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Chargers at Bears Game Preview Vol. I: What Sunday Means for the Rest of 2019

| October 24th, 2019


The Bears are 3-3.

It just feels like 1-5.

And Sunday, at home, against the Los Angeles Chargers, could be the game that defines the remainder of the season.

If the Bears win it will stabilize things. Are they going to make a 2018-esque run to a division title and the postseason? Unlikely with their current quarterback situation but they will at least remain relevant into the month of November and hopefully beyond.

If they lose, things could get ugly fast. Does anyone trust this quarterback on the road in Philadelphia or with Aaron Donald lined up in front of him in LA? Would the Lions and Giants games being anything more than coin flips? The Bears are 3-3 today but a loss Sunday could descend into 6-10 very, very quickly once the quarterback officially loses the huddle and the organization loses complete confidence in the offense’s ability to move the ball.

With these stakes, Sunday becomes the most important regular season game of Matt Nagy’s tenure. He’s facing intense heat for the first time. He’s having spats with media members in the press room. The pressure is firmly on his shoulders and he’s feeling it.

How will he respond?

How will the team respond?

How will 2019 be defined?

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At 3-3, the 2019 Season is Not Lost With Ten Games Remaining

| October 23rd, 2019


The argument could be simply made.

“Hey, the Bears were 3-3 last season and look how that turned out!”

It’d be hard to argue against because it is factually correct. But all 3-3s are not created equal and the story of the first six games of this Chicago Bears season is not their record. It is the futility of the quarterback and the questions now surrounding the most important position in sports moving forward.

But even now that we know Mitch Trubisky is not the guy, that does not mean these final ten games of the 2019 campaign get discarded into the “playing out the string” bin. While the Bears are very, very unlikely to reach the lofty heights many of us expected, this season can still be a successful one.

How?


Win More Than You Lose

One of the most important elements to being a winning franchise is being a winning franchise. (Jeez, Jeff, thanks for the insight.) And if you think having back-to-back winning seasons is meaningless, here’s a piece of information for you: the Chicago Bears have only had back-to-back winning seasons TWICE since 1994. That’s two times, in 25 years. 1994-1995. 2005-2006.

(Side note: It is 100% pathetic that this franchise has not had three consecutive winning seasons since 1988.)

For Matt Nagy’s program, getting to at least nine wins is crucial towards building a winning culture.


Improve Offensively

The coach is still an offensive head coach.

A lot of the players on this offense are coming back in 2020. (At least I think they are.)

This group needs to find some production if for no other reason than to rebuild optimism for next season, even if the quarterback is changing. Find some rhythm. And find some damn points. If they don’t, it won’t take long for Matt Nagy to go from Coach of the Year to Hot Seat.


Get Something Out of the Quarterback

Mitch is not the guy. But barring odd developments in the next six months, he’s going to be one of the guys in Bourbonnais next summer. The Bears should be signing a veteran starter in March and drafting a potential starter in April. But if Trubisky is coming to camp, the Bears want him to at least arrive with the belief that he can win the job.

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ATM: Nick Foles? Leonard Williams? Become Sellers? Deadline Decisions Loom.

| October 22nd, 2019


If the Chicago Bears think they are going to improve on their own this season, they’re going to fade into 2019 irrelevance, just as they have for most of the last 30 years.

There isn’t an easy fix for these Bears, but with the trade deadline coming next Tuesday, there are a pair of big moves that could get them back on track and save what was supposed to be a Super Bowl season. And, if they can’t pull those off, there’s a third move that could make the future at least a little brighter.

Trade for Nick Foles

He isn’t necessarily the franchise quarterback the fan base has been longing for, but he’s at least competent. Foles is very likely the best the Bears can do at quarterback for the rest of this season. He knows the offense and has excelled in it. He’d bring instant credibility to the offense and knows how to get the job done at the highest level.

The 30-year-old has been on IR since Week One, but he’s slated to begin practicing this week, opening up a 21-day window for activation. We don’t know when, exactly, he’d be ready, but he could return in Week 10. It has generally been reported that he won’t be eligible to play until Week 11 but that, presumably, is because the Jaguars have a Week 10 bye.

The Jaguars would have to eat a lot of money in order to trade Foles, but they’d still have to pay that money and then Foles’ salary in order to keep him. With rookie Gardner Minshew playing well (10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions) the Jaguars likely will want to move on from Foles at some point.

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Trubisky is not the guy.

| October 21st, 2019


If you want to spend this Monday criticizing the defensive performance over the last two weeks, go right ahead. But I’m not going to join you. Sure they have struggled getting off the field but the Bears have a collection of terrific defensive players and they’ll be just fine in the long run.

If you want to question the vision and direction of the head coach over your morning coffee, go right ahead. Matt Nagy’s play-calling has been suspect (at best) and the offense lacks any semblance of coherence. But Nagy’s going to get time to right this ship because unlike his most recent predecessors, he has a 12-4 division title on his resume.

If you want to discuss the fumbling or the blocked punts or whatever other mistakes are on your mind before lunch, feel free to do just that. Those things shouldn’t happen to championship-caliber clubs and championship-caliber is what was expected from the 2019 Chicago Bears.

But those things aren’t the story today.

The story was picked number two and wears number ten.

The story plays the most important position in professional sports.

The story is Mitch Trubisky.

And the story is over.

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Saints at Bears Game Preview, Volume II: Rest of the Football Stuff

| October 18th, 2019

[NOTE: I’m not writing about Mitch Trubisky in this preview because what is left to say? He needs to play well. That’s all.]


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I believe in this coach. I believe he’s a very good coach. And a very good coach understands what needs fixing, fixes it and beats Teddy Bridgewater in his own building.


Oh When the Saints…

  • Alvin Kamara is not healthy and it greatly limits the effectiveness of this offense because Teddy Bridgewater, while statistically fine, has been mostly in a managerial role outside of exploiting a useless Tampa secondary. When pressured, especially by Jacksonville, Bridgewater has looked eager to choose avoiding big mistakes over making big plays. That works against bad defenses. Against the decent ones lately (Jax, Dallas), the Saints have scored 12 and 13 points.
  • The Saints defense is very good. From Bobby Hebert in a WWL Radio piece: “This is winning football no matter who the quarterback is. Over the last three games, the defense is giving up an average of 13.3 points per game…They’re allowing an average of 71.3 rushing yards. And, in this day and age, for total offense, they’re giving up under 250 yards. That speaks volumes. They’re trending in the right direction at an unbelievable rate. It’s really amazing to me that they’ve shown they can win in all three phases.”
  • Deonte Harris is one of the best returners in the NFL. The Bears can’t let him flip the field and make things easier on Bridgewater and the offense.

Ditka’s is Closing (Tweets of the Week)

These are the transcribed Tweets of the legendary Jackson D, of the Q Brothers Collective. Check out his Twitter feed. It’s good.

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Saints at Bears Game Preview, Volume I: An Open Letter to Matt Nagy

| October 17th, 2019

Dear Mr. Head Coach,

Your offense sucks.

I know that’s an abrupt way to start a letter, and may discourage you from reading any further, but I’ve never been known for my subtlety. Your offense isn’t struggling. It isn’t sub-average. It just flat out sucks. It sucks in America. It sucks in England. It sucks. And being an offensive-minded head coach, that’s on you.

Your left tackle, a damn good player, looks like he belongs in the XFL.

Your most dynamic weapon, Tarik Cohen, has been useless for five weeks.

Your quarterbacks, both of them, look like they left their playbooks in the men’s toilet at Rossi’s.

But more than anything else, this entire offense

lacks coherence. If someone were to ask me right now, “What is the Bears offense” I would have no earthly idea how to answer. And I have the strange suspicion you’d stammer a bit as well.

You were brought to this organization to modernize the operation, specifically when it comes to moving the football. (Hell, we even co-authored a tee shirt proclaiming you’d do just that.) Pace and Fox built the all-world defense. You were the finishing touch on one of the most dramatic rebuilds in organization history. Year One was a massive success. You won 12 games. You won the NFC North. But the offense had very little to do with that.

Year Two was supposed to be the year the complete picture emerged. But through five games, the offense not only doesn’t look better than 2018…it looks significantly worse.

So, you know, fix it. Just fix the fucking thing. Get creative. Coach the players up. Make this unit better. You had the bye week to diagnose the ailments and this thing is quite diseased. Now load up the syringe with penicillin and jam it into your offense’s ass. No more excuses.

There are about 15 teams that can win the Super Bowl and you coach one of them. But that status currently exists despite the script you author each week. Fix it. Because while you’ve tried to absorb the blame for the struggles, you’ve yet to receive much criticism.

That won’t last much longer.

Sincerely,

Some Guy in Queens

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ATM: These Eleven Games Will Define Mitch Trubisky

| October 16th, 2019


Reality came quickly for Marcus Mariota, as the former second pick overall was benched Sunday for Ryan Tannehill. His tenure as the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans seems to have come to an end after four seasons and change.

Mariota’s story should serve as a warning for Mitch Trubisky who, for better of worse, has eleven games to show the Chicago Bears if he’s the quarterback of their future. If the Bears are smart, they won’t wait any longer than that, or waste any more time, to make their judgment about the most position in all of sports.

Like Trubisky, Mariota was expected to make a big leap in his third season, after throwing 26 touchdowns in his second. He was expected to become the franchise quarterback nearly everyone – which included Ryan Pace – thought he was destined to be.

But Mariota never took off. His third season was a bust with (13 TDs/15 INTs). His fourth season showed some promise (11/8), but included numerous injuries and ultimately most of his success came running the football. The most complimentary way to describe his start to 2019 was ineffective.

Perhaps Mariota will rebound, most likely somewhere else? History tells us he won’t.

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Bears at the Bye: Defense (and Specials)

| October 15th, 2019

With five games under their belt, the Bears are roughly 1/3 of the way through the season. I already checked in on the offense, so today let’s take a closer look at how the defense is doing.


No Regression

I wrote this offseason that the Bears’ defense was likely to regress a bit from their 2018 selves but still be one of the best in the NFL. So far this year, you could make the argument that this defense is better in 2019 than it was in 2018, as you can see in the table below.

The Bears are giving up fewer points and getting more sacks than they did a year ago, but the turnovers and touchdowns (the 2018 stats most likely to regress) are both down a bit, which is why their DVOA has fallen so drastically. Still, this remains one of the absolute best units in the NFL, even if they had a thoroughly disappointing showing heading into the bye week. That alone should give the Bears a chance in every game they play.


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Bears at the Bye: Offense

| October 14th, 2019

With five games under the belt, the Bears are roughly 1/3 of the way through the season. Let’s check in on how they’re doing, starting with the offense.


Explosive Plays

I wrote this offseason about the importance of explosive plays (passes of 20+ yards or runs of 15+ yards) to an offense’s overall success, finding there is a very strong correlation between explosive plays and points scored. Chicago’s offense produced explosive plays at a slightly below-average rate in 2018, and I believed they were poised to improve dramatically in that category this year, and thus improve overall as an offense.

So far, the exact opposite has happened, as you can see in the table below.

The Bears have turned into one of the least explosive offenses in the NFL. They currently have 11 explosive passes and 2 explosive runs, and their current explosive rates would have ranked 31st and 32nd of 32 NFL teams in 2018 (I didn’t have time to compile the numbers for everybody in 2019 so far).

The run game is particularly egregious, as the lowest mark in the NFL last year was 3.1%. 1.7% is not even in the same ballpark. The Bears are 20th in average yards per carry before contact and 29th in yards/carry after contact, but I’m inclined to blame the offensive line more than the runners. Most of the time first contact seems to come not from one player in space, which might give the runner a chance to break a tackle and keep going, but with multiple front 7 players hitting the RB at the same time. It’s worth noting that the Bears’ running backs haven’t been great either though; Player Profiler ranks David Montgomery 36th among running backs in juke rate (evaded/broken tackles per carry), while Tarik Cohen is 55th. In Montgomery’s defense, he is 9th in the NFL in broken tackles per carry, according to Pro Football Reference.

I wrote this offseason that getting rid of Jordan Howard would help Chicago’s run game be more explosive, but so far they’re producing explosive plays on the ground at less than half the rate they did last year. Part of the problem is that Tarik Cohen and Mitchell Trubisky – who combined for 14 explosive runs on 167 carries last year, have no explosive runs so far this year, but David Montgomery only has 1 in his 69 attempts, and that’s far worse than Howard’s rate of 1 every 25 carries last year (which was already one of the worst marks in the NFL).

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