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FOCO Week 10 Game Preview: Vikings at Bears, Volume II

| November 16th, 2020


FOCO is giving away the product above (full description available HERE) to the winner of tonight’s contest. It’s going to be a super cold winter across the country and having a hoodie that doubles as a mask will help.

So what is tonight’s contest? Guess the total yards COMBINED for Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Darnell Mooney receiving. (Receiving only.) For context, their totals over the last three games are 183, 229 and 130. So a wide range is possible.

As always the rules:

  • Guess must be made in the comments section below.
  • Guess must be made in an isolated comment.
    • Do not make the guess in the body of a longer comment. Do not make the guess in the thread of another discussion. I’m not going searching for your guess.
  • Pay attention! Once someone guesses 169, 169 is dead. If you repeat 169, you’re guess is void.

Good luck! On to the remainder of the game preview!


On Matt Nagy Giving Up Play-Calling

As was broken in the comments section last week, Matt Nagy won’t be calling the plays tonight. It was the only move for him to make and it’s overdue.

Will this move fix the offense? Of course not. But when your offense is performing at a level this low, you have to empty the trunk and bring out the gimp. No move is too dramatic. If changing the play-caller means even two or three extra first downs a game, you do it.

Nagy didn’t want to . I get it. “I love it” he said repeatedly about calling plays. We take this game so seriously sometimes that we forget it’s a game and it’s supposed to be fun for EVERYBODY involved. Nagy just relinquished the part of the game he loves most. That ain’t easy.

And as much as I fell this move was belated, it should still be applauded. A mature head coach is benching his stubborn offensive coordinator.


Haiku

Calling plays no more,

Nagy paces the sideline.

His headset, on mute.


Bears on the Hot Seat

Offense. Allen Robinson. There’s no doubting that Robinson is this club’s number one receiver but he is looking for Michael Thomas money. Is it too much to ask for him to win 50/50 balls? Is it too much to ask for him dominate an inferior opponent? The Bears don’t need 4-for-70 from ARob tonight. They need 11-for-140. And they need that production to occur while the game is still being contested, not in garbage time. You can blame the quarterback play all you want but great receivers elevate mediocre quarterbacks. Is Robinson a great receiver?

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ATM: Offense is Terrible, But Did We See Signs of Improvement Sunday?

| November 4th, 2020


None of it was pretty. But 23 points and roughly 330 yards was about the best anybody could have or should have expected from the Chicago Bears offense on Sunday. That is a sad statement. But it is our current reality.

Already with a bad offensive line, the Bears got worse up front early in the game when Bobby Massie went down. His replacement, Jason Spriggs, is a backup for a reason, and a backup on this offensive is most likely a third stringer elsewhere. The Bears ended the game with an offensive line that included two UDFAs (one was a defensive lineman three years ago), a seventh-round pick turned average veteran, a second-round bust and a first-round bust. Some teams can win with a bad offensive line. A team with Nick Foles at quarterback can’t. To their credit, the Bears battled and scored 23 points against a Saints defense just hitting its stride.

The offense wasn’t good enough by NFL standards, but it could have been good enough to win Sunday. If the Bears defense plays to their potential, the same type of performance could also be good enough to win enough games down the stretch.

Could this have been a performance upon which to build?

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Week 8 Game Preview: Oh When the Saints, Come Marching In!

| October 29th, 2020


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…defense.


Definitive Week for Matt Nagy, Caller of Plays

A friend of mine works for the New Orleans Saints in their scouting department. When discussing this week’s game, and the prospect of Matt Nagy relinquishing the role of play caller, he noted, “If they can’t move the ball vs our secondary next week…then it’s really time.”

Last week, Mike Davis had 7 carries for 12 yards against the Saints front. Let me just repeat that. Mike Davis, the starting running back for the Carolina Panthers, had 7 carries. For 12 yards. (New Orleans is the fourth-ranked rush defense in the league.) One would think that such a porous running game would have made it impossible for Teddy Bridgewater to execute the passing attack. But the opposite was true. Bridgewater – who pitched to a quarterback rating of about 50 against the Bears – was nearly perfect against the Saints. 23-28. 254 yards. 2 touchdowns. QB rating of 128.3.

You don’t need a running game to move the ball and score points on these Saints. And that’s good. Because the Bears don’t have one. If Nagy can’t draw up production from the passing game this week, it would be very difficult to see him calling the plays against the Tennessee Titans next week.


Nine Favorite Films of 1979, the Year of Drew’s Birth

(9) Monty Python’s Life of Brian

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(8) The Jerk

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(7) …And Justice For All

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ATM: Anthony Miller’s No-Show Sunday Proves Bears Need Allen Robinson

| September 22nd, 2020


Last week a strong argument emerged that the Bears might be better off not extending Allen Robinson’s contract, instead relying on Anthony Miller to be the team’s top wide receiver.

That argument died on Sunday.

Calling the two passes Miller didn’t catch drops is disingenuous. Both would’ve required phenomenal moments from the young receiver. But Miller has that ability! What changed from Week One when he made those plays to Week Two when he couldn’t? How can the Bears rely on him when they don’t know what they’re getting from week-to-week?

Dan Pompei was among those who promoted that idea that the Bears could have a number one receiver in Miller. Nobody questions that Miller has the talent to be The Guy, but NFL history is littered with talented wide receivers who never developed the consistency to be The Guy. See: Price, Peerless.


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Practice Notebook: A Different Summer, A Different World (8/31/20)

| August 31st, 2020

Saturday would have been the third preseason game; the final opportunity for those trying to grab the 2-3 spots at the bottom of the roster. Instead Saturday was just another Saturday, and the last time any laymen would have an opportunity to look at the 2020 Chicago Bears before their season opener.


How Different This Summer Has Been

Writing about an NFL team has a seasonal rhythm to it. After the dead period of May and June, July begins a slow, deliberate crescendo to the nervously thrilling first whistle of opening day. In my case, there’s always a boozy, beachy Labor Day weekend that serves as a calm before the season’s storm. Then that Tuesday it’s all day, every day, until the season ends. Not this year, except for the boozy bit.

No fans at training camp has meant no leaked video or secretive email reports. These usually start flooding my email box on the first day of camp and don’t stop. And honestly, they’re pretty helpful. Last year, while many were excited about the prospect of Riley Ridley making a rookie impact, I was getting word early on that the kid was completely overwhelmed by the professional game. Turned out to be the truth.

The media isn’t shown anything of worth anymore and now can’t say much about what they are shown. So we’re left with scraps of reports.

No joint practices or preseason games means there’s nothing to which we can tangibly react, which has predictably taken all the dramatic steam out of the quarterback competition. This summer, for the first time since I started doing this, I was excited for the preseason because it was going to determine the starting quarterback.

Instead the season will just…start. Sunday September 13th will come. We will all wake up, have our breakfast, settle into our routines, and the game will begin. And fans across the league will be surprised by what they see.


Statement from Chicago Bears Players

Like many in the sports world, the Bears took a pause on Thursday to meet and discuss the racial issues facing our country. Their statement:

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Least Explosive Team in the NFL, or the Story of the 2019 Chicago Bears

| February 4th, 2020

I’ve been working my way through the Bears’ 2019 performance to see what changed from 2018 that caused them to slip from 12-4 to 8-8. Today, I want to look at explosive plays, which I found last season have a strong correlation to overall offensive performance.

There are a variety of definitions for explosive plays depending on who you ask, so I want to clarify I’m using parameters laid out by ESPN NFL Matchup, which counts any run that gains 15+ yards or pass that gains 20+ yards as explosive. Let’s start with a preliminary look at how the Bears did in 2019 relative to the rest of the NFL. All data is from Pro Football Reference, with explosive play information coming from the Game Play Finder. Pass percentages were calculated including sacks and pass attempts as pass plays.



That’s ugly.

If you want to compare to 2018, the Bears slipped across the board. They had 71 explosive plays in 2018, with explosive rates of 7% overall, 5.3% on runs, and 8.4% on passes. All of those numbers in 2018 were slightly below average, ranging from 18th to 21st in the league, while they are all bottom 2 in 2019.

So what happened to cause such a slump? Like I’ve done when evaluating both the running and passing games, I want to break down what it looks like for individual Bears players and/or position groups from season to season. That information is shown in the table below, with all cells formatted by 2018 / 2019 data. (I’ll note the pass rates are a bit higher for pass catchers than QBs because they are only out of targets and exclude sacks and throwaways.)


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A Complete Breakdown of the Quarterback Position’s Efficiency for 2018

| June 3rd, 2019

The offseason is the perfect time to do a deep dive into what exactly we saw on the field last year, so today I want to look more closely at how Chicago’s QBs performed in 2018. To do so, I’m going to compile all of the information about individual targets from The Quant Edge and use it to see what we can learn about QB play as a whole.

Before we begin, I want to note two limitations.

  • This doesn’t split data into individual QBs, so unfortunately I can’t separate out the games Trubisky played and use only those. Still, Trubisky accounted for 85% of Chicago’s pass attempts in 2018, so this should still be useful to help us generally learn more about him.
  • This data only includes WRs and TEs, so I will not be able to incorporate any information about the 132 pass attempts that went to RBs (and Bradley Sowell). I really wish they included Tarik Cohen in particular, considering he finished 3rd on the Bears in targets, but no such luck.

With that said, let’s get started.


Route Efficiency

How effective were Chicago’s QBs targeting various routes?

That data can be seen in the table below, sorted from most to least targeted. I also highlighted routes that were particularly efficient in green, and routes that were particularly inefficient in red.

A few thoughts:

  • The Bears loved their go routes, but they sure didn’t work well in 2018. As previously noted, Trubisky had issues with deep accuracy, and maybe that was part of the problem. And you can argue there is value in go routes to back the defense off. But still, 26% completion rate is not acceptable for a route they utilize that frequently, and there were 5 interceptions thrown on go routes as well. If you’re looking for one bright spot on go routes, Allen Robinson caught 40% of his targets for over 16 yards/target.

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2019 Chicago Bears Off-Season Agenda: Part Two, Complementary Pieces

| February 7th, 2019

The Bears are in the position most NFL franchises want to be in February. They don’t need to spend the next three months searching for starters. They’re looking for complementary pieces to fortify a championship run. And there are several places they should look.


WINGSPAN OUT WIDE

Mitch Trubisky has a miss, especially when he’s throwing deep left. The miss is high. When he gets too pumped up – much like a starting pitcher – the miss is high. There’s no guarantee he’ll continue having this miss as I’m in the camp the Trubisky of September 2019 will bare little resemblance to the Trubisky of September 2018. But in the meantime, why not put a bit more size on the outside? The Bears have a star number one in Allen Robinson and tons of speed around him. But they’ve got no reach.

So why not look for a power forward – a big man to post up at the sticks on third-and-six and catch the ball in traffic? Could that be someone like Kelvin Benjamin or Michael Floyd? Sure, if the money is right. Is the answer possibly in-house, with someone like Javon Wims stepping up in 2019? It’s possible but I’m always wary of depending on players who struggle to even crack the 53 in their rookie season, especially at a position that saw multiple injuries.

The Bears need to add a different kind of player to this group. Someone with size and physicality.


EXPLOSION AT RUNNING BACK

Emily made a thorough argument against the Bears signing Kareem Hunt.

I made the case, as best I could, for the Bears pursuing the troubled running back.

Andrew explained why this Matt Nagy offense needs Kareem Hunt.

Nagy can’t run his offense without an every-down running back who threatens the opposing defense in the passing game.

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Even if the Bears don’t acquire Hunt, they need to acquire a player LIKE Hunt.


MORE AT OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

I texted a league source in November with a question I’m fond of asking: “Tell me something about this Bears team I’m not smart enough to see.”

His response: “Leonard Floyd is playing out of his mind.” He went on to break down the many things Floyd was doing in coverage and explained to me how few outside backers – if any – were capable of that.

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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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