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Justin Fields Gets His First Win as Chicago Bears Quarterback: Rapid Fire Recap

| October 4th, 2021


This is a game of two emotions.

The Positive, First.

Justin Fields was excellent. Yes, he made some rookie mistakes, mostly regarding his clock in the pocket. But this was the kind of game you love to see from a talented rookie. He kept his eyes down the field. He went through his progressions. He extended plays with his legs. But most importantly, he made several, SEVERAL, absolutely gorgeous throws. There is no questioning the ability of this player. If he develops as the Bears hope, their future involves a star quarterback.

(There will be plenty of time to talk more Fields as the week progresses.)

The Negative, Second.

Everything about David Montgomery’s knee injury – his reaction, the reaction of teammates, the refusal of TV to show it a second time – leads one to believe it’s unlikely he’ll be on the field again this season. This is a devastating blow for the 2021 Chicago Bears. If you were someone who hoped this team would compete for a postseason spot, this injury should relegate those hopes moot.

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Week Four Game Preview, Volume II: Nagy Rebound Effect, Trib’s Pearson on Arlington Heights & Trying to Predict the Unpredictable

| October 1st, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears. 

And I’ll say this about the 2021 Bears…they’re interesting! The coach might be nuts. The quarterbacks may stage a mutiny. The GM may be in witness protection.

Who the hell knows what football team is going to show up on Sunday?


The Nagy Rebound Effect

The first major hiccup of the Matt Nagy era in Chicago was the 2019 opener. The Bears were lifeless on offense against the Green Bay Packers, the quarterback was horrible, and the team lost 10-3 at home. How did they rebound from that effort? They won their next three games, two on the road, by a combined score of 62-35.

The next significant hiccup (light term) of the Nagy era came at the tail end of a six-game losing streak in 2020. After being blown out by the Packers at Lambeau, the Bears collapsed against the Detroit Lions to fall to 5-7. Many, including this space, called for Nagy’s firing. How did the team rebound? They won their next three games, scored a million points, and found themselves in the postseason. (You can bring up the opponents here if you like but the results are the results.)

Like it or not, the Bears have rebounded from the shakiest moments of Nagy’s tenure. And one can argue there has been no shakier moment than Sunday in Cleveland. Will they rebound again?


Arlington Heights: Three Questions with the Tribune’s Rick Pearson

Rick Pearson is one of the country’s finest political journalists. He is also one of my favorite people on the earth. Follow him on Twitter – @Rap30

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DBB: You suggested in your Tweet there’d be no interest in using city money to keep the Bears in Chicago proper. So if George and Ted went to the city and said, “We need X amount for renovations and improvements and we’ll stay three more decades” does the city see no value in making that happen? Or is the money just not there?

RP: Those TV establishing shots of Soldier Field on a warm spring day over Lake Michigan look very enticing and perfect for a post card. But the state and city have a heavy postage due bill. If George and Ted came to the city and state and listed their desired improvements, they would be listened to. But the only real answer for the team in the way the modern-day NFL operates is a new stadium. Soldier Field has been renovated as far as it can be without being torn down—an unlikely situation for a historic war memorial even though its 2006 renovation stripped it of its national landmark status. The stadium’s historic colonnades prevent the sidelines from being widened to add new seats to the smallest gridiron in the league.  Neither the state nor city has the money or the appetite for a new multi-billion dollar stadium—either in Chicago or in Arlington Heights. More than $430 million in debt is outstanding on the renovation that created the current Soldier Field, paid largely through hotel taxes, and the agency that issued the bonds is at junk-bond credit status.

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DBB: Nobody builds these new buildings without taxpayer money. That conversation is coming. How will it be received? Do you think it can be avoided?

RP: As I said, there is very little appetite for public financing for a brand new stadium. In fact, there’s resentment that the Bears would likely leave before the latest bonds have been paid off, coinciding with the team’s lease through 2033. A new stadium in Arlington Heights would get minimal public funding for things like roads and sewer, similar to what the privately owned United Center got on the West Side. But Arlington Heights and its 326 acres provide the Bears with several funding opportunities. They can link up with a private developer to create retail and even residential opportunities. The NFL has a loan program for new stadiums and the Bears, as a founding member of the league, would likely get favorable terms. In addition, a domed stadium also would provide new year-round opportunities for revenue. And the team wouldn’t have to split some of its revenues with the Chicago Park District, its current leaseholder, and would be able to sell naming rights. Then add the prospect of a sportsbook on game days, which is something the Bears clearly want and haven’t been able to get.

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DBB: What do you think it will mean to the city – specifically that area of the city – to lose the Bears to the burbs?

RP: The South Loop, where Soldier Field is located, is among the fastest growing areas of the city and can withstand the loss of 10 or so events. Soldier Field would still exist for Chicago Fire soccer, admittedly less of a draw than the Bears, as well as a home for international soccer matches which, when Mexico plays, have filled the stadium. Soldier Field also would continue to be a place for major outdoor concerts. The team’s fan base is strong in the suburbs and while traffic to Arlington Heights might get bad, it was always worse trying to get to and park at Soldier Field on game days. And hey, regardless of a move to the suburbs, they’ll always be the Chicago Bears—and the eyes of all Chicagoland will be on them every time they play.


Stats of the Week

  • The Lions have played the Niners, Packers and Ravens in this early stretch of the season and they are gaining 162 yards per game more than the Bears. (Sunday, of course, swayed these numbers against the Bears but Sunday did, in fact, count.) When you look at these two offensive rosters, that seems inconceivable.

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Week Four Game Preview, Volume I: How the Bears Beat the Lions

| September 30th, 2021


Let’s be honest. If the Bears play offense this Sunday the way they played it last Sunday, they have zero chance to beat any team in the league. Not the Texans. Not the Jags. Not the Jets. No one. So the points being made below are being made under the assumption the coach will actually install a logical, professional game plan and the offensive linemen won’t all play their worst game at the same time. (At the time of posting this, it is believed Bill Lazor is calling plays.)

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VDM. (Victory Difficulty Meter)

39.7%

This is the “easiest” game on the Bears schedule. But after Sunday, it’s impossible to call any game on their schedule “easy”. The Bears opened as 6-point favorites in this contest. The line is now under 3 at most books.

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What Must the Bears Do on Offense:

  • Don’t assume the run game will be there. Yes, the Lions are allowing 114+ yards per game on the ground but they have faced the Niners, Packers and Ravens – three of the best rushing offenses in the league. Run defense is about intensity. It’s about want to. And you only have to watch the Lions defense (under Aaron Glenn) for five minutes to realize they have both of those things in abundance.
  • Take advantage of an aggressive pass rush. The Lions saw the tape of Bears/Browns and they’re salivating at the thought of facing this coach and offensive line. They’re going to be aggressive Sunday and the Bears need to counter that aggression with a combination of (a) screens/short passes and (b) a quarterback ready to accelerate up the field for big gains.
  • Opposing passer rating against the Lions is 123.2 and one needs only watch tape of their game vs. Baltimore to understand why. Yes, the game ended on a Justin Tucker 66-yard field goal but it had no business being anywhere near that close. Hollywood Brown dropped 100 yards of passes and two easy touchdowns. (These are not questionable drops. These are Brown, by himself, at the end zone, letting footballs go through his fingers.) It should have been at least 27-0 at the half. If Nagy (and Lazor) can’t scheme open receivers against this secondary, they’ll never be able to do it.

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What Must the Bears Do on Defense:

  • Be disciplined. Misdirection and play action are the hallmarks of this offense. The Lions can’t just line up, run plays and beat their opponent. They don’t have the talent for that. They need to keep defenses off-balance and these are their primarily tools to do so.

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Not Good Enough: Rapid Fire Response to the Bears Falling to 5-2

| October 27th, 2020

Tonight’s notes were compiled at the end of the first half and then at the end of the game. So don’t judge my first half comments until you’ve seen the thoughts completed.


First Half Thoughts

  • The big takeaway: the Bears scored three points in the first half. Three. And the blame lies solely on the coaching staff. How could you watch five weeks of Rams tape and think it was wise to run up the middle, at the best defensive player in the league, with this offensive line? How could you not see this as a prime opportunity to spread the Rams out, quick toss them to death, get Montgomery involved in the passing attack?
  • One has to think the Demetrius Harris era is quickly coming to an end. Not only is he over-targeted, but he never catches the football. Wouldn’t the Bears be better served by Cole Kmet making mistakes on the field, and getting better, than seeing Harris drop passes weekly?
  • I had high hopes for a broadcast with Lou Riddick. This broadcast is terrible. Stupid animations. Brian Griese put Cody Whitehair on the Rams at one point. I miss watching football in bars and not having to listen to this nonsense.
  • Pat O’Donnell has become a better punter in 2020.
  • Roquan Smith needs to stop missing tackles for loss. It’s become a recurring theme.
  • Kyle Fuller played his worst half of the season. Why was he so damn soft on a third-and-long?
  • Sean McVay going up tempo and moving Jared Goff’s pocket was terrific coaching. But the Bears defense is just hard to score touchdowns against. A mediocre defense allows 20+ points in that first half.
  • Danny Trevathan had improved in recent weeks. That was a rough first half. McVay and Goff are clearly trying to isolate him in coverage.
  • Tashaun Gipson batting down an easy pick six was one of the more surreal moments of the season. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a defensive intentionally bat down a ball thrown directly to them.
  • The coaching at the end of the half was abysmal on both sidelines. Why is McVay riskins Goff throwing passes over the middle? Why isn’t Nagy making the Rams punt? Insanity.

In fairness, this was the half I expected. Boring. Low-scoring. Defensive struggle. But it’s hard to see the Bears pulling out this game if they don’t dramatically change their offensive approach.


Second Half Thoughts

  • Best thing that happened in this game? Eddie Jackson going off the field and coming back on. Those non-contact injuries often end up very, very bad.
  • Akiem Hicks was unblockable for most of this game. He also commits way too many penalties. The question is, does one automatically come with the other?

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Week 7 Game Preview: Bears at Rams on Monday Night Football

| October 23rd, 2020

The Bears now enter a five-game-in-six-week stretch wherein three of those games will be in primetime. And at 5-1 there’s no one happier about that than Roger Goodell. The Bears have been the ratings surprise of the season and if they keep winning, that’ll continue. The ratings will be good Monday night. I’m not so sure the game will be.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And the 2020 Bears are starting to play like, and take on the personality of, the 2018 Bears. That’s NEVER a bad thing. That team made a statement by beating the Rams in primetime. Might the same happen in 2020?


Donald, Aaron.

There are three players remaining on the Bears schedule that should frighten them. Aaron Rodgers because he’s Aaron Rodgers. Derrick Henry because if the Bears don’t wrap him up they’ll be shredded for 200+ yards. And Aaron Donald. With Donald, this week is especially terrifying.

Donald is the best defensive player in the league. He’s also a defensive tackle who’ll have the opportunity to line up opposite a liability on the Bears offensive line at left guard. If Donald wants to spend 40 snaps in that spot, he will. Matt Nagy and Nick Foles can’t let Donald wreck this game; something he’s more than capable of doing. That means their backs need to do a ton of work in protection. That could mean Holtz and Kmet in the backfield with their eyes squarely on Donald.

But it also means two other things.

  • Stop running the ball on first down and allowing pass rushers to rev up and ride. If the Bears are in second/third and long continually, it’s chum in the water for Donald.
  • Integrate one-read, quick toss plays on those early downs to keep Donald on his heels. Isn’t this the perfect week to throw some bubble screens out to Darnell Mooney and Ted Ginn and see what the speedsters can do with the ball in space?

Donald is the kind of player opposing coaches must fixate on if they intend to be successful. With the Bears struggling upfront, that’s even more the case here.


7 Favorite Episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm (for Week 7)

Do I love L.A. Story? More than most films. (The movie poster is sampled as the featured image of this post.) Is Chinatown one of the greatest screenplays ever written? Sure is. Do I think David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive has some of the most bizarre and sexy scenes ever captured? Yep. Are the L.A. scenes in Annie Hall perfect? They are. But for my money, Curb is the finest representation of Los Angeles and all it entails. (It is a terrible place and Larry David knows it.) I’ve done seven runs through the entire series and I’m happy with this list.

(7) Kamikaze Bingo

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(6) Larry vs. Michael J. Fox

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(5) The Table Read

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(4) The Ski Lift

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Week 14: Rams at Bears Game Preview, Volume II

| December 7th, 2018

…continued.


Why the Bears Will Win

  • Soldier Field. The Bears are simply a different team at home (5-1), where they’d be undefeated if not for a special teams meltdown against the Patriots. Sunday night this high-flying Rams offense is going to experience 20 degrees on the lake. It won’t bother the Bears. It won’t bother their crowd. Will it bother Los Angeles? I have images of the 2005 Atlanta Falcons and 2013 Dallas Cowboys in my head. High-powered, warm weather offenses that boarded their buses to the airport midway through the third quarter.
  • Mitch’s Return. Trubisky’s ability to stretch the field with his arm and extend drives with his legs was sorely missed during the Chase Daniel period. And this is a defense that can:
    • Be exploited at the back end, with Marcus Peters having a nightmare season and Aquib Talib slowly working his way back from injury.
    • Leave huge gaps if they don’t get home to the quarterback. Russell Wilson put up nearly 100 yards on the ground in his last meeting with the Rams.
  • Jared Goff vs. Bears Secondary. One thing that stands out watching is Rams tape is the alarming number of wide open receivers Goff has over the course of a game. (The Chiefs game was an embarrassment.) But Goff was challenged last week in Detroit and probably delivered his most inconsistent/inaccurate performance of the 2018 season. Aside from a few breakdowns at the Meadowlands last week, this Bears secondary usually forces opposing QBs to hit 4-5 good throws to mount a scoring drive. In these conditions, with this pass rush bearing down, that will be a challenge for Goff.

Tweet of the Week


Why They Won’t.

  • Aaron Donald. James Daniels and Cody Whitehair have never seen anything like Donald in current form. I’m not quite sure many guards/centers have, as the man is coasting to the Defensive Player of the Year prize. Donald may not dominate for sixty minutes but he’s sure to make a big play (or three) at critical moments of the game, especially if he decides to line up over the struggling Bryan Witzmann.
  • Run Defense. The Giants may have laid something of a blueprint for attacking Vic Fangio’s aggressive pass rush. (Eli Manning hinted at such during his weekly radio spot on WFAN New York.) Run right at it. Yes, it helps to have a back of Saquan Barkley’s quality but the Rams have that in Todd Gurley. So Fangio should expect McVay to follow the Shurmur template and run Gurley directly at Khalil Mack for much of the evening. If Gurley gets going, the Rams will be unstoppable.
  • Shootout. If this game gets moving in a particular direction, are the Bears really prepared to go toe-to-toe with a high-powered offense? Are they prepared to score 40 if they NEED 40 to win? They have the scheme. They have the talent. They’re more equipped than any time in history to engage such a battle but they’ve never actually done it. The Rams are seasoned as playing such games. They play them every other week because they don’t defend well.

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ATM: Trubisky, Pace Could Put Bears Atop NFC North With Big Off-Season

| February 22nd, 2018

In twelve months we could be talking about the Bears as the kingpin of the NFC North, as long as General Manager Ryan Pace pushes the right buttons and quarterback Mitch Trubisky takes a big step in the seven months leading up the 2018 season.

It seems crazy to suggest the team that has finished last in the division the last four seasons could win it next year. But 12 months ago it would’ve been crazy to suggest the Rams could win the NFC West or that the Eagles could win the Super Bowl. The Bears have talent on their roster, they just need two of the three most important men in their organization to deliver.

A lot of credit has been given to the coaching staffs of the Eagles and the Rams –  deservedly so – but their quarterbacks took a leap largely because of their off-season work away from the organization. Both had personal quarterback coaches who helped them hone their fundamentals, an area Trubisky needed a lot of improvement in last year.

A new coaching staff and offense could help Trubisky, but he needs to improve his footwork if he’s ever going to be a great starting quarterback. He seems to understand that because he has already spent time this off-season working with Jared Goff and coaches Tom House and Adam Dedeaux at 3DQB.

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Data Entry: Tracking Trubisky’s 2017 Growth Through “The Quarters Lens”

| January 16th, 2018

Former Bears coach Lovie Smith always talked about breaking the NFL season down into quarters, which splits a 16-game season into 4-game sample sizes. I’ve always thought that was a good way to look at it, as grouping four games together helps smooth some of the statistical noise of individual good or bad games.

With that in mind, I want to track Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season through the quarters lens. Trubisky sat out the first quarter of the season, but took every offensive snap for each of the last three quarters. Let’s see how he progressed through those.


Usage

First, I want to point out that Trubisky was tasked with doing more in each quarter.

In his first 4 games, Trubisky had the ball in his hands on only 26.5 plays per game. Coaches tried to minimize what he had to do, which was why more plays featured handoffs and fewer featured him ending the play with a pass attempt, sack, or run.

In Trubisky’s 5th-8th games, that number increased to 34.3 plays per game, and it took another jump to 39.8 plays per game in the last four games.

For the 32 qualified passers in the NFL this year (224 or more pass attempts), the mean and median were both 38.2 pass attempts, meaning Trubisky was being given as much responsibility (in terms of plays per game) as an average quarterback by the end of the season. This clearly shows that coaches were willing to put more responsibility on Trubisky’s shoulders as the season wore on, which is a good sign.

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