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Week 15: Bears at Packers Game Preview

| December 12th, 2019


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and I think they have something cooking right now.


How Things Stack Up

  • Aaron Rodgers is having a very interesting season.
    • His quarterback rating is north of 100 because it always will be. He doesn’t throw interceptions and interceptions are the rating killer. But his QBR is below Kyler Murray’s. And while QBR should not be used as any kind of definitive barometer, it is a nice additional tool to evaluate performance.
    • Rodgers simply hasn’t looked comfortable in this Matt LaFleur offense and the team is averaging 18.8 points per game over their last five. (The Bears are averaging 18.7 points per game this season.)
  • Pass defense is very hard to gauge statistically because garbage time greatly skews the numbers. But the Bears rank 4th in yards per completion against at 6.6. The Packers rank 25th in the same stat at 7.9. This is a pass defense that has shown tremendous vulnerability in recent weeks. (I bet them against the Giants and their defense simply couldn’t get off the field on ANY third downs.)
  • You want the most significant mismatch in this game, outside of quarterback? Mason Crosby is having an absolutely brilliant season. He’s 16/17 on field goals and hasn’t missed a kick since September. Eddy Pineiro is bad at his job. If this game is a close one, Green Bay advantage.
    • The advantage flips when it comes to the return game, however. The Packers rank last in punt return average and near the bottom of the league in kickoff returns. The Bears have the best return game in the league, even though Tarik Cohen’s decision making has been suspect. But when Cohen has the ball in his hands he’s still electric. And Cordarrelle Patterson is heading to the Pro Bowl.
  • Three column headlines from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tell the story of how the Packers are perceived locally:
  • Why are the Packers 10-3 and the Bears 7-6? In the NFL, turnovers often tell the tale. The Packers are +11. The Bears are +1. If the Bears can flip that script this week, they’ll win on the road.

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Recent Production Proves Tight End Should Be a Top Off-Season Priority

| December 11th, 2019


The Chiefs, Eagles and Bears don’t run the exact same offense. But all three take a similar approach to playing offensive football. They use the pass to open up the run. (Historically, this has been the most consistent criticism of the Andy Reid style, dating back to his early Eagles days.) They want athletic offensive linemen that can move well in space. (Screens are everything.) They value speed over all things on the outside. And perhaps most importantly, they rely on major production from the tight end position.

Travis Kelce, the Chiefs All-Pro tight end, has been targeted 109 times this season. He has 75 catches for nearly 1,000 yards. Without Kelce, the Chiefs offense simply doesn’t work.

Philadelphia’s tight end combination of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have more than 150 targets. And with the club’s inability to field a healthy receiving corps, these two have come to be the bulk of the their passing attack. Monday night, with their season on the line, Ertz was the best player on the field, catching touchdown passes to both tie and beat the New York Giants.

The Bears paid Trey Burton a bunch of money and drafted Adam Shaheen in the second round. In 2019, the two have combined for 37 total targets. Not catches. Targets. Are there multiple factors to the pair’s lack of production? Sure. But there are two primary ones.

Burton never plays.

Shaheen never plays well.

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ATM: Improved Line Play Key to Bears Finish

| December 10th, 2019

The Chicago Bears will go only as far as Mitch Trubisky takes them, but they need the offensive line to hold up so they can see exactly what the quarterback can do.

The line play has ranged from awful to mediocre until the last two games when we’ve seen holes opening up. It certainly appears that the unit is beginning to come together, which will be important for both the immediate and longterm future of the club.

Trubisky earned all the headlines after his dynamic performance against Dallas, but lost in the shuffle was the dominant performance by the offensive line. They didn’t just get the better of one of the best defensive lines in the league. They bullied them in what was unquestionably the best performance the Bears blockers have had all year — and maybe in several seasons.

That was the second straight game in which the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. Trubisky was hurried just six times and hit once on Thanksgiving, according to Pro-Football-Reference, as the Bears also gave their runners 40 yards before contact on 23 attempts. Compare that to a week earlier when Bears rushers had just 25 yards before contact on 26 attempts. (The advanced data for the Cowboys game won’t be available until Wednesday.)

The difference was seen in Trubisky too. While he wasn’t pressured that much against the Giants, it was enough to throw him off as he had 10 of what PFR deems to be bad throws, compared to just four against Detroit and four against Dallas.

The Green Bay Packers know how much pressure impacts Trubisky and they blitzed him 17 times in Week One. They got home a fair amount, sacking him five times, hitting him five more, and hurrying him seven times.

Trubisky was bad that game, but he didn’t have much of a chance to be good.

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Welcome to a Relevant Packer Week

| December 9th, 2019

 

After the ugly, hard-to-watch victory over the putrid New York Giants, Mitch Trubisky and the Chicago Bears started a new season, a new play. It’s gone a little something like this.


Act One: Thanksgiving

After a slow start on both sides of the balls – Kenny Golladay is still wide open – the Bears reinvigorated their fans and their season with a brilliant comeback, all of it on the broad shoulders of their much-maligned quarterback. Still, it was the Lions. Just the Lions. And no one anywhere near this franchise was ready to overreact.


Act Two: Finishing Off the Cowboys

The Cowboys were meant to be a step up in class, a championship contender suffering through a disappointing string of results. (Sound familiar?) But at Soldier Field on Thursday night, the Bears delivered their best performance of the 2019 season and the quarterback reminded everyone of his limitless potential.


Act Three: Packer Week

Now the stage is set for the final act of this in-season play. If Mitch Trubisky and these Bears can deliver another inspired performance and beat their oldest rivals in their building, they will change the narrative of this entire campaign. Yes, not being in the tournament will be a colossal disappointment for a team with such high expectations. But that disappointment will be assuaged by getting the record to .500 or better; assuaged by finishing the season with a winning record in the NFC North; assuaged by the quarterback potentially “finding it” down the stretch.


This was a dreary, boring season. But the last two weeks have been thrilling. Now the Bears have an opportunity to complete this somewhat-redemptive tale, building confidence in the locker room and among the fans. No one will be content with 2019, no matter the result at Lambeau Field. But many will find reason to believe for 2020 should the Bears beat the Packers.

It’s Packer Week.

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Trubisky, or the Possibility of Redemption in this Crazy, Crazy World

| December 6th, 2019


Mitch Trubisky was the Black Knight.

With his arms cut from his body, he turned to a Pythonian King Arthur and declared it “just a flesh wound”. We, the fans and media alike, reacted like Arthur does moments later in the immortal Holy Grail: “You’re a loony”.

But is it possible we’re the loonies?

Trubisky’s performances against the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys do not, by any means, cement his status as the Chicago Bears starting quarterback in 2020. The tape don’t lie and too often this season Trubisky has looked the part of a back-up. Uncomfortable in the pocket. Unable to read defenses or get the line into the right protection. Unwilling to get easy yards with his legs. Unbelievably inaccurate.

But since the whistle blew to start the second half against the New York Giants, he’s quite simply been a different player. Yes there are still accuracy issues and yes there are still decisions that leave us scratching our heads. But most quarterbacks in this league have those moments. What Mitch hadn’t been doing was compensating for those moments with production. With first downs. With great throws. With touchdowns. With wins.

Now he is. And the mistakes are far more forgivable in Club Dub.

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Can We Start the 2019 Season Over Again?

| December 6th, 2019


Last night, against the Dallas Cowboys, Matt Nagy called his best game as Chicago Bears head coach.

Last night, even with a few wonky moments, Mitch Trubisky looked like the future at quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Last night, with another starter heading to the locker room and new faces all over the place, the defense of the Chicago Bears looked like the group everyone expected to make them title contenders this season.

And David Montgomery.

And Anthony Miller.

And Cordarrelle Patterson.

And Holtz and Horsted and Mack and Fuller and…

…can’t we go back and start this 2019 campaign over again?

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Week 14: Cowboys at Bears Game Preview & Poem

| December 4th, 2019


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and it would be a big moment for this coach and his program to get this season over .500. I think he does it.


The Game Haiku

I saw Rick Pearson

at the Billy Goat Tavern.

That’s all I recall.


Three Thoughts on the Cowboys

  • After struggling to contain Kenny Golladay a week ago, the Bears could have faced a similar issue with Amari Cooper. But the Cowboys’ best receiver didn’t finish their game on Thanksgiving and, while an MRI revealed no structural damage, he won’t be at full strength should he play. Guard Connor Williams, a really good young player, is done for the year.
    • From head coach Jason Garrett, in a Dallas Morning News story: “Connor has been a good player for us,” Garrett said. “[He] started a lot of games for us last year as a rookie and then came back after his injury, did a good job for us in the playoffs and again has been the established starter at that left guard spot all year long. He’s really grown and developed as a player and done a really good job for us, got bigger and stronger than he was his rookie year, [and] we expected that when we drafted him.”
  • The Cowboys were a solid, if unspectacular defense in 2018, as their coordinator Kris Richard became a name mentioned for several head coaching vacancies. Now his security in Dallas is uncertain, as Dallas has allowed 26 points or more in three of their last four games.
  • Let’s look at how these two teams compare with the big ticket numbers:
    • Both are 6-6.
    • The teams the Cowboys beaten are a combined 18-54. (Really, really bad.)
    • The teams the Bears have beaten are a combined 20-50-2 (Not so good either.)
    • The Cowboys point differential is +74, which tells you they are beating down the bad opponents and losing relatively close affairs (averaging 5.5 point deficit per loss) to better teams.
    • The Bears point differential is +4, which tells you they basically play a coin flip every week.
    • If the season ended today, the Cowboys would host a game on wildcard weekend.

Tweet of the Week (Another Cowboys Thought)

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