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Thursday Lynx Package (7/16/20)

| July 16th, 2020


Here’s five valuable things to read. Read em, don’t, I can’t really worry about it. It’s your life.

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99 Comments

ATM: New Coaches Could Help Bears Solve Pettine Riddle

| July 15th, 2020

It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the Green Bay Packer defense is, the Chicago Bears can’t score on them.

That was supposed to change with Matt Nagy taking over, but it hasn’t.

In four games against Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Bears have averaged a pathetic 14 offensive points and 324 yards per game — the latter being a total that was inflated when the team fell behind big in the most recent match-up. Considering Pettine nearly lost his job at the end of last season as his team has allowed 22.7 points and 354 yards per game since he took over, the Bears inability to score is downright confusing.

Yes, we know the Bears generally haven’t been a good offensive team for most of any of our lives, including the last two years. But they’ve done much better against the rest of the division. Mike Zimmer has had two top-10 units since Nagy came to the Bears, but the Bears have scored 19.5 offensive points and averaged 312 yards per game, both slightly better than the Vikings have allowed on average. Same goes for their performances against Detroit. (Also consider that the Bears have gone nearly full games against both Detroit and Minnesota with Chase Daniel.)

Whether it’s Nagy, Trubisky or somebody else, the Bears just can’t seem to solve Pettine and the Packers. But they may have hired the answers this off-season.

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Advanced Defensive Stats: Pass Rush

| July 14th, 2020

I’m continuing to look at Chicago’s defense using advanced defensive statistics from Pro Football Reference (PFR). I already looked at missed tackles and coverage, and today I want to look at pass rush.


Expected Sacks

In general, sacks are fairly variable from year-to-year due to their small sample size. Accordingly, they are not a very good way to evaluate a pass rusher, just like rushing or receiving touchdowns (which also have a small sample size) are not the main way we evaluate skill position players.

This is where advanced statistics can give us a more helpful overall picture of a pass rusher’s performance. The PFR database tracks total QB pressures, which gives you a larger sample size and thus should be more reflective of the player’s performance.

I was curious about the relationship between total pressures and sacks, so I took the following steps to investigate:

  • I examined all rushers between 2018-19 (the only 2 years this database has) who had at least 15 pressures in a year; I chose this threshold to look only at full-time pass rushers. This gave me a data set of 215 seasons, or roughly 3.4 rushers per team per year.
  • I found that the typical ratio was 3.8 pressures per sack, though this had a very high standard deviation (4.0), highlighting how much it varies from person to person.
  • When I looked only at 30+ pressures in a season (63 samples, so roughly 1 player per team per season), the average stayed virtually identical at 3.7 pressures per sack, but the standard deviation dropped to 1.2. This suggested to me that the typical number of around 3.8 pressures/sack is legitimate, and the high standard deviation with the 15 pressure cutoff was largely due to small sample sizes; you get lots of fluctuation in pressure/sack ratio when the pressure number is small.

Using that 3.8 pressures/sack as the norm, then, you can come up with how many expected sacks a player has for a season. If a player has 38 pressures, they are expected to have 10 sacks (38/3.8). You can then easily get a sack differential; a player with 10 expected sacks who actually posted 7 would have a differential of -3, indicating they were 3 sacks below what they should have normally had.


2019 Bears

I included all DL and OLB who registered pressures in 2019, as well as Robert Quinn and Barkevious Mingo. Players with a sack differential of +1 or better are highlighted in green, while those with a sack differential of -1 or worse are highlighted in red. I also included 2018 data to give you an idea of whether 2019 results were consistent with the year before.

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Three Questions with a Bears Fan, Episode VIII: The Multifaceted Maciej Kasperowicz

| July 13th, 2020

Maciej Kasperowicz is one of the most interesting people I know. He makes his money in the coffee game. He’s a DJ. He was single-handedly keeping several movie theater chains afloat pre-pandemic. He’s a passionate sports fan. He is also awaiting trial on The People Versus Pearl Jam, where he’ll argue the popular grunge outfit sucks in front of a jury of his peers. If you missed it, here’s Maciej’s guest column on the movies of 2019. And be sure to give him a follow on Twitter, if that’s your thing.


DBB: You are in the rare group of people whose movie opinions I respect and cherish. So I ask you this. Who is the Alfred Hitchcock in Bears history? (I am providing no further explanation for that question. It’s on you now.)

Maciej: Look, there’s an easy answer to this. An undeniable, legendary talent through multiple phases of a long career, but a fucking asshole in real life? It’s Ditka. But I wanted a more interesting, if less direct answer, so I started thinking of Mike Brown staring into the backfield from the secondary like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window, Singletary bearing down on a ball carrier like the airplane in North by Northwest, the 2018 Bears swarming Jared Goff and his receivers like the birds in The Birds, and Hitchcock’s real time experiment in Rope as a metaphor for that half season of Kordell Stewart (that’s admittedly unfair to both Rope, which I like better than Hitchcock did, and Slash, who at least was an incredibly fun video game quarterback, in different ways).

And then Jay Cutler, fresh off his divorce to a woman whose character on The Hills wasn’t that far from a Hitchcock blonde, started making a crime film on his Instagram stories. Granted, with a line like “Thelma there, while she looks nice and sweet, is a savage with loose morals,” Jay seems to be aiming more for early John Huston than Hitchcock. But who knows where his new art may take him.


DBB: First, what do we laymen coffee drinkers not know about the coffee industry that we should? Second, compare the experiences of a perfect cup of coffee to a exhilarating Bears win.

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ATM: Lack of Preseason Doesn’t Necessarily Hurt Trubisky

| July 10th, 2020

While many think a lack of a game action prior to the regular season would benefit Nick Foles in the competition to be the starting quarterback of the 2020 Chicago Bears, Mitch Trubisky still has the inside track. As of last week, the preseason slate was cut down to two and it doesn’t seem that anybody actually expects either of those games to be played. That leaves the Bears with only practice settings to determine their QB and Trubisky shouldn’t be ruled out.

When it comes to running plays correctly, adjusting protections and making accurate passes, there’s no question that Foles is superior to Trubisky. It’s the ability to run and make something out of broken plays that is supposed to even the playing field. The problem is, camp practice won’t allow that. When a play breaks down in practice, it is whistled dead and they move on to the next one.

But the Bears have to be absolutely certain he can’t play before moving on to Foles. And it’s unlikely Trubisky will clearly display that inability to play on the practice field. (He hasn’t in summers gone by.) The team does not want a situation where the second overall pick becomes someone else’s franchise quarterback. If the two quarterbacks are even close to equal in practices, Trubisky is going to get the chance to show that he is willing to use those legs and has made the necessary strides to be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.

Matt Nagy has said he made a mistake not playing Trubisky and other starters in the 2019 preseason. The team assumed their young quarterback would make plays with his legs. (How could they know he’d suddenly stop running?) Even before he injured his shoulder, Trubisky only had five rushing attempts in three games. The UNC product did begin running again late in the season with 22 rushes over the final month of the season, so there is reason to believe he will again in 2020. Did running equal some magic formula for Trubisky? Hardly. In those four games he had four touchdown passes and three interceptions. Nobody is arguing that he doesn’t need to improve as a passer, but that’s something he can show — at least somewhat — in practice.

With or without preseason games, the ball is firmly in Trubisky’s court. If he shows improvement as a passer, and a firmer handle on the playbook, in whatever form of training camp the team ends up having, he could get to start the regular season.

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Advanced Defensive Stats: Coverage

| July 9th, 2020

I’m continuing to look at Chicago’s defense using advanced defensive statistics from Pro Football Reference (PFR). I already looked at missed tackles, and today I want to look at coverage.


Baseline Rates

There are a whole host of advanced coverage stats available, including completion percentage, yards/target, target depth, yards after catch allowed, TDs, INTs, and passer rating. In order to keep it simple, I’m going to look only at yards/target, as that is a good baseline metric for how effective teams are when targeting a player. I’m intentionally not looking at passer rating because that gets skewed by touchdowns and interceptions, which are notoriously random statistics within a small sample size like this.

I compiled all yards/target stats from the PFR database for 2018 and 2019, the only 2 years it has, and sorted them by position. In order to compare starters to starters and avoid rates skewed by backups, I assumed a base nickel package of 4 defensive linemen (DL), 2 linebackers (LB), 3 cornerbacks (CB), and 2 safeties (S). For all 32 teams over a 2 year span, this would mean 128 LB, 192 CB, and 128 S. This gave thresholds of 30 targets for LB, 40 for CB, and 20 for S.

Looking at those sample sizes, you can see the spread of missed tackle rates in the table below for each position group.

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DBB 100 Bars Addendum: Crabapples (Buffalo)

| July 8th, 2020

Last year I published a listing of my favorite 100 bars (open or closed) in the world. This year I planned to write an amended list, profiling a few from last year that did not get an extended write-up and bringing some new joints into the mix. But it’s been a weird few months, with most of the world’s great bars closed, and I have decided to go in a different direction. 

In lieu of just being on vacation (which I will be), this space will be dedicated to profiling some new spots that didn’t make last year’s list. Spots that will be in desperate need of your patronage should the world find any kind of normal again.



Crabapples – Buffalo, NY

There’s a roadside pizza joint called Macy’s Place in Buffalo. It’s kind of in the middle of nowhere but Josh and I had heard enough praise for their pizza and wings to make the journey worth it. When we got there we found out the wait for food would be 45 minutes. So I asked the girl behind the counter if there was a bar nearby. She sent us to Crabapples.

It looks like it’s some guy’s house. The bartenders stink. There was a fat blowhard in the middle of bar pontificating about god knows what. But when we left after a few Blue Lights, we knew instantly we’d be coming back. It’s that kind of bar. It begs to be revisited if only to see if the bartenders are truly that bad and if the blowhard ever shuts his fucking mouth.

Oh, and Macy’s Place. Get the cup and char extra well done and lemon pepper wings. Walk over and eat it at Crabapples.

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DBB 100 Bars Addendum: CJ’s Tavern (New Jersey)

| July 7th, 2020

Last year I published a listing of my favorite 100 bars (open or closed) in the world. This year I planned to write an amended list, profiling a few from last year that did not get an extended write-up and bringing some new joints into the mix. But it’s been a weird few months, with most of the world’s great bars closed, and I have decided to go in a different direction. 

In lieu of just being on vacation (which I will be), this space will be dedicated to profiling some new spots that didn’t make last year’s list. Spots that will be in desperate need of your patronage should the world find any kind of normal again.



CJ’s Tavern – Spring Lake Heights, NJ

Stumbled into this strip mall bar in NJ to watch Bears vs. Lions last fall. Bears won.

Where can you find $1.50 pints anymore?

Who still does 10 cent wings?

How many bars still have packaged goods and smokes for sale? And lotto on the television screens?

Three of us stayed three and a half hours. Our bill was $27.

I bought a tee shirt.

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DBB 100 Bars Addendum: The Understudy at The National Theatre (London)

| July 6th, 2020

Last year I published a listing of my favorite 100 bars (open or closed) in the world. This year I planned to write an amended list, profiling a few from last year that did not get an extended write-up and bringing some new joints into the mix. But it’s been a weird few months, with most of the world’s great bars closed, and I have decided to go in a different direction. 

In lieu of just being on vacation (which I will be), this space will be dedicated to profiling some new spots that didn’t make last year’s list. Spots that will be in desperate need of your patronage should the world find any kind of normal again.



The Understudy – London, England

The Understudy would have made a significant dent in the DBB100.

The bar is in the structure of the National Theatre in London and thus it’s full of the types of people you might find at a production of As You Like It in the Owen. London’s old, classic pubs often encourage a sort of distancing because most don’t have bar stools. People sit at tables and that social structure almost prohibits interaction with folks you don’t know. Who the fuck is going to walk up to a random table and say hi?

The Understudy does the opposite. It’s a communal space, both inside and out. It encourages interaction. It’s a spot that felt young and alive. And it’s not surprising that it’s the work of the world’s finest cultural institution.

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