197 Comments

Data Responds: Bears vs. Vikings

| October 10th, 2017

In rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s debut, the Bears got the ball to start, and marched right down the field. Trubisky looked sharp on several impressive throws, including one huge third down completion to Tre McBride that set Chicago up on Minnesota’s 9 yard line.

Except a holding penalty by center Cody Whitehair brought the Bears back to 3rd and 20 out of field goal range. One screen pass later, they punted, costing themselves at least three points.

That would lay the foundation for a frustrating first half of missed opportunities, when a long list of penalties (some more dubious than others) led to Chicago getting no offensive points despite passing midfield on four drives.

Unsurprisingly, those missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the second half, as a late Minnesota field goal led to a 20-17 win.

Coaching

  • They get their own section again, which usually means bad things. And we’re starting here, because it was terrible.
  • John Fox took too long to decide whether to go for it on 4th and 2 in the first quarter, which forced the Bears to call a time out. Out of the time out, they took too long to get the play in, resulting in a delay of game and punt. That was an ugly sequence that was 100% the fault of the coaches. Then in the 2nd half, they had to burn a time out when the Vikings had 1st and 19 due to confusion with defensive play calls.
  • The Bears were also incredibly sloppy early on, with several early penalties negating big plays and/or putting them behind the chains. Some of the calls didn’t seem particularly great by the officials, but overall they need to get out of their own way and stop beating themselves. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team.
  • Dowell Loggains also had a terrible game. He fell into predictable patterns we’ve seen through four games, with obvious runs on 1st down and too many horizontal passes. They ran out of heavy sets and threw out of shotgun, with not enough variability mixed into those sets. This routinely set the Bears up in 3rd and long situations, which is not where you want a rookie quarterback (or any offense, really) to be. To his credit, Loggains did have a beautiful play call on a game-tying 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter, but overall he had a rough night.

  • Let’s throw Vic Fangio in here too. He had a great game plan for limiting the Vikings when the injured, immobile Sam Bradford was in, but didn’t adjust when the mobile Case Keenum replaced him. Part of that may have been due to injuries, as John Timu added to the injured Jerrell Freeman and Nick Kwiatkoski and suspended Danny Trevathan to mean Chicago was down to their 4th and 6th inside linebackers for the whole 2nd half. But sooner or later you need to figure out some way to help your players execute, and Fangio was unable to do that.
  • Let’s give some credit to special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, who drew up a beautiful fake punt that his players executed to perfection for a touchdown. Credit also to punter Pat O’Donnell for a nice pass to Benny Cunningham on the play.

Offense

  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky made his long awaited debut, and it was a mixed bag. He made some incredible throws, highlighted his impressive tool set, and also had some rookie mistakes, most notably his terrible interception late in the fourth quarter. All in all I’d say there was more good than bad, though the final stat line isn’t exactly impressive. His teammates didn’t do him any favors, but Trubisky still showcased quick decision making abilities, impressive athleticism, and incredible accuracy on the run. He needs to get better at recognizing defenses, but the tools are all there. Growing pains are inevitable with a young quarterback, and we saw plenty of them tonight.
  • Tight end Dion Sims had an atrocious night, with several drops and poor routes run in the passing game. On one particularly egregious play, he was the designed read on 3rd and 3 and was supposed to run a short out route to the chains. He rounded his route off such that he was well over a yard short of the first down, and then dropped the throw for good measure. He’s been a major disappointment so far this year, and it might be time to see more Adam Shaheen.
  • Speaking of free agent signees who had atrocious nights, Markus Wheaton is bad. Yet the Bears continue to play him and force him the ball, which needs to stop. They need to get him off the field in favor of Tre McBride or Deonte Thompson, or Tanner Gentry off of the practice squad.
  • The offensive line also struggled in this game, though in their defense Minnesota’s front seven is awfully good. Cody Whitehair continued his poor start to the season with an awful hold that negated a big gain on an early 3rd down and several extremely shaky shotgun snaps, and Charles Leno struggled with false starts and gave up an easy sack to Everson Griffen that forced a Trubisky fumble late in the first half.
  • Running back Benny Cunningham seems to have earned the 3rd down back role, but he didn’t exactly do much with it tonight. He had two screens called his way, dropping one and ailing to generate any sort of movement in the other (to his credit, he did have a nice catch and run for a touchdown on a fake punt). Still, coaches trust his blocking over the more dynamic Tarik Cohen, which should keep him in the role for now.
  • Speaking of Cohen, it was a rough game for the rookie dynamo. Minnesota keyed in on him and kept him in check, and he went sideways and backwards too much trying to make a big play happen all the time. The Bears need to figure out how to use the attention he draws from opposing defenses to open things up for others. He also had a rough night on special teams, dancing too much on returns and calling one fair catch when nobody was within 15 yards of him. Consequently it was Eddie Jackson and not Cohen who handled the last punt return.

Defense

  • The defense did not give up points on the opening drive, forcing a three and out instead. That usually means good things for Chicago under this regime when it comes to winning games. They held for another three and out on the second drive. As Andrew Dannehy noted, the Bears were 7-4 under Fox when that happens (which is pretty impressive considering they were 10-25 overall under Fox). That now falls to 7-5, and 10-26.
  • The defense went with a conservative approach that seemed to stymie Minnesota at first. They dropped a lot of bodies into coverage, especially focusing on taking away underneath crossing routes that the Vikings love to run. It worked, at least until the crippled Sam Bradford left and was replaced by Case Keenum. Then the Vikings’ offense clicked into overdrive and made mince-meat of the Bears. They didn’t do anything overly complicated, but got the ball out in space and exposed Chicago’s inability to tackle in the open field. To Chicago’s credit, they were able to re-adjust and hold Minnesota in check for most of the 4th quarter.
  • After John Timu went out on the first drive of the 3rd quarter, the defense struggled making play calls. Timu was the one designated to do that with Chicago’s top 3 inside linebackers out, and Christian Jones, who replaced him in that role, was clearly not prepared for that aspect of the job.
  • One thing that didn’t work so well was generating turnovers. Defenders managed to get their hands on several Sam Bradford passes, but couldn’t bring them in. Adrian Amos and Christian Jones both had gimme picks go straight through their hands.
  • HELLO LEONARD FLOYD! Chicago’s second-year edge rusher had a monster game, with 2 sacks, a safety, and a drawn holding penalty (though he quieted down significantly after the immobile Bradford left the game). He also came up with a big run stop in the 2nd half that helped force a Minnesota punt, giving the offense a chance to tie the game. Hopefully he can build off of this and have the breakout season we all hoped for.
  • Of course, Floyd did get called for a defensive hold that negated a big 3rd down stop right after the 2 minute warning. Like many calls on this evening, it looked very suspect.
  • Defensive end Akiem Hicks got in on that action as well, with two sacks of his own. He continues to be the best player on Chicago’s defense, and likely their entire roster.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had himself a nice game as well. On two different third downs he broke up a pass to force a punt. He’s already established himself as Chicago’s best safety.

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

© Da' Bears Blog