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If Bears Want to Be Taken Seriously in Rodgersless NFC North, They Must Win Sunday

| October 16th, 2017

For five minutes, our eyes left the corner. That same corner where television after television has exclusively shown Bears games at Josie Woods Pub for the last seventeen years. Our eyes didn’t go far, just about six feet west to a second, smaller television above the bottles of Boodles gin. Churchill’s gin. My gin until I woke up on an  subway train at Coney Island at five in the morning.

Aaron Rodgers was down. Last time it was Shea McClellin, in navy. This time it was Anthony Barr, in purple. Different first-round edge rushers. Same bone.



Rodgers knew the second he hit the ground. A bunch of lubricated Bears fans in an underground Village bar knew it too. Rodgers isn’t playing football again this season. And while that is terrible news for a league losing too many star players each week, there won’t be many sympathetic hearts at Halas Hall or Eden Prairie or wherever the hell the Lions’ offices are.

The Rodgers injury swings the NFC North door open but will it open wide enough for the Bears – currently two games back of the lead – to find their way through? It’s still premature for this 2017 group to consider the playoffs a possibility but the Rodgers injury likely means the division will be won with ten victories instead of twelve.

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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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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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Three Final Thoughts for Vikings at Bears

| October 9th, 2017

(1) There’s no reason to downplay the historic nature of tonight’s game. The Bears intend for Mitch Trubisky to be their starting quarterback for the next decade plus and tonight he will take his first snaps in a Bears uniform. At home. In front of the entire country. While I will urge fans to be patient with the results, especially over these first twelve games, I don’t begrudge anyone’s giddiness tonight. Tonight is what’s fun about loving a team.


(2) My fiercest criticism of Vic Fangio through four weeks is his use of Leonard Floyd. I understand the schematic rationale for dropping him into coverage at the rate the Bears do but they’re getting very little rush off the edge. Floyd is their best edge rusher and if the Bears don’t make Sam Bradford uncomfortable tonight, he’ll have no problem stockpiling yardage to this terrific receiving corps.


(3) Markus Wheaton might be the most interesting player to watch tonight not named Trubisky. The Bears signed him for his speed, explosiveness and big play ability. When they signed him they believed they stole a player with tremendous upside. Now they’re giving him an accurate, strong-armed quarterback who can take advantage of his skills. Let’s hope this week was enough time for the two to get on the same page. (Prediction: Trubisky takes a shot to Wheaton deep…early.)


 

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Camp Opens, McPhee Hurt, Vikings Thoughts & More!

| July 28th, 2017

Camp!

Pernell McPheeling The Pain

From Patrick Finley in the Sun-Times:

By 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, the team had announced that linebacker Pernell McPhee would start the season on the physically unable to perform list. By noon Thursday, coach John Fox was back in familiar waters, trying to explain an injury — and its consequences — on the first day of training camp.

McPhee hadn’t made it through his physical on Wednesday, complaining of knee pain. Fox said team doctors “found a little irregularity” in his right knee, which is not the same knee that caused McPhee to start last year’s training camp on the PUP list.

A few thoughts:

  • The link to the full Finley article is provided above but don’t click it. The Sun-Times Bears coverage is, in my estimation, superior to what’s being produced at the Trib. But their website, especially on mobile devices, is unusable.
  • It’s starting to feel like whatever the Bears get out of the rest of this McPhee contract will be a bonus. It’s only a “little” irregularity when it’s not your knee. Do I think McPhee can still put together a productive 2017 campaign? Sure. But that productivity is more likely to come over an 8-10 game stretch than a full 16.

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John Fox Will Return, or Bears at Vikings Game Thread

| January 1st, 2017

From Rap at NFL Network:

The second-year turnaround did not happen for John Fox. The Bears coach, who twice in his career has turned in triumphant rebuilds in his second season, will try to win just his fourth game today against the Vikings.

But, according to those who know him well, Fox will have the opportunity to make his mark in the third season. In addition, much of his staff is slated to return, as well.

The losses have collected for Chicago, a frustrating two seasons. The result is not what anyone has wanted. But in making the decision to stay the course, the Bears appear to be looking at more than box scores.

The Bears have hung tough with teams in playoff contention, such as the GiantsLions, and Packers. They’ve done so with their fourth quarterback of the year, Matt Barkley who likely would be out of the league if the Bears hadn’t put him on their practice squad to start the season.

They have a whopping 19 players on Injured Reserve, including many, many starters.

In addition, their 2016 draft class will be the foundation of the rebuild, a class that has drawn praise from opposing executives.

All of which makes for an interesting evaluation of Fox, his staff, and the year: They’ve been forced to play young players and watch them develop. The culture, despite the losses, is a positive one. And they believe the future is bright. Could they follow in the footsteps of the Raiders … or Cubs?

It’s not perfect, of course. There could be some position coach changes, and they need a quarterback. But it will likely be Fox at the helm when it happens.

Completely unsurprising. And fair. But Fox will have to win games in 2017.

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With Promising Roster and Declining Division, There’s Hope Aplenty for Bears Fans

| November 8th, 2016

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Aaron Rodgers may still be great. He probably is. But the team assembled around him by Ted Thompson, especially on the defensive side of the ball, isn’t very good. And somebody will probably lose their job in Green Bay because of it.

Minnesota’s defense is terrific. They have a young, talented roster and, in Mike Zimmer, a superb defensive mind. Their offense? Serious question. Do they have a single position on that side of the ball settled moving forward into 2017?

Detroit is Detroit – a middle of the road franchise with a middle of the road coach having a middle of the road season. Their season has only found that middle of the road because Matt Stafford is performing at the highest level of his life. He’s among a handful of candidates for MVP through the season’s first half.

And then there’s the Chicago Bears.

In this league, a team doesn’t need to be better than all thirty-one other clubs to make the tournament and compete for a title. All they have to do is be better than the three teams in their division. Then you catch a couple good matchups in the tournament and you can find yourself hosting the Thursday night opener eight months later.

Right now the Bears are 2-6. That’s what they are. But they are 2-6 having played five and a half games with their backup quarterbacks and most off all of the season undermanned at key positions.

But when it comes to the division, this 2-6 club is already pretty damn close. They beat Detroit decisively. They manhandled Minnesota. And before Matt Barkley’s appearance they were every bit Green Bay’s equal, even at Lambeau Field.

And honestly, this should have surprised no one. Especially if you read this blog.

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The Case Against the Minnesota Vikings

| August 2nd, 2016

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The following is the first of a four-part series breaking down why the other teams in the NFC North won’t be contenders this season. (The Packers get two parts.)


The Vikings made the playoffs last year because Adrian Peterson had an eight-game stretch that was as good as any he’s had in his career. If the now 31-year-old back can’t do that again, they won’t be taking the next step so many are predicting for them.

After a stink bomb in their opener, AP averaged 116.3 rushing yards per game, scored five touchdowns and his team went 7-1, averaging 24.4 points per game.

After that, he averaged 71.1 yards per game and the Vikings went 4-4, averaging 22 points per game (despite blowing out the Bears and the Giants).

So outside of Peterson’s historic eight-game stretch, they went 4-5 outside and averaged 19.9 points per game.

Maybe we should never bet against Peterson, but history has shown us we should definitely never bet against Father Time. Peterson is 31 and had 39 more rushing attempts than any other player in the league last year. Just like 2013, a drop off is likely. Betting on a 31-year-old running back, no matter how great he was, just seems unwise.

If Peterson can’t carry the team again, who can? There’s no evidence it’s Teddy Bridgewater.

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Bears Building Team That Could Take Control of NFC North

| May 18th, 2016

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) is sacked and hit by Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman (50) in second half action. The Colts defeated the Green Bay Packers 30-27 on Sunday, October 7, 2012, in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Sam Riche/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1129744

Since taking over before last offseason, Ryan Pace and John Fox have completely rebuilt the Bears defense and it should result in a team that contends for the NFC North in both the near and long term.

I don’t care what happened last year. The Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North. They have the best coach, the best quarterback and – while they’re certainly declining – I’m not ready to proclaim the Vikings or any other team the new King of the North. But what the Bears did to the Packers on Thanksgiving wasn’t a fluke and now they’re building up their talent level to do it consistently. At the very least, with a good defense, they’ll give themselves a consistent chance.

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