Football

Once again, we collect our Bears wing to put the final touches on the win over Dallas and look ahead to the Packers. 

Ok…well there’s gotta be stuff to be optimistic about now after Thursday night, right?

Brian Schmitz:  Here for all the positivity, it will be a great offseason storyline for a team that misses the playoffs. It’s such a Bears situation: they were bad, but just not bad enough for anything of substance to change. This little run is assuredly a cock tease that will end with a jerkoff and a sausage pizza. 

Wes French: Brian, call me what you want but a cock tease that ends in a jerkoff and a sausage pizza doesn’t really sound all that bad. 

Considering the way the game started – 17 play, 9 min DAL TD drive, Mitch INT on the goal line – I was all set to MF everyone and write this thing off. But then Mitch caught fire with his legs, the new TE contingent proved far more competent than their over priced/drafted predecessors and the offense seemed to open up in a big way. Even Pagano go the early adjustments right after that opening TD drive and the game felt well in hand shortly after the start of the second half. 

So while I’m relishing #clubDUB right now, I’m not going to punch any postseason tickets or act like they’ve solved their problems. it still took Matt Nagy 3/4 of a season to let his QB do what he does best, which is probably costing this team a real shot at some January success. I am starting to think that more of the issues lay with Nagy himself and his thinking he’s the smartest guy on the field at all times. 

What do you guys think this season could’ve looked like if they’d taken a more Baltimore approach with the QB, letting him run around and working on those awareness/decision making deficiencies in real time instead of telling everyone shit was going AMAZING all summer, forcing complex plays on an over-matched young QB and then making a bunch of excuses and just saying “not good enough” for three months?  

Brian: The Baltimore approach is the new NFL. It’s akin to the GS Warriors of 2015. They revolutionized the way the game is played. Every fan should want to see the Bears trend this way, because A. It fits their current offensive talent. B. It works. And C. It’s really fucking fun to watch. 

 

It’s going to be the question over these three games, no matter how they go, but should any final decisions on Mitch be made purely on how he finishes this season? He could play himself off the team in these last three, but the more likely scenario is he plays just well enough for the Bears to roll with him next year without picking up that fifth year option, right?

Wes: Final decisions? No. As we discussed earlier, I think Nagy/et al did Mitch a disservice this season with the way they started and the game plans/play calling that accompanied it. He’s done better of late by doing more of what he’s comfortable with, not what Nagy wants to do. I think biggest decision to be made is on Nagy – stick with what works and change/implement some of what he’d like to do as his QB starts to show he can do those things or spend the off-season trying to force his scheme through with a guy that clearly didn’t take to it last summer and hope for better results. For fans and everyone involved I really hope it’s the former.

I honestly have no idea what they’re going to do regarding the fifth year option. He can definitely play his way to it or out of it, but I believe it’s more about if Pace/Nagy will be here to see it. If they don’t pick the option up I think it says more about those two and whether or not they’ll be here beyond 2020 as well. 

Tony Martin: I think that while the biggest decision may be figuring out what Mitch’s contract looks like, if the offensive line isn’t patched up significantly this team will spend all of 2020 doing what they did in 2019- stumbling around trying to figure out if the QB they moved up to take is actually any good. The skill position players are great, the defense should continue to play at a level that is good enough to win games consistently, but the offensive line needs extensive work. Without it I fear this team will be treading water in 2020 no matter how this year ends. 

Brian: As this season progresses, it has become more clear to me that Nagy deserves much more of the blame than Mitch. Nagy selfishly wants to win his way, that is why he gets uber-defensive when asked about ceding the play calling duties to anyone other than Matt Nagy. He wants Mitch to be a robot that follows Nagy’s offensive plan and doesn’t ad-lib in any sense. Mitch, on the other hand, wants to be at his best, which is when he is creating with his feet, getting outside of the tackle box, and sometimes just drawing shit up in the sand. A good comp for this situation is the Ravens; John Harbaugh is confident enough in himself as a coach that he doesn’t try to contain the off the cuff playmaking abilities of his QB. I don’t think anyone is playing for their job at this point and I don’t think the next 3 games will change who the QB, Coach, or GM of this team is next season.   

Tony:  I think you’re speaking to the real issue here: the power struggle when it comes to how to most effectively run the Bears offense. I think consensus is starting to build among Bears faithful that Nagy cost the team at least two or three games with his insistence on running the offense his way, which is on one hand why he was hired but on the other hand explains a lot of the issues the team faced through a majority of the season thus far. If this version of the offense was showing up when the defense was healthy, this team would be holding a Wildcard spot today.

 

Football

The Cowboys Are The Maple Leafs Are The Mexican National Team – No matter what happens in the rest of your life, you can be sure the Cowboys will suck up the most amount of press coverage, perhaps just behind the Patriots but possibly even more. I suppose that’s what happens when you’re the center of a deluded state that’s also bigger than most countries and only thinks about football and guns and cheerleader tits. But unlike the Patriots, the Cowboys have earned exactly none of it.

You may think the Bears have been a pretty futile organization this lifetime, and you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. But the Cowboys have been completely useless, completely irrelevant, and completely backwards and yet they’re always front and center. They have the unearned arrogance of their shithead, made-of-plastic owner who has always had too much money for anyone to tell him he doesn’t know shit and should shut the fuck up. And he always will. And it’s why he gets to be the GM and coach of this team for the past 25 years, drive it into the ground, and no one’s going to stop him. He also happens to be commissioner of the entire league in reality, and I’m sure has made Roger Gooddell piss himself in front of all 31 owners at least twice.

The Cowboys haven’t seen an NFC championship game in 25 years. The Bears have managed at least two in that time. So have the Falcons. The fucking Cardinals have even done better, and you once again forgot they existed until you just read their name.  The only other team that’s been this pathetic for this long is owned by Jerrah’s even more balloon handed mini-me in Daniel Snyder. Or the Lions. That’s what we’re talking about here.

All they’ve got is their middle-finger-to-god stadium and a bunch of nitwits to tell me that Shiner Bock isn’t actually piss before whooping “How about them Cowboys?!” without bothering to notice the score. I saw some ‘Boys fans roll up to the bar I was in last night not too far from Soldier Field well before the end of the game, bundled up like they were in the middle of the Iditarod even though it was like 37. And in that moment, you could get just a glimpse in their eyes that they know they’re worthless, the team they follow will never be anything and what they’d really prefer is to just slink off back into the shadows. But there are no shadows in Texas, thanks to the heat death all their oil tycoons are soon to bring us. They’ll never admit it, but you could see it. It was there.

They are the Maple Leafs. They are Mexico at a World Cup. We never stop hearing about them and they swagger into every new opportunity like they own the place and “this time it will be different!” banners and then they never do shit. It was ever thus.

Maybe Growth Isn’t Linear? – Three games is hardly a definitive statement. And neither will be the next three games, or likely won’t be. And I’m as guilty as anyone of this. We all want to believe that a young player, and team, takes sequential steps. They come in, they flash but struggle, then they flash more and struggle less, then they become consistent, then they become special, and everyone wins. We’re conditioned to that here in town. Kane and Toews arrived in 2007. And they as players and the Hawks as a team took those sequential steps: from promise, to exciting, to contender, to champ. The Cubs did the same from ’14 to ’16 essentially. Fun and exciting, playoff run that portended to more, champ.

But it’s not always that way. I don’t know if Mitch Trubisky can save his career in these last six games. I would be hesitant to base an entire franchise’s fortunes on not even half of a season. But he’s had a weird career, and maybe his growth isn’t linear. He was drafted onto a team that was going to fire its coach for whom he was never really supposed to play for. He essentially had to start over in his second year, and on the other side of the ball a championship-caliber defense had to be kept up with. His coach tried to rush the cycle to keep up with that defense and not miss the opportunities presented, even if it wasn’t to Mitch’s strengths.

The Bears as a whole ended up in championship discussion far quicker than they could have imagined. The defense cycled up way quicker than the offense. But unlike last year it’s dealing with major injury problems. It’s carrying an offense that wasn’t ready to run with it. Everyone was trying to learn and expand at the same time, both at a lightning pace that just about no one can keep up. Which is why you get the massive confusion and blank looks we’ve seen most of the season.

Maybe it’ll always be mismatched. Maybe this is just a tease. Or perhaps these things just don’t always work on a steady arc up. Maybe the first half of the season was their stumble or downturn. There may be another yet. We won’t know until next season for sure. But it’s rarely as simple as we’d like it, and we’re spoiled by seeing it be that simple a couple times locally.

Ryan Pace Can Construct A Bottom Of A Roster – At least defensively. Injuries to Akiem Hicks, Danny Trevathan, and now Roquan Smith should probably cripple a team, especially with Prince Amukamara on the sidelines as well. But we’ve seen Robertson-Harris or Nick Williams or last night Kevin Pierre-Louis or Kevin Toliver make just enough plays to keep the Bears defense humming. On offense, Javon Wims has filled in admirably for Taylor Gabriel, while the offensive line seems to have evened out after losing Kyle Long and dealing without Bobby Massie.

You can’t live like this forever. Getting Hicks back should help, but what he’s capable of no one can tell you right now. But hey, the games still mean something after all the Bears have been through. For right now, we’ll take it.

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.

Football

Happy Thursday and welcome back to THE VAULT, my weekly sermon where my pulpit is a Dave Wannstedt-run sideline and my scripture is just whatever relevant pages and boxscores I can find on Pro Football Reference.

Today’s Vault is a deep dive into the Monday Night Football tilt between the Bears and a visiting, defending Super Bowl Champ Dallas Cowboys team that took place on September 2nd, 1996. It was a Week 1 surprise Bears victory over a Michael Irvin-less Cowboys team where Deion Sanders had twice as many passing targets as any Bears player, and seven more targets than anyone else on the Cowboys. Of Deion’s 67 passing targets in 1996, 15 of them came in this Monday night opener. What a weird fucking timeline.

How weird was this game? Take a look at some of these goofy ass stats:
-The only passing TD thrown in the game was from Curtis Conway to Raymont Harris
-Bears punter Todd Sauerbrun had more passing yards than Curtis Conway, also from a pass that was completed to Raymont Harris.
Bryan Cox was responsible for as many points (6) as the entire Cowboys team
Herschel Walker caught two passes for some reason

This Cowboys team was still stacked with declining talent left over from their time as the dominant team in the NFL: Aikman, Irvin, Smith, Sanders, Moose Johnston, Leon Lett, Charles Haley, Darren Woodson. The Bears had Curtis Conway, Raymont Harris, Erik Kramer, Walt Harris, and Mark Carrier. Yet somehow, they came out on top.

I was looking back on the 1996 NFL Draft because I love second-guessing Bears drafts from the past, and aside from the amazing players they passed on, it should be noted that current Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri came out in the 1996 NFL Draft. Surreal.

The Bears were overmatched in this game, but they pulled out all the stops and got a W. A ton of trick plays and some key turnovers were the difference, so with that I’d like to take a second and praise Raymont Harris, or as you may know him, THE ULTRABACK (emphasis mine).

It’s hard as hell to find any good Raymont Harris tape on Youtube, and it’s a damn shame. By comparison, I found dozens of Jason McKie videos, and he wasn’t nearly as cool and certainly didn’t have a dope nickname. Raymont Harris has a fan page on Facebook with 39 likes and no profile picture. Players from the 90s that weren’t superstars will always get a raw deal in my eyes because they’re young enough to still know how to open a PDF but don’t have their middling highlight tapes available for me to peruse when I’m avoiding lesson planning. Like, they know they’re missing out, you know? Think about the fact that Donnell Woolford doesn’t have a sick Youtube compilation. I guess I’m really just hoping to watch old Bears videos and see if these players were actually good or fun to watch, and while there’s no good Curtis Conway videos there’s a Marcus Robinson 2000 highlight tape that I could watch if I so choose. It should be noted that I chose to watch that Marcus Robinson hype video and they spend half of the time talking about Dez White, Bobby Engram, Marty Booker, and Kaseem Sinceno.

You read that right, during a Marcus Robinson highlight video, the name Kaseem Sinceno was said.

I digress. Obviously fullbacks don’t have much room in today’s NFL so it’s not really that interesting of a thought experiment to ponder how well he’d do in the modern league, but he had a rare size/speed combo that looks good in the videos I can find of his time at Ohio State and various Sportscenter clips of Bears games from this era (I miss your voice so much, Stu Scott). He was apparently named the “toughest running back in the NFL” by a poll hosted by the Denver Post in 1997, and signed a one-year tender to compete for lead back duties that season with Rashaan Salaam, another player I loved.

To really wrap this Vault, I should mention that while Rashaan Salaam has a couple dope highlight videos of his on-field play, all the videos you can find of him came after his tragic death on December 5th, 2016; I’m not complaining but in an age where I’m so used to watching highlight tapes where players are making huge plays with like a Lil Wayne track as the backing music, it’s surreal to watch Salaam run through people at Colorado while Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie No. 1” plays in the background.

Bears won in 1996, Bears win in 2019. Go watch some obscure Bears on Youtube if you can. Or just settle for watching Raymont Harris do a cameo on Married With Children.

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

In the NFL, the fortunes of any given team can change in just one play. What would happen to the Patriots if Tom Brady goes down in Week 1? Would the Bears even be a playoff team if Khalil Mack is out for the year? Scenarios like this are what make predicting a team’s record so hard. But, it’s an entertaining exercise, and really enjoyable to look back in March and realize how dumb I was.
So, without further ado, I present my 2019 Chicago Bears prediction:

• Week 1 Vs. Green Bay Packers
I am honestly more excited to see that Aaron Rodgers can do with a new offense than to see how much the Bears can improve after last year’s success. I truly feel like the lack of pre-season game reps will hurt Mitch Trubisky and the Pack will do just enough to win a low scoring affair.

• Week 2 Vs. Denver Broncos
Although traveling to Denver to play at elevation is never easy, I believe the Bears, who will be working off of a 10 day rest, are the more talented team and will win their first game of the season.

• Week 3 Vs. Washington Redskins
Crazy things happen when you play a Monday night road game. Although the Bears are clearly the better team in this matchup, I think they get shocked as a road favorite.

• Week 4 Vs. Minnesota Vikings
Coming off two losses and a short week, the Bears will somehow find a way to beat the Vikings at Soldier Field on a late game…wait for it…43-yard field goal.

• Week 5 Vs. Oakland Raiders
Because they are the better team, the Bears head into the bye week with a close win and even their record vs. the Brothers Gruden at 1-1.

• Week 7 Vs. New Orleans Saints
Coming off a bye week, the Bears return home and get throttled. This is one of the few games of the season where the Bears defense seems overmatched.

• Week 8 Vs. LA Chargers
Back to back games against offense juggernauts poses a problem as the Bears lose their 2nd straight for the 2nd time this season. Things in Chicago are starting to get anxious.

• Week 9 Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Panic much? The Bears lose their 3rd straight to Eagles in their first road game in almost a month. The realization that playing a 1st-place schedule is starting to set in.

• Week 10 Vs. Detroit Lions
The Lions are exactly what this struggling team needs as the Bears blow out one of the NFL’s worst teams.

• Week 11 Vs. LA Rams
The Bears go 0-for-Los Angeles as the Rams show everyone who the class of the NFL is. Bears move to 0-3 in primetime games this season and have still not beaten a good team on the road.

• Week 12 Vs. NY Giants
A must win for a team that begins a portion of the schedule that becomes increasingly getable. Bears big in this one, which is much needed heading into Thanksgiving.

• Week 13 Vs. Detroit Lions
Three days off don’t matter as the Bears win their second straight overall and sweep the season series from the lowly Lions. This is an impressive win for a team that is having trouble with its own confidence.

• Week 14 Vs. Dallas Cowboys
Another primetime loss as the Bears enter the toughest part of the schedule with their playoff chances slipping away.

• Week 15 Vs. Green Bay Packers
The Bears keep their playoff dreams alive with a road win. The defense shuts down Aaron Rodgers and make up for the season opening loss.

• Week 16 Vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Coming into the game as a home dog, Chicago contains Patrick Mahomes and earns their first primetime win of what has become a very trying season for the offense.

• Week 17 Vs. Minnesota Vikings
With a potential playoff berth on the line, the Bears lay an egg on the road and fail to qualify for the postseason. An offseason full of questions are ahead, especially at the Quarterback position.

Final Record: 8-8 (4-4 Home, 4-4 Away); Do not qualify for playoffs. The City of Chicago burns to the ground.