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Entering the Final Quarter, Bears Must Now Pay Off Start & Win Division

| December 3rd, 2018


Lovie Smith always broke the NFL season into quarters – four-game segments that provided enough data for a proper evaluation of performance. The Bears enter the fourth and final quarter of this 2018 campaign at 8-4, top of the NFC North table by a game and a half. Despite a disappointing (yet entertaining) showing in the Meadowlands this weekend, most of which can be laid at the feet of their overwhelmed backup quarterback, the Bears have a great season staring them directly in the eyes.

But this division was never going to be handed to them. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings struggle against the better opponents. Yes, the Green Bay Packers have hit rock bottom, losing at home to a DOA Cardinals team. Yes, the Detroit Lions are the Detroit Lions. The division has never felt more winnable than right now. But the Bears still have to go and do it. And over the next month, they will get that opportunity.

They get the Rams, the conference’s best team, Sunday night. They get their oldest rival the week after. They finish with their closest chaser, on the road in Minneapolis. (They also have a road trip to San Francisco in there but that game doesn’t really fit my narrative here.) How Matt Nagy’s Bears perform over these final four contests will define this season.

They have been everything we could ask over these first twelve games. Aggressive. Exciting. Interesting. They have been in every single game they’ve played. Some would argue getting to eight wins has already made this a successful year. But you won’t read that here. No, what these twelve games have proven – without question – is the Bears are the best team in the NFC North.

Now they have to prove it, do what it takes to hold off the Vikings, and host a playoff game in January. Anything less than that will lend an air of disappointment to what has been a profoundly wonderful experience.

The “same old Bears” would fade down the stretch and give a post-season press conference talking about “learning how to win” and “building a winner” and “coming back fired up and ready to win in 2019”. The Matt Nagy Bears have to be better than that.

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Week 13: Bears at Giants Game Preview, Volume II

| November 30th, 2018

Should the Bears win? Absolutely. Will they? The game preview continues…


Why the Bears Win

  • Khalil Mack and the pass rush should dominate a Giants’ offensive line that has already allowed 38 sacks. That means forcing Eli Manning into quick, hurried decisions and that usually means turnovers. The Giants can’t beat the Bears Sunday if they don’t win the turnover battle. And they’re not going to win the turnover battle.
  • Jordan Howard. No, I don’t think Matt Nagy is going to suddenly turn into Marty Schottenheimer and give Howard 28 carries. But this New Jersey defense likes to head for the exits a few ticks early at times. And with the forecast calling for rain, limiting the passing attacks, Howard should be able to dominate one of the league’s worst rushing defenses.
  • Third Down. The Giants, once you remove garbage time drives, are one of the worst third-down conversion offenses in the league. Hell, even if you keep the garbage time snaps they are still pretty bad. The Bears make opponents execute long drives to score touchdowns. Long drives mean executing on third down. The Giants don’t do that well.

Why They Don’t

  • Tackling. As strange as it sounds, this basic fundamental (or lack thereof) is not without precedent. If the Bears had tackled well in Miami they’d be sitting at 9-2 and threatening the top of the conference for a bye week in the postseason. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham are tough men to tackle. If the Bears are not fundamentally sound they’ll be staring at the backs of their jerseys.
  • Chase Daniel is still a backup quarterback and backup quarterbacks are not expected to win back-to-back road games. Would anybody be surprised if Daniel struggled in the Meadowlands? He’s played three games of note in his 9-year career. Why would anything he does surprise anyone?

Tarik Cohen Audio of the Week

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Week 13: Bears at Giants Game Preview, Volume I

| November 29th, 2018

Above: my hometown. It’s a shitty town a few miles outside New York City. It was called Soccertown USA after we put three guys on the 1994 World Cup team.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and these two teams are headed in opposite directions. The Bears are a team on the rise, a few wins from a division title and their first postseason trip in eight years. The Giants are enduring the final days of a champion quarterback and are probably a few years away from being contenders again. (They’ve also got Norv Turner 2: The Revenge at head coach.)


Game Poem

A Fan of the Bears, in the Shadow of Giants

I grew up in the shadow of the Meadowlands,

My father’s hand-painted Lawrence Taylor poster board displayed in the dining room window for all of Kearny, New Jersey to see.

The white 5 and 6 sat awkwardly on the faded blue paint, like two tourists afraid to speak their native tongue in a foreign cafe.

I could have chosen the Giants. It would have been easy.

I could see their building out my bedroom window.

The window above my elephant toy box, laden with blue and red and green spots for some reason.

The window I’d shout out to my friends from on Saturday mornings.

I could have chosen the Giants and celebrated Super Bowl titles four times.

Could have had Tyree and Norwood wide right and Manningham up the sideline.

But those would just be rings.

Titles.

Brief but wonderful celebrations of athletic success.

I could have chosen the Giants,

And I would have a team.

I chose the Bears.

And got a life.

Got this website, my thirteen-year and counting passion project.

Got Reverend Dave’s bullshit and “Bears Jeff” in the Josie Woods computer.

Got Rick Pearson at the Goat and Adam Jahns out in Edison Park.

Got the Old Town Alehouse and Rossi’s and Pippin’s and the Twin Anchors.

Got Seurat at the Institute and the crust at Pequod’s.

Got the motherfuckin’ Q Brothers, what you got?

I was born and raised in the shadow of Giants Stadium, a big concrete structure in a filthy swamp where Big Blue played their football.

But I found home in the city of the Chicago.

Where the Bears are.

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Bears are Having Fun. Fans Should, Too.

| November 28th, 2018

Greetings, Bears fans. It’s been awhile.

I started a new job at the beginning of the month, which is exciting and all that, but not nearly as exciting as the Bears being 8-3 with a (semi) comfortable lead in the NFC North as we head into the final stretch of the regular season!

My last blog post emphasized the importance of the three straight divisional games the Bears have just completed. At the time, I wrote that if the Bears were able to go 2-1 in that stretch, it’d be a huge boon for their chances to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

I thought it’d be hard, but doable. More than anything I thought it’d give us a clear idea of who this team is and what they are capable of achieving in 2018. My exact words:

It’s already clear this Bears team is different from what we’ve gotten used to watching in seasons past. Just how different remains to be seen. Check back with me after Thanksgiving.

Well, it’s after Thanksgiving. I’m 5 lbs heavier and 500% (not a math major) more confident that the Chicago Bears are a damn good football team. Not only good, but extremely fun to watch, in part because you can tell how much the players are enjoying themselves.



And why shouldn’t they? Most teams in the NFL are mediocre, some straight up suck, and handful of teams are actually good. The Bears have been mediocre to awful for years now, so this season has been an absolute revelation as a fan, and frankly if you’re not enjoying yourself I’m not sure what could possibly make you happy.

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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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After 99 Years, the Bears are Finally Exciting.

| November 26th, 2018

The 2018 Chicago Bears season has been as surprising as any in my lifetime, soon to hopefully be entering it’s 37th year. It is certainly as surprising as any since the launch of this website in early 2005.

It’s not that the team has been competitive. That was expected. It’s not even that the team is winning. Many of us saw a clear path to eight plus victories even before Ryan Pace acquired one of the sport’s two most dominant defensive humans.

No, this season has been surprising – shocking, even – because of the seismic cultural and identity shift that has occurred at Halas Hall. Seemingly overnight, but of course decidedly not overnight, the Chicago Bears have transformed themselves not only into one of the league’s better teams but unquestionably one of the league’s most exciting.


These are the Chicago Bears, aren’t they?

Their most prolific passing campaign before Erik Kramer’s 1995 one-off was in 1943. For a few periods of the Lovie Smith era, a few weeks of the Trestman tenure and a few moments of the Ditka days they could score points in bunches. But this organization hasn’t done anything one could deem “exciting” on offense since Clark Shaughessy helped the team implement the “T” to beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.

Efficient? Sure. Effective? Okay. Hell, even excellent at times. But exciting? No chance. Devin Hester is the most exciting offensive weapon the Bears have had since Gale Sayers. And Hester literally couldn’t play offense.

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Short-Handed Bears Beat Lions, Cement Lead Atop NFC North

| November 23rd, 2018

Not the most compelling game ever played but the kind of result good teams get. The Bears played three division games in twelve days and went 3-0, outscoring the Lions (twice) and Vikings 82-58.

This three-game stretch solidified them as one of the better teams in the NFC and it would now be a terrible disappointment if there was not a football game at Soldier Field in January. 

Rapid fire…


  • Chase Daniel did everything a team can ask from their backup quarterback. He moved the offense. He avoided crippling errors. Was he good? Not really. Even the touchdowns/big plays were not well-thrown balls. But he got the job done. In the modern NFL, teams need a backup QB that can hold down the fort and win some games for 2-3 weeks every season. With Daniel, the Bears have that.
  • 3rd and 1. Early second quarter. Stafford rolled to his left and had about six minutes to find an open receiver to move the chains. Why? Khalil Mack was floating in coverage. (And “floating” is the accurate word.) This is what Fangio’s defense is. Understood. But without a healthy Aaron Lynch, and with Leonard Floyd struggling to get to the quarterback, not allowing the game’s best edge rusher to rush from the edge feels negligent.
  • As Andrew pointed out on Twitter, the Bears were awful on 2nd and long all game, giving up chunk plays in the air and on the ground. This will be a focal point before they head to the Meadowlands.
  • Eddie Jackson has to be in the conversation now for DPOY now. Right now the award is Aaron Donald’s to lose, mostly because of Mack’s earlier injuries, but no defender has made more big plays in 2018 than Jackson.
  • Every week Roquan Smith makes another play. And every week it becomes more apparent Smith is going to be in the middle of the Bears defense for a long, long time.
  • The running game, or lack thereof, will be a major talking point over the next ten days. But look no further than Matt Nagy’s two-point conversion call to understand why that element is struggling. With an inaccurate backup QB, Nagy called a pass. And not just a pass. A quick, bubble screen that required timing and pinpoint ball placement. Despite what the head coach tells reporters, the answer is simple. The Bears don’t run the ball because the Bears don’t want to run the ball.
  • Taquan Mizzell is more valuable to Nagy than Jordan Howard.

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