270 Comments

Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

180 Comments

Week Five Game Preview: Bucs at Bears on Thursday Night Football

| October 7th, 2020


How much does a pirate pay for corn?

Buck an ear.


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And I think the offense will get better in the weeks to come. Do I think they’ll be at full stride tomorrow? No. But I think signs of progress will be evident, as they work towards getting the new quarterback up to speed.


On Brady’s Bucs…

As always, you can go look at the statistical rankings and draw your own conclusions on Tampa’s strengths and weaknesses. I watch the Short Cuts of all their games on Sunday Ticket and try to give you in-game insights.

  • Tom Brady’s approach isn’t particularly different than it was in New England. Every once in a while he’ll take a deep shot (Scotty Miller is his guy down there) but his bread is still buttered by the quick toss, intermediate stuff to tight ends and small white receivers and a diverse collection of screens. When Brady’s in rhythm, he’s unstoppable. When he’s pressured out of that rhythm, he’s been giving the defense opportunities to make plays on the football.
    • It could be a product of age, but Brady’s arm strength seems to come and go over the course of a game. He had no zip on the football early against LA. He was flinging it in the third quarter.
    • Mike Evans has become a possession receiver. And a good one.
    • The injury report will have a massive say in what this offense looks like tomorrow night. Most of the skill guys in Tampa are on their report.
  • Ronald Jones power runs are the tone-setters for this offense but Jones has been a real asset in the passing game lately. Will be an interesting test for Roquan Smith, coming off arguably his best game as a Bear.
  • Defense can be attacked vertically, especially on early downs. If the Bears think they can take the same approach they took Sunday and try to bully the Bucs on first downs with the run game, they’ll find themselves behind the chains all day long. (The Chargers had zero success with early-down runs.) When the Bears find themselves chasing down and distance, they need to expect Todd Bowles to bring pressure and attack that pressure with the screen game.
  • An element of the Bucs passing game that the Bears must be ready for is the tight end verticals. O.J. Howards is out for the season but don’t be surprised if that injury doesn’t increase Rob Gronkowski’s role in the game plan.

In Honor of the Buccaneers, My Five Favorite Big Screen Pirates

(5) Steve the Pirate, Dodgeball

————

(4) Captain Hook, Hook

————

(3) Pirate King, Pirates of Penzance 

————

(2) Smee, Disney’s Peter Pan

————

(1) Dread Pirate Roberts, The Princess Bride

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

168 Comments

Two Veteran Quarterbacks (with Arm Strength Concerns) Over Five Pivotal Days

| September 30th, 2020


Phil Rivers was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by an early retirement and injuries at the sport’s most important position.

Tom Brady was paid a fortune to take over a franchise that saw their 2019 derailed by a quarterback who stubbornly refused to stop throwing the ball to the other team.

Neither is the player they once were. They both do everything in their power to avoid contact. They both lack the zip required to fit the football into tight, intermediate windows. They both lack precision on the deep ball, not uncommon for quarterbacks in the twilights of their careers.

But how the Chicago defense performs against these two wily veterans will greatly determine what kind of season this team is going to have. To this point, the defense has been far more bend-don’t-break than recent vintages. They have forced the three opposing QBs – Stafford, Jones and Ryan – to execute long drives to threaten to the end zone. (With the glaring exception being the Atlanta opening drive Sunday.) Being that the unit is ranked 9th in points allowed, it’s hard to argue that strategy hasn’t worked, to a point.

These next two games, that must change. The run defense must be better because both of these quarterbacks are at their best when they get ahead of the chains. The pass rush must dominate because neither of these quarterbacks can operate with players around them. The coverage must be tight because neither of these quarterbacks can make the kinds of throws Stafford make in Week One. If you allow Phil and Tom to dink and dunk you to death, it’s EXACTLY what they’ll do.



The Bears needed to come out of their first three games at 2-1, minimum. They exceeded that, in somewhat miraculous fashion, managing to also close the book on The Trubisky Affair. Now they need a split of these next two. 4-1 (or long shot 5-0) means they’ll have ten days before a a game in Carolina they’ll be expected to win. That is exactly the kind of start that means you’re playing meaningful games in late December, and hopefully beyond.

Read More …

Tagged: ,

142 Comments

A Four-Quarter Game Prediction For Super Bowl 53

| February 1st, 2019

Quarter One

This game starts fast. Both of these offensive coaching staffs thrive on the two weeks of preparation and script out the first 15-20 plays to perfection. Tom Brady does it with his trademark short passing game, exploiting the Rams underneath with a ton of James White. Jared Goff hits the Pats secondary over the top. Call it Brandin Cooks for a 54-yard TD. Three possessions. Three touchdowns.

Score: 14-7 Patriots


Quarter Two

Things slow down. Both offenses try and get their running games established, to limited success. Goff makes the first major mistake as halftime approaches, tossing an interception to Stephon Gilmore, and setting up the Pats for an easy score and a comfortable half-time lead.

Score: 28-14 Patriots


Halftime

Shit.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

46 Comments

Three Thoughts on the Actual Football Game Being Played Sunday in Atlanta

| January 31st, 2019

The best bar in Atlanta.


Thought 1. The Rams need a steady & consistent interior pass rush

Nobody pressures Brady from the perimeter because no quarterback in the history of the league is more comfortable stepping up quickly in the pocket and delivering the short-range bullet to a wide open, usually-white receiver. If your game plan to defend him is reliant upon edge pressure and disguised coverages (*cough* Vic Fangio *cough*) Brady will dice you up like a sous-chef working a garlic bulb.

You must put defenders in his face. And few teams are better equipped to do so than Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and these Rams. This game has career-defining potential for Donald.


Thought 2. Where the hell is Todd Gurley?

A few months back, the player Bill Belichick would have completely removed from this game would have been Todd Gurley. “Eliminate Gurley and force Jared Goff to beat us” might have been his rallying cry. And it would have been the correct approach. The Bears showed the league that if you take away the Los Angeles rushing attack and pressure Goff, you control the game.

But Gurley seems to have eliminated himself, unless you believe the injury fairy tale spewing out of the City of Angels. C.J. Anderson has somehow become every bit the horse but Anderson does not have anywhere near the game-changing explosiveness of a man many considered the best offensive weapon in the sport in, like, October! If the Rams are going to win this game, Gurley can’t be riding the stationary bike on pivotal possessions.


Thought 3. Return Men

Three names will be involved.

For the Rams, JoJo Natson.

For the Pats, Cordarrelle Patterson and Julian Edelman.

All three are capable of conjuring the kind of game-altering play that decides which team is holding the Lombardi at the end of the evening. (And all three rank in the top ten at all the relevant return statistics.)

Who will it be? Watch out for Patterson. If Greg the Leg gives him an opportunity to give the Pats an easy six, he may just do it.

Tagged: , , , , , , ,

162 Comments

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.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

172 Comments

Week 7: Patriots at Bears Game Preview

| October 19th, 2018

[Disclaimer: The following game preview is being written under the assumption that Khalil Mack will play Sunday. It is also being written under the assumption that he’ll be limited, to a degree, by his ankle injury.]


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears…

…and I just like this game, hence yesterday’s flamboyant column. This should be the most intense, feverish crowd at Soldier Field in five plus years. And don’t be surprised if the Bears come out and match that intensity, eager to prove last week’s rollover in Miami was a fluke.


The Game Limerick

There once was a goody named Brady

Whose fitness guru seemed a bit shady

The coach tossed him out

Now Goody got gout

But at least he still has a rich lady


Why the Bears Will Win

  • Patriots on the Road. New England is 4-0 at home and 0-2 on the road but it’s how they’ve looked on the road that’s been jarring. They didn’t just lose to Jacksonville and Detroit. They lost by a combined score of 57-30 to mediocre teams. The Bears have a better defense than the Jaguars and currently a better offense than the Lions. (Note: These games were pre-Julian Edelman’s return and Josh Gordon’s arrival.)
  • The Andy Reid Coaching Tree. Matt Nagy isn’t going to require much research when building his game plan to attack the Pats defense. Look no further than the success Andy Reid had versus New England Sunday night. Okay, fine, look further. Doug Pederson put up more than 500 yards of offense on Bill Belichick & Co. in the Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center. (I still contend Pederson’s success with Foles is one of the most impressive playoff runs in league history. Foles is terrible.) The blueprint is drawn. And Nagy is very close to the men who drew it.
  • Taylor Gabriel is becoming a star in this offense and he’s going to be wide open 2-3 times against this Pats secondary because, quite frankly, Gabriel has been wide open for more than a month. But there are soft areas in New England’s deep zone and teams have had an easy time exploiting them. Trubisky HAS TO hit those throws Sunday.

Why They Won’t

  • Belichick. He’s the best coach in the history of the NFL and has made a career out of confusing young quarterbacks into bad decisions. Trubisky will see 3-5 looks he’s never seen previously. Stat: quarterbacks under 25 years old are a career 1-42 at Foxboro. (Yes, I know this game is not there but that stat is absurd.) Here’s what Mike Lombardi said about it: “He makes them play left-handed…He takes away what they do and they don’t have the experience to go and do other things.”
  • Tom Brady. He’s Tom Brady.
  • Edelman. Maybe this is the Sunday hangover talking, but it’s inconceivable that Josh McDaniels won’t throw 5-7 bubble screens against this defense and see if their performance in Miami was an anomaly or a trend. One would think those throws would would go to Edelman, the most elusive of NE’s receiving targets.

Read More …

Tagged: , , , , , ,

194 Comments

As Patriots Come to Town, Bears Face Their “Moment in the Woods”

| October 18th, 2018

Prologue: Into the Woods

Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical Into the Woods attempts to be about a lot of things. Love –  between mothers and daughters, princes and maidens, men and themselves. Loss – trying to rationalize the end of human life. Abandonment – a father who left his family as a young man confronts his son about to do the same, in a lovely piece of writing called No More.



But like most of Sondheim’s post-Hal Prince career, there is a general messiness to the piece. (Prince, Oscar Hammerstein and Jerry Robbins are perhaps the only geniuses of American musical theatre structure.) Into the Woods is seemingly about everything and nothing at the same time. And just like their other major collaboration, Sunday in the Park With George – the show’s two acts fail to meld, so much so that when Woods is performed by amateur groups the second act is often excluded altogether.

But whilst Woods is an often sloppy re-telling of classic fairy tales, Sondheim and Lapine create enduring characters by adhering to a basic tenet of Dramatic Writing 101: the folks on stage make big life choices at big life moments. The lyrical refrain of “into the woods” reflects their acceptance of the challenges before them and the risks they’re willing to take. Their “moments in the woods” are life-defining decisions to be embraced, not avoided.

Into the Woods, at its core, is about what we do when “the moment” presents itself and these characters are defined by what they do, in their moments, in the woods.

The Moment

Sunday at Soldier Field is a moment for this Chicago Bears organization.

Bill Belichick, the greatest head coach in NFL history and the Big Bad Wolf for our purposes, is coming to town. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback in NFL history and our Prince Charming, is with him. They are the NFL’s gold standard; a tribute to consistency and greatness in a league constructed and governed to deter both. And they are a villain to be identified and subsequently vanquished.

They are a moment.

Read More …

Tagged: , , ,

7 Comments

Super Bowl 52: Three Wagers To Make Sunday Interesting

| February 1st, 2018


Gambling is silly. Gambling on the NFL is stupid. But the Super Bowl is a long day and I’m not drinking for another thirty-one days, so I’m going to have some money on it. For a terrific list of prop bets, check out this link to William Hill. (If you’re betting the Phoenix Open, I like Rickie Fowler to win, Webb Simpson for a top five and Pete Uihlein for a top ten.)


Alshon Receptions, Over/Under 4.5

My Bet: Over 

What could possibly infuriate Bears fans more than Jeffery going off in the Super Bowl? That’s why he’s going to be everywhere Sunday, so my inbox can explode going into Monday morning.


Pink’s Anthem, Over/Under 2:00

My Bet: Over (-150)

You heard her sing lately? She could take more than two minutes to sing her f’n name.


Player to Score Last Touchdown

My Bet(s): Tom Brady (20/1) & Nick Foles (22/1)

The odds are good. And these are the only guys on the field guaranteed to touch the ball. Why not float a few bucks on Foles taking a zone read to the house or Brady, the league’s best QB sneak QB, taking one over the line to ice the game?

Tagged: , , , , ,