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ATM: Reason to Distrust the Defense

| December 4th, 2018

The Bears had the Giants in a third-and-23. Even a 20-yard run means New York is punting and the Bears are either going to block it, return it or sit on it and go into halftime with a touchdown lead. Matt Nagy called timeout. It was the kind of aggressive decision we’ve longed for Bears coaches to make.

It didn’t work. Because Nagy learned something we all learned: this defense can’t be trusted.

The vaunted unit folded on the next two plays and then continuously throughout the second half. If it felt like we were watching a re-run it’s because we were. This is the third time the defense — which is supposed to carry the team — absolutely crumbled.

At their best, the Bears defense is legitimately great. But they still might be underachieving. Performances like Sunday (and Miami, and Green Bay) just can’t happen if the Bears are going to be truly relevant this year.

The Bears had a top ten defensive unit last year before adding a top ten draft pick and one of the three best defensive players in the history of the universe. They’ve made a jump, but there are these weird games that are just indefensible and one has to wonder what will happen when the Bears go up against one of the league’s great offenses.

Make no mistake, the Bears can stop the Rams, Saints or Chiefs. They absolutely have the talent to get the job done. But that doesn’t mean they will. And it’s hard to pinpoint what the exact problem is.

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ATM: Maybe the 2018 Chicago Bears are Not “A Year Away”

| November 27th, 2018

The excuses were there and would have been valid.

  • No team had played a game on less rest.
  • They started a backup QB who hadn’t played extensively in five years.
  • They were coming off one of their more emotional wins in recent memory.

But none of that mattered.


I started this season writing about how the Bears looked like the same old Bears and that’s because they did. Blowing a huge fourth quarter lead to the Packers on opening night was very on-brand.

But on Thanksgiving Day, the 2018 Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions despite all the excuses. In doing so, they proved they are a different team. Comparing this year’s Bears to versions of the team under Marc Trestman and John Fox is just ridiculous at this point. This was even a game the Lovie Smith Bears would’ve lost.

This team didn’t. They didn’t need excuses. They just went out and won. Somewhere along the line, the team changed. Somewhere they found their swagger and turned 2018 into something with the makings of a special season.

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The Bears Are For Real

| November 19th, 2018

Much of the focus for the 2018 Chicago Bears has centered around Mitch Trubisky and the offense, but the key to this season’s success is and has always been the defense.

Sunday night, outside of a couple late touchdowns, the Bears were absolutely dominant defensively. They should be. They have to be.

Despite a new, big money quarterback and a vastly improved offensive line, the Minnesota Vikings don’t have a great offense. They entered Sunday’s game about middle of the pack across the board and in the 20s in terms of yards and points per drive. (Good thing the Bears didn’t hire John DeFilippo.)

The Vikings do have a terrific defense. The Bears weren’t going to be able to put up 30 points. The Bears defense needed to win this game.

They did.

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Money Mitch Took A Big Step.

| November 13th, 2018

Facing a third-and-four, the Bears young quarterback had nowhere to go.

Consecutive touchdown drives and a day full of special teams mistakes put the Bears in a curious position with just about six minutes to go.

If they don’t get the first down, the Lions get the ball back with about five minutes left in the game – plenty of time for Matthew Stafford to orchestrate two touchdown drives.

Detroit rushed four and had former first round pick Jarrad Davis spying Money Mitch. He didn’t have anywhere to go.

Then he made something happen.

Trubisky tucked the ball and moved slightly to his left, just enough to make Davis move. Once Davis reacted, Trubisky jetted off to his right into a open space. He picked up the first down then slid for a gain of eight.

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Bears Have Put Themselves in the Fight. Now They Have to Win it.

| November 6th, 2018

By opening the season at 5-3, the Bears have put themselves in the fight. While they couldn’t win the NFC North in the first half of the season, they managed to put themselves in position to win the division or, at the very least, make the playoffs. They are in the fight. Now they have to win it.

At five wins and three losses, the Bears have the same record through eight games they had in 2013, the last time they were relevant in the NFC North race. We all remember how that season ended. The Bears went 0-3 against NFC North foes — including an overtime loss to a five-win Vikings team — in their last eight games. A win in any of them would have won the division. The Bears haven’t been competitive in the NFC North since.

The 2018 Bears have five divisional games in their final eight, including each of the next three. They’re sitting at the top of the division now and need to win at least two of the next three to stay in that race. It’s impossible to say what will happen but there’s no reason to think the Bears can’t stay in this thing until the end.

Because while it wasn’t flashy, we really shouldn’t undersell what the Bears did to the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Those are bad teams, sure, but outscoring them 65-19 without Khalil Mack or Allen Robinson is, well, interesting.

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Is This Bears Offense Destined For Greatness? They May Be Getting Close Already.

| October 30th, 2018

Many of the complaints about the 2018 Chicago Bears have centered around their offense. But though seven games, that unit is well ahead of schedule and a major breakthrough seems on the horizon.

When Matt Nagy was hired as the head coach he spoke about the slow process of building a great offense, noting how it took 5 years for Kansas City to get there. But Nagy and Mitch Trubisky have engineered an offense that has been better than most could’ve imagined and better than almost every offense Nagy had with Andy Reid in KC.

Even after a bad start to the season, the Bears are 9th in points scored, 11th in points per drive and 10th in yardage. Some facts:

  • The only time Nagy and Reid had an offense that was ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and yardage in Kansas City was 2017.
  • Only twice did they have teams that ranked higher than 11th in points per drive.
  • Only once were they inside the top 20 in total yardage.

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When Needed Most, Leonard Floyd Has Been Missing in Action. But There’s Still Time.

| October 23rd, 2018

If ever there was a time the Bears needed Leonard Floyd to prove he was worth the ninth overall pick in the 2016 draft, it is right now.

With yet another ghosting Sunday, Floyd is working his way to becoming the worst draft pick of Ryan Pace’s relatively short career (Kevin White got hurt, we can’t blame Pace for that). Floyd has shown plenty of flashes in his career, but injuries – he was hurt a lot in college so we can blame Pace for that – and otherwise subpar play has landed Floyd’s career at a crossroads.

There’s no other way to say it: through six games, Floyd has been downright bad.

The Georgia product has zero sacks this season and has managed to hit an opposing quarterback just once, according to NFLGSIS. The third-year pass rusher has been excused because of the way Vic Fangio uses him, but that’s mostly bull. According to Pro Football Focus, Floyd has had 134 chances to chase opposing quarterbacks. Aaron Lynch has had 90 pass-rush opportunities and has managed seven quarterback hits — including two sacks.

Lynch is a $5 million journeyman. Floyd is a top-10 pick.

It isn’t just a lack of pass rush either. His defenders like to say Floyd is great in coverage, but the Bears don’t ever ask their linebackers to do much beyond defending the flat. Sunday, Floyd was beaten soundly in that area.

There’s no question that the hand injury has hurt Floyd’s production. But plenty of players have been able to have an impact with casts. Floyd hasn’t done anything. If he was going to be this ineffective while one-handed, why play him at all?

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Second Collapse Raises Questions About Defense

| October 16th, 2018

A fumble at the one.

An interception in the end zone.

The questionable decision to settle for kicking a 53-yard field goal in overtime.

None of it would have mattered if the Bears’ much-celebrated defense had done its part.

Just about everybody who had watched this Bears defense was quick to crown them as a great unit. Some went as far as to compare them to historic units of years past. But a collapse against one of the worst offenses in the league certainly raises questions, especially because it isn’t the first time it has happened.

It’s easy to blame the heat, but that would lead one to believe the Dolphins — and likely the Jaguars and Buccaneers — are unbeatable in their element. That isn’t reality. And, if we’re blaming heat for this collapse, what do we blame for the collapse against a gimpy Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay on Sept. 9?

This isn’t to minimize the impact the heat had on the Bears players. It’s certainly conceivable that it slowed them down late. But they still should’ve been good enough to overcome it against Brock Osweiler.

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Next Four Games – All Against the AFC East – Crucial For Trubisky

| October 11th, 2018

Mitch Trubisky enters Sunday’s game in Miami with a ton of momentum. He’s coming off the biggest game of his young career; a game that would be the biggest game of many-a-quarterback’s entire career. Now it’s time to build off of it and become consistent. That’s what we need to see in the next four games, all against the AFC East. And it is very possible that a month from now, Sunday night November 4th, the city of Chicago will know who Trubisky is going to be.

The young quarterback’s last performance was historic but the first three were anything but. The Bears need him to settle somewhere in the middle and prove he can succeed against good defenses. He’ll get that opportunity as he’ll now face four of them in consecutive weeks.

As I wrote last week, what Trubisky did to Tampa was not a fluke. The Bears found his comfort zone and he excelled. Now defenses have tape on that performance and are going to do everything they can to make him uncomfortable.

The bad quarterbacks fold under such situations.

The good ones manage them.

The great ones thrive.

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ATM: Sunday’s Offensive Explosion Was Not a Fluke

| October 2nd, 2018

While there almost certainly won’t be another game quite like it, Sunday’s performance by the Bears offense was far from a fluke.

After falling behind Arizona by 14 points, Mitch Trubisky started to look more comfortable. Suddenly the pressure was off and it looked like the Bears had an actual offense. Here’s how the Bears did in that second half:

  • Punt
  • Touchdown
  • Field goal
  • Field goal
  • Punt — after trying to kill the clock.

From halftime in Arizona, the Bears scored on 11 of their next 16 drives. One of the non-scoring drives was a single play before halftime. Another was simply an attempt to run out the clock.

The Arizona game should’ve been a sign that something better was coming. They scored 13 points in the second half of that game, a good half for any team. And against Tampa Bay, it all clicked.

That isn’t a coincidence. Nagy and Trubisky got together and figured out how to turn three into seven, according to what the Bears coach told Peter King in his Football Morning in American column:

“Our lessons this week was let’s just sit together and let’s figure out why we’re struggling on our offense and see if we can find some answers,” Nagy said. “We on offense had by far our best week of practice all week long. More specifically, in the red zone, because that’s where we’ve been struggling.”

Here’s how the Bears opened against Tampa Bay:

  • Touchdown
  • Punt
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Touchdown
  • Field goal

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