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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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ATM: The Bears Don’t Suck

| September 25th, 2018

It’s dangerous to make any grand proclamations three weeks into a season. But the Bears win over the Cardinals was a great indicator that, at the very least, they don’t suck.

Whether they’re actually good or not is still to be decided. While it was widely regarded as a game the Bears should win, winning in the NFL is difficult, especially for a young team flying nearly across the country on a short week. Travel difficulties are very real in the NFL. We see even the best teams struggle with them. This was a schedule test, one the Bears passed.

The offense is horrendous.

There’s no arguing that.

But the defense is incredible.

Khalil Mack isn’t just great, he’s a generational talent. The other big addition, Roquan Smith, flies around and finishes with a boom. They’re fast, they’re physical and, for the first time since Lovie left town, they attack the ball.

Obviously, for the Bears to graduate from a team that merely doesn’t suck to one that is actually good, the offense needs to be better. They do deserve credit for three scoring drives in the second half. And, really, they should’ve had two in the first half, but Cody Parkey missed what should’ve been an easy field goal.

Still, good teams score touchdowns and that’s the next goal for the Bears.

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ATM: Bears Need to Keep Letting Trubisky Sling It

| September 19th, 2018

As NFL teams fight battle after battle each Sunday, it’s difficult to keep the war in mind. But Matt Nagy needs to keep thinking about it and let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball.

Some numbers…

  • Trubisky is currently on pace to throw 552 passes, which would’ve been 7th in the league last year.
  • He’s thrown at least 34 passes in both of the Bears games this season; games in which they were leading almost throughout.
  • He reached 34 passes just three times in 12 games last year, despite playing from behind much of the time.

While there’s little question that he’s been a weak link on the team, the Bears can’t take the ball out of his hands until they know he can’t get the job done.

One thing that has become painfully clear early in 2018 is that John Fox was correct in his evaluation that the team’s best chance for winning in 2017 was to limit the rookie quarterback’s exposure. Whether or not that hindered Trubisky’s development is debatable, but it left the Bears without any real indication of whether or not he could get the job done without any handcuffs. Now it’s up to Nagy to figure out if Trubisky can swim and the best way to do that is to throw him into the deep end.

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ATM: The Same Old Bears

| September 11th, 2018

On their way to revolutionizing the way football is played in Chicago and around the world, the Bears hit a speed bump when they actually had to play a game and it revealed that talk his cheap and this team certainly looks to be the same it has been for most of the last 25 years. The hype train spun out of control when the team added Khalil Mack — and he certainly showed why he was worth such hysteria — but lost in all the commotion was that the Bears actually had to put a product on the field and, when they did, it wasn’t good.

The expectation was that this was going to be a different Bears team. They had the talent and the coaching to beat the Packers. Add that Aaron Rodgers missed a chunk of the game as the Bears lead grew from 10 to 20 and it was surely a changing of the guard.

Except it wasn’t.

The loss couldn’t have been any more typical Bears. The offense scored on the first two possessions, then failed to make any adjustments. When is the last time the Bears had a coaching staff that was good at making adjustments? It appears that is a trend that will continue.

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ATM: Bears Need To Beat The Packers

| September 5th, 2018

The start of the regular season is usually the worst thing that can happen to the teams that win the offseason and the Bears can’t let that be the case as they open in Green Bay this Sunday.

It isn’t a stretch to say that losing to Green Bay has cost every coach the Bears have had since Mike Ditka their jobs. The likes of Dave Wannstedt, Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith, Marc Trestman and John Fox have compiled a 13-38 record against the Packers since 1993.

Smith was the toast of the town when he won six of his first eight meetings with the Packers. He then he lost nine of his last eleven. Outside of that four-year period in which Lovie had success, the Bears have gone 7-36 against the team to the north.  Trestman and Fox both scored prime time victories in Green Bay in their first seasons but it was all downhill after that.

The Packers aren’t just another team. They’re not viewed that way by most fans and they certainly aren’t viewed that way in the big offices at Halas Hall. If Matt Nagy is going to be separated from the poop platter that the team has had since Ditka, he has to beat the Packers.

He has to do it on Sunday.

He has to do it consistently.

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ATM: Bears Have Fantasy Relevance

| August 29th, 2018

[Editor’s note: Yep, allowing a fantasy column.]

For the first time since fantasy football became truly popular, the Chicago Bears actually have some interesting players.

The Bears have had players who have been highly drafted before, but there was never any debate about them. You wanted Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. It was pretty easy. This year there is actually a debate about which Bears to take and when.

Below is a short guide for how you should fill your fantasy roster with Bears:

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RRH Could Be the Pass Rusher the Bears Need

| August 22nd, 2018

While fans debate far-fetched trade scenarios for former first-round picks like Khalil Mack, Dante Fowler and Shane Ray, the player they’re most likely going to need to pick up the slack is a former undrafted rookie free agent with just two career sacks.

Everything that happens in the preseason has to come with the caveat that it is just preseason, but it was hard to ignore Roy Robertson-Harris fork-lifting a pretty good guard in Ronald Leary before discarding him and sacking Case Keenum. It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen such a move by Robertson-Harris and there figures to be plenty more to come.

According to NFL Game Statistics and Information System, Robertson-Harris is second amongst all NFL players this preseason with 3.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits. It  should be noted that Robertson-Harris has played quite a few snaps and not always against starters.

Still, he’s doing all they can ask, consistently getting pressure regardless of who is lining up against him. And he’s doing it while playing a position that we don’t usually see pass rushers play.

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ATM: Bears Need Roquan Smith On the Field Right Now

| August 15th, 2018

The Bears will need Roquan Smith against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

Finally the camp-long nightmare has come to an end. The eighth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft has signed his contract with the Bears after a nearly 30-day holdout. Missing nearly all of training camp would typically be enough to rule out a rookie from making an impact in Week One, but don’t be surprised if that’s not the case on the evening of September 9th. While the situation has been far from ideal, a player of Smith’s caliber and skill set should still figure into the Bears’ immediate plans.

Rodgers’ ability to move and make pinpoint throws in the middle of the field make having an athletic inside linebacker a must. It’s why Rodgers calls Brian Urlacher the best defender he ever faced, it’s why Smith was the pick and it’s why they double-dipped taking Joel Iyiegubuniwe in the fourth round.

The plan was for Smith to start Week One. That should still be in play but it’s hard to see the team giving the rookie the nod over Nick Kwiatkoski after the third-year linebacker has, by most accounts, played well in camp. It was to the point that the Bears didn’t even play Kwiatkoski in the first preseason game and he saw very limited action in the second. A bigger issue is that they can’t sell the first few weeks of camp as actually being important if a guy who has never played in the NFL doesn’t need them to be ready to face Rodgers.

Regardless of how well he has played in practice, Kwiatkoski has significant flaws. While many have pointed to his training camp interceptions, anyone who has spent too much time watching camp clips on Twitter has also seen several times in which the Bears got the better of Kwiatkoski. They’ve attacked him in practice, just as opposing teams did in games last year. The Bears actually took him off the field on passing downs in favor of Christian Jones late in the season. Maybe Kwiatkoski has improved in coverage, but it’s unlikely he’s going to cease being a liability there and Roquan figures to be among the elite coverage backers in the entire league.

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ATM: Javon Wims & the Annual Romance With Camp Receivers

| August 8th, 2018

[Administrative Note: This is not the first time DBB has ventured down this road, with one of our most famous columns being the aptly-titled “The Joe Anderson Boner”. It’s a nice read to set the stage for today’s piece from Andrew.]


“He’s special.”

                                                      -Some guy on Twitter, re: Javon Wims

I could hardly believe it when someone on Twitter sent those words to @DaBearsBlog about any player during the fourth quarter of the Hall of Fame game. But there it was. And Javon Wims, in that moment, became a camp darling. Some proclaimed Wims a seventh-round steal. Others actually said they’d rather have him than Kevin White, now and for the foreseeable future. Adam Hoge and Adam Jahns praised Wims on their weekly podcast and openly wondered if White should make the team.

Let’s rewind a bit.

• First of all, Wims dropped to the seventh round for a reason. I took a look at the ten receivers who were drafted before him and only two had fewer collegiate receptions and none posted worse athletic scores. He was praised as the leading receiver on one of the best teams in the nation but he only caught 47 passes.

• Secondly, he wasn’t having a good camp. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you or they don’t know what they’re watching. Don’t believe me? According to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said Wims had “struggled for a couple weeks.”

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ATM: White and Miller Could Make Bears Attack Very Different

| August 1st, 2018

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have tried to build the 2018 Chicago Bears offense to be like those Nagy’s mentor Andy Reid had success with in the past. But they may have stumbled into something very different and entirely more fascinating. If Kevin White and Anthony Miller are both able to continue to play at the level they have in the early days of training camp, the Bears won’t have a choice but to put both on the field. That could change the entire offense.

While generally thought of as an offense that spreads the ball around, that hasn’t really been the case. In five years, Reid’s Chiefs have averaged:

  • 19.6% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 16.9% to running backs

Those numbers mostly held up with Doug Pederson in Philadelphia. His Eagles averaged:

  • 20.5% of their targets to the top receiver
  • 18.6% to the pass-catching tight end
  • 15% to running backs

Where it gets interesting, however, is when you look at the other positions. There you will find very little consistency.

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