Everything Else

Matt Nagy finally did it. They finally let Mitchell Trubisky run around and do what he loves, and guess what? It was all a  Borat voice GREAT SUCCESS as the Bears win their third straight to go over .500 for the first time in 10 weeks with a 31-24 victory.

Mitch ran for 64 yards (season high) and a touchdown to go along with a 23/31 line and 244 yards through the air with 3 more TDs in what feels like his best performance in a long, long time. David Montgomery added 86 yards on the ground, Allen Robinson accounted for 48 yards and two scores and the Tight End combo of Jesper Horsted and J.P. Holtz combined for a line of 7/92 to round everything out. Horsted and Holtz represent big time positives from a position that’s been a massive disappointment this season, if not the last few years. That impact was felt in the successful run game as well, with the tandem’s ability to seal off the edges and get to the second level.

The Cowboys started things off with a the longest TD drive of the NFL season in terms of time and plays, a 17 play, 8:57 minute drive that resulted in an Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run and a 7-0 Dallas lead. A Trubisky INT at the goalline would give Dallas the ball back before the end of the first quarter, but from there the Bears would reel off 2 straight points and Dallas would not convert a third down until late in the fourth quarter.

Dallas would make things appear interesting with a few late TDs of their own, but the game was pretty well decided after a Trubisky TD pass to Allen Robinson to open the second half, capping an 11 play, 84 yard drive to put Chicago up 24-7 with Dallas reeling. A David Montgomery fumble (a play that arguably could/should’ve been stopped for progress, but whatever) late in the third quarter would help Dallas keep hope alive, but it would prove too little too late as Trubs led a three play, 60 yards TD capped by his rushing TD to ice the game.

The defense was frustrated on the opening drive, giving up swaths of yardage on the ground and unable to get off the field on third down, something they’re normally used to dealing with late in games. Pagano would tighten things up and make adjustments in the looks from his front seven, though, to stifle the Dallas offense of Dak Prescott and Elliott, and doing so mostly without Roquan Smith who left the game early during the second Dallas drive with a Pec injury.

If there was a negative for the Bears, it was injuries. Already without Prince Amukamara, Danny Trevathan and Akiem Hicks, the loss of Smith to what is likely a serious injury (you don’t get ruled out within minutes for a ‘minor’ pec injury) will make running the table in the final three games that much harder. Montgomery also went into the blue medical tent after a short carry with two and change left, again less than ideal. there was no immediate report on Montgomery, so we’ll all hold our breath until more news on Friday.

The Bears now have 10 days to heal up and game plan for Green Bay on the road. Things got closer than they needed to, but all in all a positive night that keeps the dream alive. Mitch was buzzing, Khalil Mack was alive (3 QB hits, 1 Sack, 1 TFL) and everyone went home happy…except for Jason Garrett, who might find himself without a job before he gets to the team plane.

BEAR DOWN

 

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

Tony: Are the Bears cursed?

It’s a funny question, I know. Obviously sports curses aren’t real, except for the very real Curse of Colonel Sanders placed upon the Hanshin Tigers in (creepily) 1985. Yet every Bears team that has come close to the ’85 Bears have fallen short, for myriad reasons: QB injuries in the NFC Championship game, Danieal Manning forgetting that Peyton Manning can throw deep, the double doink… I could go on but I won’t. Could curses be real, and is the Bears franchise carrying some demons that need to be exorcised?

Today’s Matchup is going to look at the way the Chicago Bears franchise is haunted by the ghosts of the ’85 team, and why it’s time we forget those ghosts and stopped holding the current team up to that legendary group every year.

Every new coach says on day one that they need to beat the Packers first and foremost, a cute little throwback to the era before free agency when players stayed with one organization for their entire career and developed a passionate hatred for their division rivals, and not necessarily what I want to hear from a new coach. I will defend to my grave that if the Bears went 14-2 and won a Super Bowl but lost both games to the Packers, I’d be just as thrilled. This is totally a throwback to those 80s Bears/Packers bloodbaths that I wasn’t even alive for, so just drop it! I hate the Packers, sure, but I’d rather see the Bears win a Super Bowl.

The Bears franchise narrative has been rooted in the identity of the ’85 team for my entire life (I was born in ’86). They are supposed to have a handful of things, regardless of anything else:

-Bad QB play

-A stud RB

-Great defense

-Fantasy football irrelevance

As crazy as it sounds, I feel like the front office drafts to this identity either consciously or not. Mitchell Trubisky is the highest the Bears have taken a QB since 1951 when they took Bob Williams (and also in 1939 when they drafted the QB that most consider the best in Bears history- Sid Luckman). Considering they passed on two other signal callers who have much more success in the league thus far, it’s an interesting thought that maybe this was a concerted effort to trade up and explicitly break the narrative. However, Mitch is, well, Mitch, and the Bears are like the Weedians walking through the desert on the cover of Sleep’s “Dopesmoker,” wandering in a haze forever on a permanent search for the franchise’s first amazing QB.

Shitty QB play isn’t the be all end all: Tampa Bay, Baltimore (twice!), and the Giants (also twice!) have won with 1uarterbacks that are at or below The Dalton Line. It’s the defensive side of the ball that has to consistently be held up to the ’85 team in a totally unfair way. Offenses in 1985 were way more run-heavy: only two teams had over 4000 passing yards on the season, whereas 14 teams threw for over 4000 in 2018 (with two teams breaking 5000 yards). Buddy Ryan was a genius and that defense was stacked, but given the way the league was at the time, you could stack the box and force the issue like the 46 did. One of the two teams that threw for over 4000 yards that year was Miami, who as you surely know were the only team to beat the 46.

Let it be said that the current year and a half run of the Bears defense should be considered the best this team has ever looked. We are blessed, but nobody is going to do anything but compare this team to ’85, and the current defense is so much better. Over the last 28 games, they have totally dominated and are easily the best defense in the league. Argue with me about stats on this team all you want, but they haven’t gotten to play with a significant lead very often and usually spend 65% of their time on the field after multiple three-and-outs by the offense. The ’85 team used talent and a revolutionary scheme to field an absolute monster, but this incarnation of the defense beats an offense simply by being better. They might be better if Vic stayed, but they can still get after people.

Are Bears fans destined to spend the next 20 years making up “Buddy Ryan’s Curse” theories until the team finally wins a championship? Fuck, that’s depressing. The Bears need to win a Super Bowl soon, but I’ll be looking forward to it so we can forget 1985.

 

Wes: I can’t think that the Cowboys or any of their fans would say they’re cursed, but they definitely have the ghost of lofty expectations haunting them. 

Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson made up the NFL dynasty of the 1990’s in Big D and crazy asshole Jerrah Jones has been chasing that dragon for nearly 30 years. Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Jason Garrett are the most recent trifecta looking to succeed where so many others have failed…but their window is closing quicker than Jones pal Papa John’s decline. 

While Chicago chases one title from over 30 years ago, Dallas is looking for a fix of 5+ years of dominance and three straight Super Bowl Titles from 1992-94. We could take it back to the 70’s too when the Cowboys went to five Super Bowls and won two with QB Roger Staubach and Legendary Head Coach Tom Landry. Cowboys fans were used to success, even if that success was every other decade. 

Well, the ‘boys are staring at 25 years since their last NFL title and almost as long since they appeared in the NFC Championship. Jones has burned through coaches like Bill Parcells and Wade Philips and quarterbacks like Tony Romo and…umm…Jon Kitna, winning plenty of Division titles, but watching the Giants and Eagles come out of the NFC East and win NFL titles (and do it over the current and possibly best NFL dynasty in history in the evil empire of the New England Patriots). 

Dallas and Chicago have actually had a sort of similar run since the late 90s, with Chicago arguably seeing better success having made it to a Super Bowl and a handful of deep runs through the NFC playoffs…albeit not recently. Similar QB issues, similar coaching issues, similar disappointed fans. 

Dak, Zeke and Garrett are the latest to take a stab at conquering the NFL and bringing glory back to big D, with Garrett currently holding on as one of the longest tenured HCs in the league despite a scant 2-3 record on three playoff appearances since 2010. Nine seasons, three NFC East titles and three playoff flame outs (including the infamous Dez Bryant non-TD catch being reversed on replay in Green Bay back in 2014). He’s probably gotten such a long leash because he took over a dumpster fire – points if you remember the Stephen McGee days – in 2010 and is working on a fourth NFC East title in six years. Garrett’s seat is seemingly forever hot, though, with Jones as a boss. He’s routinely discussed as finally losing his job, and failing to win a very disappointing 2019 NFC East and surprising in the playoffs will probably see his run come to an end. Maybe a fitting way to end the decade?

Dak Prescott rose from relative mediocrity as a mid-round draft pick to surprise as a very capable NFL QB, much like Romo before him, but even with Zeke and now Amari Cooper to help on offense the Cowboys haven’t been able to put enough competent performances together this season to make anyone believe they can upset the NFC hierarchy come January. Elliott has been good but not great on the ground; games the defense shows up the offense seems to lose it’s way and vice versa. Dallas has beaten every sub-.500 team on the schedule, save for a shameful loss at the Jets, but also haven’t been able to beat any team over .500. Sound like any team you’re used to seeing, dear reader?

Matching 6-6 records and an oddly similar two decade stretch culminates in a TNF matchup of mediocrity. Dallas has the luxury of still being very much alive regardless of the outcome, but in the grand scheme they’re still stuck in the NFL purgatory the Bears find themselves in. The NFL is so widely popular because worst to first is doable with a solid draft and some good signings and hires…but they don’t ever talk about how worst to first and back to worst is just as easily attainable. 

Chicago and Dallas are great examples of the latter, without either reaching the heights of the ghosts they’re stuck chasing.