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Bears Beat Rams, Cementing Playoff Position and League Stature

| December 10th, 2018

Photo credit: New York Times.


Last night paid it off. Was it perfect? By no means. But on a cold night in Chicago the 2018 Bears provided their moment; their signature (regular season) victory. Rapid fire…

  • Trubisky was terrible. There’s no reason to sugarcoat it. Young quarterbacks are going to have games like this and all you can do is hope they grow from it. Mitch looked antsy in the pocket, was sailing balls to wide open receivers and made 2-3 decisions you simply can’t make. (The pick at the end of the first half was inexcusable.) Jared Goff was worse. And that’s why the Bears won.
  • Kyle Fuller’s interception late third quarter was the most important play of the game. Fuller’s had a brilliant season but it was clear in that moment this Bears defense wasn’t going to be defeated. Fuller shouldn’t just be going to be the Pro Bowl this season. He should be named an All Pro corner. He’s been the best in the NFL.
  • Eddie Goldman registering a sack/safety made me incredibly happy. Goldman is the unsung hero of this defense; the most important component of the league’s second-best rush unit. (New Orleans is quietly great against the run.) He deserves to fill the stat column every once in a while.
  • Aaron Donald did nothing. Who gets the credit? Everybody. But it starts with James Daniels.


  • Injuries may be the story that lingers from Sunday night. Bryce Callahan’s looked the most serious. Leonard Floyd delivered his most complete performance in years but couldn’t finish it. Bears need both of these guys down the stretch.

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Bears Whack Lions, Move to 6-3

| November 12th, 2018

AP Photo (Edited) / Nam Y. Huh


It felt way closer than it ever was, this Bears v. Lions game. And there was one reason for that. Rapid fire is coming!

  • Cody Parkey doinking four kicks – two field goals and two extra points – was one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen in football. And while it is somewhat funny in a game the Bears dominated, the team must know there is ZERO chance Parkey can make a big kick in a big spot down the stretch. Didn’t cost them Sunday. It will cost them down the road.

  • Tweet above should be alarming to fans. The Bears should have kickers in this week. Nagy doesn’t do anybody on this roster any favors with blind loyalty. Parkey has been terrible. Why would you not look to improve the position?
  • Mitch Trubisky spent the week hearing he wasn’t the answer at quarterback. Then he delivered a masterpiece. What’s the criticism going to be now? It’s only the Lions? The same Lions that held Tom Brady to 133 yards? Trubisky’s numbers don’t lie. He’s going to be a top quarterback.
  • Anthony Miller has to know you can’t swat the football out of bounds. Oh, and he’s gonna be really good.

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Four Bold Predictions for the 2018 Chicago Bears: Prediction Two

| August 31st, 2018


Prediction Two

Eddie Goldman will make the Pro Bowl.


Why?

  • Goldman is the most underrated player on this roster because he plays one of the game’s least flashy positions. It is difficult for monstrous blocker eaters to make the Pro Bowl or win awards because they don’t light up the stat sheet. So a secondary part of this prediction is Goldman will get to 7 sacks on the season, just 1.5 shy of his career total.
  • The league slept on Akiem Hicks a year ago. That won’t be the case in 2018 so it shouldn’t be surprising if opposing offensive coordinators scheme Hicks out of games. Chicago’s lack of rush prowess off the edge should make this a forgone conclusion. Goldman will have the opportunity to dominate.
  • Nose tackles take time to hit their stride in the NFL. It took until his fifth season in the league for Haloti Ngata to mount a five-sack campaign. He went on to mount three straight, elevating his status in the league dramatically. It’ll only take Goldman until his fourth season to start climbing the league’s respect ladder.

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The Positional Quick 3: Defensive Line

| June 21st, 2018

I’m traveling in Dingle, Ireland years ago and I’m exhausted. This was my first day ever in Europe and I couldn’t keep my eyes open at 4:30 in the afternoon. My uncle turns to me and says, “Have a quick three. You’ll be fine.” I drank three Guinness in the span of a half hour. Seven hours later I’m dancing to a shitty Irish house DJ with Jenny Pye, a local lass who dreamed of being an EMT in New York City.

I’m very tired of this 2018 off-season. And incredibly eager for the season to begin. So I’m taking the quick three approach to each position group as we head into the summer. Not grading the groups or anything. Just making some points.


Defensive Line

  • Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman are the core of everything this defense wants to do. When they’re on the field, they become the focal point of opposing offensive coordinators because they are both capable of ruining a game. Hicks is the flashier talent but Goldman is just as valuable. They Bears can’t be an elite defense without both.
  • There is cautious optimism inside the building that a light went on for Jonathan Bullard at the end of last season. But I’d warn fans against sharing that optimism. Coaches ALWAYS believe they can get through. They never believe a player is incapable of taking the leap. Bullard flashed down the stretch in 2017 but can he be a disruptive force for sixteen games? We shall see.
  • Roy Robertson-Harris and Bilal Nichols will play and play an awful lot if Bullard does not impress this summer. Nichols is the player to keep an eye on. From a source inside the organization: “Fangio fell in love with this kid on day one. He’s got a chance to be a star.”

Tomorrow: Linebackers

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Getting to the Quarterback Key To Goldman’s NFL/Earning Potential

| May 23rd, 2018

Eddie Goldman was one of the first key defensive additions for Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio as they rebuilt the unit. But his staying and earning power could depend upon his ability to get after the quarterback.

First, nobody questions whether or not Goldman is a good player. He is a very, very good player. But the Bears have to decide exactly how much they value a run-stuffing defensive tackle in a passing league. But Goldman, according to media reports, is primed to become one of the league’s higher-paid defensive linemen. In order for that to happen, he’ll have to convince the Bears they don’t need to take him off the field on passing downs.

Goldman has shown the ability to get after the quarterback.

  • As a rookie he managed 4.5 sacks and regularly generated pressure up the middle.
  • In his second season he added 2.5 quarterback take downs in just five games.
  • His total dropped to 1.5 in 2017, despite playing significantly more snaps.

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Back-to-Back Audibles: Finley on the DL, Nagy Inspires the Cubs, Bennie Fowler, Links!

| April 16th, 2018

Finley on the Defensive Line

From Patrick Finley and the Sun-Times – who now finally have a readable website thanks to the fine folks at WordPress:

If Pace is able to sign Goldman to a contract extension before the final year of his rookie deal — the Bears are trying — he could have two stellar talents locked up for the next four years, when Hicks’ deal expires.

The Bears, of course, have three starting defensive line positions.

Their interest in drafting someone to develop alongside Hicks and Goldman depends on how vital they view that third spot to be. The Bears typically rotate defensive linemen, lessening the need for an every-down end opposite Hicks, who played about 85 percent of the team’s snaps last year. In nickel and dime packages, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio often replaces an end with a linebacker in hopes of creating pass-rush mismatches.

The Bears never settled on an end to start alongside Hicks last year. Jonathan Bullard, who Pace drafted in the third round in 2016, played 40 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps, veteran Mitch Unrein 37 percent and former undrafted free agent Roy Robertson-Harris 20 percent. At the end of the season, Pace singled out Bullard and Robertson-Harris as players who made significant leaps during the year.

Perhaps as a result, the Bears didn’t add anyone to replace Unrein when he signed a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Buccaneers last month.

My personal belief is the Bears don’t put a tremendous value in this third defensive lineman position. They will continue to get production there from low-risk veterans and late draft picks.

Also, I have it on good authority that both Ryan Pace and Vic Fangio believe Jon Bullard can be a top player in the league. Not just good. Top. Has he shown that potential? No. At least not in the game tape. But they believe they’ve seen flashes.

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Data Entry: Establishing Ryan Pace’s Draft Profile, Day 2

| April 10th, 2018

Now that Ryan Pace has been here a while, it’s possible to look at his past drafts to see what lessons can be learned from his approach. This can help us cautiously look ahead to the 2018 draft to see what he might be thinking.

With that goal in mind, I’m going to spend three weeks looking at how Pace has approached the three days of the draft, and then applying that approach to 2018 to see what players are likely being considered for the Bears this year. I looked at day 1 last week, so today will be day 2 (rounds 2-3).


Draft History

2015: Eddie Goldman, DT, 39th pick; Hroniss Grasu, C, 71st pick

2016: Cody Whitehair, OL, 56th pick (after 2 trade downs); Jonathan Bullard, DL, 72nd pick

2017: Adam Shaheen, TE, 45th pick (after trading down)

Trend 1: Trade Down

Ryan Pace has been a big fan of trading down for extra picks in round 2. He did it twice before selecting Cody Whitehair in 2016 and once before taking Adam Shaheen in 2017. Given that the Bears are short a third round pick this year, I think he will be working the phones looking to do that again in round 2.  Read More …

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Data Responds: Bears at Vikings

| December 31st, 2017

Sorry for the break the last few weeks. I haven’t been able to watch games live due to various holiday scheduling hijinks. Darn that real life for getting in the way!

Before we get into today’s game specifically, reports are that John Fox will be fired today. I won’t miss you as Chicago’s head coach.

In general, this game looked very much like a disinterested team playing out the string on the road for a soon-to-be-fired coaching staff against a hungry opponent playing to lock up a first round bye.

Offense

  • The Bears got the ball to start and opened with a heavy set Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for no gain. On their 2nd drive, they followed that up with a Jordan Howard run into a stacked box for -4 yards. Shockingly, both drives ended in 3 and outs. Oh how I am not going to miss that.
  • On Chicago’s 3rd drive, they threw the ball on 1st down! You’ll be surprised to find out that not being incredibly predictable actually worked. Of course, the Bears followed that up with a FB dive into a 9 man box on 3rd and 1 (why is Michael Burton still a thing?), which lost yardage and forced a punt. Before they could get the punt off, the Bears took a delay of game penalty, because of course.
  • Rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky had a bad rookie moment that resulted in a safety. Under pressure, he kept backing up until he was in the end zone, which was the mistake. He then threw the ball away to pick up an intentional grounding penalty, which is a safety in the end zone. My complaint is not with the grounding, but with the fact that he backed up into the end zone first. He could have taken the sack at the 3 yard line, and needs to know the field position situation there.
  • Trubisky also had a terrible throw in the fourth quarter where he missed a wide-open Dontrelle Inman because his feet were not properly set. Despite a clean pocket, he did something weird where he torqued his upper body, which caused him to put the ball far too wide and out of bounds. Those mechanical issues, and the corresponding accuracy concerns, have been a repeated problem this offseason, and are the #1 thing Trubisky needs to work on this offseason.

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219 Comments

Across The Middle: Tightening Pace’s Leash

| November 29th, 2017

The Bears could’ve had the best coaches in the history of football and they still would’ve lost to the Eagles by 20 points.

Say what you will about John Fox and company — and it’s probably all fair — but the hard truth is that the Bears don’t have enough good players. A lot of that is due to injury. Losing their top two receivers and all four starting linebackers is a tough blow. But still, they should be able to put up a fight!

Let’s look at who was available Sunday against Philadelphia:

  • Markus Wheaton is paid like a starter.
  • Nick Kwiatkoski should be a starter at this point anyway. Christian Jones has played like one.
  • Deiondre Hall, Deon Bush and Hroniss Grasu should all be starters.
  • Jon Bullard was drafted to be a major piece. He shouldn’t be warming the bench behind a journeyman at this point.
  • Pernell McPhee has turned into a ghost.

I like Ryan Pace. Most fans do. I’d argue his plus decisions far outweigh his minuses but nowhere near as much as the losses outweigh the wins.

The Bears are at a crossroads.

They will, and I still believe should, allow Pace to hire the next coach. But what if they’re 3-8 next year too? Do they just hit the reset button again? How long can they reasonably expect this loyal fan base to be patient? They are currently suffering through one of the worst four-year stretches in team history.

I’ve long said the primary reason I wouldn’t want to hire Jim Harbaugh or Josh McDaniels is because they’d want to be Pace’s boss too, but I’m no longer sure that should stop the Bears. New England, Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans all have their coaches in charge of the rosters. If Jim Harbaugh calls up George McCaskey and says he wants to the keys to the franchise, has Pace done enough for the Bears to justify saying no? Even if you look at first time head coaches the last two years, two of the big fishes were handed the keys to their franchises in Miami and San Francisco. That doesn’t include Sean McDermott, who was given what he asked for after a month or so on the job.

We have months to debate the coaching pedigrees of Harbaugh, McDaniels and everyone else, including whether or not they deserve such power. That’s not the point. The point is, how can we be so sure that Pace does? To be clear, this isn’t a call to fire Pace. I think he’s shown that he has an eye for talent. I just hope the Bears don’t let a great football mind out the door simply because Pace has a solid draft record.

Hopefully the problem is simple as needing a new coach and another off-season to build depth. I’m just not entirely sure that’s true. This is Year Three, the Bears should be much further along. Blame Fox all you want, but Pace has blood on his hands too. Here’s to hoping he can get it cleaned up.

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Data Entry: Self-Scouting Chicago’s Defense

| November 6th, 2017

Now the defense.

Chicago’s defense has generally been good so far in 2017. They’re 8th out of 32 NFL teams in yards per game and 14th in points per game. They have been pretty solid both against the pass (10th in yards per game, 16th in passer rating, 15th in yards per attempt) and run (11th in yards per game, 14th in yards per carry).

These basic stats are easy to look up, but there’s a lot of information that they don’t tell you. In order to break it down a little bit further, I used the NFL Game Statistics Information System to look at Chicago’s defensive stats in a bit more detail. I broke down rushing and passing success by areas of the field to see both where they are targeted the most and how successful they are. Let’s have a look.

Run defense

Here’s the data for Chicago’s rushing defense so far in 2017. 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 (all ranks through week 8 only). 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.

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