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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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Data Responds: Bears vs. Vikings

| October 10th, 2017

In rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s debut, the Bears got the ball to start, and marched right down the field. Trubisky looked sharp on several impressive throws, including one huge third down completion to Tre McBride that set Chicago up on Minnesota’s 9 yard line.

Except a holding penalty by center Cody Whitehair brought the Bears back to 3rd and 20 out of field goal range. One screen pass later, they punted, costing themselves at least three points.

That would lay the foundation for a frustrating first half of missed opportunities, when a long list of penalties (some more dubious than others) led to Chicago getting no offensive points despite passing midfield on four drives.

Unsurprisingly, those missed opportunities came back to haunt them in the second half, as a late Minnesota field goal led to a 20-17 win.

Coaching

  • They get their own section again, which usually means bad things. And we’re starting here, because it was terrible.
  • John Fox took too long to decide whether to go for it on 4th and 2 in the first quarter, which forced the Bears to call a time out. Out of the time out, they took too long to get the play in, resulting in a delay of game and punt. That was an ugly sequence that was 100% the fault of the coaches. Then in the 2nd half, they had to burn a time out when the Vikings had 1st and 19 due to confusion with defensive play calls.
  • The Bears were also incredibly sloppy early on, with several early penalties negating big plays and/or putting them behind the chains. Some of the calls didn’t seem particularly great by the officials, but overall they need to get out of their own way and stop beating themselves. That’s the mark of a poorly coached team.
  • Dowell Loggains also had a terrible game. He fell into predictable patterns we’ve seen through four games, with obvious runs on 1st down and too many horizontal passes. They ran out of heavy sets and threw out of shotgun, with not enough variability mixed into those sets. This routinely set the Bears up in 3rd and long situations, which is not where you want a rookie quarterback (or any offense, really) to be. To his credit, Loggains did have a beautiful play call on a game-tying 2 point conversion in the 4th quarter, but overall he had a rough night.

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Audibles From the Long Snapper: Five Guys In Need of a Solid Sunday

| December 29th, 2016

In only four days, it ends.

WHO COULD USE A SOLID SUNDAY?

  • Matt Barkley. #Barkleytime has something. Call it moxie. Call it guts. Call it chutzpah. Does he have the physical tools of an Aaron Rodgers or Jay Cutler? No. But he’s certainly shown over his first five starts that he has enough to make it as a quarterback in the NFL. Barkley can go a long way towards cementing his inarguably successful 2016 by rebounding from his poor performance a week ago. And it would be hard to see him not playing a prominent role in Bourbonnais if he played well Sunday in Minnesota.
  • John Fox. Don’t think there’s any chance of his being fired because injuries (especially at QB) and suspensions (to 2 of the Bears 5 best players) will give him a free pass into 2017. But neither Fox nor Ryan Pace want to see the head coach finish this season being walloped twice. While not winning, the Bears fought almost every single week and kept most games close. Fox needs to show his team still, even as the season concludes, wants to fight for him.
  • Jonathan Bullard. Let’s be honest, Bullard has had a nothing rookie season. When the coaching staff is playing Mitch Unrein instead of you, it probably means you’re Mitch Ungood. But Bullard flashed against Washington – his first flashes all year – and a second consecutive decent performance could help the rookie’s confidence as he heads into a pivotal offseason for his development.
  • Charles Leno. The Bears starting left tackle received a glowing endorsement from Pace last offseason and has performed well overall in 2016. But he had unquestionably his worst performance of the season against Washington, allowing Preston Smith to walk around him as he carved the man’s bust for Canton. If Leno wants to hold onto his starting role in 2017 he might not want to leave Pace with the taste of two howlers to close out the campaign.
  • Adrian Amos. Injuries have been the biggest disappointment of 2016. Amos is the runner-up. The safety was never expected to display dominant ball skills but his struggles in run support (poor angling, inefficient tackling…etc.) have left many believing the Bears need two new players at the position in 2017 to become an elite defensive unit.

Enjoy!

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Five Things I Wish the 2016 Bears Had (#3)

| September 1st, 2016

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#3 – A Sure Thing Offensive Tackle (For Protection)

Charles Leno Jr. is the left tackle and I believe was the most underrated player on the 2015 Chicago Bears. Is he a great player currently? No. Can he be great? Unless you come to that question with an agenda, there’s no way to answer it.

Bobby Massie is the right tackle and, well, he’s okay. Good run blocker. Slightly below average pass protector. Massie’s signing doesn’t prohibit the Bears from addressing the position next spring but the Bears believe pairing Massie with friend and workout partner Kyle Long will give them the power run game they desire.

Neither is a guarantee on third-and-seven. And in the NFL it is easy for offensive coordinators to cover up for one struggling tackle in pass protection. Trying to cover up for two puts the offense in a phone booth & limits any and all opportunities for explosiveness.

Remember, the 2016 Bears may not have this issue. I just wish the question wasn’t there.

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