Football

Back to .500, Mitch had a decent game and actually bailed out the defense a bit, game against a rocky Dallas team at home…any reason for optimism now?

Tony Martin: I think there’s a little bit of room for optimism, but only that they’ll finish the season looking somewhat competent. There is no chance at the postseason in my mind, but looking back at some of the games the Bears could’ve won earlier in the year is a heartbreaker, because this team could be in the thick of it. They won’t win out, but with a break or two here or there they wouldn’t have had to.

The offense looked good and the defense wasn’t perfect but it’s still incredible to reflect on how badly they’ve played on offense all season and how close all their games were. This team still has a championship window next year, and I’m hoping the rest of the schedule gives the Bears something to build on, assuming nobody misses a field goal in these last few games and Nagy obsesses over it for another offseason.

I think Dallas sees the Bears game as a get right game, but this one could go either way.

Brian Schmitz: As poorly as this team has played pretty much over the course of the entire season, it’s crazy to think they are in a position to actually make the playoffs. But this week represents a far more capable opponent that the Bears have seen over the past month or more. The Cowboys are struggling, but they are certainly better than the Lions, Giants, and Chargers. I’m concerned the Bears May provide a “get right” week for the Cowboys, much like the Lions defense was a “get right” game for Mitch. 

Wes Frenh: There’s a case to be made for optimism, but not one I’d subscribe to. We’ve been waiting for this team to rise up and put away the dregs of the NFC the last few weeks, and each game has been anything but smooth. Seeing some potential for improvement from Mitch was nice this week, but it really does just make me irrationally angry at Nagy for trying to force his offense to do things it clearly wasn’t capable of/ready to do early in the season. 

Dallas presents a difficult matchup on Thursday night, mostly in that the fire is cranked up under Jason Garrett’s seat. The Cowboys are still in the best position to represent the NFC East in the playoffs and they’re going to try to do all they can to fix their own running game and likely build some defensive confidence. I think the biggest thing going for the Bears in this game is getting to play at home, and that the weather on Thursday night (low in the 20s) could make things difficult for all involved.

 

Obviously it’s only the Lions. And Matt Patricia was dumb enough to keep playing man coverage. But why does Mitch look so much better when not seeing zone coverage? This comes after he pretty much told the coaching staff through the press what he wanted to do after the Giants game? Are they actually listening?

Brian: The reason why Mitch looks like a serviceable NFL QB against man coverage is fairly simple to see. During man reads, you see what your target is doing and if he’s open you throw the ball to him. Against Cover 1, 2, 3 or any man up or man over coverages, your target may look open, but you can’t see who else is defending their area. For an offense, Man reads are simply personnel reactions – if your guy is better than theirs, you are going to be successful. But when you are going against zone reads, it’s up to your system and scheme to get guys open, it’s not all on the players.

Tony: This Dallas game is like performing a litmus test when acid is already eating away at your legs, but shit we might as well try to put the strip on the festering remains of this Bears season so that next year will keep the fire out of the dumpster.

Football

It’s Clear That Bill Belichick Does Everything

People just have to stop hiring from the Belichick coaching tree, because it’s a great way to back up your franchise into a universal depression. Maybe Bill O’Brien is the exception (although the next time the Texans do anything meaningful please call me), but we’ve seen enough of Romeo Crennel, Josh McDaniels, Charlie Weis and Matt Patricia on their own to know that they clearly never did anything in New England. At least we got one in the division though.

The Lions were actually around the playoff picture, and sometimes in it, before Matt Patricia the obese rapist showed up. And even the most beef-stuffed Bears fan who thinks the forward pass should be outlawed can tell you that Mitch Trubisky sucks to high heaven against zone coverage. Fuck, it’s what Belichick figured out about Jared Goff in three minutes, another system-produced QB who had to be told exactly where to throw the ball. Any kind of disguise, and neither can figure out where the ball should go and goes into convulsions that end with the ball in the other team’s hands.

But if you simply keep playing man, then everything is exactly as it looks and Mitch can actually pick-and-stick throws. Which he did pretty much all of Thursday afternoon, and the Lions are now basically the only team that Mitch has authored genuine, NFL adult drives against. On a short week when everything is supposed to be ragged, and the Bears defense kind of was, the Lions made Mitch look real. That’s not easy to do.

It’s obvious that Belichick plans everything, does everything, and then lets his assistants wear a headset and talk even though they’re probably not hooked up to anything. They get to play NFL Coordinator. They’re Gary Coleman talking to the president from his desk in that Christmas episode of the Simpsons. When McDaniels takes over the Pats after Belichick has four simultaneous strokes, they will immediately go 2-45. And then every Pats fan will be screaming for Trot Nixon to take over as coach. Just watch.

The Lions Are A Thanksgiving Tradition We Can All Enjoy

I’ve seen a lot of suggestion that the Lions should be removed from Turkey Day, and NBC getting a night game now is something of an admission that Detroit and Dallas shouldn’t be the only hosts. But there’s something about the Lions on that special Thursday that I wouldn’t want to lose.

Maybe it’s because they’ve always played in a stadium that gave off the feeling of a garage or airplane hangar. There’s always been something underground about either the Silverdome or now Ford Field. Like they whole place has been sequestered from society. It’s not always like that. You can tell the Superdome is in the middle of New Orleans just by watching a game there. But not in Detroit. It’s quiet and dark and weird. It’s a tradition we can’t figure out how to get rid of, so here it is from some holding pen we built. It doesn’t even feel part of the same country. Or world. It’s almost a lab experiment on some oil rig/ship in international waters.

And think about that time of day on the holiday. The game starts before any cooking or really anything is going on, or just about. So it’s a nice gathering point. And then after about five minutes of watching these dopes, you have no problem getting the day’s festivities started because you realize you’re not missing anything. Unless it’s your team playing the Lions, and then it’s just a nice boost to the day.

I think I’d be lost without it.

Despite Their Best Efforts, The Bears Almost Always Will Talk You Into It

Deep down, you knew you’d be here. As bad as the Bears looked for most of this season, as infuriating as the losses have been, you could never fully convince yourself you wouldn’t care come December. It’s funny, because before last year started, most of us would have accepted the Bears merely playing meaningful games in December, no matter how they turned out. They just got it reversed.

Maybe it’s the full week in between, when you have time to talk yourself into anything, twist the evidence however you want, before the actual game makes whatever statement that you can then twist to fit your own narrative the six days following that. But here we are, and here I am saying, “Well you can’t trust the Cowboys on the road in December, and then Hicks will be back and even though he won’t be full-strength he certainly helps and they should have beaten the Packers last time, and maybe they’re finally distilling the offense down to what Mitch can do somewhat well and really they’d only have to miracle a win against the Chiefs at home before needing only to club Kirk Cousins again to make the playoffs and that’s easy enough….”

But hey, it’s better than just running out the clock. Have you seen the Hawks and Bulls lately?

Football

Tony Martin: Today’s matchup post is going to look a little different than usual- since this year has been anything but normal, we are having to seriously discuss how to spend our Sunday afternoons. I just started a new job, I’m still in grad school, and I still play in multiple bands- that time of the weekend would be perfect to spend it on anything other than shitty football that I’m emotionally invested in.

Yet I know for a fact that I’ll be parked on the couch this Sunday, watching the lifeless Bears play against the Giants. I’m not sure if I’m watching to see if they have something to prove or if I do it out of sheer tradition. I feel like if there was a Dawn of the Dead style zombie apocalypse, instead of lurking to the mall you’d find my dead ass sitting on the couch with a half cashed bowl and a LaCroix within arms reach of my rotting arms, waiting for the Bears to come on.

What do the Bears have to prove over these last few games? Is this just a talent evaluation process by now? It could be. I’m thinking they need to assess what options they have at so many different positions- both sides of the line, tight end, linebacker, kicker, and the defensive backfield. At this point, let’s see what this team has going forward. A lot of what Pace and Nagy should be focusing on where the holes in this leaky sink are coming from, because even though Mitch is the most glaring problem, the reason we are where we are is deeper than bad QB play. If Kyle Orton can win games as a starting QB, so can Mitch, but the franchise needs to build and play to his strengths. A great game plan can help mitigate a lot of deficiencies if done right.

This team absolutely has a playoff core, but Pace/Nagy need to spend the offseason figuring out what the identity of the franchise actually is and then building towards it. The end of last season covered up a lot of the problems with this roster from an identity standpoint on offense. They had a bruising running back and then a scatback, an all-star caliber wide receiver and a bunch of undersized speedsters, and a tight end that was not worth the money. All they did was replace the running back with a much better prospect that fits the offense, but they get away from running as soon as they fall behind, even if it’s by something as small as a first half field goal. Now might be the time to find those things to build upon, but it’s going to be boring as shit from a fan perspective to see it.

To wrap this part up, I’ll tell you what I’m looking for as the Bears play us off (insert Bill O’Reilly impression here):

-Is there an NFL-caliber tight end on the roster?
-Is Anthony Miller consistent enough to warrant a spot as the starting slot WR?
-Which defensive linemen could create pressure on their own in the absence of Khalil Mack?
-Does Leonard Floyd still play for this team?
-Eddie Goldman somehow has a grade of 74.3 so far from PFF- how much of 2018’s 88 rating from PFF was aided by the presence of Akiem Hicks?
-Do the Bears look to extend any of the following players: Danny Trevathan, Haha Clinton-Dix, Aaron Lynch, Nick Williams, Nick Kwiatkoski, or Roy Robertson-Harris?
-Are the Bears interested in taking a harder look at Javon Wims or Ryan Nall?

 

Wes French:Tony, I have to admit – If there is a Dawn of the Dead style scenario, I’d like to come find that couch and help you finish off your party favors. Barring a Hollywood situation on Sunday, though, I think I’m checking out on the Bears for a week.

It’s the Sunday before what’s basically a holiday week – yeah, I’ve got to work a few days at the beginning, but am I REALLY working? Fuck no. And the fact the Bears don’t really seem to be working the last month+ makes me unsure about investing another 3-4 hour block of my weekend, especially against a putrid trash heap like the New York Giants. I guess this might be the BEST time to check in, since the Bears should be able to get a W against the rookie-QB led G-Men, but the last time we had that narrative was all of two weeks ago against Detroit and that game was about as entertaining as a wet fart. Plus we’ll get that same wet fart four days later, bright and early before we’re all stuffed.
Am I interested in another slog between trash teams trying to sort out how exactly to best use the players they employ? No, no I’m not. Tony outlined plenty to look for in terms of WHY you may want to check in to this game on Sunday, and beyond the Bears sorting themselves out for a hopefully more spirited run in 2020 I could see you being mildly interested in who this Daniel Jones character is playing QB for NYG and wanting to see the sometimes electric Barkley do what he does. Outside of those two, the Giants have nothing to hold the interest of anyone but the diehards in the Big Apple and even those dummies are probably on to other things by week 12 of a 2-8 season. The Giants are pretty terrible and deserve no one’s attention, and in the immortal words of Local H – And Fuck New York, Too.

So what else should you be doing on Sunday? I’m going to play hockey and casually catch a nice dose of Red Zone with NINE noon games. Why the NFL can’t sort themselves out enough to have a better division of games through the day (there are only TWO late afternoon contests, but one is DAL @ NE) remains a mystery, but I digress. There are some strong teams on bye this week (KC/MIN), but while the schedule at first glance looks like a mirror of Bears/Giants, I’d say we’re in for a noon slate of some wild football with goofy fun matchups galore: 
– SEA @ PHI: The best game on paper at noon, Seattle looks to keep the Eagles down as they chase the 49ers for the NFC West/#1 seed. The Eagles are maddening, but always capable of a breakout performance and still have a shot at their own shitty Division
– TB @ ATL: Human Turnover Machine/Piece of Shit Jameis Winston goes into Hotlanta, quietly one of the best defensive units in the league since Week 5; I’ll guarantee at least 3 INTs and a DEF TD
– DEN @ BUF/ OAK @ NYJ: On the surface, the Bills and Raiders should cruise, but the Broncos have proved a difficult out and the Jets are scoring in bunches of late. The Bills and Raiders also remain the Bills and Raiders, so place those bets cautiously
– PIT @ CIN: A once fierce rivalry reduced to Mason Rudolph against Ryan Finley. I’ll be honest, this one excites even less than the Bears, but it does produce a decent opportunity for the Bungals to get their first win…it could totally be worse, Bears fans
– CAR @ NO: This sees two teams heading in wildly opposite directions, with the Panthers looking like they might be onto their third QB of the season and just about dead in the NFC at 5-5. Saints are aiming for NFC’s top spot. Divisional games can be weird, though
– MIA @ CLE/DET @ WSH: These two matchups pit four of the leagues worst franchises (of late, at least) against each other, and while on the surface the matchups look shit you should NEVER discount a game between the worst of the worst. How will Cleveland respond after the brawl to end last week’s game? Can Miami make it 3 wins in 4 after starting 0-7? Will the Lions continue to be the tonic that aids young/under-performing QBs for Dwayne Haskins and the Racial Slurs???
TUNE IN TO FIND OUT
Football

Rams (5-4) vs. BEARS (4-5)

Kickoff: 7:20pm

TV: NBC

Radio: 780 WBBM

You ever see the movie “Big Fan”? It’s a wonderful film, and at the end (no spoilers), the main character played by Patton Oswalt is looking at the newly released schedule for the NY Giants (his favorite team), and says aloud “it’s gonna be a great year.” I remember looking at the Bears schedule before the season and marking this game down as the game where the collective fanbase could know what type of team we were looking at by how they played against the cream of the NFC’s crop. This, my friends, is why I don’t write about football for a living.

Both the Rams and the Bears hobble into this game starkly different than they were when they battled at Soldier Field nearly a year ago, despite not many major personnel changes save for the addition of Jalen Ramsey. The places these teams find themselves is a testament to the parity of the modern NFL, when two teams that were primed to be perennial playoff contenders last year now look at the playoffs from the outside if the season ended today.

That said, these two teams have stumbled to a position where they can ride a mid-season surge to relevancy and possible Wild Card spots, but both need a win to do that. A win here for the Bears could be a signature one, and with their next two games at home against the Giants and at Detroit, the best case scenario for Nagy and the boys would be a 3 game win streak before the season ending gauntlet of Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota. A 7-5 Bears going into that last 4 game stretch could be confident knowing that going .500 and catching a break or two along the way could get them into the playoffs, where anything can happen. This paragraph is the last of my optimism for 2019 about this team save for a convincing win on Sunday in front of America and Carrie Underwood.

The Rams need this one badly too, since while their remaining schedule has Arizona twice, they also go against Dallas, Baltimore, Seattle, and the 49ers. Both teams are looking for a big win to prove the same thing: the best moments of last season were not just flashes of what could be, but honest reflections of who these teams are when they get hot. Both teams also look at a potential loss as the moment when hopes for this season are dashed hopelessly against the rocks like Lady fuckin MacBeth did it herself. Admittedly, the Rams can lose this game but the Bears absolutely cannot.

I wholeheartedly believe an embarrassing showing by the Bears puts Matt Nagy on the hot seat, less than a year removed from winning Coach of the Year, a mind-blowing take that really encapsulates exactly how far this franchise has fallen. Both the Bears and Rams have been trainwrecks, but not even especially fun to watch trainwrecks.

Todd Gurley has been underutilized this season, and the Rams as a whole aren’t taking the league by storm in terms of how effectively they run the ball, which I believe was a big reason why play action was so essential to their success last year. Gurley has 104 carries on the year, while David Montgomery has 129. Monty also has more rushing yards than Gurley, which blows my mind considering I believed that he had been underutilized for most of the beginning of the season.

Unfortunately for Sunday, this is the time of the year when offenses buckle down and start to rely on the run game to prepare for the postseason and I believe that is a major strength for Los Angeles. Danny Trevathan is out, Akiem Hicks is out, and the Bears are weak up the middle. Nick Kwiatkoski has filled in well, but this game is a big test. Zone blocking techniques have found success against this defense (Oakland, anyone?) and I fear this might be a breakout game for Todd Gurley. It’ll be interesting to see if an offensive line missing a starting Tackle (Rob Havenstein) and it’s Center (Brian Allen) can find consistency against the Bears.

One key element of the Rams offense that is playing this week and didn’t last year is Cooper Kupp, Goff’s favorite target. He was shut out last week, but still ranks 7th in the NFL in catches and yards per game. Expect the Bears to pay extra attention to Cupp while also trying to contain Robert Woods, who is coming off a 7 catch, 95 yard performance in last weeks drubbing by the Steelers. Woods hasn’t scored yet this year, but he should still be considered a threat.

Do the Bears have what it takes to build another win streak and set themselves up for a December run? There is certainly going to be an opportunity to do that on Sunday night. The Rams are not playing at their best, but at the same time do we really even know what the best version of these Bears looks like?

Prediction: Bears 16 Rams 14

Statistics from Pro Football Reference @ pro-football-reference.com

Football

And farther down we go…is there anything to be gleaned by the brief spasm of competence in the second half? Or should all focus be on the Wannstedt Era like first half?

Brian Schmitz (@_BrianSchmitz): I really liked seeing Mitch move around, that seemed to make a difference and resembled 2018 Mitch, which was my favorite Mitch. I have no idea why, but I’m not convinced this team is done. I don’t like this team or organization so it’s not that I am being bias, I just think there is too much talent on defense for this team to roll over and die.

Wes French (@WFrenchman): The first half was worse than any Dowell Loggins era half in recorded history. Mitch had an expected completion percentage around 68%, but was actually only accurate on 47% of his throws. The defense has given up an average of 2.4 10+ play drives/gm after only giving them up at a 1.6/gm clip last year.

The offense can’t really move the ball, the defense can’t get off the field on third down. the couldn’t even field the final kickoff cleanly to give us what was sure to be a game ending sack or turnover from Mitch.  I am convinced this team is done. We saw nothing new, we heard the same excuses, we got the same results we’ve been getting all year. This team is not bad, but it’s poorly coached and the QB is regressing. The schedule only gets tougher from here, and this upcoming week against the Lions could be a masterclass in awful coaching.
Can’t wait.
The Bears actually had me thinking they might fuck around and come all the way back to claim the kind of win that can help turn an uneven season around. Then they stalled at midfield, punting the ball back to the Eagles with just under 9 minutes to play, pinning them at their own 11. What happened next was a lesson in how to grind a game to the end, as Philadelphia went SIXTEEN PLAYS and 69 yards while eating up all but 29 seconds of game time and kicking the FG that would put them on top with the 22-14 final.

That drive killed me. I hate the Bears.
What do we make of this defense? Yes, probably overworked, but had a chance the past couple weeks to make definitive stops and didn’t do it? Is it simply Hicks not being there or something more?
Brian: I still feel like they are one of the premiere units in the league; but the results are saying otherwise. The shitty part of this entire equation is that the secondary continues to improve and is playing at a very high level. Once Hicks returns, they will be as good as ever; but I’m just not sure it matters how great they are. Chuck Pagano is fine. He simply oversees the operation. Nothing he has or hasn’t done has effected the way this unit plays.
Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh): They haven’t forced turnovers this year to the extent that gave the offense short fields and as a result gave them the lead with which they could take more risks which results in more turnovers. It’s a huge ugly cycle.
Wes: I’m not sure I’m ready to give Pagano a pass. A recurring thing is NOT being able to get off the field to either close out a game or get the ball back to have a chance to win or tie. The personnel seems fine, but the QB pressures have been down since week 2-3, starting with the London game. The same game where a bad penalty led to a 4th down conversion and ultimately the game winning TD for Oakland. Even the Week 2 win in Denver saw the defense unable to make a stop, setting up the dramatic walk-off FG.  Getting off the field to end the game has been a major problem all season, and that has to fall at someone’s feet…
Looking forward, they do have the Lions twice and the Giants in the next month. Any hope?
Wes: I don’t think it’s a matter of WHO they play. They should definitely beat both teams and come away with three wins, but is anyone really that optimistic after that first half we all just saw? Mitch is STILL routinely missing wide open throws from clean pockets. Maybe the defense can’t get off the field because they’re so gassed from playing 40 minutes a week. Nagy needs to take more responsibility, but at this point I’m finally handing in my Mitch hype team membership. I decided to jump in feet first after the pick was made because why the hell not, but this has been a disaster. Whatever they’re working on week to week, it’s not helping. He’s not a starting calibur QB in the NFL, and that right there has a lot to do with why this team is 3-5 and not 5-3 or 6-2.

Call me jaded or whatever, but I just don’t believe this team is capable of doing enough well, on a consistent basis, to say “yea, the upcoming schedule puts them back into it.” They should’ve beaten Oak/LAC, and without those wins the games against Det/NYG can only get them to .500 before the final stretch of Dal/GB/KC/Min.
Brian: The Lions and Giants are looking at the Bears on the schedule and thinking they have a chance.
Football

vs.

RECORDS: Chargers (2-5) at Bears (3-3)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 12:00pm

TV: FOX 32 

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Is it possible for both teams to be looking at the same game as a “get right” matchup? Sunday at noon we’ll find out which of these teams is worth saving, and which one needs to start “assessing the talent on the roster” (tanking). The Los Angeles Chargers show up to Soldier Field on a three-game losing streak, and the Bears come in losers of their last two, but really let’s be honest the Bears don’t look like they could beat the bye week so let’s just say both teams are damn near on tilt. Barring huge turnarounds, this game (which looked like a great matchup six short weeks ago) will have zero national attention and no relevancy to anyone but fantasy football players. That said if you have any Bears players on your fantasy team who aren’t Allen Robinson, you should quit fantasy football (as I glare at David Montgomery on my bench).

Something’s gotta give, right? Looking strictly at DVOA, the Bears on offense are -12.5%. That’s bad. The Chargers on defense are 12.1%. That’s also bad. The Chargers are 22nd against the run this year, the Bears are the 28th ranked rushing attack in football. I’m picturing one of those electric football games to take place when the Bears offense is on the field, in fact it might be an improvement if it was. At least during electric football the margin of error is so big you couldn’t blame the offense for being hot garbage.

Brian Baldinger (he of the amazingly disfigured pinky) had an outstanding Baldy’s Breakdown video of a Bears run that I think encapsulates the problem. In the video, a shotgun run up the gut with Tarik Cohen, Baldy shows how Nagy’s jet motion brings the DB into the box that ends up going unblocked and stuffing the run, when otherwise there’s nothing but green grass in front of the diminutive speedster. Can Matt Nagy scheme his way out of a wet paper bag and embrace the run, or is this game another seven rushing attempts game? Will Joey Bosa destroy Mitch Trubisky? Can the Bears contain the one Bosa brother I actually LIKE rooting for?

The answer is going to depend on how well the Bears defense and special teams play. Remember when the defense was getting to the quarterback, stopping the run, and forcing turnovers? Last year seems so far away right now. The Bears are getting turnovers, but have been exposed by Jon fucking Gruden by all people. Teams know to run away Khalil Mack now that Akiem Hicks is out. The linebackers are getting blown up on the second level, and the defensive backs are playing more on their heels instead of jumping short routes. The Chargers have the blueprint to beating Chicago, and Chuck Pagano hasn’t adjusted.

The special teams is so bad. So, so bad. Sherrick McManis is still in concussion protocol as of this writing, so punt returner Desmond King has the chance for a big day, assuming the Bears punt protection holds long enough for Pat O’Donnell to get a kick in the air. He was only credited with one block last week against New Orleans, but it should’ve been two; and the Bears starting defense was brought in against the Raiders to stop a fake punt and couldn’t do that either after a running into the kicker penalty moved Oakland up, a sequence that eventually cost the Bears the game. A good punt and kick return over the last two games doesn’t negate the pisspoor blocking and kick coverage.

Keenan Allen is a stud at wideout, and if the Chargers are trying to get Melvin Gordon back into form they’d be wise to run him early and often. The team has rushed for 106 yards over the last three games COMBINED, and a goal line fumble by Gordon sealed their fate last week against Tennessee. Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are also outstanding players, even if Henry is basically a slower Evan Engram and Williams is almost exclusively a jump-ball threat.

Oh, and Philip Rivers is still around, somehow. The man has been the starting QB for the Bolts since 2006, which was three Presidents, like 18 children, and countless bolo ties ago. His 11 TDs to six picks this season looks a lot more impressive than it really is, considering most of it has come via checkdowns. Let’s find out if the Bears can stop Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen from dominating with the short routes that make everyone look good statistically. Rivers is basically the upgraded Jay Cutler, with constant temper tantrums and meltdowns on various sidelines over the years, but if the Bears had Rivers during those early 2010s teams, Chicago would have at least one Super Bowl trophy.

Since around November 2nd 2016, Chicago sports has begun to worship the hallowed “players only meeting”. The Bears had one of their own this week, which is either a total indictment of Matt Nagy or just what they need to right the shit. Yeah I know that’s a typo, but if you’ve been watching this team you know why I’m leaving it in.

Final Score Prediction:
Chargers 23 Bears 6, and Virginia McCaskey comes down from the luxury box and fires Matt Nagy, making herself head coach. The Bears win out the rest of the year.

Football

Daaaaaaa Bears are back at Halas Hall and practicing this week after the long week off following the loss in London. They’re not whole, though. Kyle Long was mercifully decommissioned on Monday, hitting IR without a designated to return rider. Akiem Hicks isn’t on IR, but Matt Nagy casually said he hopes to see his disruptive DT back THIS SEASON…so, uhh, maybe we’ll see him by Turkey Day?

Mitchell Trubisky, Taylor Gabriel and Bilal Nichols were all back, though, so it’s not all bad. And the Bears look out at an odd, changing NFC that still holds a path to the postseason if they can navigate it all well from here.

Where we left off

The Bears are 3-2, good for third in the division. They lost two games they probably should have won, but won at least one they shouldn’t have, so we’ll call it even. The fairy tale of a near injury-free 2018 has turned into a crowded trainer’s room in 2019: Trubs, Gabriel, Nichols, Hicks, Trey Burton, half or more of the O-Line…all missing time through five games.

The off week comes at a good time getting a good amount of that list back for Week 7, and while the loss of Long may actually end up being a positive (more on that later) the arm injury to Hicks is a major blow. Nichols will need to step in and contribute right away and more is needed from the already pleasant surprise of Roy Robertson-Harris. Hey, it’s not all bad. They still have Khalil Mack.

Trubs back under center remains an uncertainty, but anyone that wants to argue they’re better with Chase Daniel is lying to you and themselves. Mitch is the guy, for better or worse. Nagy getting the best out of him and the offense is still the key to the way this team is built. The revamped offensive line helping to open up the run game is probably what helps Mitch and Nagy more than just getting the QB1 back.

Dan Durkin at the Athletic penned a massive article you can go read if you want, but it basically boils down to the big bodies up front getting to the second level and giving the backs something to work with. There’s more to it than that, but it boils down to better play in the trenches going a long way to offensive success.

State of the NFC…and path to the playoffs? 

The NFC North is incredibly tight. The Packers are in control at 5-1 after a very, um, oddly officiated MNF win over the Lions last night. Detroit drops to 2-2-1, but they look better than expected thus far. Minnesota is going to look great and then awful week to week, but currently sit at 4-2 after a big win over Philadelphia. So the Pack sit in the driver’s seat, but they’re banged up on offense and might be carried by the defense for the first time in…ever? The division is still very much in play, but for a team that needs to create their own identity, the Bears should focus on winning each week one at a time.

That mentality starts now, with a home date and the 5-1 Saints ahead. Beyond that, games against the Eagles, Lions x2, and Rams will all hold bigger weight than a single win as they could come into play as tie-breakers in the NFC playoff picture. If the Bears aren’t at eight wins by December, that big SNF matchup with Dallas won’t be big at all. Can Nagy get it all going well enough to go 5-2 from now until December? A final month of games with the Cowboys, Packers, Chiefs and Vikings sets up for some real excitement if this team can get things sorted out.

That’s a very big “if” at the moment.

Football

Woof. I know. Let’s just move on.

As the Bears return from their off-week (Eric Zorn correctly pointed out that calling it a “bye” isn’t correct, and we have only the highest of standards here as you well know) they certainly aren’t without some news. And none of it is particularly good or up-lifting.

This morning head coach Matt Nagy made it clear that Akiem Hicks is going to be out a while, and quite possibly the rest of the season. When you’re saying you’re hopeful he can return before the end of the season, we can safely assume that nothing before Thanksgiving is a possibility and quite possibly a couple weeks after that. Whether Hicks can even be effective after so much time out and not really being able to use his arm the whole time is another question, though one we’d like to find out more than just seeing him not return at all.

We saw what the defensive line looked like without him last week, which was not life-affirming. Bilal Nichols‘s return helps a little, but he is not the Hot Gates that Hicks has been the past couple seasons. And while the win against the Vikings proved the Bears do have some depth, you don’t want to be pressing into that too much more before you don’t have that depth.

On the plus side, at least for one week, the Saints offensive line isn’t the mass of humanity that the Raiders’ one is, depending on more of the zone-blocking and nimbleness that the Bears cut through against Minnesota. On the downside, that Raiders game is now on film and whatever team can in any way emulate that is going to. And Sean Payton, despite being a world-class asshole, is also one of the brighter offensive minds around. Didn’t stop him from getting stonewalled by the Jaguars, so there’s that. Bite down on something and get through it is going to be the order of the day with the defensive line for the foreseeable future.

The less surprising, but in some ways more sad, was the report yesterday that Kyle Long will be IR’d. Long has looked awful all season, with the word “finished” becoming more and more often used to describe him. He has graded out as one of the worst linemen in the league each week, and it would appear that all the injuries he has dealt with in the past few years have completely caught up to him. He couldn’t get to the second-level, as his mobility that was once a feature is completely gone. He couldn’t even avoid getting blown off the line at the first level, run or pass, which has complicated what the Bears want to do and prevented them from either running the ball or getting it down the field in the air. Long wasn’t the only problem on the line, but he was not an insignificant one either.

The options behind him are either unappetizing or unknown but, and I take no pleasure in saying this, they almost certainly can’t be worse. Ted Larsen has his own injury issues, which would leave either Rashaad Coward or a promotion from the practice squad for Alex Bars. The latter holds some real promise, even if it comes in a very un-shapened mass of clay right now. He has the biggest upside, though to go from the practice squad to effective in games is a huge leap.

It’s hard not to feel that the biggest bummer of Long’s season ending is that it almost certainly ends his Bears career, if not his career altogether. Long will join the list of many, many Bears of recent vintage who were great players on only bad to mediocre teams. He got to play in one playoff game, which was last year. Most at the time greeted his drafting as a missed opportunity (or worse if you’re Hub Arkush), and then he went on to immediately be just about the only bright spot on the offensive line for years. He quickly became a team staple and leader, and it just sucks that he mostly won’t get to participate in what we still hope is the top part of the cycle for the Bears. The dude is like half bionic now, and yet he kept getting out there and until this year was mostly very good at his job.

He deserved better than this, but football has a tendency to not really care about that sort of thing. Time catches up to you hard in the NFL, and it appears it snagged another captive in Long.

Football

So what do we make of this loss and the 3-2 record at the bye? On the one hand, the Bears looked bad for most of three quarters against a bad team and the game was still there to be won and they gave it away. On the other, they were missing two of three starters on the d-line, and were with a backup QB who proved last year he can get you out of one game but not much more. Just one of those days?

Tony Martin (@MrMartinBruh): For about ten minutes, I was optimistic that the Bears would’ve somehow gotten to the bye at 4-1 and had a week to get healthy and make a real push. This one stung, for more reasons than one. The defense got pushed around, that special teams sequence that gave Oakland a first down on the eventual game winning drive was awful, and the offense once again abandoned the running game.  Honestly, Daniel played well enough to win the game, but they just didn’t have enough. That first half was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen as a football fan.

I didn’t see Chuck Pagano blitz too much today, and the Bears got run on in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time. Get well soon, Akiem.
Brian Schmitz: As I wrote, I am under the impression that this team may not be as good as everyone thought they were. The offensive line is either really hurt or really bad, but they are probably both. The run game is nonexistent. But MOST importantly, the offense is getting out-schemed at every turn. That is where the truth lies.
Tony: I’m pretty sure Kyle Long is either done mentally or no longer physically effective. He is becoming an actual detriment on the offensive line. In fact, the line is one of the biggest problems with this team. No matter who is at QB, they’re being rushed and there are no real seams opening up for the running game unless David Montgomery is creating them via the cutback.
Is there any tweak to the o-line or offense over the bye that you’d like to see? Or is even possible? Obviously new personnel isn’t really an option. 
Tony: The offensive line simply needs to improve, by any means necessary in my opinion. You’d think it would be obvious to Nagy, who works with the most fearsome defensive line in the NFL, that if his offensive line isn’t holding up to switch it up to shorter dropbacks and quick hitting plays. The Bears have been beaten this year on defense when the quarterback gets rid of the ball quickly and the running game is established; I’m wondering when he game plans similarly for his own offense.
Brian: The only way to tweak the O-Line would be to put them in a better position to succeed. Which would entail more roll outs in the passing game and more outside runs in the running game. Getting outside in the run game requires your TE’s and receivers to be responsible enough to block. So basically, we are asking out skill guys to run block because the line cannot. This will assuredly end well.
Tony: Kyle Long- as Lizzo said: “I’m crying because I love you (but you probably shouldn’t be starting at guard)”
Football

Hello! This is something I did at FanSided last year. But Fansided is dumb and evil, so I’m bringing it to you, the people. It’s not mean to be serious, because you shouldn’t take the NFL and the Bears seriously.

You Can Only Get Away With A Backup Defensive Line For So Long

For one week, the Bears rolled in backups, beer vendors, and a couple janitors into the rotation against the Vikings and they were all getting to pose behind the line after making a play. They didn’t need Akiem Hicks or Bilal Nichols that week, and you wondered if they were just unearthing people like Sarumon and the Urukai. But there’s a reason Hicks is an All-Pro level player, and you’re supposed to struggle to replace him. Trying to do it for a second straight week showed that.

Without Hicks, the Raiders seemed to figure out they could throw multiple people at Khalil Mack and Eddie Goldman, and no one else was going to be able to make them stop. And that’s how it proved. We’re doing the Leonard Floyd early-season thing, where we wonder why he isn’t running wild when only facing one guy. Backups proved to be backups. It’s football, injuries happen, and they determine a lot of what will happen in January. It went well for the Bears last year, which is why it still feels like such a missed opportunity.

If Hicks’s elbow suddenly putting up a carnival tent inside his skin keeps him out long-term, it’s a huge problem. Especially for however long Nichols is out along with it. Once you get your backups on film, you give everyone a chance to see what they can and can’t do. The Raiders and Jon Gruden pretty quickly figured out what they couldn’t. At least the Bears will know what’s coming.

You Can Only Get Away With Your Backup QB For So Long

It shouldn’t have been a surprise, because we did this last year. Chase Daniel gets you out of the Thanksgiving game, as backup QBs are kind of designed to do. Get you out of a game. One. Two is pushing it. So the next week, Daniel made enough plays to keep the Bears in it against the Giants when the defense took the week off, but he also made enough plays to get you beat. He got you out of the Vikings game. Here comes a second straight game with him behind center, and boy didn’t it look the same? Enough plays to give you the lead, enough plays that put you in that hole to begin with and then lost you the game. That’s kind of what a non-starting QB in the NFL looks like. There’s a reason every rule is meant to protect starting quarterbacks. Your season is fucked if they get hurt.

There were two sacks at least that were from Daniel holding the ball too long, possibly because he’s not much taller than a fire hydrant. In more Rex Grossman comparisons, he has a nasty habit of running straight backwards when under pressure instead of stepping up, possibly because stepping up into the pocket would cut off his vision even more. He should have had three INTs, got bailed out by a roughing-the-passer call for one (and game-changing penalties appear to just be things that are going to happen every week). The other two were bad.

He didn’t get much help. It went a touch overlooked in the buildup to the season, but the Bears couldn’t really run the ball last year. We pinned it on Jordan Howard or Matt Nagy’s over-creative nature, but there weren’t many places for Howard to run. We wanted to think the more explosive and elusive David Montgomery and another year of Nagy’s schemes would get around it. Yeah, well, Kyle Long is made of more spare parts than the car they give Matt Damon at the end of “Good Will Hunting.” Charles Leno was doing his own version of Hamilton out there, and has been. Again, switching Whitehair and James Daniels…was that really so clean?

The difference in football is that you can’t solve it from outside the organization. In the other three sports, if your right fielder can’t hit or your second-line left-winger gets hurt or you need a new small forward, there’s a trade deadline for that. Football doesn’t work that way. How do you solve this internally though?

Everyone Is An Expert On Jet Lag Now

This was an argument making the rounds right around the second quarter, and it was the Bears decision to fly out to London on Thursday evening, arriving Friday morning. What it ignored was that the last time the Bears had to do this, they thwacked the Buccaneers after flying out on Thursday. Most teams fly out on the Thursday. They get a plane you and I will never see. They have experts on this we don’t. They weren’t attempting to sleep in a coach seat next to the smelly guy while sitting up. It’s fine. Whatever. They lost because they got their ass whipped, not because they were groggy. Shut up.