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Week 15: Packers at Bears Game Preview

| December 13th, 2018

This is the moment. Are you ready?


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and the champagne is on ice at Josie Woods Pub. There are few occasions that warrant excessive celebration in the basement bar I’ve called home for eighteen years. Beating the Packers to win the NFC North would absolutely be one of them. And I expect the Bears to deliver.


The Game Haiku

They have earned this stage.

And the lights that shine on it.

Glory approaches.


Why the Bears Will Win.

  • Soldier Field. I mean, I wrote an entire piece on this topic a few days ago. Just go ahead and read that. If you don’t want to read it, here are the CliffsNotes™: the Chicago Bears have become a dominant team at home in 2018.
  • Pass Rush. Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 41 times, and hit a lot more than that. He’ll be playing Sunday with about 40% of his starting offensive line. I expect an angry performance from Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and the rest of the Bears front. They know that if they give Rodgers time in the pocket, he’ll find holes in the secondary. Expect them to hit the Green Bay quarterback and hit him often.
  • Run Run Rudolph! Green Bay is one of the league’s weakest run defenses and the Bears are starting to find their identity on the ground as they make their playoff push. This is not a game Matt Nagy is going to ask Mitch Trubisky to win by throwing it 40+ times. This is game Nagy is going to win by controlling the line of scrimmage and keeping Aaron Rodgers on the sideline. They’ll throw it effectively. But the run game will dominant.

Why They Won’t.

  • Rodgers. The Bears have 25 interceptions. Aaron Rodgers has thrown 1 all season. Something’s gotta give, right? And historically it gives in the Green Bay quarterback’s favor. (See: Fuller, Kyle’s only negative plays of this entire season.) A question that may arise on Sunday is will Rodgers pick on Sherrick McManis, filling in for the injured Bryce Callahan? Don’t be surprised to see a bunch of targets for Randall Cobb from the slot.
  • Trubisky. The quarterback was awful Sunday night against the Rams and that was without much pressure. The Packers can put together a pass rush and one would expect Mike Pettine to dial-up blitzes Trubisky hasn’t seen to try and force hurried decisions. Trubisky’s development is still ongoing, even if the rest of the team is on a different plateau now. He’s going to have bad games. But he can’t stack bad games if this team has serious aspirations for January.
  • Specials. Other than Tarik Cohen on punt returns, I don’t trust a single piece of the “third phase”. Not the punter, even off his best outing in years. Not the coverage units, especially with McManis moving into a starting role on the defense. Certainly not the kicker, who is the team’s most substantial liability down the stretch. The Bears need to do a lot of work here in the offseason. But that won’t help them Sunday.

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ATM: Defensive Performance Makes Championship Dreams Valid

| December 11th, 2018

After holding one of the ten best offenses in the history of the league to just one legitimate scoring drive, Super Bowl dreams no longer seem far-fetched for the 2018 Chicago Bears.

Yes, they have to take care of business the rest of the season and any playoff run is going to require Mitch Trubisky to be infinitely better than he was Sunday night. But now that we’ve seen the defense be that good, there’s no reason to put a cap on what the Bears can accomplish this season.

Say what positive you will about the Bears teams of the early-to-mid 2000s, but they never faced — much less beat — an offense like the 2018 Bears just did.

  • 2005 Bears held a Carolina team that averaged more than 24 per game to just three but then got smoked in the playoffs by a legendary Steve Smith performance.
  • 2006 Bears limited the fifth-ranked Saints to 14 points, but that’s still not really comparable as indoor Saints and outdoor Saints are very different things.
  • 2010 Bears played two top-three offenses and gave up 26 and 36 points in those games respectively.

While the defense’s performance Sunday makes the games against Brock Osweiler, Eli Manning and gimpy Aaron Rodgers even more confusing, it also gave validity to their claim as a potentially historic defense. If they can do THAT to the Rams, they can beat anybody — especially when you consider the defensive issues the other top scoring teams have.

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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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After 99 Years, the Bears are Finally Exciting.

| November 26th, 2018

The 2018 Chicago Bears season has been as surprising as any in my lifetime, soon to hopefully be entering it’s 37th year. It is certainly as surprising as any since the launch of this website in early 2005.

It’s not that the team has been competitive. That was expected. It’s not even that the team is winning. Many of us saw a clear path to eight plus victories even before Ryan Pace acquired one of the sport’s two most dominant defensive humans.

No, this season has been surprising – shocking, even – because of the seismic cultural and identity shift that has occurred at Halas Hall. Seemingly overnight, but of course decidedly not overnight, the Chicago Bears have transformed themselves not only into one of the league’s better teams but unquestionably one of the league’s most exciting.


These are the Chicago Bears, aren’t they?

Their most prolific passing campaign before Erik Kramer’s 1995 one-off was in 1943. For a few periods of the Lovie Smith era, a few weeks of the Trestman tenure and a few moments of the Ditka days they could score points in bunches. But this organization hasn’t done anything one could deem “exciting” on offense since Clark Shaughessy helped the team implement the “T” to beat the Washington Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.

Efficient? Sure. Effective? Okay. Hell, even excellent at times. But exciting? No chance. Devin Hester is the most exciting offensive weapon the Bears have had since Gale Sayers. And Hester literally couldn’t play offense.

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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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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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Bears Take Care of Business, Throttle Undermanned Bills

| November 5th, 2018

Strange game. From the moment Eddie Jackson returned a Roquan Smith-forced fumble for a touchdown with 7:07 remaining in the first half, the entire building knew the game was over. Here are six specific, in-building thoughts from Bears 41, Bills 9.


(1) That was one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever heard to start the game. The crowd noise was absolutely deafening when the Bears had the ball for the first quarter plus. The false starts upfront were completely understandable. Offensive line miscommunication should have been expected. (I could barely hear a friend two seats away from me.) There is no chance a Soldier Field crowd, with the team at 2-6 and starting a dead weight quarterback, would be anywhere near that enthused at kickoff. Impressive showing from Bills fans, in and around the ballpark.


(2) Good to see Jordan Howard running with some anger. Again, don’t look at the overall numbers. They’re mostly meaningless in a game like this. But Matt Nagy is finally starting to understand how to use Howard, especially down in the red zone. The Andy Reid offense like to throw to score. The Bears are built to ride Howard into the end zone.


(3) Two defenders stood out to me: Roquan Smith and Eddie Jackson. Smith is going to be a star in the league for a long, long time but that is expected from a top draft pick. Jackson is an incredible player. He closes on the football as good as any Bears safety since Mike Brown. He’s the rare back end guy comfortable with the football in the air and tackling in the open field. He’s got great, natural instincts.


(4) The Bears were clearly uncomfortable with the amount of running Mitch Trubisky did against the Jets last week because there were times Sunday Trubisky had acres of space in front of him. If this WAS a coaching decision, I applaud it. Trubisky knows he can run. That’ll be there as long as his legs are. But this season has to be more about processing information, stepping into the pocket and delivering the football. And in a game like Sunday’s there’s no reason for the young quarterback to take any unnecessary punishment.

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Is This Bears Offense Destined For Greatness? They May Be Getting Close Already.

| October 30th, 2018

Many of the complaints about the 2018 Chicago Bears have centered around their offense. But though seven games, that unit is well ahead of schedule and a major breakthrough seems on the horizon.

When Matt Nagy was hired as the head coach he spoke about the slow process of building a great offense, noting how it took 5 years for Kansas City to get there. But Nagy and Mitch Trubisky have engineered an offense that has been better than most could’ve imagined and better than almost every offense Nagy had with Andy Reid in KC.

Even after a bad start to the season, the Bears are 9th in points scored, 11th in points per drive and 10th in yardage. Some facts:

  • The only time Nagy and Reid had an offense that was ranked in the top 10 in both scoring and yardage in Kansas City was 2017.
  • Only twice did they have teams that ranked higher than 11th in points per drive.
  • Only once were they inside the top 20 in total yardage.

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No Ugly Victories: Bears Beat Jets, Re-Take First Place in the NFC North

| October 29th, 2018

Very strange game. The Jets didn’t have anywhere near the weapons to move the ball consistently. The Bears were just error-prone enough to keep the game competitive for three quarters. But it’s a win they absolutely needed. And unlike many recent vintages of the Chicago Bears, they got it. Rapid fire…


  • Conditions were brutal for the passing game. But the Bears made the plays they needed to make. The Cohen screen set the tone for the entire afternoon but Trubisky’s brilliant throw and Miller’s brilliant catch put this game away. It was so good, I’m going to show it to you again.

  • In conditions like this, Matt Nagy has to rely upon his ground attack and he seemed to figure that out as the game went on. But Trubisky also has to learn that the deep shots aren’t worth it when the wind is howling north of 25 MPH. When the first down is there, just get it, whether that means him tucking-and-running or accepting the check down option. That’ll come with experience.
  • Folks can complain about Trubisky all they want, but through seven games Mitch is completing 64.6% of his passes for 1,814 yards, 15 touchdowns, 6 interceptions and a rating of 97.8. He’s also got nearly 300 yards rushing. This kind of production, and this position, simply doesn’t happen in this town. And it’s about time fans start appreciating it.
  • Great, great job by the fans at Soldier Field. All of those pre-snap penalties go into the fan column.
  • Jordan Howard is not complicated. You give him 20+ carries, you get big time production. No, they numbers weren’t gaudy but he single-handedly put this game on ice in the fourth quarter. He’s not been a focal point of this offense so far. He should be.
  • Khalil Mack was the most dominant defender in football through four games. And now we’re seeing what this defense would have looked like if Ryan Pace didn’t make the franchise-altering trade on September 1st. They’re a toothless pass rush. Leonard Floyd is invisible. Opponents can double Hicks inside. Without Mack, this secondary is going to be under a lot of pressure when instead of Sam Darnold it’s Aaron Rodgers or Kirk Cousins or Matt Stafford taking the snaps for the other side.

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An NFL GM’s Response to Yesterday’s Trubisky Column (Via Text)

| October 25th, 2018


I sent yesterday’s piece to a friend of mine who happens to run an NFL franchise. He read it, or at least he says he did. (I don’t think he actually takes time to sit down and read my stuff but I do know he reads my Tweets! You’d be surprised by how aware organizations are by what happens on Twitter re: their teams.)

Here are three texts he sent me that I think should present fans with an even-keeled, deeply knowledgeable, “no horse in the race” approach to the development of this young quarterback, Mitch Trubisky. I’ve cleaned up the grammar since he texts like an uneducated second-grader. (Now I’ll find out if he reads these.)


TEXT I.

“I looked at Mitchell as a year three starter. Loved his talent set. Knew he needed time.”

This is the first time [REDACTED] has ever mentioned this to me but it’s not surprising. He’s always enforced with me how important the plan to develop Trubisky would be and was deeply skeptical of the previous regime’s ability to do so. [REDACTED] thought Pace should have fired John Fox the second he intended to draft a quarterback.


TEXT II.

“I haven’t watched beyond the highlights but our pro guys like what they see. Reminds them of early Cam Newton, both positive and negative.”

I’d thought about this comparison but never wrote about it. The two both had limited collegiate experience. Cam struggled mightily with throws downfield early in his career. There was a lot of arm strength and very little touch. Newton also used his legs to get out of trouble instead of stepping up in the pocket and navigating his progressions. He grew out of those issues. Mitch will too.


TEXT III.

“Matt’s the real deal. He’ll get him there.”

[REDACTED] doesn’t bullshit me about coaches. Some of the funniest texts I’ve ever received are him killing high profile coaches in the league. (His shit on college coaches is even funnier.) [REDACTED] trusts that Trubisky will get where the Bears need him to be because he’s being led by Matt Nagy. [REDACTED] loves him.

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