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Bears at Broncos Game Preview Volume II: The Football Stuff

| September 13th, 2019

One of the best dogs in the country. Biker Jim’s. Denver.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I have never had this strong a belief in the Chicago Bears defense.


Trite, Boring Thoughts on the Broncos

  • Attacking the Broncos defense is ALL about neutralizing their edge rushers – Von Miller and Bradley Chubb – because the rest of Vic Fangio’s group is mediocre. How did the Raiders do this? First, they gave Derek Carr a ton of quick, easy throws. (Commentator Steve Levy even compared Carr’s MNF performance to Phil Simms’ historic Super Bowl in terms of completion percentage.) Second, they committed to the run game even though it wasn’t particularly successful. This kept play-action believable and kept Miller and Chubb a half-step slower.
  • Joe Flacco didn’t play poorly in the opener but he’s in this tiny collection of aging, modern quarterbacks who need everything working around them to be successful. Players like he and Eli Manning don’t have the legs to extend plays so they need a rush game and they need brilliant protection. If Bears keep Freeman and Lindsay quiet in the run game, it’s hard to see the pass rush not harassing Flacco endlessly. If that happens, the mistakes will flow.
  • Courtland Sutton is going to be a star in this league and the Bears better be aware of his location at all times Sunday. He bought a timeshare in the middle of the field against the Raiders. It’ll be interesting to see if he plays with that level of boldness against a far more intimidating, physical defense.

Tweet of the Week


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ATM: Nagy Must Cure the “Bye Week Blues”

| September 10th, 2019


The more time the Chicago Bears have had to prepare for game day under Matt Nagy, the worse they’ve been.

Last Thursday’s loss dropped the Bears to 0-4 under Matt Nagy when they have had more than eight days to prepare for a game. That stretch dates back to last season’s opener when they fell to Packers 24-23. It also includes includes a post-bye week loss to a bad Miami team led by Brock Osweiler and a post-Thanksgiving loss to a bad New York Giants team.

The only real similarity in all of the losses was inconsistent and sloppy offensive play. While the defense let them down in all three losses last year — allowing more than 30 points twice — the offense wasn’t necessarily sharp either. “Not sharp” would be a generous assessment of last week’s performance.

Why the Bears tend to struggle in these situations is a bit of a mystery. It’s possible that Nagy over-thinks the games. That appeared to be the case Thursday when many of his scripted plays appeared to be designed to trick the defense. That worked a year ago when the Bears marched down the field on their first two possessions against the Packers. But this is a different Packers defense, with six new starters, and they didn’t fall for any of Nagy’s misdirection.

Could the Bears have benefited from preseason action? There is some evidence.. Of the five quarterbacks who didn’t throw a single pass in preseason, four struggled for at least a half. Trubisky and Rodgers were terrible. Jared Goff’s Rams got going offensively, but he struggled individually, finishing with a passer rating of just 69 in a 30-27 win over Carolina.

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2019 Season Preview Volume I: The Facts

| August 27th, 2019

Today is the beginning of a three-part season preview, broken into specific categories: Facts, Hopes and Predictions. 


After Marc Trestman’s first season in Chicago, fans became irrationally optimistic.

No, the team didn’t have a winning record. No, they didn’t make the postseason. No, they couldn’t play a lick of defense. But the offense was fun to watch and Bears fans didn’t know how to handle that. So they jumped right to, “This team is winning it all in 2014!”

This space fought that optimism from day one. Teams don’t win Super Bowls with terrible defenses and the coach/quarterback relationship looked combustible to any objective observer.

What followed was the most embarrassing season in the history of the franchise. The Kromer Campaign.

This year the optimism is warranted. The Chicago Bears are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. And there are three facts to support that contention.


Fact 1. The Bears have the best defense in the league.

Does it require any more explanation? This Bears defense is frighteningly talented and Pace/Nagy added Chuck Pagano – one of the more aggressive defensive play callers in the sport – to lead them. If this group is ranked outside the top five in any of the important categories it’s because they have suffered several debilitating injuries. If the Bears find themselves with home field advantage in the postseason, this defense would make them overwhelming favorites to make it to Miami.

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Self-Scouting Matt Nagy’s 2018 Play-Calling

| May 6th, 2019

The Bears offense showed significant improvement in 2018, but still was an average-to-below average unit overall. There’s been plenty of focus about the need to get better on that side of the ball, and that starts with scouting yourself. Some coaches have play-calling tendencies in different down and distance situations, and opposing NFL teams scout those to help their play calling in response. With that in mind, I looked at down and distance trends for Chicago’s’ offense in 2018. All statistics are from the NFL Game Statistics and Information System and Pro Football Reference’s Game Play Finder.


First Down

The Bears were very balanced on first down, with 231 runs and 223 passes for a 51/49 split. Unfortunately, they were not very effective on the ground, where they averaged only 3.6 yards per carry. This is a significant step down from 2017, when they averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and 2016, when they were at 5.2.

Lest we be tempted to blame Jordan Howard, I’ll note that 142 of the 231 runs (62%) were his, and those actually gained 3.7 yards per carry. So the rest of the team was actually slightly worse than Howard on 1st down. One way or another, the Bears need to figure out how to improve running on 1st down and/or run less and throw more.

Speaking of throwing it, the Bears averaged 7.0 yards/attempt on 1st down, a healthy but not overwhelming number that was right around average for all NFL passing stats in 2018. Teams always average more yards/play passing than running, but when the discrepancy is this large, you should probably consider throwing it more.


Second Down

When it comes to 2nd down, context is needed. A 3-yard gain is great on 2nd and 2, pretty good on 2nd and 5, and awful on 2nd and 10. With that in mind, I split the data into 4 groups based on the distance required to get a 1st down. The table below shows the results.

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ATM: Out of the Hunt. So Now What?

| February 13th, 2019

The Chicago Bears won’t be signing Kareem Hunt. The great debate ended before the offseason officially began, as the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, facing disciplinary action from the league for a history of violent behavior, signed with the Browns. Time will tell if he’s worth the trouble for Cleveland, but the Bears still need to add some explosiveness to their backfield if they hope to improve their run game.

Because while Jordan Howard is a good player, the Bears simply need more. Forget for a second his sub-4.0 yards per carry number. The Bears offense just didn’t function well with him on the field.

  • According to NFGSIS, the team averaged 4.78 yards per play in the five most frequently used lineups in which Howard was used.
  • In the five most-used lineups that didn’t include Howard, they averaged 6.8 yards per play.
  • The big difference came in the passing game, where they averaged 7 yards per pass play without Howard and 4.92 with him.

Matt Nagy seems to know it too. In the playoff game he used a formation with three wide receivers, one tight end and Cohen over Howard 21 times. Their next most-used formation was used five times, that also didn’t have Howard in it. Howard played just 22 snaps — 34% of the team’s total — against the Eagles. From a football perspective, signing Hunt would’ve been the easy move, but not one the Bears could make without knowing his availability. Now, they have to figure out something else.

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2019 Chicago Bears Off-Season Agenda: Part Three, Get the Quarterback Better

| February 8th, 2019

Personnel moves are not going to tell the story of the 2019 Bears. They could improve their roster this off-season, be a better team than they were in 2018 and STILL win fewer than twelve games. No, with lofty expectations for the coming year, everything will depend upon the improved play of their starting quarterback, Mitch Trubisky.

Here’s what Matt Nagy had to say about Trubisky’s progression into 2019 at the year-end press conference [Cut to 16:30]:



According to Nagy, his young QB has already conquered the “next play mentality” and “the steps of 101 progressions.” In layman’s terms, Trubisky knows what he is doing when it comes to running the offense. But it’s understanding what the opposing defense is up to that comes next, or as Nagy puts it, “recognizing pre-snap what he’s about to see from these defenses.” At quarterback, if you know what your 11 are doing, and you know what their 11 are doing, it just comes down to making the plays.

And Trubisky can make ALL the plays.

Look no further than those final drives against the Eagles. Season on the line. Avoiding the rush. Hitting targets deep down the field with pin-point accuracy. Every completion was met with elation from the crowd. Everyone in that building felt something was changing because something was changing.

And then Parkey happened.

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ATM: Signing Hunt to Bolster Rush Attack the Clearest Path to Super Bowl

| February 5th, 2019

Sometimes the best moves are the most difficult.

The biggest no-brainer of this 2019 NFL offseason is for the Bears to sign Kareem Hunt. From a strictly football standpoint, Hunt must be their top target. But, of course, it’s about more than strictly football. Those arguments were made by Jeff here and Emily here.

What we learned from the 2019 NFL playoffs is that running the ball is still really important:

  • The team that won the rushing battle went 9-2. The two exceptions of course were the Chicago Cody Parkeys losing to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Chargers beating the Baltimore Ravens, despite losing the rushing battle by a single yard.
  • Teams that ran for 100 yards went 8-1. The only team that lost was Houston, which gave up 200 to Indianapolis in the Wild Card round.

Television networks and league executives want the NFL to be a passing league, but it’s tried and true that running the ball is important and the Bears just weren’t good enough at it. Despite being 11th in rushing yardage, the Bears struggled to move the ball on the ground consistently throughout the year. They were 27th in yards per carry and all of their rushing totals were inflated by having a quarterback who could routinely run for 15 yards on 3rd-and-10.

Perhaps what’s most troubling about the Bears lack of run production is that, unlike 2017, opponents weren’t trying to stop the run. Jordan Howard faced a stacked box (eight or more defenders) on just 14% of his carries, according to NFL NextGen Stats. That’s the 13th-lowest mark in the league. The player who had a stacked box the least was Tarik Cohen, coming in at 5.05%, well below Wendell Smallwood’s 6.9% rate.

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ATM: All About Matt and Mitch

| January 29th, 2019

As the New England Patriots prepare to play in their 79th Super Bowl of the Tom Brady and Bill Belichick era, they serve as the sport’s finest example of what the Bears – and every other organization – are trying to accomplish.

We can talk about Chuck Pagano, Khalil Mack, future first-round picks, draft steals and everything else, but what this era of Bears football becomes depends almost entirely on the quality of the head coach and the quarterback. And the first year got off to an adequate start for Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky.

The Bears were a top ten offense in both points per drive and DVOA until the QB was injured. Then they slid back. They struggled for most of the playoff game, but the quarterback made enough big plays to give them a chance to win.

Then Ray Finkle blew it.



Despite what Lt. Lois Einhorn did with those uprights, the Bears coach and QB gave us hope for the future. Hope that this thing could be special.

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