Across The Middle: Vic’s Right, Bears D Needs to Be Better

| January 31st, 2018

After weeks of Chicago’s media and fans singing Vic Fangio’s praises, the re-hired defensive coordinator’s message at his re-introductory press conference was simple, clear and correct: his defenses have not been good enough.

Thanks largely to playing games against the Browns and Bengals (their averages through 12 games would’ve had them 16th in yardage and 18th in scoring), the Bears defense snuck into the top 10 in yardage and scoring bythe end of the year. It’s been a hell of a climb when you consider where they were before Fangio came to Chicago, but they’re still not good enough. While the scoring and yardage numbers are nice, the Bears were still closer to the middle of the pack in takeaways (13th), third-down defense (20th) and DVOA (14th).

Although they had injuries at the end of the year – when their defense actually climbed the rankings – there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have been better defensively.

One of the biggest problems has been the way the team has started.

In three years with Fangio, the Bears have given up scores on at least one of their first two possessions thirty times, including nine last year. While the offense was going through growing pains with a rookie quarterback and injuries at wide receiver, they were also forced to play from behind early in games. That’s a losing formula.

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Notes on the Nagy Coaching Staff

| January 15th, 2018

It’s okay to get excited about a new coaching staff.

It doesn’t mean you irrationally believe that staff is going to cure all that ails the franchise you root for; in this case your Chicago Bears. It doesn’t mean the good players will now become great players and the bad players good players. It just means you believe a new collection of leaders, a new assemblage of ideas has the chance to change things for the better.

When John Fox hired Adam Gase and Vic Fangio to be his offensive and defensive coordinators (respectively) there was nary a negative word to be written. Gase was the hottest young offensive assistant in the game, having interviewed for several head-coaching vacancies. Fangio was a steady rock of a coordinator, coming off his most successful stint in the league. Did it work out? No. But was that any fault of the initial coordinator hires? Doubtful. That blame falls on quarterback turnover, a tsunami of injuries and a head coach watching the game blow by like a Dakotan tumbleweed.

This is a coaching staff to get excited about. And fans should allow themselves that moment of excitement, even if it is only a moment. There are many reasons why.

  • When I ask my friends in the league to name the best offensive line coaches in the sport, three names surface: Dante Scarnecchia (the gold standard), Mike Munchak (will be employed in the NFL for 30 more years) and Harry Hiestand. Hiestand’s first time around with the Bears was exceptional but over the last five years he’s built Notre Dame’s OL into one of the most consistently dominating position groups in the nation. Of all the hires Nagy made this week, this is the most impressive.
  • But don’t get wrapped up in how this effects the draft. Yes, I believe Quenton Nelson is the best player entering the NFL next season and would be THRILLED to see him in Chicago. But the Bears would have known his ability with or without Hiestand on the staff. All having Hiestand at Halas Hall does is eliminate the need for lengthy pre-draft meetings with the ND guard. (The same can be said for the other major league prospect off this unit, tackle Mike McGlinchey.)

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Data Responds: Lions at Bears

| November 19th, 2017

Chicago’s offense had their best game of the year, but their defense played possibly their worst game of the year. All in all, that evened out, but the Bears ended up falling to 3-7 because their kicker is terrible.


  • Now that’s more like it. The offense was finally run like an NFL offense, mixing things up and keeping the defense off its feet, and unsurprisingly it led to good things happening. Chicago stayed run-heavy in the game, but mixed up how they were running instead of making it so predictable, and thus the run game really took off. As a result, the offense scored more than 17 points in regulation for the 1st time all year.
  • This also helped the passing game open up a bit as well, since the Bears didn’t routinely end up in 3rd and long. This was a nice change from how their offense has functioned most of the year.
  • Another nice wrinkle we saw on offense was a number of read-option looks for quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. He kept it several times (though there was at least one more where he should have) and made Detroit’s defense pay for crashing down on the running backs.
  • After ignoring Tarik Cohen on offense for several weeks, the Bears made a point of getting him involved early and often. He had 8 carries and 3 pass targets in the 1st half alone after getting 8 total touches in the previous 3 games.
  • Another nice wrinkle was lining Jordan Howard up as a fullback, with Tarik Cohen at tailback. This set Howard up with a few nice runs as he could spring through the line quickly and the linebackers had to worry about Cohen.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Packers

| November 12th, 2017

Chicago came out of the bye flat, acting like nobody actually wanted to play a football game against their biggest rival. Their terrible kicker was good, but nobody else really was. The only thing that kept this game somewhat close was the fact that Green Bay is terrible, but they still won fairly comfortably on the road.

Let’s break down this embarrassing effort.


  • The first drive was simply awful. After two weeks to prepare, they ran into a loaded box on 1st down and lost a yard. After a nice pass picked up a first down, they again ran into a stacked box and lost a yard. The next play was both an illegal formation and a hold, setting Chicago up in 2nd and 21. At that point, the drive was over thanks to a combination of poor play calling and dumb penalties.
  • Rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky actually had a pretty good start to the game. He made good throws and got the ball to players in space. That changed as the game wore on and Green Bay dialed up the pressure. Trubisky got happy feet and starting pulling his eyes down from scanning the field too quickly. He also refused to throw the ball away, making him completely inept under any sort of pressure.
  • Green Bay’s five sacks weren’t all on the offensive line, but they were bad today too. Hroniss Grasu, making a start at center and shifting Cody Whitehair to right guard with Kyle Long out, was routinely pushed back into the backfield. The unit also picked up way too many penalties, with a nice mixture of pre-snap, during the play, and after the play mixed in.

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Across the Middle: 2018 Chicago Bears Coach Rankings

| November 9th, 2017

The Chicago Bears probably aren’t going to have a new coach in 2018. At least, not if they continue on their current pace.

Before the season I wrote that if the Bears won seven games, John Fox would be a lock to stay. Through eight games, they only have three wins, but have played the third-hardest schedule in the league, according to Football Outsiders. The last four games particularly have been really interesting.

It isn’t just that the Bears have gone 2-2. It’s that they really beat the crap out of one good team, should’ve won by a lot more against a mediocre team and were close to beating two of the best teams in the entire league.

It seems like the  majority of the fan base still isn’t happy. They don’t just want to win, they want to look good doing it. But that wouldn’t matter no matter who the coach is. Hell, a large percentage of those people want Jim Harbaugh, the master of the ugly wins, as the coach.

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Midseason Marks: Defense

| November 1st, 2017

The DBB team is evaluating the entire organization at this well-placed, exactly midseason bye week. The catch? Each of us is limited to ONE SENTENCE for each position group. Today we move on to the defense.

Defensive Line

Jeff: Impossible to say a negative word about this group, with Goldman arguably the league’s best run-stuffing interior lineman and Hicks mounting a serious campaign for Defensive Player of the Year.

Andrew: Hicks and Goldman are studs, Unrein is solid and Bullard and Robertson-Harris have both shown flashes.

Data: Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman might be the best interior DL combo in the NFL.

DBB Grade: A

Inside Linebackers

Jeff: This was the position of greatest depth on the roster and that depth has been severely tested through eight games. Christian Jones has looked like a new player in the absence of Freeman, Kwik and Timu. (Yea that’s two sentences but it’s my blog so go away.)

Andrew: Danny Trevathan is having a career year and young inside backers also making an impact.

Data: Chicago has gotten a surprisingly high level of play out of this group considering they’ve had to rotate through 5 different bodies here due to injuries and suspensions.

DBB Grade: A-

Outside Linebackers

Jeff: Bears ask their outside backers to do a lot, including extensive coverage duties, but this group will always be judged by their ability to get to the quarterback and they’re getting there to the tune of 11 sacks.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. Panthers

| October 22nd, 2017

Well that was fun.

Chicago’s defense scored not one but two touchdowns and shut Carolina’s offense down, staking the Bears with an early lead that held up for the entire game. Even though the offense never really got anything going, this was the Bears’ easiest win in a long time.


  • The Bears were up 14 points before the offense was really asked to do anything. That shifted an already conservative game plan even farther to the safe side, making them even more predictable. As a result, they went three and out with regularity, picking up only 153 yards and 5 first downs on the game. This forced the defense to spend too much time on the field and get tired; credit them for holding up under those conditions.
  • Credit to the coaching staff for not sitting on a 14-3 lead with just over 3:00 left before halftime, like we all expected after watching their conservative approach this season. They came out and let Mitchell Trubisky throw deep to Tarik Cohen on 1st down, resulting in 70 yards and 1st and goal from the 5 yard line. They were unable to finish for the touchdown, but a field goal (plus a little rest for the defense) on that drive was key.
  • The second half offense was just plain offensive. Prior to the final drive that ran out the clock, the Bears had the ball 5 times, picked up 3 total yards, and went 3 and out five times. At least they didn’t turn the ball over, I guess, and they were able to run out the last 3:36 of clock with two 1st downs on the ground. Read More …

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Across The Middle: That’s More Like It

| October 18th, 2017

They did it. They finally did it. The Bears defense delivered a dominant performance; the kind of performance I’ve been begging for.

The Bears have a good defense. I don’t think that’s disputable. But they were far from great and really hadn’t shown any signs of that changing until last week. Their fine performances  always included major blemishes.

Not Sunday. Sunday they were terrific.

This is what we should expect. The Bears are in Year Three with a defensive head coach and a coordinator who came in with a sterling reputation. They’ve rebuilt the entire roster with players the coach and coordinator had a big role in picking out. They should be great and they had just been good until last week.

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Bears Fall to 1-4, Trubisky Debuts, Fox Flops: Rapid Fire Reaction to MNF

| October 10th, 2017

  • Let’s take Trubisky just on his execution and not on what those around him did. He displayed all the traits that excited Ryan Pace (and me) during the pre-draft period: athleticism, mobility, powerful arm, accuracy. He also tried to do too much several times and made a few mistakes. The interception was the glaring error but the throw that almost killed Markus Wheaton was just as misguided. The touchdown pass was more a physical mistake than a mental one.
  • One thing I liked about Tru’s performance: he ran to throw. He didn’t take off down the sideline when Bears receivers weren’t open. He threw the ball downfield and tried to let them make plays. When he’s got professional receivers out there, this will lead to big plays.
  • Worst performance from the offensive line this season, almost across the board. They were bullied at the point of attack and committed costly penalties.
  • Dion Simms, what the hell? He missed two blocks on pivotal runs and then ran short of the sticks/dropped the ball on a third-down play designed specifically for him. Explain to me why this guy is on the field over Zach Miller. Explain to me why getting Adam Shaheen experience in these games is not more valuable than wasting time on Simms. Money?
  • The fake punt and two-point conversion were spectacular calls. Those are the two positive things I will say about this coaching staff last night.

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