on defense. Kyle Long, Prince Amukamara, Cam Meredith, Kevin White, Jerrell Freeman won’t be out there Sunday. Pernell McPhee will be limited. That’s 27% of their starting lineup not out there. And they’ve played one game.

Three Reasons the Bears Win

  • One-dimensional Bucs. After seeing the Bears front suffocate the Falcons rush game, with Freeman, it’s hard to imagine many teams having significant success running the football into Goldman, Hicks & co. That means this game will fall squarely on Jameis Winston and the passing attack. Can they carry the day in their first start and avoid turning it over? Hard to see it.
  • Tarik Cohen. Make no mistake about it, Bucs DC Mike Smith is spending way more time than he expected this week on The Human Joystick. Outside of Chicago, Cohen’s dynamic performance in Week One shook the football world, with Cohen establishing himself as the team’s most explosive weapon. If goal 1 of opposing defenses will be stopping the Bears run, goal 1A will be stopping Cohen. Not sure the Bucs have the personnel to do it.
  • Back to the Ground. Bucs allowed 4.4 yards per carry on the ground last season and over 117 yards per game. Bears will be handing the ball off and handing it off a lot this Sunday. Why? Because they watched the tape of their quarterback from last weekend.

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