Football

Hey, Bears fans! This year sucked major ass from almost every metric that one can find. I’ve been tasked with looking at the trainwreck with special focus on the special teams unit, a task I find immensely interesting and also difficult, because damn how exactly does one quantify special teams outside of “well, they didn’t fuck up the game so it’s good enough”? Luckily, I just ordered PFF so be prepared for an onslaught of stats that hopefully paint a vivid picture of what exactly went on during all those unreturned kickoffs and missed field goals.

The Good:

According to PFF, the Bears’ special teams unit was 8th in the league with a 79.4 grade.

The Bears had two core special teamers contribute a PFF grade of over 90, Sherrick McManis and Nick Kwiatkoski (90.9 and 90.0, respectively). McManis only played in 9 games, so while that may contribute to his elite score, it hurts his tackle production (though 6 special teams tackes in 9 games would put him on pace to be near the league lead if adjusted to a full season, the NFL leaders this year had 16 total stops). Kwiatkoski had 8 stops to lead the Bears, and both players only missed one tackle.

Also, aside from an embarrassing blocked punt versus the Saints, the punt coverage team was downright good. The Bears had 55 more total punt return yards than their opponents on two less returns, which is pretty good considering it didn’t seem like Tarik Cohen was getting the same opportunities to be a gamebreaker in 2019 that he did the year before.

Cordarrelle Patterson made the Pro Bowl and was a 1st team All-Pro as a kick returner this year, leading the league in total return yards with the second highest average return. I guess I should feel ashamed for always rolling my eyes when he brought a kick out from 9 yards deep in the end zone, because dude was killing it when he took it out.

The Bad:

Okay, so it also needs to be said that the Bears utilize Patterson in coverage as well, covering all but 3 punts this year and covering 6 kickoffs. Patterson is a gamewrecker as a gunner on the punt team, but his disruption on kicks is best suited at downing punts. He’s missed as many special teams tackles as he made this year (5), and missed gunner tackles on punt returns can be deadly, since it opens up secondary and cutback lanes (I say as I sit in sweatpants, shirtless, eating peanut butter from a spoon). I would personally like to see Patterson on the field goal block team, since there’s no reason Duke Shelley (3 penalties in 53 snaps over 5 games) should be out there, either.

Eddy Piniero is a hard player to analyze, but he is what he is: a league average kicker. He was 17th in field goal percentage, and 19th in extra point percentage. I’m putting this in “the bad” because, well, it’s Chicago. We’re going to be hard as fuck on our kickers, which I think is a little unnecessary but it is what it is. Piniero is average, and for Bears fans that isn’t enough. Ideally, next year he’s kicking more extra points than 30-39 yard field goals next year.

Duke Shelly had a 29.0 grade for the year from PFF, and these end of the roster players need to contribute on special teams to stick around. Look for his roster spot to be on the bubble next year.

Joel Iyiegbuniwe was also a hot pile of trash according to PFF’s metrics, getting a measly grade of 40 on 136 special teams snaps where he could register that stat. 2 penalties, 3 tackles, 2 missed tackles, and 3 total snaps on defense. This guy is also seemingly on his way out.

The Weird:

Anthony Miller’s 63.2 grade on kickoff coverage was 3rd on the team.

Pat O’Donnell had another down season by his standards, however it seems like he goes up and down every year so let’s hope 2020 finds MEGAPUNT back to being a top 10 punter.

The Bears brought out their first team defense to stop the Raiders in the 4th quarter on a 4th and one fake punt they knew was coming, and they still blew it.

The Future:

Special teams is hard to predict, since player variance tends to be high as dudes fight for a roster spot and potential screen time on Hard Knocks. It seems like the model of having one or two core special teams players to keep around is something the Bears embrace with McManus, but here’s hoping losing Kwit this summer (if it happens) won’t hurt this unit as well, because after those two, it’s Patterson and a various assortment of bums.

Football

2019 is going to be the type of football year that you just want to throw in the trash, hoping that things get sorted out in a positive manner and you can mostly forget the things that transpired on the field. That’s essentially the case for the Bears pass catchers save for what passes as the brightest spot from the team, but also includes arguably the darkest, deepest hole (outside of QB…) and Ryan Pace’s second biggest miss of the 2017 draft.

On one hand, you have Allen Robinson being the monster wide out everyone wanted when he signed in the 2018 off-season and the emergence of second-year receiver Anthony Miller into a legit threat on any play. On the other, you have an underwhelming group of wide outs behind them, a one-dimensional backfield passing attack and a tight end room that’s stinkier than David Kaplan’s nose (because it’s firmly planted somewhere inside Tom Ricketts colon, GET IT??).  The team ranked in the lower third in just about all receiving categories, and if you read the rushing post from yesterday and quarterbacks on Monday you don’t have to squint to pick up on the theme of the 2019 Chicago offense. It sucked.

The highs were the type that felt squandered, the lows all disasters that played a part in the unacceptable offensive output – to varying degrees.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Good

Allen Robinson. That’s essentially your list. Robinson was the steady, go-to security blanket all season and pulled in 98 of 154 (!!) targets for just under 1,150 yards and seven scores, roughly one third of the entire receiving production on the team. He’s been everything the team needed and wanted when they gambled and signed the oft-injured Robinson two years ago, and Pace would do well to rip up the final year of his contract because 1) He’s more than earned new paper/$, 2) a new deal would actually improve the Bears cap situation for 2020 and beyond (ARob counts $15M against the cap with just $10.5 in actual dollars in 2020) and 3) who in the fuck else are you trusting on this roster going forward, especially after 2020?

Anthony Miller shone at times this season, especially standing out on Thanksgiving in Detroit with a 9/140 line. While he came up big during the min- revival stretch later in the season, he was inconsistent on the whole. But you if you want to argue that was more product of his environment in this slap dick offense you’d get no more than a “fair” from me. Miller is still an injury case, however, as he’ll rehab this spring from the exact same shoulder surgery that ended his 2018-19 campaign. Still, he lands in the positives and the Bears will need him back and building on his success in 2020.

The Bad

The rest of the wide out group left a whole lot to be desired. Taylor Gabriel was the benefactor of three TD catches in a half against the atrocious R-words in Week 3, but again suffered from concussion issues and only played parts of nine games. Rookie 4th round pick Riley Ridley hardly saw the field, working through a litany of nagging foot and leg injuries before totaling a whopping six catches over the final three contests. Javon Wims filled in admirably, again, but when he’s consistently on the field you’re probably in some trouble with your personnel; he’s best suited for ST duty in the opinion of yours truly.

Tarik Cohen was the only real contributor out of the backfield, and while he was used quite a bit (79 catches, 104 targets) all but 19 of his 456 yards were via YAC, meaning he was hardly targeted past the line of scrimmage all year. That’s your #2 in targets, averaging 5.8 yards/catch, often being targeted BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Fun!

The Ugly

The tight end group may have been the worst ever in Chicago Bears history, at least in terms of the modern game. No individual player went over 91 yards FOR THE SEASON, and the two leaders at 91/87 were preseason practice squad players JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted. Big money man Trey Burton got hurt in August, never really got to full health, and submitted to injury in November, landing on IR with all of 24 catches for 84 yards. Pace’s pet Adam Shaheen continued to impress no one but his boss, again dealing with a myriad of injuries and totaling 9/74 line. He now boasts 26 catches in 27 career games since being drafted in the 2nd round of 2017. Blocking TE Ben Braunecker was used in the passing game. Bradley Sowell was active at the position for a few games; that should tell you all you need to know about this shit ass group.

The RBs outside of Cohen weren’t as bad as the TEs, but that group was paced by David Montgomery‘s 25/185/1 line, a bit underwhelming after all the buzz about him “doing it all well” after the draft. FA Mike Davis caught all seven of his targets before he was cut, and the coaching staff failed to get $5M man Cordarrelle Patterson involved in any meaningful way.

Any Hope?

No? Not really? Robinson should get a new deal, possibly very soon, but after that it’s a big ol’ shit sandwich. Miller has the injury history, Gabriel might need to retire (but at least they can save $4.5M in cutting him) and Ridley looks to have a long way to go. This group lacks speed…so maybe just try Patterson out there instead of running him on 3rd and short?? Whoever gets hired to help run the offense would do well to get Cohen involved more down the field and in the slot, potentially, along with Patterson. The speed exists on the team, just not sure these dummies can harness it properly. Maybe some further passing work for Montgomery to keep teams guessing too.

The TE room is all signed for next year, and Burton somehow has so much guaranteed money that they can’t just cut him. The depth pieces are all okay, but this group screams for improvement. Can they sign Austin Hooper if he hits FA? Pace will need to get creative to clear enough space for such a move.

Pace and Co. have quite the overhaul on their hands this off-season.

Final Grade: C-

Football

Our Bears wing gets together to sift through the rubble of the now-over 2019 season.

So now that the season will officially end in two weeks, what are you feeling?

Brian Schmitz: To be honest, I actually feel better about this team than I did 4, 8, 12 weeks ago. I was never on this Super Bowl bandwagon, because it had, and has, some gaping holes. But it’s encouraging to know that Mitch Trubisky can play and excel at this level, with this team. Montgomery is in the same boat.

 The coach needs a re-boot this off-season, and it starts by looking at himself, which leads to his in-game play calls. An improved O-Line and a real tight end will make a huge difference next season. Finally, the Bears will play a 3rd/4th place schedule next season, similar to 2018.

 

Tony Martin: This season just hurt a little bit more because while I was also doubting the Super Bowl hype, the regression was painful to watch and the Bears did not play fun football. It makes me wonder if it’s worse to lose like a Jameis Winston team or like a Mitch Trubisky team. I hope the tight end room grows stronger, the offensive line gets their shit together, and the playcalling improves. Since Week 1, Nagy has called plays that resemble the gameplan of a 14-year-old playing Madden online while using a new playbook. I’m hoping Mitch calling him out again in the post-game will reap benefits next year, because Mitch is sticking his neck out to win, not simply to start a pissing contest. 

As for how this season makes me feel, like I said it felt like a nightmare. Even when they won it felt gross. Even when they lost games we expected them to lose they made it close enough to sting more than usual. This team has quite the offseason ahead of themselves, and it’s going to tell us exactly what Nagy and Pace can do and if they’ll be part of the future. Or fuck it, if next year starts off poorly the Bears have enough assets to get 10 picks in the first two rounds of the 2021 draft, which they will immediately use seven of on undersized small school skill position players. 

Wes French: I’m feeling more like Tony than Brian.  The regression was stark, and while we all knew it was inevitable on defense the offense was supposed to take a leap. Nagy went from Coach of the Year to potential first firing of the 2020 season if he can’t get the playcalling and offense as a whole sorted out. Mitch calling him out in the media lately is very telling; I think it speaks to more people in the room agreeing with him than Nagy. We’ll see what they do about it. 

The Bears dealt with some key injuries as well, but Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd and Roquan Smith have to go down as major disappointments. Mack and Floyd seemingly disappeared after Week 4 and Smith had that weird inactive stretch. He did come back and look good only to go down to injury, leaving him with questions to answer instead of being discussed as an anchor in 2020.

Tony: The last play of the Packers game is a perfect encapsulation of the Bears season: they backed themselves into a corner, Nagy drew something up that was unique/interesting, and it wasn’t a fit for the personnel they had on the field. Look at the guys who ran that last route: Allen Robinson, Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson, Anthony Miller, and… Jesper Horsted. Naturally the ball fell into Horsted’s hands and his lack of awareness in that moment caused him to hold onto the ball too long, and just like the 2019 Bears he wasn’t prepared to make the play to win the game (or tie it, to be more accurate). 

Riley Ridley, maybe? Javon Wims? David Montgomery? Players you expect to have the ball skills to advance a lateral like that, a la Kenyon Drake in last year’s Miami Miracle? The 2019 Chicago Bears: a real fuckin head-scratcher.

 

There will obviously be time for season autopsies in a couple weeks, but let’s turn to the defense. If there’s one criticism of them this year is that they didn’t take the ball away enough. The defensive scoring is not something you can count on, but are the turnovers just cyclical/market correction too? Or is that going to have to be a focus next year?

Wes: The Bears paced the league in 2018 at 36 takeaways, which currently leads the league in 2019 (Evil Empire NE). The 2018 top five was rounded out by CLE, LAR, HOU and DEN. All five teams have dropped to the middle of the pack in 2019, landing between 16-18 total takeaways so far. I think this speaks to the cyclical nature of the turnover game, and the Bears were even more of an outlier because we did see them score so many times off of them in 2018. 

You can argue you’d expect them to do better than halving the number from the year before, but even that’s picking nits IMO. I do think you could say the lack of consistent pressure on the QB and getting hands on the ball at the line of scrimmage helps deflate those numbers. It’s also a new scheme, so even though the personnel is near identical they’re not doing the same things as last year that likely helped produce some of those takeaways. Playing a 3rd/4th place schedule in 2018 doesn’t hurt things, either. 

Brian: The shocking thing about the lack of turnovers forced is the fact they haven’t exactly faced a murderers row of QB talent this season. They have also been trailing in a lot of games, which lends itself to a much more conservative playbook for teams playing with their 2nd or 3rd string QB. Above all however, I think turnovers caused is most often a matter of chance.

Tony: I tend to believe that numbers like that are always prone to regression to the mean, but let’s be real here: pressure creates turnovers, and the 2019 Bears defense hasn’t gotten consistent enough pressure to make those things happen. Interceptions and fumbles happen when QBs are swarmed, and the speed with which the defense got to the QB last year forced a lot of quick routes that the Bears jumped for turnovers and scores. When the pressure comes back, the defense looks more like 2018s.

 

Football

vs.

RECORDS: Cowboys (6-6)    Bears (6-6)

KICKOFF: 7:20 pm

TV: Fox 32

RADIO: WBBM 780

Welcome to survival Thursday at Soldier Field.

Mitchell Trubisky looks to keep his Bears alive in the NFC race with a third straight improved performance and third straight victory to match, looking to take the team over .500 for the first time since the post-bye beating at the hands of the Saints. To do so the Bears will have to best a Dallas team headed in the opposite direction.

The Cowboys come to town after back to back losses against the AFC East, dropping consecutive games to New England and Buffalo to even their record at 6-6. It’s been a maddening season in Big D, with the ‘Boys see-sawing over and back down to the .500 mark all season. They’ve (mostly) handled the weak parts of their schedule, sporting a 6-1 record against teams .500 or worse, but are winless against any team with a winning record.

Jerrah has given Jason Garrett like four votes of confidence now and publicly stated the last two weeks he won’t make a coaching change in season, but if the Cowboys continue to slide and somehow piss away the easiest division in football he juuuuuust might break that promise. Dallas enters the final quarter of the season with a one game lead over the underachieving Eagles, but a Week 16 date in Philly looms.

Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have done their part, along with Amari Cooper, making what they can out of an offense that features scant few weapons outside of those three. Jason Witten is back from his attempt at the booth that failed miserably, but his return is only slightly more encouraging than his time on MNF. the defense struggles to create turnovers, especially interceptions, so the opportunity is there for Mitch, Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller to keep the good times rolling through the air.

Rod Marenelli’s (Hey, we know him!) defense has left his young CB Jourdan Lewis out to dry in the slot with his scheme that relies predominantly on pressure from the front four. The Cowboys are 15th in the league with 32 sacks and generate a good rush and containment with their front seven, but it’s left Lewis to handle a lot of responsibility in the middle of the field and slot receivers are feasting, especially of late. Julian Edelman went for 8/93 and former Cowboy Cole Beasley torched his former club for 6/110/1 on Thanksgiving in his return. This all lines up very well for Miller to build on his 140 yard performance last week and continue his narrative turnaround.

While the Bears could see many opportunities to exploit of offense, the defense will again be without a number of big time contributors, namely Danny Trevathan, Akiem Hicks for one more week and the highly doubtful Prince Amukamara with a hamstring. The Bears have cover in the form of Kevin Toliver and Buster Skrine, but it’s still a big inactive for a defense that needs to be tough in a very important home tilt.

The X factor in all this might be a non-football factor: Trubs history in primetime games at home. Can you the young QB overcome his shaky performances in the spotlight at Soldier Field and keep the dream of an unlikely playoff berth alive? It’s only five games, but a TD/INT/QB rating comparison of 5/9/60 vs 44/25/86 in all other home games is a pretty sizeable contrast. Mitch has put a few encouraging performances together, but the Cowboys represent a much tougher solve than the Lions and Giants.

The defense will also have it’s hands full with Zeke Elliott, who will no doubt look to exploit a banged up Bears front seven both on the ground and through the air. Zeke hasn’t exactly been a force this year, especially in the rushing game, but he’s still dangerous enough to take a game over as evidenced by his two-TD performance on just 68 scrimmage yards in Week 11 against the Lions. Kyle Fuller should be on Cooper most of the game and he’ll be busy with an average of just under 10 targets a game to the former Alabama WR.

Prediction: Bears 29, Cowboys 27

 

Football

Well, the Bears won. Somehow. Just barely. The local boys escaped Ford Field victorious and are now the least convincing .500 team in the league at 6-6. Are we going to spend another week and a half pretending this win is symbolic of a team finally putting it all together? The offense looked better than it did almost all season, save a handful of stupid penalties. Anthony Miller feasted on a pisspoor Lions defense, Allen Robinson looked good, and Mitch made a handful of great throws. The gameplan was solid, but once again it’s hard to differentiate between a mediocre team looking good because they planned well and a team who just happened to beat a far inferior team. Mitch went 29/38 for 338, finishing his line with 3 TDs and 1 INT, but still made a handful of head-scratching plays. That 3rd down in the red zone where he decided to run laterally instead of get the almost assured key first down? Great QBs don’t do that unless their name is Lamar Jackson.

The Bears came out making David Blough look like the next great Jeff Driskel-esque QB, but after the first 14 points that Detroit put up in the first quarter, they managed 6 the rest of the way. The Bears bent but didn’t break, and it was nice to see them bring pressure in key moments. It’ll be interesting to see if Prince Amukamara comes back healthy, because any serious winning streak will require a healthy defensive backfield since Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, and Minnesota are the teams left on the schedule.

The Good: Mitch looked great, the wide receivers played outstandingly (even Javon Wims put up good numbers), and David Montgomery runs HARD. If the Bears invest heavily in the offensive line this offseason he could put up some incredible numbers next year. Nick Kwiatkoski looked great again, and it makes me wonder if this is indeed the last season Danny Trevathan will be playing for the Bears. Kyle Fuller saved the game with a key third down tackle inside the 5 yard line, holding Detroit to a field goal. He played great all game. Eddie Jackson is back in the stat column and everything feels right.

The Bad: The Bears were determined to lose this one in the 4th, didn’t it seem? Bad penalties plagued the last Detroit drive before Roquan and Eddie teamed up to end the game, and though the Bears committed only one more penalty for four more yards than the Lions, it sure seemed like they came at the worst times. Once again the line play was uneven, and the Bears couldn’t bring consistent pressure with the front four once again.

The Ugly: I had to watch this game with my family who I love but also my mom’s friend who was pretty much yelling “OMG SPORTSBALL DID WE WIN” for the entire second half. I need a fucking nap.

If this team wins 10 games, they deserve to make the playoffs because the changes they’d need to make to get there would signify a serious righting of the ship and who knows? Stranger things have happened.

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

Ok, we’ve got all winter and spring to worry about the future, but with everyone talking about firing everyone…would you give Matt Nagy another year with a revamped offensive line?

Brian Schmitz: Would I give another year to figure himself out? No. I think he’s overmatched and as I’ve been saying – he’s been found out and hasn’t been able to counterpunch.

Will the Bears give him another year? 100%. He is Pace’s hire and the firing him would be an admittance of guilt. Similar to Shaheen still being a uniformed NFL player and Mitch starting games.

Wes French: I’m not sure I’m giving anyone another year right now, but before we even get to Nagy/Oline…where the hell is Ryan Pace? Nagy has been front and center through this whole thing, which might be more detriment at this point, but his GM hiding out this whole time is really starting to give me even worse feelings about all this. 

Nagy is looking a lot like his QB right now, continuing to do the same things over and over and not learning anything. 3rd and short was a disaster, again. They become the 2nd team to score only seven points while running at least 74 plays, and they have now gone 9 of 10 games under 300 yards of total offense. Nothing changes, but he expects different results. 

 Pagano has been here for 10 games and you can see tangible changes IN REAL TIME. Is his defense perfect? No. They still gave up another 4th quarter TD, but they also allowed just 37 rushing yards in the 2nd half after getting gashed for 73 in the first half. 

 Can any of you think of a time where Nagy made an adjustment that sustained any kind of success, week to week let alone in game? 

 Tony Martin: Y’all, this is the definition of “forgotten season” in the best case scenario for Pace, Nagy, and Mitch. Is it reactionary to just let Matt Nagy go at the end of the year? Something has gotta change, this window is open for what, two more years tops? 

 I was listening to something on the radio the other day about Lamar Jackson- the Ravens offense is specifically designed to maximize his talents and minimize his shortcomings, and in turn he has had time to develop aspects of his game while immediately being put in the best position to win as he is. They draft and sign players to compliment his skillset, and they scheme to his benefit specifically. 

 Can Matt Nagy gameplan like this? So far nothing I’ve seen would lead me to believe so, but I’d like to see if the plan is to either find a QB to fit in the system, or spend the offseason building their roster to Mitch’s strengths. 

 

It seems like every young player, on both sides of the ball, have just flattened out this year (with the possible exception of Allen Robinson, and that might just be health). Is that on Nagy or is that just who these guys are, which would put it on Pace?

 Tony: Could it be a combination of both? All these Bears players have limitations that were mitigated by gameplanning- putting them in a position to win. This year, it’s no surprise Tarik Cohen looks like shit when he’s running up the middle from the shotgun because the box is loaded. 

 Wes: I don’t think the players are the problem. Virtually the same group were the darlings of last season, and this year I think it’s a lack of confidence in the coach and the QB as the season has worn on. The defense might be a little of Pagano learning (slowly) how to best get the right players in the right roles in terms of pressure/coverage in the front 7. 

 On offense I put it squarely on Nagy being insane on account of trying the same shit week in and week out and expecting different results. Tony makes a great point about Baltimore/Jackson and designing a system that the QB can grow within while setting him up for the best possible results in the short term. The rub, though, might be that Trubisky is just THAT BAD and we’ve seen that he can’t even hit the easiest of plays or make the simplest of reads. I think it might be too far gone to be salvageable, considering this season is shot with the injuries to Trubs. 

 Expecting to be able to strip it down even further and hope for better next year would be foolish without at least bringing in some kind of veteran competition. Sure, you can point to the Oline a bit and that needs sorting, but the Oline isn’t constantly throwing to back shoulders regardless of that being the best spot. 

 Brian: It’s probably somewhere in the middle of each. Nagy isn’t putting a lot of guys in position to succeed, but at the same time, he has been given some bums that he’s trying to make real NFL players.

 Cohen, for instance, is a guy who we know can play. However, he needs to put in creative positions in order to succeed; and we have seen far less of this this season.

 Anthony Miller, on the other hand, may just be a guy who is all hype and is becoming a malcontent. This blame can be placed on Pace for falling in love with a guy and then talking about how much they love him.

Football

I had some friends over for the game, and as Eddy Pineiro’s last second kick hooked left, there was no anger. No rage, no Youtube-worthy TV smashing, no nothing. I think this level of numbness is part of the basic experience of being a Bears fan, this existential cloud that hangs over moments like today’s loss where we say to ourselves, “I knew he was gonna miss it”.

This game was gift-wrapped to the Bears by a vastly inferior Chargers team, with multiple end-zone drops, missed field goals, and drive-extending penalties. The last sequence before the end of the first half, with three defensive penalties awarding the Bears first downs in the red zone should have been a decisive score. Taylor Gabriel had a linebacker beat on a 4th quarter go route that Mitch overthrew, missing a sure touchdown. Naturally on the next play Mitch lost the ball and Los Angeles recovered.

That two play sequence exemplifies the 2019 Bears: even when they catch a break, they can’t catch a break by capitalizing on it; and before you can lament that missed opportunity, they do something even worse. This one stung, friends. This was still a winnable game, in spite of the Bears lack of offensive panache. They had three trips inside the Chargers 10 and came away with 9 total points. Eddy Pinerio missed a 33 yard kick earlier in the game. The Bears were in Pinerio’s range TWICE in the last three minutes and came away with zero points, after the second to last drive ended with a Trubisky sack taking the Bears out of field goal range.

I can’t write an entire article without mentioning how great it looked to see the Bears commit to the run, and how explosive David Montgomery looked. There was even a Mike Davis sighting! 162 team rushing yards is something to be proud of, especially for a team like the 2019 Bears. The run blocking looked better than it has all year, and the balance really opened up throws for Mitch. Anthony Miller looked great, creating separation and running deeper routes with ease. Mitch looked comfortable taking deep shots on the two free plays he got after drawing the Chargers offsides. It’s weird, I had no idea that having a good run attack might help set up the pass…?

Matt Nagy used the I-Formation a few times after mentioning it in a presser earlier in the week, and it looked good. I appreciate the Bears bringing in an extra lineman on a few plays and using J.P. Holtz as a fullback since he’s on the 45 man active roster and, well, idk I like seeing a power run game. I guess I am turning into my dad after all.

The defense looked good, with Kyle Fuller coming up with a great interception that he almost took to the house while Chris Spielman kept calling him Kendall. Khalil Mack came up with a crucial 4th quarter sack, and the team did well save for a few nailbiter deep shots that should’ve been touchdown catches but were dropped. Of the two touchdown drives they gave up, one was on a short field after a turnover and the other was a long Chargers possession when the Bears did their classic “we’re up by more than one score so we’re gonna play a soft zone” defense that I’ve seen my entire life.

Playoff teams win that game. Playoff teams score touchdowns in the red zone, playoff teams hit open receivers and playoff teams make field goals.

Ugh.

Football

Hey it’s yr boi DJ Yung Milwaukee- Wes and I decided to collab again on a matchup post for Sunday’s weekly nightmare. One of the greatest things about football is it’s ability to take us away from the problems of the workweek or whatever. Watching the Bears in 2019 is still therapeutic, because no matter how bad things get for me at least I’m not on this team, I just write about them

*sobs to the tune of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”*

Mornin, Wes! Let’s chop up these Bears/Chargers matchups, shall we? Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll take the Bears offense vs the Chargers defense.
 
Looking at the NFL.com stats for the Bears offense this season is a new, special form of torture. It’s the kind of torture that you know will keep bringing you back for more, but I think hopefully for us the expectations have been completely removed so we can laugh. They say comedy is tragedy plus time, and I’d say it’s time we went full Joker.
 
Look, the Bears live in a society. A society where they have 420 rushing yards in six games. They have gotten 17 first downs this year via the run game, and 15 first downs via penalty. Mitch can’t run a simple RPO. Kids are getting booed at Hawks games for going as Trubisky for Halloween, as if that wasn’t the spookiest costume in Chicagoland right now.
 
Anthony Miller is officially a ghost, Taylor Gabriel exploded for a huge game and is now also a non-factor, and the Bears customary jet sweep motion is bringing extra men into the box to stop the run. They’re shooting themselves in the foot left and right. The line isn’t performing well, but how well can you expect a line to hold up when they’re constantly facing 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-10? Hopefully the Bears take advantage of the Chargers allowing for 3rd down conversions literally half the time (39 conversions in 78 tries).
The interior of the Chargers line (Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane) are both out, so hopefully the Bears take advantage of that and establish the run for once. That said, Joey Bosa is still a monster and I’d hope the Bears keep some extra blockers back there to chip and give Mitch extra time to survey the field before eventually taking a sack.
 
Basically I’m afraid that Ryan Tannehill is going to have a better game against this team than Mitch will, but if the Bears watch tape they’ll know that the best way to beat the Chargers is to run the ball. Darwin James has been out all season, which opens up the box for more running lanes. You would think the Bears have plenty of options this Sunday going against a middling defense missing both it’s defensive tackles and safeties, right? The Chargers hemorrhaged yards to Titans receivers last week, with Ryan Tannehill going 12/13 for 181 yards and 2 TDs when targeting the middle of the field last week. Naturally, I’m expecting Matt Nagy to do the opposite.
 
Well, I’m thoroughly depressed now. What ya got, Wes?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve got a pick me up…and I might?

The Chargers offense can boast the third highest average passing yards a game at 293 and change, but they’re only one spot ahead of the putrid Bear rushing attack at 74 yard/game. So while they’ve been able to move the ball through the air with some ease, they are just as atrocious running the ball and the passing yards are nice, but they’re a 11/6 TD/INT ratio through the air and fumbled five times, bringing the overall TD/TO ratio to 14/11. The Bears TD/TO ratio is 10/6.

This is NOT going to be a battle of competent offense/teams; things will be ugly.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Chargers before they even leave for Chicago. Recently promoted G Forrest Lamp broke his ankle last weekend and will miss the rest of the season. It’s another hit to a line that’s already down Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung, though even with Okung reportedly be back this week you could expect some rust.
Melvin Gordon will continue trying to get up to speed after ending his hold out a few weeks ago, but neither he or Austin Ekeler have gotten much going at 2.3 and 3.6 yards/carry, respectively.

Ekeler is helping to prop up that passing game with 44 receptions for nearly 500 yards and four TDs, most on the team. He’s joined by Keenan Allen with 49/564/3, but after that it’s a steep drop to Mike Williams at just 23 catches. In fact, only TE Hunter Henry is in double digits for receptions on the season, and he’s gotten 14 of them the last two weeks. Philip Rivers has a game plan, and it’s to feed Allen, Ekeler and now Henry.

The Bears will need to get the pass rush back on track to create pressures and get Rivers forcing balls to those guys to early or into what should be some stiff coverage for his three favorite targets. Ekeler gets most of his on designed screens and check downs, so Roquan Smith will need to shake out of his funk to keep himself and his front-7 on task to stymie the few things the Chargers do well. The way that Allen makes more of his catches in the short to intermediate route tree, I’d like to see Prince Amukamara stick with Allen all over the field, but the next time we see the Bears employs such a tactic will be the first.

This really feels like the perfect “get back to basics” opponent for Matt Nagy and Chuck Pagano to hit the reset button. You already spoke to the offense having an opportunity to exploit a battered and ineffective defense. The Bears defense doesn’t really need a full reset, but they need an easier matchup in terms of the game as a whole, and if the offense can put even some semblance of sustained drives together, that alone will make the job a much simpler one for the defense. They’ve also got a strong potential for turnovers, which we know they thrive off of and use to build confidence.

This could game could lift a lot of spirits IF Nagy and Pagano and be simple, be basic and just play a clean game, because Anthony Lynn’s Chargers are more than capable of demolishing themselves if you give them slight trouble and can mitigate the big play here and there. Would be nice to see that from the other side in 2019.

Football

This is what I get? Off a bye week. After a loss. This is how you respond. Go ahead and ask yourself; can you remember a worse 3-3 football team? The Bears suck right now, and I don’t envision a scenario where they are going to get any better.

Before you go off on Mitch Trubisky and how he’s a joke of a QB, lets address the running game. A running game that really isn’t a running game. The Bears tried to run the ball seven times. Seven times in an NFL football game. Who in the actual fuck runs the ball seven times in actual NFL football game? Not in a drive, not in a quarter, not in a half, but in a game. What you ask, did the seven rush attempts yield? A grand total of 17 yards. That means 2.4 yard per carry. Not only did Matt Nagy call for seven rush attempts, he asked his lead back and prize draft pick to carry the ball two times. Again. TWO times. There is not a quarterback alive that can expect to see any sort of open passing lanes when the threat of a run is non-existent. It’s tee off time, 1-Mississippi type of rush that the Bears are facing. This is especially dreadful when you have an O-line that can’t block for dick.

When you have a terrible offensive line, you, in turn, have a quarterback who wants/needs to rush everything. This results in first read throws that are hurried, but more importantly, throws that your quarterback is not convinced he should make. Its easy, and borderline lazy, to say that Trubisky put up his respectable numbers when the game was over. But what do you want the guy to do? Stop playing? Start throwing picks? What he showed me is that he wanted to compete. He wasn’t great early, but he didn’t quit. I appreciate his effort and so do his receivers. Probably none more than Tarik Cohen, who played his ass off in route to nine catches. Cohen competed until the end, something you love to see.

Anthony Miller had five catches, but its clear there is a disconnect and unhappiness between him and Trubisky/Nagy. His poor body language was evident late in the game and he simply quit on some routes late in the game. I don’t know what’s going on with this guy, but its time he makes a name for himself on what he’s done instead of what he’s going to do.

I have never been a big Corradelle Patterson guy, but there is no question that he balled out today. Guy was everywhere and made plays in all phases. He’s going to be an Pro-Bowl special teams players and is someone that the young guys on the team can learn from.

Much like this entire Bears team, this defensive unit isn’t as good as we thought they’d be. 36 points allowed to a Saints offense that was without Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara? Get the fuck outta here. Not only did backup running back Latavius Murray run for his second 100 yard game against the Bears in two games, but Michael Thomas caught 9 balls for 131 yards against a Bears secondary that has continued to struggle this season. Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress in a reserve role, throwing for 281 yards, but more importantly, only getting sacked one time.

This is going to be a long week for the Bears. Especially so: Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy. Questions are many, answers are few, and we still don’t know who this team is seven weeks into the season.