Two Veteran Quarterbacks (with Arm Strength Concerns) Over Five Pivotal Days

| September 30th, 2020

Phil Rivers was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by an early retirement and injuries at the sport’s most important position.

Tom Brady was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by a quarterback who stubbornly refused to stop throwing the ball to the other team.

Neither is the player they once were. They both do everything in their power to avoid contact. They both lack the zip required to fit the football into tight, intermediate windows. They both lack precision on the deep ball, not uncommon for quarterbacks in the twilights of their careers.

But how the Chicago defense performs against these two wily veterans will greatly determine what kind of season this team is going to have. To this point, the defense has been far more bend-don’t-break than recent vintages. They have forced the three opposing QBs – Stafford, Jones and Ryan – to execute long drives to threaten to the end zone. (With the glaring exception being the Atlanta opening drive Sunday.) Being that the unit is ranked 9th in points allowed, it’s hard to argue that strategy hasn’t worked, to a point.

These next two games, that must change. The run defense must be better because both of these quarterbacks are at their best when they get ahead of the chains. The pass rush must dominate because neither of these quarterbacks can operate with players around them. The coverage must be tight because neither of these quarterbacks can make the kinds of throws Stafford make in Week One. If you allow Phil and Tom to dink and dunk you to death, it’s EXACTLY what they’ll do.

The Bears needed to come out of their first three games at 2-1, minimum. They exceeded that, in somewhat miraculous fashion, managing to also close the book on The Trubisky Affair. Now they need a split of these next two. 4-1 (or long shot 5-0) means they’ll have ten days before a a game in Carolina they’ll be expected to win. That is exactly the kind of start that means you’re playing meaningful games in late December, and hopefully beyond.

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ATM: Bears Defense Must Fix Run-Stopping Issues to Meet Expectations

| September 29th, 2020

The Chicago Bear recipe for a successful 2020 season always included one absolute necessity: great defense. Three games into the season, they’ve been far from great.

The rankings? They don’t look that bad.

  • 9th in points allowed.
  • 12th in takeaways.
  • 15th in yardage.
  • Allowed the fewest passing touchdowns: 2. (two)
  • 2nd in opponent passer rating (71.4), despite playing three solid quarterbacks.

The biggest problem is the run defense, as the Bears have allowed a shocking five yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns. And numbers alone don’t tell the story.

The statistics don’t tell you about how in each of the Bears first three games, the other team was missing its best offensive player. They don’t tell you about the dropped touchdown in Detroit or the fourth down failures that allowed the Giants to get within 10 yards of a win. The numbers don’t tell you that Atlanta was without two of its top three wide receivers for the second half and went uber-conservative.

(In fairness, they also don’t tell you about the bad calls that took a pick-six away, or two very iffy roughing the passer penalties — one of which took away a strip sack. But you can bet every team has similar arguments.)

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On a Sunday in Atlanta, Trubisky and Foles Define Who They Are as Football Players

| September 28th, 2020

(Jose M. Osorio/ Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

The Bomb Finally Went Off.

As the first quarter came to a close, the Bears took possession, trailing 6-3.

On first down, Mitch Trubisky threw a bomb down the right sideline to a single-covered Ted Ginn.

The throw went out of bounds.

On third down, Trubisky threw a bomb down the left sideline to a single-covered Tarik Cohen.

The throw went way out of bounds.

Later, at the end of the second quarter, he threw a deep ball to Darnell Mooney. You can guess where it went. Moments later he finally landed one in bounds, airmailing a wide open Anthony Miller.

Briefly stated, Mitch Trubisky was in Atlanta who we thought he was. But Matt Nagy didn’t let him off the hook.

Trubisky’s tenure as the quarterback of the Chicago Bears has not definitively come to an end. He’s the backup now for a 3-0 football team and in this league, he should know he’s one blindside sack from being back on the field. And it is a fitting role for #10 because his playing ability suggests the backup role is where he belongs.

Backups can hit the easy, open, short and intermediate stuff. Backups can find fluky runs of form. Backups tend to make their biggest plays when the play has already broken down.

But backups are not expected to complete bombs down the field in rhythm. They’re not expected to produce touchdowns consistently in the red zone. They’re expected to make a few plays weekly that leave fans saying, “Yep, that’s why he isn’t a starter.”

This is the lonely, roadside motel room in which Trubisky now resides.

Peaceful Transition of Power.

There was a moment in Sunday’s game where Nick Foles did a very Nick Foles thing.

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Foles Takes Over: Rapid Fire Response to the Bears Winning Their 3rd Straight

| September 28th, 2020

Read this Tweet. Now, read it again. This quote from Nick Foles illustrates why many, including myself, argued he should have been the starter from day one. He is a smart, competent quarterback. The sham quarterback “competition” could have cost the Bears wins. Thankfully, it didn’t. Foles is now the quarterback. And the Bears are undefeated.

Rapid fire.

  • Tarik Cohen’s loss can’t be understated. But one would think Cordarrelle Patterson will see a significant increase of offensive snaps and Anthony Miller will assume the punt return duties full-time. Question. Why not use Ted Ginn as the punt returner? He was electric in that role at Ohio State.
  • Two of the more telling moments of this broadcast were sideline cuts.
    • After Mitch was benched, Kyle Fuller made it a point to go over to him and give him a fist bump. Mitch wanted nothing to do with it but the moment mattered. Mitch will still be needed by this time at some point this season.
    • As Nagy and Foles were scheming later in the game, Mitch was seated on the bench, alone. Yes it sucks getting benched but Mitch needed to be right up beside them, listening to everything, devouring the concepts, learning. It’s great that he did the Zoom conference call with reporters after the game but the Zoom conference call isn’t making him a better quarterback.
  • Don’t have the snap counts yet but Danny Trevathan played more than I expected. And not particularly well.
  • Did Mitch Trubisky throw a single deep sideline route in bounds?
  • Trubisky’s interception was awful but from all reports the Bears were considering making a QB change at halftime. That tells me Nagy was infuriated by the Miller deep miss late in the second quarter. Nagy had been setting it up the entire first half and Miller had three yards on the secondary. That’s an easy touchdown for most, if not all, starting quarterbacks in the league.

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DBB Week Three Game Preview: Bears at Falcons

| September 25th, 2020

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And they have started the season 2-0 without playing anything resembling a complete game. Maybe we’re seeing what they are offensively, a group incapable of consistency due to the failings of the quarterback. But defensively, they’ve been far more bend-don’t-break than one would expect. Once the pass rush hits stride, that should stop. That begins Sunday.

Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons

  • Hayden Hurst is a problem. And the Bears have not shown a particular ability to contain tight ends, with both Hockenson and Engram delivering solid performances in weeks one and two. (Moving Trevathan from the starting lineup may help sure up this issue.) When Matt Ryan has time in the pocket, he’s looking deep down the left sideline to Ridley or over the top to Jones. But when he senses pressure, Hurst is becoming his most reliable target.
  • Takkarist McKinley (#98) is the team’s best edge rusher, and he’ll attempt to bull rush Bobby Massie on most passing downs. But he’s the only reliable factor on their front four. When they need to create pressure, they’ll bring John Cominsky (#50), often as a blitzer from the inside. (He’s listed as a defensive end but he sure doesn’t seem to play there very often.) If the Bears identify those two players and neutralize them, Trubisky will have plenty of time to look down the field.
  • The Falcons seem soft in the middle of both their offensive and defensive lines.
    • On offense, they rely almost exclusively on their passing game in short yardage. Yes, they’ll occasionally hand one to the fullback to get ten inches but on 3rd and a couple they haven’t been able to get any push up front through two weeks.
    • On defense, they’ve been in shootouts so they’re allowing 372 yards per game in the air. But when Dallas needed to get the game back under control, they handed off consistently to Ezekiel Elliot and there were gaping holes for him. Can’t imagine the Bears don’t think they can control this one on the ground.

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A Haiku & Other Tributes to the Life of Gale Sayers

| September 24th, 2020


The Kansas Comet,

May have gained his final yard.

But legends don’t die.

More than Football.

The Origins of Brian’s Song.

From a wonderful Mike Vaccaro piece about Sayers and the origin of Brian’s Song in the New York Post:

Sayers was called to the dais and there was a round of respectful applause. Many of the men in the room had interviewed Sayers before; they knew he was a man of few words. Most started reaching for their topcoats as Sayers thanked his teammates, and Halas, and his doctors.

“It is something special to do a job many say can’t be done,” Sayers said quietly, barely audibly. “Maybe that’s how courage is spelled out — at least in my case.”

More polite clapping. Typical Sayers: Quick, Humble, Bland, Unmem… “But I’d like to tell you about my friend, Brian Piccolo.”

This was unexpected. Piccolo? He was an unremarkable running back who’d partnered in Sayers’ backfield as a mostly forgettable blocking back. He’d filled in ably when Sayers had been hurt in ’68, but he wasn’t a name most in the room were terribly familiar with.

Sayers continued.

“In the middle of last season, Brian was struck down by the deadliest, most shocking enemy any of us can ever face — cancer.”

Now he had the room’s undivided attention.

“Compare his courage with the kind I’m supposed to possess. There was never any doubt that I’d return, knee injury or no. But think of Brian and his fortitude in the months since last November, in and out of hospitals, hoping to play football again, but not too sure at any time what the score was or might be. He has the heart of a giant. He has the mental attitude that makes me proud to have a friend who spells out the word ‘courage’ 24 hours a day, every day of his life.”

He paused. Six hundred men in tuxedos sat in silence, glassy-eyed, numb. Then, somehow, Gale Sayers summoned the strength to finish his speech with this: “You flatter me by giving me this award, but I tell you here and now that I accept it for Brian Piccolo. Brian Piccolo is the man of courage who should receive the George S. Halas Award. It is mine tonight, it is Brian Piccolo’s tomorrow.

“I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him, too. And tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

Fifty years ago Monday, 600 men waited a beat, then jumped to their feet, filling the room and the hotel (now the Sheraton Times Square) with a roar most could still feel in their ears years later. Brian Piccolo died 22 days later at the age of 26, a few blocks away, at what is now called Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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Forget the Long-Term Financials, Bears Need to Honestly Evaluate Danny Trevathan Right Now

| September 23rd, 2020

Tweet 1. 

Tweet 2. 

If Danny Trevathan has become the player he’s put on tape over the first two weeks of the season, and he chooses not to walk away from the game at season’s end (or earlier), the Bears will find themselves thigh deep in contractual quicksand soon enough. But that’s a conversation for the off-season. The Bears are in the thick of this season, their currently-undefeated 2020 campaign, and will face one of the game’s more prolific offenses Sunday in Atlanta. The Bears need to know now if Trevathan can still play. Not in 2021. This Sunday.

Because the game film suggests he can’t.

Week One featured Trevathan chasing backs in coverage and failing to shed blocks. Week Two was more of the same, just with severely limited playing time. All of the Trevathan traits fans have come to love – his dogged pursuit of ball carriers, ability to get sideline to sideline, ball awareness when sitting in the deep zone – are not present in 2020.

I texted someone close to the Chicago Bears organization.

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ATM: Anthony Miller’s No-Show Sunday Proves Bears Need Allen Robinson

| September 22nd, 2020

Last week a strong argument emerged that the Bears might be better off not extending Allen Robinson’s contract, instead relying on Anthony Miller to be the team’s top wide receiver.

That argument died on Sunday.

Calling the two passes Miller didn’t catch drops is disingenuous. Both would’ve required phenomenal moments from the young receiver. But Miller has that ability! What changed from Week One when he made those plays to Week Two when he couldn’t? How can the Bears rely on him when they don’t know what they’re getting from week-to-week?

Dan Pompei was among those who promoted that idea that the Bears could have a number one receiver in Miller. Nobody questions that Miller has the talent to be The Guy, but NFL history is littered with talented wide receivers who never developed the consistency to be The Guy. See: Price, Peerless.


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