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

Jordan Howard was sent packing. Tarik Cohen, gem of the 2018 draft, planted his flag as the next Darren Sproles-esque gadget back. Ryan Pace maneuvered ahead of his counterparts in the middle rounds to select David Montgomery, the quiet, no-nonsense, blue collar worker back that was going to excel immediately in the system. Pace also signed veteran Mike Davis on the cheap, seemingly because of fit and personnel package and depth. Then came Cordarrelle Patterson, the do everything secret weapon.

2019 was supposed to be the season the Bears rushing attacked returned to great heights, the season the team got back to its Chicago football reputation of pounding the ball on the ground and using that rushing attack to unleash Matt Nagy’s offense.

2019 did not go to plan.

The Good

Umm…right. Well, there was that one game that Mitch did his best LEEEEEROOOOOY JEEENNNNKKIIIIINSSSS and thrashed the Cowboys for 64 yards. That is to be considered good, I think. But, uh, he’s not a running back.

Montgomery did have his moments, rushing for 889 yards on 242 carries for the season which was highlighted by a 135-yard, 1-TD effort (and 5.0 yard per carry average!) in the heart breaking loss to the Chargers at home. Monty also hit the century mark in the season finale, totaling 113 yards and a TD (albeit against a lot of backups).

Cohen chipped in much more via the passing game, helping the offense where he could with 79 catches on 104 targets for 456 yards, good for 2nd, 2nd and 3rd on the team respectively…which will be an indictment when we get to pass catchers tomorrow but we’ll count it as “good” today.

The Bad..and Ugly

Strap in, dear reader.

To call the rushing game “bad” is a bit of an understatement. The coaching staff/Nagy told us they had their pieces, they were going to fix the underwhelming rush attack from 2018 (buoyed by QB  Mitchell Trubisky‘s 421 yards). We’ve already been over the additions to overhaul the group, which saw only Cohen return from 2018. The results were an unmitigated disaster, as the team rushed for under 1,500 yards as a group, averaging 91.1 yards/game. Chicago had a 3.7 per carry average. The Bears scored all of eight rushing touchdowns on the year. EIGHT! Per AP Style standards I can’t even use numerals for that low of a total.

These totals put them in the bottom of the league for rushing all around, 26th or worse in every category I just listed. You watched it. You probably assumed as much, but hot damn that’s fucking terrible. This team regressed by over 500 yards overall, 30 yards a game, and scored HALF as many rushing touchdowns.

So what happened?

Well, the offensive line was not what was expected and not even really close. The play calling was all over the map as well, seeing the Bears call all of FIVE run plays in the gut punch Week 1 loss to Green Bay..at home…by one score. FIVE RUN PLAYS. This would be a tough theme, as Nagy would get far too pass-happy or lean on the pass in games like the stinker against New Orleans where he abandoned it all together. The Bears ran the ball 395 times in 2019, sticking them in the lower third yet again, while it’s also worth pointing out that no other team rushed as much as they did for fewer yards. The Pittsburg Steelers were very similar, but the totals of the other teams near them in attempts are all 300-500 yards (NOT feral hogs, unfortunately) MORE than Chicago.

Montgomery was fed a decent amount with his 242 carries for a rookie season, but beyond that the division of work is alarming. Cohen only had 64 rushing attempts all season, with the damn QB coming in 3rd as Mitch saw 48 (and most of those were in the latter half of the season as things spiraled to hell). Free Agent additions Patterson and Davis saw a COMBINED 28 carries. Patterson seemed to be the choice short yardage back early on, which was curious at best but really it was fucking batshit insane. Nagy lost his damn mind. Poor Mike Davis never got a shot, and the team mercilessly cut in early November so that Pace could at least recoup a compensatory draft pick.

Not great!

 Any Hope?

I don’t know, man. The Bears have a lot to fix on offense, and the goal should be to get more out of the run game first and foremost. I know everyone wants Trubisky to be a star, but he needs help to even get to an even baseline. The offensive line and play calling must be better, and this team needs a third actual running back that can pick up short yards and block. They have their lead man and pass catcher and their gadget man, as Montgomery, Cohen and Patterson should all be back. They just need to figure out how to use them all properly, which I’m not so sure this regime is capable of. I’d expect them to skip RB completely in the draft and find their fourth back on the market this March. Or maybe they can just use a defensive tackle for the dirty work. Just do better.

Final Grade: D+

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

Tony: Wes, I’ve been spending a lot of sleepless nights since last Thursday wondering about how the ground game for the Packers lines up against the run defense of our Bears. I wake up, clutching the pillow in my buddy’s guest room wondering if the Bears could patch up the defense enough to take away the combo of Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams. The last time these two teams met in week 1, the Bears held Green Bay in check, but now they are missing several key pieces that will have an impact.

Both starting inside linebackers in Chicago’s 3-4 front are out for the season, and the hope is that Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis fill in without a significant drop in production. Kwit has looked good, and Pierre-Louis graded out as the 6th highest individual player last week from PFF, going against a stout Cowboys rushing attack. There is still hope. Akiem Hicks returns this week too, which should not only open up run stuffing lanes for the backup linebackers, but hopefully will also free Eddie Goldman to show up on a stat sheet and possibly be on the field for more than 50% of snaps again. This defense stops the run best when Hicks clogs the middle and lets Leonard Floyd do what he does best: setting the edge in the run game. In spite of Floyd’s lack of consistent pass pressure, he has done fairly well in the run game based on the eye test alone.

Hicks is the secret to stopping Green Bay’s rushing offense, since the defense didn’t allow 100 team rushing yards in the beginning of this season with him anchoring the line. His presence opens up everything for everyone else, and the hope is they can build off of holding Dallas to 82 ground yards and shut down the Pack.

Green Bay averages 107 yards on the ground per game this season, but it’s been uneven. For every 47-yard game, they can go off for 120 or more depending on the match up. However, the Bears aren’t Carolina, or Washington, or Detroit. This is a tough match up for the Packers on the ground, and they might be looking to target the Bears secondary that should be missing at least one starter. However, if the Bears shut down the run game, it allows the pass rushers to pin their ears back (a phrase I’ve never understood) and with Hicks in the lineup even Leonard Floyd might find himself in the backfield again.

The two teams meeting on Sunday are far different than the ones that met in the first game of the season. This game is the second time this year we will have seen a Chuck Pagano coached Bears defense go against a divisional opponent for their second match up, so it will be interesting to see if the game plan changes or if the Bears can finally score against Green Bay’s defense and put their own D in a position to win.

Wes: Man, I am excited to see Akiem Hicks back in the center of that line come Sunday. I’m also excited to see what the new old look Bears offense can do on the ground against a suspect Green Bay rushing defense.

The Packers come in allowing 122 and change on the ground for the season, including a few 150+ yard efforts. That 150 number is fitting, as the Bears are coming off a 151-yard rushing effort in Week 14 – easily their best of the season. Can they keep it up against the Packers that clearly have problems with the run? TO THE MOUNTAIN TOP.

As you noted early with the Green Bay running game on offense, the defense is equally as up and down. They’ve held a few teams under 90 yards, but they’ve also given of some huge days on the ground with team totals over 150 in nearly half their games. The last time these two met, in Week 1, the Packers held the Bears to a scant 46 yards on the ground. Take out that effort as we all know Matt Nagy abandoned the run completely, and the Packers are probably a few notches lower from their already poor ranking.

The Bears have finally been moving the pocket and using more motion and play action, to positive results from Mitchell Trubisky, David Montgomery and the rest of the Bears rushing attack. Mitch was vocal about not doing enough of what he likes a month or so ago, and it’s coincided with an uptick in his own rushing and paying dividends for a three game win streak. Mitch turned in his best overall effort of the season, possibly of his short career, including 63 yards and a TD on the ground. All that movement helped to shuffle the Cowboy linebackers pre-snap, allowing Trubs and Monty to stay away from Jaylon Smith as often as possible.

The Bears would be wise to continue this effort, though the players they’re likely to try and avoid are OLBs Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith. The Smiths were the Packers big off-season signings, costing a ton of money but showing out as well worth it in their first seasons in Green Bay. The two have been great at getting into opposing backfields, combining for 93 tackles, 21.5 sacks and 23.5 TFL through 13 games. Chicago could use the movement and also pull guards to run right by either edge as they look to fly around the Tackles and into the backfield.

The Bears coaching staff has praised recent O-Line plug in Rashaad Coward over the last few week, and he can solidify his place on this team and into 2020 with another big performance Sunday afternoon. Getting Tarik Cohen involved a little more in these types of plays, running delays or misdirection right by one of the EDGE rushers, could also pay big dividends for the Chicago offense.

Chicago should easily blow past the 46 yards gained in Week 1, and have a legit shot to steal a game in Green Bay and keep the slim playoff hopes alive. Nagy just has to not be too proud and stick with what’s gotten him here by committing to the ground game no regardless of a slow or sluggish start. Here’s to hoping he’s learned from his early season mistakes.

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

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

Bears get a win, they actually break 300 yards of offense…and everything is still shit, right?

Wes French: It’s pretty shit, yeah. Defense was solid, but the two missed FG by NY were the difference, and that’s not real encouraging.

I think Mitch is hearing what’s been said lately too, because he made a point to not only call out the performance (his most passing yards on the season) as not good enough but also had some choice comments about what worked and what he’d like to do more of – moving pockets, hurry up offense and play-action.  Somewhere Brian is screaming “I BEEN SAYIN!”

Brian Schmitz: Things are mostly shit, yes. But I saw some bright spots. Allen Robinson is a legit NFL receiver and should go to the Pro Bowl. Khalil Mack was dominating once again, a much needed lift for the entire team. Mitch was OK, which is an improvement and as we have all said since July, all Mitch needs to be is not terrible.

Tony Martin: I was so glad that I chose watching Red Zone over the Bears game, and since I’m a masochist I’m also looking forward to watching it tonight. However I kept seeing Leonard Floyd flashing which was really nice!

I know they’re 5-6 but they’re 1-0 since I bought a Bears lighter at the gas station ironically. I’ll gladly take credit for this W.

With all the talk of the Bears QB going forward and the underwhelming names available via trade or free agency in the offseason, is still the best result Mitch finishing these last five games strongly? The defense should still be good next year, which means they really only need an average offense…

Wes: Mitch playing well or well enough week by week is something we know can happen. I think with those comments in the post game he put the onus squarely back on Nagy/coaching staff. You know what I do well, let me do more of it. I think if there’s something I’m looking at real closely the last five games it’s the running scheme. 66 yards against the 23rd ranked run defense is unacceptable. Take out Mitch’s 19 and you’re under 50 yards from your running backs, including a dreadful 1.7/per carry from David Montgomery. This was supposed to be the guy that fit the scheme perfectly. Between Mitch and Montgomery, maybe it’s the scheme that needs changing more than the players executing.

Tony: It’s a coin flip between looking at a replacement for Mitch or working on putting him in the best place possible to manage a game. Personally I’d like to see the latter. Let’s reinvest in the offensive line and tight end positions and scheme to the players they have, instead of the players they want. If Nagy is as creative as he was touted to be, let’s see him design new stuff instead of just shoehorning in stuff that looked good in KC, because this team sure as hell doesn’t have a Travis Kelce or an equivalent offensive line.

Football

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

Kickoff: 7:20pm

TV: NBC

Radio: 780 WBBM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Bears 16 Rams 14

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

Football

That time again. Please don’t take this seriously. That’s not what you come here for. 

We’re All Watching Matt Nagy’s Descent Into Madness 

At some point later this season, I fully expect Matt Nagy to fall over on his back, and his eyeballs to be replaced by the rainbow spinning wheel of death and basically be frozen until the McCaskeys and Ryan Pace figure out how you actually reboot a human. Where’s the Command-Option-Escape button on a human (all you pervs out there can make a sex joke here)? There are just too many conflicting plans and feelings within Nagy for him to last like this much longer.

The Bears first play of the day was out of the I-formation, and was a decent enough gain of four yards. If you were to draw conclusions from one play–which would be folly with this outfit because you can’t draw conclusions from whole games–you would say that Nagy had learned from last week and this is what the team needed to run the ball and then hence open up the passing game through play-action.

That was the last time in the first half they did that.

Nagy is hellbent, and it’s getting beyond an Ahab-like fixation at this point, to succeed with the offense that he sees, and not what his offense can actually do. Not only that, it has to succeed with Mitch Trubisky being the quarterback Nagy thinks he can be, and not the one in front of him or the one we saw last year.

And yet at the same time, Nagy doesn’t trust Mitch to throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, or didn’t for the first half. So while he wants Mitch to be the QB in his mind to make the offense in his mind work, he won’t actually let him do any of that stuff on the field. It’s like he figures these two things will just be conjured somehow through hope.

And then for a brief period of time he’ll give up, go back to what’s worked the past two weeks, and it will work, and yet he can’t let go. That’s how you get Tarik Cohen trying to run the ball in on the goal line–or having your shortest player try and leap and extend into the endzone–instead of Montgomery on 2nd down. Thankfully Nagy’s brain snapped back the other way for 3rd down and Montgomery got in to make the game at least interesting for a half minute. It feels as if he’s fighting two or three different voices in his head, all wanting and seeing different things. And hey, we’ve all been there, I just paid $10 a pop for the chemicals that got me there.

There are just too many conflicting threads in Nagy’s head. What the offense should be but what it is, along with what he thinks Trubisky can be but actually is, and what he wants to do versus what he can actually do. The reason the Bears can’t find an identity, as they keep saying, is that their coach is seeing about four or five different realities at a time. It’s like Griffin from MIB III, which none of you saw.

This Defense Sure Likes To Talk…Tackle, Not So Much

In this town, favoritism will always bend toward the defense. That’s thanks to ’85 and that they’ll never go away, and even bending back to Butkus and Buffone. Fine, accepted that long ago. So even in the most desperate times, the defense’s failings will get pinned or shared with the offense until it’s obvious we can’t do that anymore.

So yes, while they don’t get any help from the offense, there’s no rule that says they have to let the opponents drive right down their throat on three of the first four drives of the game. Or when the offense does put up points and they are back in the game, to let the Eagles have an eight-minute drive to end it with four third-down conversions, including two screen passes that went over 10 yards.

I understand it’s long-standing Bears tradition that they can’t defend nor run a screen pass. From Ditka to Wanny to Jauron to Lovie and on, the Bears have never done either. The Hawks will never have a power play, the Bulls will never land a free agent worth a shit, the Sox will never draw, and the Bears will never be on the right side of a screen pass. These are universal Chicago sports truth.

But having it in such demonstrative fashion–where Montgomery drops what would have been a game-turning play and then those two–is a mound of salt in the wound.

Overall, the defense had a chance to win the game for the Bears, or put them in a spot to do so. Just like last week. And it got run over. And for too much of the game, the Eagles could do what they wanted and worst of all, the Bears defense didn’t look like it wanted to bother much. Eddie Jackson and HaHa shirked off a couple tackles they didn’t seem all that interested in making. They were in wrong gaps.

There was one play in the third quarter where Leonard Floyd chased down Carson Wentz from behind where all three linebackers just watched. Maybe they were worried about hitting the QB and getting flagged for breathing too had, but this was beyond the line of scrimmage. It looked more like they just left it to someone else.

And that’s scary.

There Are Like Three Good Football Announce Teams

When you find out who’s doing the Bears game on TV a couple days before, what team actually makes you say, “Oh, that’s good.” Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts? I don’t mind Buck and Aikman, but a lot of people hate both. Thom Brennaman spends anytime broadcasting Chicago sports with a can of gasoline and a Zippo. Michaels and Collinsworth are fine, except you can’t escape the fear of the Bears being embarrassed on national TV. Maybe Kenny Albert? Maybe Kevin Burkhardt? Except he sounds like he’s asleep for half the game, and maybe he is.

Dick Stockton doesn’t know where he is. He’s 117 years old and while he is something of an institution, if he were a dog they would have put him to sleep long ago before he got to the state where he falls into his own shit. Mark Schlereth is the king of “Football Analyst Holding A Football.” I’m fairly sure he was erect describing some pulling guard yesterday, on a play that didn’t go anywhere. Yesterday sounded like two drunk stockbrokers trying to do a Statler and Waldorf routine without actually ever having seen Statler and Waldorf.

It was brutal, and it doesn’t have to be that way. There have to be better announcers than what we’re being given, even if the Bears have fallen to the bottom of the heap. Please stop making watching the Bears worse than it already is.

Football

Here’s some numbers fer ya head:

                       Rush Yards    Yds/Att    TD    Rec    Rec Yds    TD

Player A               443                4.4              5          9            68            1

Player B               366                3.7               3         15           97            0

Player A is one of only three NFL RBs with 3,000+ rushing yards (3,370) since 2016, joining Ezekiel Elliott (4,048) and Todd Gurley (3,441). Howard and Gurley are the only NFL RBs with 9+ rushing TDs in each of the last two seasons.

Ryan Pace thought Player B was the better player and traded Player A for a 6th round draft pick. Moreover, Pace moved up in the draft to select Player B to replace Player A. The cost of doing so was the 87th pick, the 162nd pick, and a 2020 4th round pick.

So, to recap; in its entirety, the swap of Player A for Player B cost the Bears:

  • Player A
  • 2020 6th Round Pick
  • 2020 4th Round Pick
  • 2019 3rd Round Pick
  • 2019 87th Pick
  • 2019 162nd Pick

Player A = Jordan Howard.

Player B = David Montgomery.

Now, don’t get me wrong, David Montgomery is doing a nice job for the Bears as a lead back with a shitty offensive line. He has a very bright future, but the fact is, SO FAR this season, he simply hasn’t been as good as the Eagles Jordan Howard.

But, this really isn’t about Howard or Montgomery. This botched trade (thus far) lies at the feet, yet again, of Ryan Pace. At this point, you have to ask yourself if this job too big for the Bears GM? I think it is. With Pace as the architect, the Bears have a record of 29-34. Over this period, they have had the 2nd, 7th, 8th, 9th, 39th (2), 45th, 51st, 56th, 71st, 72nd, and 73rd picks in the draft. These picks have produced:

  • Mitch Trubisky – Ouch.
  • Kevin White – LOL. Out of football.
  • Roquan Smith – Struggling with something more than just football.
  • Leonard Floyd – Soft. Can’t put up real numbers playing opposite K.Mack.
  • Eddie Goldman – Great rookie year, not much since.
  • James Daniels – Potential.
  • Adam Shaheen – Beat it.
  • Anthony Miller – Well, we’re waiting.
  • Cody Whitehair – Solid starter on a the worst O-Line in football.
  • Hroniss Grasu – Bozo. Out of football.
  • Jonathan Bullard – Nah. Three career sacks
  • David Montgomery – Bell cow of this crew.

As you can clearly see, Pace’s early round selections have produced very little. I am far more impressed with his free agents signings; which means that someone else drafted and cultivated a player, then Pace was there to hijack him – which makes sense as Pace’s main responsibilities in New Orleans were scouting (and changing Mr. Bensen’s diaper and staying the fuck outta Mickey Loomis’ way). It’s also not that difficult to walk into an organization ran by Loomis and Sean Payton and Drew Brees and succeed. See, the Saints are widely known as having the most well-ran organization in football. The Saints have stayed competitive for a long time even when they are always drafting late in the first round.

Which brings us back to the Bears. Most likely, the Bears will not have a pick near the top of the draft in 2020, which is a good thing, as most of Pace’s limited draft successes have come towards the back end of the draft. At no time should the GM should be allowed to draft a QB, WR, TE, or D-Lineman. This is due only to his incompetency in doing so in every previous year. Pace will not be fired, and the team isn’t going to bring in an experienced talent evaluator who has had success in the draft, so what we will continue to see is the same draft results we have since 2015.

Sweet.