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ATM: Pagano Hire Solidifies Bears As Nagy’s Team

| January 15th, 2019

The hiring of Chuck Pagano to replace Vic Fangio confirmed one thing: this is Matt Nagy’s team.

The Bears won in 2018 because of their defense, first and foremost. It was a defense and coordinator Nagy inherited. When Fangio left, it would’ve been easy to go with the continuity candidate Ed Donatell. But Nagy took a chance, bringing in someone from the outside, someone who more represents Nagy’s style.

There is no measure that tells us if being aggressive is better than being conservative defensively, but there’s no question that Fangio was on the conservative end and Pagano fits Nagy’s aggressive mentality.

During the end of the season presser, Nagy described Pagano as having an “attacking style” before saying again that Pagano is aggressive.

Pagano’s lone season as a defensive coordinator, in 2011 with the Baltimore Ravens, represents that. Pagano’s Ravens sacked opposing quarterbacks on 8.2 percent of their drop backs, even better than the 2018 Bears’ rate of 7.5. Opposing quarterbacks finished with a passer rating of 68.8, throwing for just 11 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, all numbers comparable to the 2018 Bears.

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ATM: Pace Deserves Blame

| January 8th, 2019

Tomorrow is guaranteed to no one and Super Bowl contenders don’t come around often, especially in Chicago. And the Bears are home because Ryan Pace ignored what everyone else knew was a fatal flaw and kept Cody Parkey at kicker.

The fact that the last second kick was officially changed to a block doesn’t really matter. That tells us Parkey didn’t get enough air on what should’ve been an easy kick. A 43-yard kick shouldn’t have to be a line drive and it shouldn’t be blocked at the line of scrimmage. That’s just as bad as missing it outright.

Blame Parkey all you want, but did anybody think he was going to make it? If you let a toddler poor milk into his cereal, he’s going to spill the milk. If a cat sees a pen on the counter, he’s going to knock that fucking pen OFF THE COUNTER. If a bad kicker has a shot at a big kick, he’s going to miss.

These are commonly known facts. Why didn’t Pace know them?

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ATM: Trubisky Can Lead Bears to Something Special

| January 1st, 2019

“BOOM!

One more!

BOOM!

And another!

BOOM!

And now it gets real.”

That was the message from Matt Nagy after thoroughly kicking the butt of a team that fully expected to be contending for the Super Bowl this season. The Bears didn’t just knock the Vikings out of the playoffs. They offered a glimpse of how talented they actually are.

It’s been convenient to say the Vikings weren’t good or that they lost before the game even started. But that ignores the primary storyline heading into the game: the Vikings were “fixed.” They fired Flip and found Stefanski! Their offense had been corrected and they were the team nobody wanted to play.

Then the Bears broke them…again.

The Bears didn’t do anything flashy. The offensive game plan was vanilla. They did what they do defensively. They won that game simply because they were too good to lose it. They were that much better than a team that had a Super Bowl-worthy roster.

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Money Mitch Took A Big Step.

| November 13th, 2018

Facing a third-and-four, the Bears young quarterback had nowhere to go.

Consecutive touchdown drives and a day full of special teams mistakes put the Bears in a curious position with just about six minutes to go.

If they don’t get the first down, the Lions get the ball back with about five minutes left in the game – plenty of time for Matthew Stafford to orchestrate two touchdown drives.

Detroit rushed four and had former first round pick Jarrad Davis spying Money Mitch. He didn’t have anywhere to go.

Then he made something happen.

Trubisky tucked the ball and moved slightly to his left, just enough to make Davis move. Once Davis reacted, Trubisky jetted off to his right into a open space. He picked up the first down then slid for a gain of eight.

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Second Collapse Raises Questions About Defense

| October 16th, 2018

A fumble at the one.

An interception in the end zone.

The questionable decision to settle for kicking a 53-yard field goal in overtime.

None of it would have mattered if the Bears’ much-celebrated defense had done its part.

Just about everybody who had watched this Bears defense was quick to crown them as a great unit. Some went as far as to compare them to historic units of years past. But a collapse against one of the worst offenses in the league certainly raises questions, especially because it isn’t the first time it has happened.

It’s easy to blame the heat, but that would lead one to believe the Dolphins — and likely the Jaguars and Buccaneers — are unbeatable in their element. That isn’t reality. And, if we’re blaming heat for this collapse, what do we blame for the collapse against a gimpy Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay on Sept. 9?

This isn’t to minimize the impact the heat had on the Bears players. It’s certainly conceivable that it slowed them down late. But they still should’ve been good enough to overcome it against Brock Osweiler.

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Bears at the Bye: Looking at the Defense Position-By-Position

| October 10th, 2018

Secondary

I’m not going to look at safeties much because there hasn’t really been any rotation there and there aren’t many stats to quantify safety play (though I will say I feel good about my preseason pick of Eddie Jackson as the defense’s breakout star). Let’s jump right to the CBs then and take a detailed look at their performance using stats from The Quant Edge.

The first thing I want to note is that Chicago’s corners don’t move. Kyle Fuller has played exclusively on the right side (from the offense’s perspective) and Prince Amukamara has been exclusively on the left. Kevin Toliver II basically took Prince’s spot on the left post-injury, though he did play a few snaps in the slot. Nickel CB Bryce Callahan, meanwhile, played a few snaps outside after Prince got hurt but otherwise has been exclusively in the slot.

Next I want to look at how effective each CB has been in coverage, as well as how much man, zone, and press coverage they’ve played.

A few thoughts:

  • At first glance it might seem like Kyle Fuller has been the worst CB on the roster, but look beyond the passer rating. That takes a big hit because he’s given up 2 passing TDs and none of the throws targeted at him have resulted in interceptions yet. He’s been very good at keeping the completion percentage down, and the yards per target on throws aimed at him are much lower than anybody else. Make no mistake: he is the best CB on Chicago’s roster, and he is very good.
  • Fuller is actually the only CB credited with giving up a TD so far this year. He gave up two, which means the other 5 passing TDs the Bears have allowed are blamed on non-CBs. Meanwhile, five passes targeted at CBs have ended up intercepted. That’s a great ratio.
  • I find the press splits interesting. Toliver has never played press, and Fuller only does it about half as much as Prince and Callahan. That’s perfectly fine; each player has their own style that is obviously working well for them so far.

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Bears at the Bye: The Best Defense in Football? Sure Seems That Way…

| October 10th, 2018

Chicago’s defense has been awesome in the first month of the season. They’re among the best in the league in nearly every category that matters, and are ranked first overall in DVOA. Now I want to look a little more closely at how well they’re performing against both the run and pass in different areas of the field.


Defending The Run

Chicago’s run defense was solid in 2017, but it has been fantastic so far in 2018. They have shut opposing run games down, and they’ve done it pretty much across the board, as we can see below.

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing defense by zone, courtesy of the NFL Game Statistics and Information System. The line at the bottom is the line of scrimmage, runs are split into 7 zones, and attempts and yards per carry are listed for each zone, with ranks relative to the rest of the NFL in parentheses. The height of the bar is proportional to yards per carry, and bars are colored green for top 10, red for bottom 10, and yellow for middle 12. Note expected yards per carry varies by region, so the colors are relative to their peers in that region.

A few thoughts:

  • That’s a whole lot of green. Awesome. Last year’s version featured a lot more yellow and red. This is a good time to remind you that Khalil Mack is an elite run defender in addition to being one of the best pass rushers in the league.
  • Speaking of Khalil Mack, he and Akiem Hicks usually line up opposite the RG and RT. Notice where defenses are running towards? There are 38 runs to the left side – away from Mack and Hicks -compared to 21 towards them on the right.

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Bears at the Bye: Pass Catchers! Everywhere! Pass Catchers!

| October 9th, 2018

Now that we’ve seen Chicago’s new offense play four games, it’s time to examine what exactly it looks like. We’ve seen them run 271 plays, and while that’s still a fairly small sample size, it’s big enough that we can begin to pick up trends, search for predictable patterns that opposing defenses might begin to pick up on, and see if there are any situations their current approach could be improved.

Now we focus on the wide receivers and tight ends, examining how much they’re playing, how effective they’ve been, and how they’re being utilized.


Snap Counts and Predictabilities

First I want to look at how frequently each target is playing, and how their presence on the field impacts the offense’s performance. Data is from The Quant Edge.

A couple things to note about the table below:

  • I’m using success rate here instead of yards per play. That is to account for down and distance context. A two-yard play on 1st and 10 is bad, while a two-yard play on 3rd and 1 is good. The general idea is that a successful play keeps you ahead of the chains, but an exact definition is available here if you’re curious.
  • I didn’t include Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, or Trey Burton here because they’re almost always on the field; they’re all playing least 83% of the offensive snaps so far. This is more to look at the players who are situational and how they’re impacting the offense.
  • Anthony Miller’s data only includes the 3 games for which he was active.

A few thoughts:

  • On the surface, it looks like Anthony Miller has hurt the offense. Maybe he has. But he basically only plays in 11 personnel groupings, where there are 1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WRs on the field, and in general that grouping has been the least efficient passing formation in the NFL. In terms of the run game, I don’t actually know much about Miller as a blocker. It’s possible that he’s not blocking well and that’s hurting the run game, but it’s also possible something else is causing the difference.

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