169 Comments

Week Two Game Preview Volume II: Defending Cincy’s Big Three, Saluting Norm, Bears Fall to 0-2?

| September 17th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And this is a game, at least one on paper, the Bears are expected to win. Do I expect them to win? Stay tuned.


Chase, Higgins, Boyd.

That’s the game.

The Bears should be able to move the football against the Bengals, especially at home. (They were able to comfortably move the ball for much of the game in Los Angeles, against a far superior unit.) But moving the football is only as valuable as the points generated and the Bears, especially with Dalton at quarterback, lack explosiveness in the red zone.

The Bengals have one of the more explosive collections of pass catchers in the game. Ja’Marr Chase is going to be a top receiver in the league sooner than later. Tee Higgins is built like a tight end but runs like a wideout. Tyler Boyd is the sort of crafty inside guy that will give the Bears fits all year. Sure, the Bears are three-point favorites but the Bengals seem like a matchup nightmare for this Bears secondary.


Norm, the great.

I was on a golf course when Reverend Dave called me. I didn’t answer. People don’t call me, so I figured, “This is either Justin Fields is now the starter or something bad.” A few moments later I got a text from another friend. “Gutted” was all it read, and this is not a person known for their emotional responses to anything. A few moments later a text thread began between my two oldest friends – two guys I have known since I’m four years old. The thread began with a clip montage of Norm Macdonald on Conan.

And I knew.

I don’t want to talk about why Norm was one of the funniest people to ever set foot on this earth, or what he meant to me. I feel like Norm, of all people, would fucking hate that. So I’ll just share some of my favorite Norm stuff.

____________________

Norm Macdonald Live.

The silliest, craziest talk show ever produced.

____________________

Norm at the ESPYs (1998)

____________________

Norm with Conan.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , ,

235 Comments

Week Two Game Preview, Volume I: How the Bears Beat the Bengals

| September 16th, 2021


Two things to note before proceeding here.

(1) This analysis is based on film from one game – the Bengals opener with the Vikings. There is no way to know if the approach and tendencies displayed in that game are prescriptive for the entire season or matchup-specific. It is probably best to assume a bit of both.

(2) This column is not a fantasia. This is not “How the Bears Beat the Bengals if the Bears Had a Different Roster”. The Bears can’t cover the Bengals outside. Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are – with Tampa, Dallas and Pittsburgh – among the best wide receiver groups in the sport and the Bears have one corner.

______________________

VDM. (Victory Difficulty Meter)

52.5%

This game is a relative toss-up, but the Bengals have a slight advantage.

______________________

What Must the Bears Do on Offense:

  • Involve David Montgomery in the passing game. The Bengals play an aggressive style of defense, often sending more at the quarterback than a standard front four. (And after studying Bears/Rams, they’ll certainly be doing so on early downs to keep Montgomery and the rush attack in check.) If the Bears want to soften that attack, they’ll need to get Montgomery out in space and get the football in his hands, well-beyond his one-catch, ten-yard effort Sunday night.
  • Play action and boots created a TON of space outside the pocket for Kirk Cousins. (If Justin Fields were the starting quarterback, he’d be looking at 75-100 yards on the ground.) The Bears have to move the pocket for Andy Dalton if they want to stretch the field with the passing game. If they keep Dalton in the pocket, this passing attack will be as dinky and dunky as the opener.
    • It should be noted that this space was reduced greatly once the Vikings fell down 24-14. When you’re down double digits in the fourth quarter, defenses attack the quarterback, not the running back.
  • What does Bears/Rams look like if Dalton doesn’t throw the pick in the end zone? It might not have a dramatically impacted the outcome but it certainly would have given the offense a different confidence on subsequent drives. The Vikings lost to the Bengals in overtime for one reason: Dalvin Cook fumbled the football in Cincy territory. When teams are evenly matched – and these teams are – one crucial turnover can be, and usually is, the difference. The Bears can’t commit that turnover.

______________________

What Must the Bears Do on Defense:

  • Manufacture pressure. Bring linebackers. Bring corners. Bring safeties. The front four is not good enough to wreck the game on their own and without significant pressure on Joe Burrow, the Bears secondary will be watching footballs get spiked in the end zone. (The argument against this approach is usually that it leaves corners vulnerable but Chicago’s corners are naturally vulnerable due to their lack of ability.) The Bears don’t have the horses on defense to line up and beat their opponent. They need a schematic advantage. Sean Desai has to bring that advantage Sunday.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

249 Comments

ATM: Would Justin Fields Be Able to Save Mistake-Laden Bears Offense? Doubtful.

| September 15th, 2021

As different as the Chicago Bears offense looked on Sunday night, familiar mistakes and a suddenly leaky defense opened the question on if we should even want Justin Fields to deal with this mess.

The Bears did a lot of things differently and were even good in some aspects. This wasn’t the same as the group that struggled to get past midfield against the Rams a year ago. They actually moved the ball well until it was a two-score game late in the fourth quarter. The running game was exceptional and Andy Dalton was able to find open receivers underneath to keep the chains moving. The veteran quarterback even showed some mobility, running on one first down and scrambling before throwing for another.

The Bears gained 40 more yards than the Rams allowed on a per game basis last year.

Matt Nagy has, in the past, been killed for his unwillingness to be aggressive on fourth downs, but we saw four attempts during this game. Had any of them been successful, the stat nerds would’ve rejoiced.

But they weren’t.

And the same flaws that have killed the offense for four years were still there.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

258 Comments

So That Happened.

| September 14th, 2021

In David Mamet’s State and Main, Alec Baldwin plays a movie star with a penchant for young women. In the middle of the movie, he flips a car, climbs out the window, looks at Phil Hoffman, and nonchalantly says, “So that happened.” It is quite literally one of my favorite moments (and lines) in movie history.



The inevitable car wreck to open the 2021 Chicago Bears season took place in Los Angeles Sunday night. And as I turned off the television I was left with the same sentiment as Baldwin, climbing out of a comfy living room chair in Greenwood Lake, NY to toss an empty bottle of Labatt’s in the recycling bin.

So that happened.

I felt nothing about it. No emotion whatsoever. And not feeling any emotion about a Bears game actually filled me with sadness. In my game preview I had written what I thought would transpire Sunday night, predicting an outcome of 30-13 Rams. The game played according to that script. The offense was a little bit better; the defense a little bit worse. 34-14 Rams. (The most surprising aspect to the whole evening was the performance of David Montgomery and the offensive line in the run game.)

Now the Bears are left to deal with the damage.

Their stopgap, 39 year-old answer at left tackle isn’t going to hold up. The fifth-round pick that replaced him might not either.

The secondary is one of the two or three worst in the sport and can’t survive unless Khalil Mack dominates opponents. (Mack hasn’t dominated many during his Chicago tenure.)

Eddie Goldman has mysteriously vanished into injury again.

Andy Dalton is Andy Dalton and the Bears have decided to use his backup – a far superior player – for a series of moronic gadget plays sprinkled into the sea of dinks and dunks.

The Bears are bad.

Okay, so you don’t want to go that far?

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

319 Comments

Bears Must Acknowledge What They Are: Bad.

| September 13th, 2021


Justin Fields should be the starting quarterback Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Not because of anything Andy Dalton did Sunday night. Dalton was Dalton. He dinked. He dunked. He took no chances. He made several mistakes.

No, Justin Fields should start Sunday because the Bears must look at what transpired in Los Angeles and recognize where they are as a franchise. They’re a bad team. They don’t have top-tier weapons on offense. They don’t have a professional secondary. They don’t have an elite coaching staff. The ceiling for this group is mediocre and the more likely outcome is bottom third of the league.

The focus of this organization must shift from the futile endeavor winning games in 2021 to doing everything possible to get Fields ready for 2022. Every day that shift is delayed is wasted time.

Is this difficult for a franchise to do? Yes. Teams delude themselves to sleep each night with visions of the Lombardi Trophy dancing in their brains. But is it necessary for the Bears to do? Absolutely.

Tagged: , ,

294 Comments

Week One Game Preview, Volume II: Nagy, Dalton, LA Movies & Predictions!

| September 10th, 2021


Yesterday was the breakdown of what the Bears must do to beat the Rams, a team superior to them at almost every facet of the game. The Bears don’t run it better. The Bears don’t throw it better. The Bears don’t stop the run better. The Bears don’t stop the pass better. The 2020 Bears were better in the return game but their kick returner has left town. It is not difficult, at all, to see why the Bears are opening as more than a touchdown underdog on the road.

But hope is not lost.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

But they’re testing me right now. And I’m failing.


Big Night For Nagy, Dalton

To paraphrase the great Hyman Roth, “This is the life they’ve chosen.”

By not giving Justin Fields even so much as the opportunity to win the starting job, Nagy has effectively forced the NBC cameras to cut to Fields with every three-and-out, every Dalton blunder, every quarter that goes by with the offense flailing. No, this group shouldn’t be expected to flourish against unquestionably one of the league’s best defenses, but that doesn’t matter.

Because every time Dalton gets sacked, fans will wonder if Fields could have avoided it.

Every time Dalton checks down, fans will wonder if Fields could have extended the play a few seconds with his mobility and made a big gain down the field.

Every time Dalton throws a ball into the fourth row, fans will wonder if Fields could have used that 4.4 speed to race by the sticks and extend the drive.

Matt Nagy and Andy Dalton don’t need to win Sunday night. But they need a tight, clean performance. They need to look like this offense is heading the right direction. Because the eyes of the football world will be upon them.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

603 Comments

Week One Game Preview, Volume I: How the Bears Beat the Rams

| September 9th, 2021


We’re finally talking about football. Two teams playing. Someone keeping score. Results that matter.

This season, the Thursday space will be occupied by a simple concept: how the Bears beat their opponent that week. Friday will fill out the game preview, including off-topic stuff and a prediction. But Thursday will be specific to mapping out a potential journey to victory for the boys from Chicago.

____________________

VDM. (Victory Difficulty Meter)

93.6%.

Victory is highly unlikely.

____________________

What Must the Bears Do on Offense:

  • Get Cole Kmet involved early. The Bears aren’t going to surprise anyone with what they do offensively. They don’t have the kind of weapons to make surprise feasible and they have a milquetoast quarterback. But they do have something of a secret weapon in Kmet, a talented player underused during his rookie campaign. If Nagy truly believes he can finally run the Andy Reid offense in Chicago, that requires dynamic tight end play, and the Bears are not getting that from anybody else on this roster. It has to be Kmet. And it has to happen quickly Sunday night.
  • Pass to run. The Rams were the third best run defense in the league last season. So for all those fans out there who scream RUN THE BALL every week, this ain’t the week to do it. If the Bears run the ball on early downs and get behind the chains, the Rams pass rush will eat their potato leak soup with multiple spoons. Pass early. Get positive yards. The playbook opens far wider on 2nd-and-5 than 3rd-and-11.
  • Play the cleanest game possible. If the Bears lose the turnover battle or commit a dozen penalties they have literally 0% chance to win this game. Despite the babble coming out of Halas Hall, this is still a matchup between the league’s best defense in 2020 and one of the worst offenses. The contest was comical last season. The Bears need a significant improvement for the story to change in 2021.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

323 Comments

2021’s Ten Most Important Bears (Other Than Justin Fields)

| September 8th, 2021

The 2021 season probably won’t be one the Bears highlight, but it could be important for determining the future of the franchise. They have an odd mix of veterans and young players, all needing to prove themselves. They have key positions that didn’t have battles, but also don’t have sure things locked in.

We know Justin Fields is ultimately going to be the straw that stirs the drink, hopefully for the next two decades. But the Bears need to determine two things: (a) who will be surrounding Fields and (b) how will they make life easier for the quarterback.

With that, here are the ten most important Bears of 2021, other than Fields, of course.


10. Akiem Hicks

Hicks flashed greatness last year, then seemed to run out of gas.

His job was different last year without Eddie Goldman; teams were able to focus more on him in the running game. But then you’d see the spurt; he’d throw a guard three yards back and take out a running back in the backfield.

Hicks is in a contract year and the Bears have to know what he has left before deciding what to do.


9. Sam Mustipher

Mustipher was a legitimately good center last year and could be a building block going forward. The team didn’t consider replacing him. He needs to reward that confidence.


8. Darnell Mooney

If teams are going to take Allen Robinson away, Mooney needs to make them pay. The wide receiver needs to take a significant step in his sophomore season.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,