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A Single Question for the Bears Offense: Why?

| October 20th, 2020

(AP Photo/Mike McCarn)

[Editor’s Note: The following column is written from a place of jubilance. The Bears are 5-1. They are playing some of the best defense in the National Football League. But if our expectations are going to venture beyond just making it to January, they need to improve.]


3rd down and 2.

1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bears are nursing what feels like a tenuous seven-point lead.

Two yards ends the game. Two yards and the Bears are coasting to 5-1, allowing their defense to relax on the sideline and celebrate a job well done.

This is when you call your best play.

Your two-point conversion play.

Your “Chicago Special”.

This is when you roll out that thing you’ve been practicing every week because these moments don’t often present themselves over the course of a game. How many times are you actually in the position to say, “Get a couple yards and get a W.” The Bears faced one Sunday.

And then they ran…something. I don’t have the foggiest idea what it was. Foles took the snap and threw a dud of a pass to Allen Robinson on a well-covered shallow cross. No creativity. No imagination. I’ve drawn up better plays during street games in Kearny, New Jersey. (“Run to the Buick bumper and turn” always worked.) In the notebook I’ve been keeping during these games I wrote a single word.

Why?

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Bears Hold On, Beat Panthers, Move to 5-1: Rapid Fire

| October 19th, 2020

The Bears are 5-1. They have played six games and won five of them. They are still not very good in almost every facet of offensive football but that doesn’t matter yet. 5. And. 1.


First Half

Score: 13-6 Bears.

  • Let’s call it The Drive 2: Just Worse. After the Bears picked off Teddy Bridgewater on the opening Carolina drive, this happened:
    • Slow flat toss to Jimmy Graham for minimal gain.
    • Run that didn’t work
    • Graham off the field, clock winds down, timeout needed.
    • Graham back on the field, clock winds down, delay of game.
    • Graham back off the field, Foles threads a beauty to Cole Kmet for a touchdown.
  • For all the talk of Kmet’s lack of production, I’ve continued to make the same argument. If the Bears wanted to involve Kmet, they could. That’s how TE’s function in this offense. Today they seem to have chosen to involve him.
  • DJ Moore on the crossing routes. Think you might have read about this in this space last week. Jaylon Johnson – and most other corners – can’t track that speed across the field. Johnson should have given up a touchdown to end the first half.
  • Kyle Fuller is good for one borderline personal foul hit a game. But what was he supposed to do on the hit to Kirkwood? Kirkwood lowered HIS head. If Fuller supposed to go after his legs? Is that what the league wants?
  • Bilal Nichols had a lovely first half, specifically the first few drives.
  • Ted Ginn looks like a disaster waiting to happen on punt returns.
  • Anthony Miller not getting the first down on 3rd and 3 is inexcusable. How can you not be aware of the game situation, especially on an offense that struggles like this one does.
  • Fuller’s tackle on Bridgewater to prevent the touchdown run is one of those great plays that gets forgotten by game’s end. I’ll make sure this one doesn’t.
  • There’s not an entirely different feeling with Nick Foles in at quarterback. Confidence. Foles knows what he’s doing. He’s limited. He knows that. But he gets the football where it need to go.
  • Did a Bears kicker just make a 55-yarder? Santos. You stay.
  • On defense, Bears have struggled with containing the outside run game and keeping Bridgewater from moving the chains with his legs. On offense, Bears don’t look like they can run it at all. If those are not corrected, this game will stay close.

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ATM: Next 5 Weeks Will Tell Us Who These Bears Are

| October 17th, 2020

With four wins in their first five games, the Chicago Bears did more than tread water over this initial stretch. They put themselves in good position to make a playoff run. And while beating bad teams typically doesn’t mean much, last Thursday’s win over Tampa Bay was a good sign that these Bears might not just be the best of the bad teams. They might actually be good.

The next five weeks will tell the tale.

The offense has to be better. On Friday, Matt Nagy hammered home a point about how they needed to be more detailed, but it’s unclear if he realized that he was really telling the world his offense is poorly coached. The details of a specific offense, after all, have to be taught. They’re not innately known.  The good news is that the Bears had some more time to figure it out and they’ll need it with this upcoming stretch of games.

The defense gets a pass, but shouldn’t. Playing offense is more difficult when the defense gives up early scores and puts the team in a double-digit hole before halftime. While they rank in the top ten in many statistical categories, the truth is, they should be much higher considering who they played and the injuries they’ve encountered. In every game, there has been a stretch of three or four possessions where the opposing offensive coordinator runs circles around Chuck Pagano. (Perhaps the biggest difference between Pagano and Vic Fangio is that Fangio would figure out the problem after one possession.)

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26Shirts Chicago Game Preview: Bears at Panthers

| October 16th, 2020


The Giveaway!

Thanks to Del Reid and Dan Gigante – the fine folks at 26Shirts – we’ll be giving away our collaborative Darnell “Money” Mooney shirt this week. (The shirt is pictured above and you can read all about it by CLICKING HERE.)

The Contest.

  • Guess the total yards from scrimmage for Mooney this Sunday in the comments section below. Receiving yards. Rushing yards. And if he throws a pass, that counts too. Total yards.
  • Do not put the guess in the body of a larger comment. I’m not wading through your thoughts on the electoral college to find it.
  • Make sure you don’t replicate someone else’s guess. First time the number appears, it’s locked in.
  • If nobody nails the number, or gets super close, we’ll swing this contest to next week’s game. But that’s unlikely.

Good luck!


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I think something clicked for this group in the second half against Tampa.


Panthers Game Tape

  • 10,11,12.
    • The engine of the Carolina offense lately has been former-Bear Mike Davis. But the fuel is a trio of speedsters they utilize in a variety of ways. They spread ’em out. They isolate defenders.
      • Curtis Samuel (10) has assumed an almost Tarik Cohen-like role for Matt Rhule and Joe Brady, spelling Davis in the backfield and becoming a weapon in the screen game.
      • Robby Anderson (11) has been among the best receivers in the sport this season and the Panthers are utilizing him to perfection. He’s a threat to score on every slant and if a corner is sleeping he’ll burn them over the top with his speed. For my money, he’s been a borderline All Pro through five weeks.
      • D.J. Moore (12) is a damn good player and hell to deal with on crossing routes.
  • Steady Teddy.
    • Will he take a shot or two each week? Yea. But Bridgewater’s game is think quickly, throw quickly and get the ball to the playmakers.
  • Attack the Interior.
    • Teddy handles pressure from the edge okay but he struggles mightily when that pressure comes up the middle and the Panthers have clear vulnerabilities when it comes to handling delayed blitzes and stunts, especially in the A gaps. This feels like a good opportunity to get Danny Trevathan into the flow of the season by sending him on a quarterback hunt.
  • Potential Game Wrecker.
    • Bears better pay attention to #53, Brian Burns. He spends most of his time harassing the right tackle and he’s been all over the quarterback the last two weeks. Expect Bobby Massie to get help. (If the Bears use Cole Kmet to provide that help, it could open up some plays for him in the passing game.)
  • A Tweet.

    • Here’s what I see when I look at that defense. They like to rush four and sit back deep. The entire system seems predicated upon not allowing the opposing quarterback to attack over the top. And their secondary closes very well on the football, making the underneath stuff difficult to consistently hit. This a smart, disciplined group.

The 5 Best Teddies, Bridges and Water in Movie History

(#5) The Bridge on the River Kwai

The most important bridge in cinematic history.

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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume III: Defense & Playoff Odds

| October 15th, 2020

I already looked at a variety of statistics for the offense, including QB performance, run game woes, and explosive plays, and explored how Chicago has deployed their skill position players. Today I want to look at advanced defensive statistics from Pro Football Reference and think about Chicago’s playoff odds.


Missed Tackles

I highlighted missed tackles as a concern in the secondary heading into the season. As a team, the Bears are actually doing quite well with missed tackles right now; they rank 7th in the NFL with 22 through 5 weeks. The table below shows missed tackle stats (from Pro Football Reference) for all players with at least 10 tackle attempts, as well as cumulative totals for each position group.

For context, here’s how the positional averages compare to NFL peers over the last 2 years:

  • The median starting NFL DB misses right around 11% of their tackles, so Chicago’s secondary is about average here so far. That’s actually pretty good for them given the tackling concerns heading into the season with Kyle Fuller, Buster Skrine, and Eddie Jackson. Fuller in particular has struggled so far this year, but everybody else has been ok.

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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume II: Offensive Personnel Usage

| October 14th, 2020


I already looked at a variety of statistics for the offense, including QB performance, run game woes, and explosive plays. Today I want to explore how the Bears are deploying their skill position players, using lineup data from the NFL Game Statistics Information System. This tracks how many plays the Bears have played with different combination of 11 offensive players, and splits the data into runs and passes, with yards gained for each. Combing through this data can provide valuable insights into how the Bears are deploying their personnel, and what packages have been most and least effective.


Tight Ends

The Bears completely overhauled this position in the offseason, following a disastrous 2019 campaign in which no player even hit 100 receiving yards. They gave Jimmy Graham a big contract, spent their 1st pick (43rd overall) on Cole Kmet, and brought in veteran journeyman Demetrius Harris.

I want to start by looking at Cole Kmet, who has been very quiet so far as a rookie despite receiving a good bit of training camp hype. Through five games, Kmet has played 102 snaps, seen 3 pass targets, and caught 1 ball for 12 yards. This is hugely disappointing, and worrisome for his future; when I looked at rookie seasons for TEs drafted in the 2nd round this offseason, I found that tight ends who are going to be good are typically involved in the offense right away. The only tight ends drafted in the 2nd round over the last 10 years to receive fewer than 30 targets in their rookie seasons are Vance McDonald, Adam Shaheen, Gavin Escobar, Drew Sample, and Troy Niklas. Of those, only Vance McDonald has done anything in the NFL. Kmet is currently on pace for 10 targets.

It’s fair to argue a rookie should see their production increase as the season wears on, so I looked at all 19 players in that study through the first five games of their rookie season. You can see the full list here, but Kmet has the 3rd fewest targets, least amount of catches, and the least number of yards through that time period. And for all of those categories, the bottom four (not including Kmet) are from the list of five names above. It’s early, but right now Kmet most closely resembles Troy Niklas and Adam Shaheen, which is very not good.

Because I was curious about Kmet, I split out lineups involving him vs. those who don’t, and also sorted by the number of tight ends on the field. The results, as you can see below, are certainly illuminating.

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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume I: Offense

| October 13th, 2020

We’re five weeks in to a wild season in which we’ve already seen the Bears make a quarterback change and post three comeback wins from 13 or more points down. Since they’re on a mini-bye following their Thursday night victory over Tampa Bay, now is a good time to take a step back and see what we’ve learned so far.

Obligatory warnings:

  • These are still small sample sizes, especially given that each QB basically played 2.5 games. So think of any lessons learned here more as observations that are worth monitoring going forward than hard and fast conclusions.
  • Statistics for Bears are updated through 5 games, but all other teams only have 4 at the time of this writing, so NFL ranks may have changed a bit by the time this is published.

I have a lot I want to get to, so let’s dive right in.


Better Lucky Than Good

The Bears may be 4-1, but I don’t think anybody would argue they have played well so far this year (including Matt Nagy). As you can see from the pie chart below, which shows the % of offensive snaps the Bears have taken in a variety of score situations, they have actually spent the majority of the season trailing.

They’ve taken 2/3 of their offensive snaps while trailing (33% by 2 or more scores) and only 19% with a lead. To somehow go from that to 4 wins in 5 games is remarkable, but it should not be expected to continue going forward. The Bears need to play better if they want to keep winning games. The good news is that they started to look better in week 5; the defense in the 2nd half looked the best it had since week 4 of the 2019 season, and the offense was something approaching competent for the last 40 or so minutes of the game.


QB Comparison

The Bears switched from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles in the 2nd half of week 3, which means both QBs have actually played a similar amount of snaps so far this year (Foles is at 168, Trubisky 169). Let’s see how each performed. The table below shows stats for each passer, as well as the average for the entire NFL this year, broken up into deep and short throws (anything that travels 15+ yards in the air past the line of scrimmage is considered deep). YPA = yards per attempt.

A few thoughts:

  • Keep in mind that Nick Foles has played 2 of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 weeks, while Trubisky played all of his snaps against 3 of the worst defenses in the league. Still, it’s hard to argue Foles has been better so far, at least on a statistical basis. He needs to play better going forward.

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Announcing the Darnell “Money” Mooney Shirt!

| October 12th, 2020

This year DBB is deepening our partnership with 26Shirts; becoming far more involved in shirt concepts/designs, especially when it comes to the Chicago Bears-specific ones. This collaboration is based on a Tweet from the Bears themselves.

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Darnell Mooney has wowed the Bears since training camp opened and is one of the breakout stars of this rookie class. So without further delay, the Darnell “Money” Mooney shirt.



Simple. Cool. You can simply click the image above to order or follow THIS LINK to the 26Shirts site.

As with all 26Shirts attire, half the proceeds go to charity and this shirt will support my friends at the Windy Kitty Cafe in Chicago. Like many smaller non-profits, they are struggling mightily in the wake of Covid-19. Resources are not as available as they were seven months ago. We are specifically supporting their “Kitten Korner”. Here’s a note from Jenny, the founder, on their website:

It was a dream of mine to have a kitten nursery be a part of The Windy Kitty since before I opened! Kitten Korner is phase one of the up and coming Chicago Kitten Nursery, which will be an entirely different facility in Chicago. For now, we take in kittens that are not ready for the main lounge but young enough to start being socialized so that fosters have more room for neonatal kittens.

Why?

Kittens are the first to be euthanized in city shelters if they are still nursing. Not because people don’t care but because the resources to care for them overnight just aren’t there. I thought, why not become a resource so less orphan kittens die!? So here we are… In just over a year we’ve saved over 200 lives.

History

With your help we opened Kitten Korner in August 2018, just 8 months after opening our doors. Now it is a full on non-profit entity working in conjunction with The Windy Kitty and various rescues within Chicago.


So why not buy a cool shirt and support an amazing cause? And if you don’t want the shirt but still want to support the cause, you can do that HERE.

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