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Data Entry: Bears Offense Found Better Balance in 2nd Half of 2017

| January 8th, 2018

When the Bears were on their bye week back in November, I looked at Chicago’s play-calling tendencies over rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky’s first four starts. In that study, I found that Dowell Loggains’ offense had been incredibly predictable through those four games. The team basically ran the ball if it was 1st or 2nd down and 10 or less and threw it if it was 2nd and 11+ or third down and anything.

This is obviously not a sustainable way to run an NFL offense, so let’s look at how those trends may have changed in the 8 games the Bears played after the bye. As before, all statistics come courtesy of the fantastic NFL play finder from Pro Football Reference.

1st down

In Trubisky’s first four starts, the Bears ran it 72% of the time on first down, but those numbers shifted dramatically following the bye. They actually passed more than running on 1st down in the last 8 games, with only 46% of their 1st downs featuring runs (I should clarify here that throughout this article passing plays are those which were called to be a pass, so either a pass attempt, sack, or QB rushing attempt, while runs are rushing attempts by anybody other than the QB. This assumes all QB runs are scrambles, which might slightly skew the data, but the Bears didn’t call many designed runs for Trubisky this year).

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Now, Do It Again.

| December 12th, 2017

The Bears looked like a professional football team Sunday. Well-coached. Brilliantly quarterbacked. Dynamic. Passionate. Tough. Young! From the second Mitch Trubisky was drafted with the second overall pick, 2017 became about building optimism for 2018. That’s life with a rookie quarterback, especially when there are first and second-year players littered across the roster. For the first time this season the future looked beyond bright for this organization. It looked downright special. Because of the quarterback. Because of the kids.

Now they need to do it again.

Detroit is still playing for something. A lot of things, actually. They’re home. They are only a game out of the playoffs. They have a head coach they love, currently resting his tuchus on one of the league’s warmest seats. They need this game. And believe me, they’re going to play like it.

Historically, at least in the history of John Fox’s tenure in Chicago, Saturday afternoon in Detroit is where the Bears would lay an egg. As soon as the slightest bit of optimism creeps into the minds of fans and onto the pages of the daily newspapers, Fox’s Bears no-show. There are a lot of damning statistics when it comes to this head coach but none more damning than his 0-7 record when favored. That means every time Vegas has expected the Fox Bears to perform, they have failed to do so. Every. Time. That’s hard to do.

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Data Responds: Bears at Bengals

| December 10th, 2017

Is this real life?

The Bears dominated on both sides of the ball, scored 30 points for the first time in over two years, and generally rolled over the dormant Cincinnati Bengals.

I know Cincinnati is bad and banged up, but so are the Bears, and this was a lot of fun. More importantly, this as led largely by young players for the Bears, which bodes well for the future. Let’s take a look at what happened.

Offense

  • The Bears came out and threw it on their first 2 plays! The first resulted in an awful Jordan Howard drop (drink), while the second was a beautiful play action rollout to Josh Bellamy for a 1st down. This unsurprisingly caught the Bengals’ defense off guard, and they backed off the defense into standard 7 man boxes instead of loading 8-9 up. As a result, the Bears ran it the next two plays for about 40 yards and a touchdown. That marked the first time this season that the offense scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game.
  • Before I get too down on Howard, how about giving it up for a great game from Chicago’s stud running back? He had his 12th 100 yard rushing game in 26 career starts and passed the 1,000 yard mark for the 2nd year in a row, making him the first running back in Chicago history to start his career that way. That’s pretty remarkable when you think of the great running backs who have played in Chicago.

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Across The Middle: Will the Real Dowell Loggains Please Stand Up?

| November 21st, 2017

Outside of maybe John Fox, the hottest seat in the city of Chicago belongs to that of offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. But in reality, do we even know if he’s bad?

Whether he intended to or not, Mitch Trubisky dropped a bombshell after Sunday’s game, saying he knows Loggains trusts him, but that Fox limits what they’re allowed to do. That’s Fox’s job and I can hardly blame him. The Bears had Tanner Gentry and Tre McBride lined out wide with a rookie quarterback two games ago. The results were completing less than 50% of their passes and an insanely high sack rate.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we still don’t really know what the offensive coordinator can do.

Some reflections:

  • Two of Loggains former quarterbacks — Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler — insist he’s a bright coach.
  • Cutler went as far as to say that he thinks Loggains is going to be a head coach one day.
  • Hasselbeck has appeared on the Waddle & Silvy Show several times and has been adamant that what you see on Sunday isn’t a reflection of the coordinator.
  • Mike Munchak vouched for Loggains, having employed him as his offensive coordinator once and selling him as the guy who was going to run his show should he get another head job.

That said, he’s never had an offense finish better than 19th in scoring or 15th in yardage. Last year, the Bears were 28th in points scored and they sit 27th so far this year. But, how much can we blame him for that?

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s Play-Calling Tendencies

| November 7th, 2017

On to play-calling tendencies.

There have been many, many complaints voiced about Chicago’s offensive play-calling this year, especially since Mitchell Trubisky took over at quarterback. With that in mind, I’m going to look at trends by down and distance in those 4 games. All statistics come courtesy of the fantastic NFL play finder from Pro Football Reference.

1st down

This should surprise absolutely nobody, but the Bears have been comically imbalanced on 1st down since Mitchell Trubisky started playing. They’ve had 95 first downs and called runs on 68 of them, good for 72% of the time (if you look only at the 1st 3 quarters, when game situations don’t impact calls as much, those numbers change to 54 runs on 70 plays, running 77% of the time).

Despite the predictability, they’ve actually been fairly successful running on average, picking up 4.5 yards per attempt, though it’s worth noting that drops to 3.0 when you remove two Jordan Howard runs of 50+ yards. 12 of those runs (18%) have lost yardage, and 20 gained 1 yard or less (29%). This has left the Bears consistently behind the chains, a problem that we’ll see compound on 2nd and 3rd down.

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Midseason Marks: Offense

| October 31st, 2017

The DBB team is evaluating the entire organization at this well-placed, exactly midseason bye week. The catch? Each of us is limited to ONE SENTENCE for each position group. Today we start with the offense.


Quarterback

Jeff: Trubisky is going to get 12 games of experience in close, competitive games – invaluable moving forward – and that’s all that mattered from the QB position in 2017.

Andrew: The present hasn’t been good, but the future looks bright.

Data: Mike Glennon is not good, Mitchell Trubisky is a rookie and the play calling has not helped either out.

DBB Grade: C-


Running Back

Jeff: Tarik Cohen’s versatility is exciting to watch but don’t sleep on Jordan Howard muscling his way to the rushing title as he’s only a hundred yards back.

Andrew: The best position group on the offense hopefully won’t be worn down by overusage.

Data: Jordan Howard must be getting sick and tired of getting hit behind the line of scrimmage.

DBB Grade: A


Wide Receiver

Jeff: This is just an awful collection of players.

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Big Picture: Ryan Pace Has 8 Games To Decide Future of Bears Offense

| October 30th, 2017

John David Mercer – USA TODAY Sports


Today could easily be spent on the particulars of the Bears 20-12 loss to the New Orleans Saints. We could talk about the ridiculousness of the Zach Miller overturn, a call that irrationally and irrevocably changed the outcome of the game, but Adam Hoge covered that brilliantly HERE. We could talk about another sterling defensive effort, marred by a few costly mistakes, but Adam Jahns detailed those HERE. We could talk about Connor Barth but, really, who wants to?

Yesterday wasn’t about the small things, however. Yesterday felt big picture.

The Bears – Ryan Pace, John Fox, Vic Fangio –  have built a championship defense. Not a decent defense or a good defense. A championship defense. And with a few off-season additions, it won’t matter who is coaching the unit. When the talent is that good and that deep you could bring Mel Tucker back and the Bears would still rank top ten in every meaningful defensive category.

[Note to Ryan Pace: Don’t bring Mel Tucker back. I was kidding.]

The offense is…the issue.

One couldn’t help wonder what Ryan Pace was thinking as he sat and watched his new team face his former team in the Superdome yesterday. It is well-documented how close the relationship between Pace and Sean Payton was during their time together and one has to believe there was some longing in the Bears GM’s heart Sunday.

Because the Saints offensive coaching staff was doing advanced mathematics at MIT. Their run game was varied and creative, using several formations and calls they hadn’t previously used this season. There was strategy in everything they did, with each early call having a late rationale. That’s not a wildly talented collection of offensive players but the coaching staff puts every one of them in the best position to succeed. Novel concept, huh?

The Bears offensive coaching staff was counting blocks at Wise Owl Nursery School in Belleville, NJ. (It is right between the McDonald’s and the bowling alley.) Read More …

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Chicago Wins Ugly Affair in Charm City (Rapid Fire)

| October 16th, 2017

Tommy Gilligan – USA TODAY Sports

Listen, it was an ugly affair at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. The Ravens offense isn’t capable of playing a pretty game. The Bears coaching staff had no interest in one. Thus you get a game like that. Thoughts…

  • Bears ran the ball 54 times, with 50 called runs. I won’t reiterate what Data wrote well post-game regarding the predictability of their rushing attack. I will just say this: the Bears have to stop coaching like Mike Glennon is under center. Their offense seems to be a combination of 1943 and gimmicks. Take the cuffs off Trubisky and let him play football.
  • Someone told you the punt game would play a pivotal role in this game. Who was that again?
  • Jordan Howard, prior to his 53-yard run in OT, was averaging just 3.25 yards per carry. Completely a product of play-calling. Running on obvious running downs and throwing on obvious passing downs won’t beat a team with a competent offense.
  • Kendall Wright is the Bears best receiver. Why can’t the coaching staff see that?
  • Trubisky’s big mistakes in his first start were trying to do too much when the play broke down. Love that he showed growth in his second start and didn’t hesitate to fling it out of bounds.
  • Also loved Trubisky’s slide technique. Don’t take hits you don’t have to, kid. Just look around the league. Quarterbacks are falling Antietam. (Too soon?)
  • Down around the goal line, Loggains has to let Trubisky’s legs be a weapon. These quick, one-read calls have to go.
  • Adrian Amos played his best game as a Bear but my game ball would go to Kyle Fuller. The former first-round pick looked like a complete, shut down corner. Why did Flacco keep throwing at him?
  • Good to see Pernell McPhee flying around. Looked like a different player from the guy on Monday night’s tape.
  • Akiem Hicks has the same number of sacks as Von Miller. He has more than Khalil Mack and Geno Atkins. It’s early in the season but Hicks is starting to put himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year. That’s how good he’s been.

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Data Responds: Bears at Ravens

| October 15th, 2017

It wasn’t a pretty game to watch, but the Bears got their first road win since 2015 behind an impressive effort by the defense. Baltimore had no business being in the game, but managed to push it to overtime after an impressive series of self-inflicted mistakes by the Bears in the fourth quarter.

Still, the Bears found a way to get Mitchell Trubisky his first career win and improve to 2-4 on the season. Let’s look at some key takeaways from the game.

Offense

  • The Bears continually put their offense in position to fail. There’s no other way for me to say this. They continually run the ball with predictable plays against 8-9 man boxes, which is why their running backs averaged less than 3.5 yards per rush.
  • This led to a number of 3rd and long situations, which was about the only time they actually let quarterback Mitchell Trubisky throw. It seems to me like 3rd and long pass attempts is not a great way to build your rookie quarterback’s confidence and get him into a rhythm.
  • The offense continues to be far too predictable. 1st and 2nd down are almost always runs, regardless of the defensive look. They never run out of shotgun, and rarely pass out of heavy sets. 90% of Tarik Cohen’s carries come to the outside. That leads to a lot of plays where the defense knows exactly what to expect, which is a death knell in the NFL.
  • With that said, credit offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains for a beautiful trick play that led to the first offensive touchdown. Tarik Cohen took a pitch, stopped, and heaved a 21 yard touchdown pass to tight end Zach miller, who was wide open in the end zone. That’s the second week in a row the offense pulled off a successful trick play. Now if only the other 99% of his play calls weren’t terrible.
  • Chicago’s personnel usage continues to be baffling. Their best pass catchers are Kendall Wright and Zach Miller, but both are playing limited snaps. The reason they’re not playing is that there are better run-blocking options, but sooner or later you need to give your quarterback somebody to throw to.
  • Given all of this, it’s difficult to evaluate Mitchell Trubisky’s play at quarterback. The coaches are basically not letting him play the position, and are putting him in position to fail when he does. He only had 16 pass attempts, plus 4 sacks and 4 scrambles for a total of 24 plays where he was asked to do anything other than hand off. Several of those were screens, which are basically extended handoffs, and Trubisky had to throw it away several more times.
  • You saw Trubisky’s physical skills with some nice throws down the field, including a pressured bomb on the run to Dion Sims for a touchdown, and some impressive scrambles. He also saved a Baltimore touchdown by corralling a bad Cody Whitehair snap in the end zone, breaking a tackle, and throwing the ball away. You also saw the inexperience as he had trouble from inside the pocket. Trubisky’s only turnover on the day was a fumble when he was hit from the blind side after somebody whiffed on a block. I don’t think you can pin much of that on the quarterback.
  • I had all that about Trubisky written up before OT. Now I have to add a separate point for the outstanding pass he made to Kendall Wright to put Chicago in FG range in overtime. He was forced to throw on 3rd and long after two stuffed runs (surprise surprise), and Baltimore brought the heat. Trubisky avoided the first rusher and made a beautiful pass to Wright for the first down. That is a big-time play that not very many NFL quarterbacks can make.
  • A game plan like this does very little to develop your rookie quarterback. It feels like the Bears need to take the shackles off and let him make mistakes and grow, but a win is a win.
  • Speaking of bad Cody Whitehair snaps, what gives there? He had several more today, continuing a season-long sophomore slump. At first, he had the excuse of bouncing around between guard and center, but he’s been squarely at center now for 3-4 weeks in a row and has no excuse left.
  • Jordan Howard had an outstanding day, with 36 carries for 167 yards. He was able to pick up some yards despite consistently pounding into a stacked box, showing his trademark patience and vision and running through tackles. He also put the team on his back in OT with a 53 yard burst after breaking a few tackles near the line of scrimmage. I can’t help but imagine what he could do if the defense respected the Chicago passing game.
  • Of course, Howard did have a boneheaded play at the end of the 4th quarter, where he ran out of bounds on 3rd and 20 to stop the clock and force Chicago to punt instead of letting the clock run out. It was shades of Marion Barber from 2011, but thankfully the miscue didn’t hurt the Bears this time.
  • Let’s also give a special incompetent shout-out to Chicago’s 2 minute offense at the end of both halves. In the 1st half, they had 1st and 10 at the 35 with 2:07 to go and two time outs left. Predictable run, predictable screen (which Trubisky had to ground since Baltimore was so ready or it), sack, and the Bears had to punt after -9 yards in only 27 seconds. That left Baltimore enough time to get points before the half. Then in the 4th quarter, they got the ball with a tie game at the 25 yard line, 1:37 and two time outs left. The first play was a running back screen to the middle of the field, then a bad snap, then a sack, then a run out of bounds instead of running out the clock. That’s poor coaching and poor execution, a killer 1-2 punch.

Defense

  • Chicago’s defense didn’t give up any points (or even a first down) on the first drive today. That makes the second fast start for the defense in a row, which has been a consistent problem for them under this regime. Unsurprisingly, they’ve been able to stay competitive in both games.
  • Another consistent problem for Chicago’s defense under these coaches has been an inability to force turnovers, but that was not an issue today either as they took the ball away from Baltimore three times. On the first, linebacker Christian Jones caused a fumble, which Danny Trevathan recovered. On the 2nd, safety Eddie Jackson forced a drop with a hard hit, and Bryce Callahan was able to come down with the interception. The third and final turnover was forced by a Kyle Fuller deflection; safety Adrian Amos took advantage with the easy interception, which he returned for what seemed like a game-clinching touchdown. With an offense that struggles to score points, the defense needs to make big plays like that week in and week out.
  • DE Akiem Hicks continued his monster season with several big run stops and a sack. He’s now up to 5 sacks on the season, and is on pace to hit double digits, an impressive feat for a 3-4 defensive lineman. Hicks didn’t get enough national recognition for his breakout season last year, but he absolutely should be in the Pro Bowl (and possibly an All Pro) if he keeps this up.
  • Rookie safety Eddie Jackson had another solid game, but he did have one horrible angle that allowed Baltimore to break off a 30 yard run. Still, he broke up a few passes and had solid tackling in other situations. Jackson has already established himself as Chicago’s best safety.
  • Cornerback Kyle Fuller also continued his bounce-back season with an outstanding game. He provided solid coverage throughout the game, including three straight targets in the end zone that Baltimore was unable to complete, and laid out several defenders with big hits. Fuller was also consistently around the ball, logging 3 passes defensed and tipping a ball to Adrian Amos for an interception.
  • 2nd year safety DeAndre Houston-Carson got a few defensive snaps today as a 3rd safety. I’m surprised that came ahead of Deon Bush, and will be something to watch going forward.

Special Teams

  • It was an ugly day for the special teams, as they gave up not one but two touchdowns. The first came after Chicago had just scored to go up 17-3, and Ravens return man Bobby Rainey hit the ground after being tripped up by his own blocker. All the Bears stopped, assuming he was down, but Rainey got up and ran for an easy touchdown to get Baltimore back in the game. Then they gave up a long punt return touchdown where nobody even got close to return man Michael Campanaro. That’s just inexcusable incompetence.
  • Punter Pat O’Donnell had himself quite the game, at least in regulation. He repeatedly pinned Baltimore inside their own 20 when given the chance, and flipped field position in the 2nd half with a booming 67 yard punt.  he then shanked a 33 yard punt in OT, giving Baltimore excellent field position.
  • Special teams ace Sherrick McManis got injured early in the game and did not return. The Bears said it was a hamstring injury, and we can only hope it’s not serious. Running back/special teamer Benny Cunningham also left the game with a hamstring issue.

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Across The Middle: Fox & Co. Officially on the Hot Seat

| October 11th, 2017

Forget, if you can, the clown show on first quarter fourth down in which the Bears were going for it, then they weren’t, then they did, only to have a delay of game. After another game with so many of the same mistakes, it’s hard to have confidence that John Fox is the guy to get the Bears back on track.

Fox’s teams are often ill-prepared and rarely disciplined. That has been a constant since late in the coach’s tenure with the Panthers. His teams commit back-breaking penalties and awful turnovers. Game after game. They never get it right. But even with these fatal flaws, Fox has still won a lot of games. Primarily because he is very good at building talented rosters.

What is truly disheartening is what we saw from Dowell Loggains.

I’ve praised the Bears offensive coordinator’s work with the likes of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. The game he called Monday night with Trubisky was predictable and displayed a lack of understanding his opponent.

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