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Data Responds: Bears at Vikings

| December 31st, 2017

Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!

Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.

In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.

Offense

  • The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
  • On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
  • Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
  • Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.

  • Chicago’s offense struggled mightily on the day, but I don’t know what you expect when Tom Compton, Bradley Sowell, Hroniss Grasu, Josh Bellamy, and Dion Sims are all starting for you. Even with a competent offensive coordinator-which the Bears decidedly do not have-that’s a recipe for disaster.
  • One screen on 3rd and long was quite illuminating as to the offensive line issues due to three starters (and the top backup) being out. Tom Compton didn’t get out in front of the play like he was supposed to, and ran to the wrong spot on the field, while Hroniss Grasu picked up a holding penalty, which was declined because Tarik Cohen was tackled 10 yards short of the 1st down.
  • One deep throw late in the first half highlighted the wide receiver issues. Trubisky threw a nice, slightly underthrown pass on a Josh Bellamy go route. An NFL WR-not even a great one, just competent-works back to the ball and either has a catch or draws a pass interference penalty. Bellamy was not able to do either, because he is not a competent NFL wide receiver.
  • The Bears ran the ball 6 times for -1 yard in the first half. Yep. That’s what a banged-up offensive line and predictable play calling going against a great defense get you.
  • Consequently, they had only 53 yards and 1 first down at halftime. Compare that to their 7 penalties for 91 yards, and that’s about what the 1st half looked like for the Bears.
  • Late in the 3rd quarter, the Bears faced 3rd and 7. Minnesota came with an obvious blitz, which showed well before the snap, but the Bears had no quick route to counter it. I am so done with this coaching staff.
  • By my count, the Bears ran play-action out of shotgun twice, but never actually ran it out of the shotgun. Unsurprisingly, neither play action got any sort of response from the defense, because they basically never run out of shotgun and defenses know this.
  • The Bears finally got in the red zone in the fourth quarter, getting to 1st and goal at the 6 yard line. They threw it 4 times, didn’t move the pocket or threaten with Trubisky’s legs at all, and didn’t even have Tarik Cohen on the field for any of the four plays. Four incomplete passes. Later in the fourth, they got 7 plays from inside the 10, and still couldn’t score. Again, nothing creative, no moving pockets, nothing.
  • The most “creative” call the Bears tried near the goal line was a play action fake, but the Bears somehow leaked two players to the same spot. It’s the fourth quarter in week 17 and they still can’t run a simple play correctly.
  • WR Dontrelle Inman was more involved than he’s been in a while today, and he had mixed results. He caught 5 catches for 94 yards on 10 targets, and drew 2 defensive penalties. He also had an offensive pass interference called against him, but Inman should be back as a reserve WR for the Bears next year.
  • Another WR who should be back as a reserve next year is Kendall Wright, who also saw a mixed bag today. He entered the day 6 catches short of 60 on the year, which would give him a $375,000 bonus. He finished with 5 catches for 28 yards, and dropped the money ball on a quick slant with nobody near him. He has nobody but himself to blame for not seeing that money.

Defense

  • The defense forced a three and out on the first drive, except nose tackle Eddie Goldman foolishly hit Case Keenum late, giving Minnesota a 1st down by penalty. They took advantage and marched right down the field for a touchdown. As Andrew Dannehy has repeatedly noted, the Bears have a penchant for giving up points on the first drive, and it almost always results in a Bears’ loss.
  • Credit the defense for picking it up after a slow start, though. They had a solid game overall.
  • Christian Jones got the start at outside linebacker today. He had been an inside linebacker most of the season, but they moved him after Pernell McPhee went on IR and he’s slowly been increasing his snaps there. He’s a free agent who shouldn’t cost much money, and I’d like to see him back in Chicago next year.
  • Jones made quite the impact play on ST late in the 1st quarter, when he absolutely destroyed Minnesota’s punt returner with a hit that I heard all the way down in Chicago. It looks like he wants to be back in Chicago next year too.
  • Minnesota came out and ran it right down Chicago’s throat on the opening drive. Inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski both repeatedly got washed out in blocks, forcing safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson to make most of the tackles.
  • Speaking of Eddie Jackson, he had a play in the 1st quarter where he was a split second late breaking on the ball for an interception, which would have been an easy touchdown. Jackson was visibly upset with himself after the play. That has happened several times this year. An offseason of film study to help him react a little quicker could lead to a monster 2018 with several more big plays by Jackson.
  • Somehow John Timu and Marcus Cooper both found there way on to the field on defense in the first half, despite the fact that there were players better than them at their position sitting on the bench. Shockingly, both gave up bad plays. Timu let a running back cut back across him, turning a loss into a gain, while Cooper picked up a penalty to negate a 3rd down stop. Cooper found his way back on the field in the 2nd half after Prince Amukamara got hurt, and he showed up in the wrong way repeatedly, including giving up an easy touchdown.
  • Somehow Sherrick McManis saw a few snaps on defense in the first half as well. It’s amazing that this coaching staff can’t even manage to play their best players on a regular basis. And every time McManis is in he blitzes, which is highly predictable to opponents.
  • It was a rough day for CB Bryce Callahan, who picked up two well-deserved pass interference penalties down the field in the first half that cost the Bears more than 60 yards.
  • Callahan did somewhat redeem himself by picking up a punt return touchdown on a nice trick play. Return man Tarik Cohen faked that the ball was coming to him when it was in fact on the opposite side of the field. This allowed Callahan to catch it and run up the field pretty much uncontested. Some Bears fans might remember Devin Hester and Johnny Knox pulling this off against Green Bay a while back, when Dave Toub was still the special teams coach. Perhaps the Bears dusted this one off looking forward to Toub as their next head coach (I kid, I kid)?
  • Cornerback Kyle Fuller had himself another fine game, though not as emphatic of one as last week. He made a few tackles on short passes and broke up a few deep balls thrown his way, but didn’t get targeted much. It seems Minnesota at least knows who Chicago’s best cornerback is and plays accordingly.

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