Football

What surprised you more? How well Chase Daniel played, or, how bad the Minnesota Vikings are?

The answer to the first question is obvious. Chase Daniel is a serviceable NFL backup who a.) knows his own limitations, b.) plays within himself, and c.) excels in a system that favors a quick hitting, short yardage passing game over a five- or seven-step drop progression driven scheme that looks for the big play. Daniel finished his day 22-30 for 195 and one TD. Of the eight incompletions, there were four drops, which obviously makes his accuracy all the more impressive. To step in cold and operate the offense arguably better than the starter is a tribute to Daniel’s practice habits and knowledge of the offensive system. Given the investment the organization has in Mitch Trubisky, I don’t envision a quarterback controversy. However, it seems pretty clear that Matt Nagy trusts Daniel and feels more than comfortable with him running the offense.

The answer to the second part of the question above is far more difficult to answer. The Vikings prized run-game finished with 40 yards on 16 carries while the NFL’s leading rusher Dalvin Cook accounted for 35 of those yards on 14 carries. The Bears knew Kirk Cousins wasn’t going to beat them, so they tee’d off on stopping the run and did just that. Cousins finished the game with a respectable 27/36 for 233 yards. These numbers are actually more impressive than they looked as Cosuins was dodging a legit Bears pass rush all day. Cousins was sacked six times and was under intense pressure on almost every five-step drop he took. The Vikings defense yielded only 269 total yards, which wins most Sundays – except when you are going up against the generationally talented defense that is the Bears outfit.

The one player who will benefit more than anyone else by having Daniel under center is Javon Wims. Wims grabbed four balls on five targets, including the Bears longest pass play of the season, a 37-yard connection down the right sideline. Daniel and Wims developed their familiarity with each other by taking second team reps in practice as well as running some scout team offense together. A potential Wims emergence would be extremely valuable to an offense that is struggling to find a #2 receiver behind Allen Robinson.

This brings to mind my weekly mention of Anthony Miller. Miller had two catches on Sunday for 11 yards. – this is same number of catches that the ghost of Adam Shaheen had. I am at a loss when trying to figure out why Miller continues to be a non-factor in this offense. Could we have been wrong about him and his potential? Is he still not healthy? I don’t know these answers, but if Miller continues to disappear, this offense will not be able to sustain any sort of consistency.

Speaking of consistency, for the 4th time in as many games, the run game was atrocious. Nagy made a concerted effort to get David Montgomery the rock. However, 21 touches for 53 yards with a long of seven yards are not what we are looking for from a lead back. I respect and endorse a commitment to the run, but with this O-Line, I’m sure we are not going to see Montgomery in the conversation for Rookie of the Year.

While Montgomery struggled, Tarik Cohen made the most of his seven total touches, highlighted by a 10-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Cohen had a chance for a huge day, but bobbled a perfectly thrown Chase Daniel throw down the sideline which would have resulted in a huge gain and more points on the board.

We are getting force fed Cordarrelle Patterson in the run game. I get it, it’s Matt Nagy being cute. But it continues to produce absolutely nothing. Patterson is a return specialist at this point in his career, except he’s not that good in that phase anymore. Tarik Cohen needs to be taking the backfield reps that Patterson is currently getting, and if that doesn’t happen, getting Anthony Miller more involved this way is an option that needs to be explored.

Next week, the Bears take to the pitch of Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to face the Oakland/Los Angeles/Las Vegas Raiders. There is no reason we can’t expect more of the same from the Bears defense, but what will we see from Chase Daniel, who will be working with the 1’s all week in practice. Another strong Daniel outing and Chicago may just have a QB controversy on their hands.

Football

vs.

 

Records: MIN 2-1 at CHI 2-1

TV: 3:25 pm – CBS

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

All I’ve heard in my head this week is that goddamned horn: Dailynorseman.com

Another week, another seemingly must-win game for the Chicago Bears. Okay, maybe not MUST win, but a home date with a division rival and staring at either a share of the division lead or 4th place and an 0-2 division start. Call it what you want, but this one is big. It’s also about as close to a look in the mirror as this team gets.

Minnesota and Chicago come in with identical records, albeit early in the season, but the similarities are pretty striking:

  • Strong, steady defenses with a core that’s played together for years. Tops in the league.
  • Above average offensive lines that also have continuity.
  • Many offensive weapons, yet underachieving/lackluster QB play holds them back.
  • Both can’t conquer Aaron Rodgers, even with his bullshit supporting cast.

The starts to this season aren’t identical, but both sides have losses to Green Bay that were very winnable and one victory over terrible teams (OAK and WSH). Minnesota can boast a complete game in their victory at home over Oakland, while Chicago had some nervy moments late in their two score road victory in Washington. So what else can we glean from the early season picture? Kirk Cousins might be something Mitchell Trubisky strives to be, which honestly sucks a whole lot.

The Vikings have Dalvin Cook, though, and that’s helped to shield Cousins a bit thus far in 2019. Cook has gone over 100 yards every game so far, something a certain former Vikings stud RB never even achieved. Cook is also leaned on in the passing game when Cousins is missing Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs with regularity. You can expect a bounty of touches for Cook on Sunday as the Vikings look to protect Cousins from a scary but banged up Bears pass rush and ball-hawking secondary. It’s been a very successful formula through three weeks and there won’t be much variation in Week 4. Here it is, Khalil Mack. Come stop us.

Chicago will look to keep building on the momentum of the last two weeks and the gains on the offensive side of the ball, but that’s going to be tough sledding against the Minnesota defense. Matt Nagy has shown that he can definitely coach this team up and work through the problems of the Week 1 debacle, and he’ll need to show even more progress to carry a three-game winning streak into the London trip. The plays are there to be made, and a lot will come down to whether or not Trubisky can hit the wide open receivers his head coach sets him up with. The Vikings will pressure Mitch all afternoon, so getting another quick, rhythm-building start will be paramount to how the offense goes. If they’re stalled and struggling early, this one will be over pretty quickly. Falling behind by multiple scores against a league league leading defense is a test this team hasn’t encountered so far in 2019, and it’s not one I’m sure Nagy and the Bears can come back from.

The biggest key will likely be to further establish the running game and backfield assignments. This new look group has mostly been a work in progress through three weeks, with rookie David Montgomery gaining touches each week and distancing himself from Tarik Cohen, Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis. Speaking of Davis, where the hell has he been? Getting Davis and COhen more involved will help to confuse defenders and opposing coaches, so ideally we’ll see more of that diamond formation but with different RBs in each role so as to better disguise identical plays.

We’re going to learn a lot about this Bears team in Week 4; whether they can continue to adjust and create an offensive identity, whether they can game plan for such a standout offensive performer like Cook, whether they can counterpunch if the early game plan stalls a la Week 1. The progress is beginning to look encouraging, and a win would be another massive boost for a team with playoff expectations. Nagy and Trubisky need to embrace this moment and use it to define Chicago’s 2019.

Prediction: Bears 17 – Vikings 15

 

 

Football

The “Black and Blue” division, a title that Bears fans have worn with pride for decades. My dad used to love to talk about how tough and gritty a team needed to be to win in the former NFC Central division, and that shit’s goofy. Sure, toughness is important in a physically demanding and violent sport, but the “three yards and a cloud of dust” adage is kind of tired in 2019.

Needless to say, our dads are gonna LOVE the Bears/Vikings game this Sunday, because the trenches will be a war. Minnesota comes to Soldier Field planning on running the ball. They’ve rushed the ball 103 times in three games thus far, and average 193.7 yards a game. Holy shit. That sort of commitment to the run is something the suburban dads who listen to The Score salivate over, so I hope they enjoy it. Minnesota has opened some almost unbelievably wide lanes for Dalvin Cook, and as the NFL’s leading rusher this season, he’s got the juice to take the ball all the way damn near every time he touches it. Needless to say, the matchups between Minnesota’s rushing attack and Chicago’s run defense look like the most likely factor in the outcome of Sunday’s tilt, so let’s get into it. For the dads.

Minnesota Run Offense: A kickass running attack needs two things: a killer line and a running back who can make people miss at the second level. Minnesota has both. Their line has the 4th best Adjusted Line Yards on the season thus far (a Football Outsiders metric attempting to quantify how much of a runner’s success is due to good blocking), and Dalvin Cook has the highest yards per carry average for any runs broken at least 11 yards from the line of scrimmage. These dudes can ball. Right Guard Josh Kline is in concussion protocol, and though it would make the Bears’ task easier on Sunday, it would be a bummer if the Hoffman Estates kid missed his chance to play in Chicago. Also, I’m sure he told everyone he grew up in the city when he made it to the NFL. Look for Minnesota to run left frequently, since they rank second in the NFL in success rate for runs to the left (also a Football Outsiders metric).

Chicago Run Defense: So much of what the Bears are trying to do up front is reliant on Akiem Hicks being an actual bear and wrecking plays in the backfield, so it’s with great anxiety that Bears fans wait to see if he’ll suit up on Sunday (as of this writing, he’s expected to be a game-time decision). The run defense with Hicks in so far has been dominant through three games: the defense has literally allowed a 0% success rate on runs that take place on 3rd/4th down with two yards to go or less, and they allow a measly 0.11 yards in the open field, a testament to the fast, swarming linebackers the Bears employ. If Hicks is indeed out, and since the thought is that the Bears will also potentially be missing Bilal Nichols, the defensive line will need to demonstrate their depth. Nick Williams, Roy Robertson-Harris, and Eddie Goldman will have a mammoth task ahead of them.

I fear the Bears defensive line might be too banged up to keep this Minnesota rushing attack to around the 69 yards a game they’re currently allowing (nice), but expect Chuck Pagano to load up the box to contain Dalvin Cook. Start Roquan Smith in fantasy if you play an IDP league, since I expect him to be around the ball early and often. Look for the Bears to drop HaHa into the box to hopefully stifle those big play opportunities before they get started, because if Cook gets a lane, it’s really just a matter of what angle Eddie Jackson takes to see if he goes to the house or not.

I’ll close this piece by speaking directly to the suburban dads in the audience. Dads, this game was made for you. It’s got everything that will remind you of the football of your childhood:
-Inept QB play
-Playcalling that YOU would do if given the chance (Payton left, Payton right, Payton middle, Punt)
-Hard nosed, smash-mouth football
-Most likely a lot of punts
-Grit
-A “glory boy” wide receiver on the other team for you to root against
-A white, small-school wide receiver on the other team for you to wish the Bears signed
-An early fall game where you can toggle the thermostat once or twice without any wise talk from the wife or kids

Final Prediction:

Dalvin Cook puts up a good fantasy football day, going for 121 and a touchdown, but Kirk Cousins is sacked five times and turns the ball over twice en route to a Bears win.

Bears win, 17-13.