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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume I: Offense

| October 13th, 2020

We’re five weeks in to a wild season in which we’ve already seen the Bears make a quarterback change and post three comeback wins from 13 or more points down. Since they’re on a mini-bye following their Thursday night victory over Tampa Bay, now is a good time to take a step back and see what we’ve learned so far.

Obligatory warnings:

  • These are still small sample sizes, especially given that each QB basically played 2.5 games. So think of any lessons learned here more as observations that are worth monitoring going forward than hard and fast conclusions.
  • Statistics for Bears are updated through 5 games, but all other teams only have 4 at the time of this writing, so NFL ranks may have changed a bit by the time this is published.

I have a lot I want to get to, so let’s dive right in.


Better Lucky Than Good

The Bears may be 4-1, but I don’t think anybody would argue they have played well so far this year (including Matt Nagy). As you can see from the pie chart below, which shows the % of offensive snaps the Bears have taken in a variety of score situations, they have actually spent the majority of the season trailing.

They’ve taken 2/3 of their offensive snaps while trailing (33% by 2 or more scores) and only 19% with a lead. To somehow go from that to 4 wins in 5 games is remarkable, but it should not be expected to continue going forward. The Bears need to play better if they want to keep winning games. The good news is that they started to look better in week 5; the defense in the 2nd half looked the best it had since week 4 of the 2019 season, and the offense was something approaching competent for the last 40 or so minutes of the game.


QB Comparison

The Bears switched from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles in the 2nd half of week 3, which means both QBs have actually played a similar amount of snaps so far this year (Foles is at 168, Trubisky 169). Let’s see how each performed. The table below shows stats for each passer, as well as the average for the entire NFL this year, broken up into deep and short throws (anything that travels 15+ yards in the air past the line of scrimmage is considered deep). YPA = yards per attempt.

A few thoughts:

  • Keep in mind that Nick Foles has played 2 of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 weeks, while Trubisky played all of his snaps against 3 of the worst defenses in the league. Still, it’s hard to argue Foles has been better so far, at least on a statistical basis. He needs to play better going forward.

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Announcing the Darnell “Money” Mooney Shirt!

| October 12th, 2020

This year DBB is deepening our partnership with 26Shirts; becoming far more involved in shirt concepts/designs, especially when it comes to the Chicago Bears-specific ones. This collaboration is based on a Tweet from the Bears themselves.

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Darnell Mooney has wowed the Bears since training camp opened and is one of the breakout stars of this rookie class. So without further delay, the Darnell “Money” Mooney shirt.



Simple. Cool. You can simply click the image above to order or follow THIS LINK to the 26Shirts site.

As with all 26Shirts attire, half the proceeds go to charity and this shirt will support my friends at the Windy Kitty Cafe in Chicago. Like many smaller non-profits, they are struggling mightily in the wake of Covid-19. Resources are not as available as they were seven months ago. We are specifically supporting their “Kitten Korner”. Here’s a note from Jenny, the founder, on their website:

It was a dream of mine to have a kitten nursery be a part of The Windy Kitty since before I opened! Kitten Korner is phase one of the up and coming Chicago Kitten Nursery, which will be an entirely different facility in Chicago. For now, we take in kittens that are not ready for the main lounge but young enough to start being socialized so that fosters have more room for neonatal kittens.

Why?

Kittens are the first to be euthanized in city shelters if they are still nursing. Not because people don’t care but because the resources to care for them overnight just aren’t there. I thought, why not become a resource so less orphan kittens die!? So here we are… In just over a year we’ve saved over 200 lives.

History

With your help we opened Kitten Korner in August 2018, just 8 months after opening our doors. Now it is a full on non-profit entity working in conjunction with The Windy Kitty and various rescues within Chicago.


So why not buy a cool shirt and support an amazing cause? And if you don’t want the shirt but still want to support the cause, you can do that HERE.

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Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

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A Desperate Plea Not to Overreact Tonight

| October 8th, 2020


Everyone who supports the Chicago Bears wants them to win tonight. Everyone wants the defense to shut down Tom Brady and for the offense to put together four consistent, productive quarters. But the most likely scenario is there will be some great and a bit of bad on defense, a tad bit of good but mostly bad on offense, and the Bears will lose because Brady plays for the other team.

And you know what? That’s okay.

I know preaching patience is not going to win DBB any awards in the clicks department. Patience and nuance are anathema to the whole of the sports media landscape. Anybody familiar with Mike Greenberg’s new radio show on ESPN can tell you that. Every single day he proclaims a new team “the best” in football. (After Week 2, I believe that was the Arizona Cardinals.) Every single day a new player “is the frontrunner for MVP”. (Kyler Murray, of course.) The trick to being successful in this climate is to make absurdly bold yet utterly forgettable proclamations as often as you possibly can. Five Things Ryan Pace Needs to Improve Upon columns are met with resounding indifference. Five Reasons the Bears Must Not Only Fire But Perhaps Murder Ryan Pace in His Sleep columns? Click click click click click click click.

Nick Foles had his first full practice with Bears starters a week ago. A week ago. He will have had about four serious practices with this offense as they head into tonight’s game, against the greatest quarterback in the history of the sport. If you expected Foles to take over the job midway through the third week and arrive in midseason form, I’d only ask one question: why? Why would you believe that?

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Week Five Game Preview: Bucs at Bears on Thursday Night Football

| October 7th, 2020


How much does a pirate pay for corn?

Buck an ear.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I think the offense will get better in the weeks to come. Do I think they’ll be at full stride tomorrow? No. But I think signs of progress will be evident, as they work towards getting the new quarterback up to speed.


On Brady’s Bucs…

As always, you can go look at the statistical rankings and draw your own conclusions on Tampa’s strengths and weaknesses. I watch the Short Cuts of all their games on Sunday Ticket and try to give you in-game insights.

  • Tom Brady’s approach isn’t particularly different than it was in New England. Every once in a while he’ll take a deep shot (Scotty Miller is his guy down there) but his bread is still buttered by the quick toss, intermediate stuff to tight ends and small white receivers and a diverse collection of screens. When Brady’s in rhythm, he’s unstoppable. When he’s pressured out of that rhythm, he’s been giving the defense opportunities to make plays on the football.
    • It could be a product of age, but Brady’s arm strength seems to come and go over the course of a game. He had no zip on the football early against LA. He was flinging it in the third quarter.
    • Mike Evans has become a possession receiver. And a good one.
    • The injury report will have a massive say in what this offense looks like tomorrow night. Most of the skill guys in Tampa are on their report.
  • Ronald Jones power runs are the tone-setters for this offense but Jones has been a real asset in the passing game lately. Will be an interesting test for Roquan Smith, coming off arguably his best game as a Bear.
  • Defense can be attacked vertically, especially on early downs. If the Bears think they can take the same approach they took Sunday and try to bully the Bucs on first downs with the run game, they’ll find themselves behind the chains all day long. (The Chargers had zero success with early-down runs.) When the Bears find themselves chasing down and distance, they need to expect Todd Bowles to bring pressure and attack that pressure with the screen game.
  • An element of the Bucs passing game that the Bears must be ready for is the tight end verticals. O.J. Howards is out for the season but don’t be surprised if that injury doesn’t increase Rob Gronkowski’s role in the game plan.

In Honor of the Buccaneers, My Five Favorite Big Screen Pirates

(5) Steve the Pirate, Dodgeball

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(4) Captain Hook, Hook

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(3) Pirate King, Pirates of Penzance 

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(2) Smee, Disney’s Peter Pan

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(1) Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride

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Matt Nagy’s Offense Was Not Good Enough Sunday. Will It Ever Be?

| October 6th, 2020


Matt Nagy, an offensive head coach, has had far too many postgame press conferences like Sunday, wherein he proclaimed the offense “wasn’t good enough”. No, his offense wasn’t good enough Sunday. They weren’t good enough in year one. They weren’t good enough in year two. And through four games of year three, they’re still not good enough.

The sign of a good head coach is one who has success on the side of the ball from which he came.

  • Bill Belichick always has top 10 defenses.
  • Andy Reid has only ranked outside the top 20 in scoring twice — his first and last years in Philadelphia.
  • Kyle Shanahan has had a bunch of injuries this year, but his team in 11th in yardage and 13th in points. (Shanahan’s 49ers have never ranked outside the top half of the league in yardage or in the bottom 10 in scoring.)

But after Sunday’s woeful performance, the Bears are 25th in scoring and 24th in yardage. They’re 31st in third down conversions, 25th in the red zone.

The passing game is averaging an anemic 6.4 yards per attempt while still being intercepted 3.2 percent of the time. They’re sixth in passing attempts — partially due to the fact that they fall behind every week — yet 21st in yardage. It isn’t a stretch to say they have the worst passing offense in the league.

And, hey, it’s not just that they can’t pass the ball, they’re 20th in rushing and are the only team in the league without a rushing touchdown this year.

This comes after they changed out the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, quarterback coach and, of course, the quarterback himself.

Nagy is running out of people to blame.

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Bears Lose an Ugly Affair to the Colts, Fall to 3-1.

| October 5th, 2020

Here come the rapid fire reactions to a snooze of a ballgame. And a ballgame the Bears deserved to lose.


  • The Colts were quite simply the better team. They played harder, hit harder, committed fewer penalties and won at the point of attack consistently.
  • Rivers was bad in this game, as expected. But bad was good enough.
  • Nick Foles played a terrible game, generally. But it was to be expected. The Bears have to figure out a way to get their QB up-to-speed before Thursday or they’ll be heading into a ten-day layoff at 3-2.
  • Who do the players perform their celebrations for when the stadiums are empty? Do you think they feel as ridiculous as they look?
  • Rich Gannon, who NEVER STOPS TALKING, referred to Khalil Mack as an “all day sucker”. That might be the most disgusting description of a player I’ve heard.
  • Has there been a great return man who is also great at covering kicks? Cordarrelle Patterson is every bit that.
  • Three pivotal moments in the first quarter:
    • Kyle Fuller called for a pass interference on the touchdown drive. Just didn’t feel like that call needed to be made. But here’s the bigger issue: do you know what PI is? Do the players know what PI is? It’s become a vague, undefined penalty.
    • Khalil Mack’s dropped interception. That’s leaving points on the board.
    • Bears allowing Alie-Cox to beat them for the touchdown. How is not the focal point for Chuck Pagano on that play? Rivers has been looking to him constantly for weeks in those exact situations.
  • Guard play was terrible for the Bears early in the game. Daniels and Ifedi missed pivotal blocks that killed drives.
  • Re-capping the first half:
    • About as undisciplined a half as the Bears can play. Penalties and mistakes everywhere. Strange coaching decisions.
    • Defense has to get off the field on third-and-long, especially when they’re getting pressure. The middle of the field is just wide open weekly. Why?
    • Bend-don’t-break is what this defensive identity is becoming. They’re not dominant. They’re solid, across the board. With this offense, currently, that’s not gonna be good enough.

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