Football

TAG TEAM, BACK AGAIN!

The gridiron guru Tony and I are back after yesterday’s Bears draft chat to breakdown how the rest of the North drafted and I swear to science if the Packers just unearthed another 10+ year starter at QB I’m committing hara-kiri and calling it an NFL fandom career…

Wes French: Tony, lets get right to it…are the Packers stupid like a fox or just plain stupid?

Tony Martin: Wes, my friend, you are truly the gift that keeps on giving. Here I am, thinking I have to go back to watching that shitty Waco show on Netflix and you slide back into my inbox to talk more football? Miraculous.

As for the cheese heads, I think they really fucked up taking Jordan Love. I love that they have a notoriously fickle QB who wants at least one more run at the title and they instead did something that does not help the team at all and alienates their biggest star. I’ve said for the last week that the Packers are a handful of players away from a championship, and they actively hurt their chances with their pick. It’s rare for a pick to hurt a team in April, but the Pack managed to pull that one off. I went to Green Bay’s website and looked at their articles about the draft which are so hilariously full of spin you’d think it was a Trump presser. There’s a bit in an article by Mike Spofford where they say that Green Bay didn’t feel like there were any receivers available at the end of the 1st that could take a starting job over Devin Funchess, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, which might be the take of the century. Then to draft a RB in the second in an already crowded backfield? Pure schadenfreude, my friend. I feel like Brian Gutekunst watched Jerry Krause in the first episodes of “The Last Dance”, turned to his family, said “Hold my Spotted Cow”, and traded up to alienate his talent.

Is taking the heir apparent a few years early a decent move anymore? The current trend in the NFL is to try to win that championship during a QBs first contract to maneuver around the salary cap, so Love sitting for one year makes sense but not 2, 3 or 4 years. I think the Packers are trying too hard to eventually become San Francisco, with a run first offense to be run by a game manager, so as Green Bay slowly dismantles it’s current core, expect them to refocus on the defense in the attempt to do what the 49ers have done. I think this is the first sign of a slow, painful rebuild, and it couldn’t have happened to a more obnoxious organization.

WF: My Packer fan pals are in the mega-spin zone right now trying to justify it. One keeps saying “14-4, they’re gonna be fine. It’s a new brain trust, let it play out”; a few others are trying to talk themselves into Funchess like receivers on their third team in as many years are the reliable type; and one special friend of mine is slowly losing his shit more and more by the day.

I really do think you can back up and justify the Love pick if you kinda squirm to the side and squint real hard. The part that makes it tough is what you mentioned about the new path being to use the window of QBs on rookie deals and splash cash on whatever you need most. Rodgers is well known to have a contract that kills them with dead money if he’s moved the next two years and there’s also the part where he’s a fucking all-time great at the position. I get the injury coverage concern, but shit how many times is their solution going to involves drafting a QB as Aaron’s State Farm on the field instead of bolstering his weapons/protection?

Could you imagine if instead of moves for mediocre/shit backup QBs they’d been using most draft capital/literal capital to give him more help? And then they back it all up with a fucking RUNNING BACK in the 2nd Round, one that can’t catch to boot? I don’t give a shit what the rest of the draft looks like, to me these moves mean a white flag on the Rodgers era and getting a head start on what’s coming after. They can say they have a team in place to contend, and if (when) it goes south they can use the line about this window closing and trying to retool on the fly and you can bet they find a way to move Rodgers next year.

TM: The Packers might have screwed the pooch, but I’d have to say I like both Minnesota and Detroit’s drafts more than Chicago’s. I love the Lions draft, to be candid. Okudah is a stud, their 3rd round pick of Julian Okwara was a solid add on who will bring serious juice off the edge, and I like D’Andre Swift a lot. I think there’s a chance they found three starters and assuming they all don’t retire to get away from Matt Patricia, they have built a pretty solid core for life post-Stafford. Luckily for the Bears, the Lions should be shitty next year but not shitty enough to get Trevor Lawrence or even Justin Fields at the top of the 2021 draft. The Lions are the Chicago Bulls of football, stuck in the worst kind of purgatory. I think Swift takes over lead RB duties early on in the season, Okudah will be put to the test with a murderers row of top tier WRs on the Lions schedule, and Okwara will be starting week 1.

WF: I feel like the Lions could only have messed up their top two selections is if they were the Raiders. The only real problem I have with Detroit’s draft is not moving back a few spots to take Okudah (or taking Isiah Simmons over him) but I think Miami and San Diego both knew they were the teams taking QBs, no one from the 5-6 spots immediately behind them was putting any pressure on them to move and they each got their man staying put. You’d also like to pair Okudah with a guy like Darius Slay…but Okudah was a huge need because they alienated and traded Slay. I do love Okwara and I think going two guards in the middle rounds is solid, but the early 2nd selection of Swift was sort of confusing. Detroit needs defensive help BADLY. There were several guys they passed on to go RB and I feel like in today’s NFL that’s a WHAMMY!

TM: The Vikings drafted 15 dudes this year. 15 dudes! That’s an entire basketball team! Sure, a lot of those guys might not make the team, but I think they struck gold late with Kenny Willekes from Michigan State in the 7th round, and I expect him to not only make the team but be someone the Bears have trouble blocking a couple years from now. I estimated the Lions nabbed at least three starters this year, but I think the Vikings could see up to 5 immediate starters from this class. Justin Jefferson snatches ankles after the catch and is a threat to take the ball to the house every time he touches it. I think Cameron Dantzler is going to be a project but he’s a future stud at CB- pair that with their first round corner Jeff Gladney and that defensive backfield can straight up wreck shit for the next 4 years. I personally look forward to them destroying Jordan Love while the Bears and Nick Foles are busy winning their third straight Super Bowl.

WF: I’m not sure how the Vikings fit 15 guys in, but theirs is the type of draft that can plug a lot of gaps on the cheap. I think the most impressive thing about the 2020 Draft in Minnesota is that they came in with 12 picks, left with 15 players AND added a 4th (from Chicago for Gipson) and two 5ths in 2021. Rick Spielman deserves a ton of credit for adding so much draft capital and value to his team. I think Justin Jefferson is fantastic and the type of receiver the Packers probably should’ve been moving up further for. I’m also a big fan of the Gladney/Dantzler picks and feel like they shored up the CB position in one draft. Not easy. OL Ezra Cleveland and S Josh Metellus are guys I heard discussed for the Bears, too, and now we get to hope they’re busts because the damn Vikings took them. Fuck that horn.

TM: Honestly what it’s all going to come down to is coaching. Our current global condition is changing how teams are interacting with their new prospects and it’s the teams that adapt best to these new circumstances that will get the most out of their picks.

Also, while we’re speaking of uncertain futures – I have a question for you: do you think this is the year where the supplemental draft is huge? If the prospect of a severely shortened NCAA/NFL season is on the horizon, do players forgo that extra season and declare? Could we see a massive second wave of players picked in July? If that is the case, would the NFL allow those players to petition for the supplemental draft en masse?

WF: I lean YES, I think the supplemental draft could see a few teams spend future pick capital on guys that decide “you know what? fuck this sitting around not playing football this Fall, I’m going” and the value for it is there. Depending on how things unfold regarding the Pandemic™ I wonder if the NFL goes even further and expands rosters/practice squads and uses them as more of a taxi squad for teams to pluck from as the world tries to find a way to 1) not kill or infect too many millions more while 2) NOT GIVING UP THEIR NFL SUNDAYz!

TM: Okay before this gets buried, I LOVE the idea of a taxi squad in the NFL. It’s a brilliant idea, and maybe they could expand it to 2 taxi squads, one of veteran players and one of prospects. Holy shit I’m so into that idea.

WF: It makes way too much sense, so it’ll never happen. But if it does YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST,,,,FOLKS!

Football

The Bears season ended when Jesper Horsted couldn’t find Allen Robinson on a lateral. That’s a sentence I just wrote. And it’s true. And it probably sums up the absurdity of what this Bears season has been. In reality, the Bears were two to three plays short of extending their hopes another week. And that’s been the story all season. For all the misery, confusion, injuries, and whatever else, coming into this one the Bears were two or three throws from being 9-4. With a play or two more and some luck, they could be 10-4 now. However you want to go about it. But this is the NFL, that’s usually the difference for most teams. There are only a couple really good teams and a couple really bad ones. Everyone else just needed a handful of results on plays to go the other way and you’re a playoff team or you’re scouting the Senior Bowl.

It was ever thus.

I’ll clean it up the best I can.

-When you lose by one score, as the Bears have had a habit of doing this year, you can point to a variety of areas or players or decisions as the main reason. I’m looking squarely at the offensive line today. Mitch Trubisky was hurried, hit, or sacked on the first 12 dropbacks he made. David Montgomery was looking at people in his grill every run as soon as getting the ball. The Bears couldn’t do much in the first half simply because they couldn’t block it. But that’s been the story all season.

-Which made this another week that Matt Nagy was too stubborn in sticking to the offense he wishes to run instead of the one he can. We barely saw any of the rollouts, or play-action, or I-formation, or QB runs that were the order of the day against Dallas. The Bears couldn’t create a pocket, and yet Nagy didn’t think of moving it until it was too late. And I’ll argue that Mitch made a lot of plays where he simply had to improvise, which should have been by design. I’m not saying Mitch had a great game, and we’ll get to him in a minute, but once again he wasn’t given much help by his coach.

The process should be starting with what your QB and offense can do and do well and sprinkle in the other stuff you want to do in time. Nagy has spent all season starting with the stuff he wants to do and sprinkling in what his offense can. We thought he had turned a corner. He didn’t.

-We generally have a policy of not complaining about officials at the top of the menu if at all, but the call on Cordarrelle Patterson on the punt turned the whole game. It was a perfect play, it just looked like it wasn’t at first, and the refs went with their gut instead of the rules. Even in our dreamiest visions of the offense, they would need turnovers and short fields and turnovers to boost them. Even if that turnover resulted in a first down or two only and a field goal, and you chalk off the touchdown the Packers got right after, the Bears win. The Bears have only themselves to blame, but they didn’t get much luck either.

-Earlier in the season, I was would make dagger-eyes at the defense when they gave up a game-winning drive when it was in their hands, as they did against Oakland, San Diego, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, and did their best to do against Denver. Still, they were holding opponents under 20, which is supposed to be enough.

Today, they got it up their ass on two drives on the third quarter, and a good portion of that was just not making tackles. And that isn’t anything other than just not doing it. You have to get guys to the ground and the Bears didn’t. Back that up with only getting to Rodgers a handful to times and sometimes on blitzes, and that’s not good enough. They made enough plays to keep the Bears in it and give themselves a chance, but that’s not enough. Look anywhere you want on the unit, but in this type of game you have to bring it all. They didn’t bring quite enough.

-Right, so Mitch. Hardly perfect, hardly a disaster. Certainly competed. Could have had more interceptions on another day. Was inches from a big play with Miller on the 4th down. Didn’t make the right throws on the other fourth downs. Did make some great plays on the run. If it were earlier in the season you’d say it would be enough to work with going forward. I don’t know what you say now. But…13 points isn’t enough. You have to finish. And he was only a couple plays from finishing enough to win, but that’s what we keep saying.

-So it’ll be another playoff-less year. We’ve seen far worse Bears teams. The expectations are what make this so disappointing. But there’s more than enough to build on with this team for it to contend next year. And maybe you just make the five plays you didn’t this year to get the three to four wins you don’t have now. Football’s weird. It also sucks.

Football

vs.

RECORDS: Bears 7-6   Packers 10-3

KICKOFF: 12 noon

TV: Fox 32

YA HEY DERE: Acme Packing Company

For the last three games of the season, hopefully, the Bears will find themselves in the odd situation of not having much to gain but everything to lose. At least until the end, that is, and if everything goes right. A win Sunday would only give them the chance to have everything to lose the following week against the Chiefs, and so on to Minnesota to end the season. Wins mean their minuscule playoff hopes are still alive. One loss and they’re gone and more serious questions follow. Good time to be heading up to the house of horrors then, huh?

It was thought earlier in the year that when these two teams met at Lambeau Sunday, one team would be skating on top of the division while the other would be at best floundering around the wildcard picture. We just got the teams reversed. Because of course we did.

I would love to tell you the Packers are frauds, and most teams in the NFL are. But they have beaten the Vikings, whatever that means, and the Cowboys on the road, whatever that means, and the Chiefs on the road, whatever that means, and their only loss against what you’d call a “real” team is getting utterly clocked by the Niners in Santa Clara. We know what Kirk Cousins does against any team that retains oxygen intake, the Cowboys just showed you what they are, and Mahomes didn’t play against them. But still, that feels like I’m straining a bit to discredit the Pack. Which is an effort I’m happy to make, but at some point even I know it rings hollow.

And as long as Aaron Rodgers is around, you’re never safe. Especially the Bears, who blew a 20-point lead to him in the second half when he had one leg the last time they perused the grounds up there. As Brian pointed out yesterday, Rodgers is having an average season for him which is other-worldly for just about anyone else. He also has just two INTs on the season, so at the very worst for him he doesn’t give you anything. Most of the time he’s taking everything, too. Just wonderful. And as that piece showed, he loves to pick on the middle of the field where the Bears will be dressing two backup interior linebackers. Guess where he might focus?

The Packers will tell you there’s been a new focus on the running game, and Aaron Jones’s 12 TDs would suggest same. However, their yards per game total is only middle of the pack (ha ha), and a good portion of their impressive run totals/performances have been a case of bum-slaying. No one’s impressed when you run it up Washington’s giggy, really. They’ve been stuffed by more than a few opponents, and the Bears will be hoping to do it for a second time.

They’ll tell you they have a restored defense, but again, at least in yardage, there isn’t anything the defense does that well. And again, when faced with good teams, they’ve surrendered points. 37 to the Niners, 26 to the Chargers who definitely suck, 24 to a Mahomes-less Chiefs. Now the Bears are going to have to do more than have a couple hot weeks against basketcase teams to claim to be a good offense now, but there are points to be had.

Even though their two OLBs have combined for 21 sacks, they don’t get to the QB much more than at an average rate, though still probably a test for the still working-out-the-new-kinks Bears o-line.

However, what the Packers do in fact do well, and what’s kept their points allowed totals from matching the yardage they give up completely, is they take the ball away. Lead in fumbles, in the top five in INTs. They may bend and give up plays but they make enough plays to wash that away. This is probably where the game is won or lost for the Bears, and why it might be a good idea to stick to the ground as much as possible. If only to give Mitch easier reads in play-action, and get him moving which we know he likes. Which keeps him from having to make more tough reads and throws than he’s capable of pulling off successfully.

Of course, there’s always Rodgers. There are days he just decides you lose, and there’s not much you can do about it. The return of Akiem Hicks will have everyone buoyed, but who knows exactly what and how much he can provide after 10 weeks on the shelf. Certainly not the amount of snaps you’d be used to and almost certainly not the dominant force you came to love. But it’s hard to imagine he’ll suck either, and if he gives more of a rotation on the line and keeps everyone fresher, so much the better, Kwiatkoski and Pierre-Louis will need all the help they can get.

The Bears have been able to overcome one or two Mitch mistakes the past couple weeks, but that’s one thing against the Lions or Cowboys. It’s kind of a different thing here. That doesn’t mean Mitch has to be perfect, but he likely has to be as good or better than he was against the Cowboys, which is not really a level he’s been able to stick at or exceed. Maybe now’s the time?

Hopefully the dynamic running attack we saw last Thursday sticks around, through both Trubisky and David Montgomery, instead of the RPO’s into Cody Whitehair’s retreating ass we’ve seen most of the season. Again, the widens Trubes’s margin for error.

If there’s one thing about these fucking games, as miserable as they are they are really boring. This one has a lot riding on it, and there’s probably nothing more the slobs in the hunting gear would enjoy more than ending the Bears season after starting it on the rocks in September. If the Bears get it, well, it could very well work out the Packers will have wished they put them down when they had the chance.

Bear Down.

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.

Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, where it’s always Week 14 somewhere. While the 2019 Bears have their playoff aspirations dangling by the thinnest of margins, we’re in here living in the past.

For those of my dear readers who may not know, I am a high school History/English teacher and I was thinking about having my kids read “The Time Machine” by H.G Wells. I probably won’t, because books written in 1895 that read like they were written in 1895 are a tough sell for anyone, especially alternative to expulsion students that are forced to prepare for a stupid standardized test in April.

“The Time Machine” will be an irrelevant exercise for teenagers, but what about Bears fans? What will THE VAULT look like in 50 years? 100 years? Will football even exist? Will the planet even exist? I know I can’t get too deep into the radical leftist position that “climate change and humans are harming the Earth” so I won’t, but it is and we are.

So, without any further ado, let’s look at THE VAULT 2083, writing about the Peoria Bears versus the Wisconsin Rapids Packers from Smarch 18th, 2077:

Welcome back to THE VAULT, our weekly subsidized, government-funded nostalgia trip through time. I appreciate you sharing your entertainment credits with me as always, because I know that you only have 15 minutes a week that your bosses allow you to be away from your desk. Thanks for spending it with me, and I promise that I will use my accumulated credits responsibly. 

Today we’re gonna look back at the Bears vs the Packers from 2077, a game handily won by our beloved Peoria Bears 77-3, the biggest margin of victory since the Bears moved from Chicago to Peoria after the great Lake Michigan tsunami of 2058 (sponsored by BUD LIGHT- dilly dilly!) that caused Soldier Field to float all the way down to the central part of the state, and with all the remaining McCaskeys (just Virginia at the time) fleeing the country in the middle of the night, Peoria felt like the best option (a sentence never said before or after this article). As you know, the Packers were still reeling from the loss of Aaron Rodgers, who at the young age of 79 was sent to Mars to go hit on and alienate all the famous single women in an attempt to convince them to come back to Earth. 

As you may recall, this is the game that got the Packers kicked out of Green Bay, since they made a bet with new Bears General Manager Sam “brought to you by LOWE’S” Fels-McCaskey Jr over ownership of America’s second biggest small town. As you reading this may know, he had since converted the entire city to the world’s biggest Mars Cheese Castle before the military junta led by the Sons of Josh Bellamy dethroned him a bloody, cheesy uprising. Any urban explorers now know it’s haunted by the ghosts of those dead soldiers, and the only way to get past them is to throw a football directly at their chests so when they drop it you can move right past them. They can shoot a gun, but when it comes to catching passes they are no gouda. 

Those of you that remember the FEDEX Cheese Bowl of 2077 may remember that the day was paced by Khalil Mack III and his 4 touchdown passes, 3 of which went to Perg Flumpus, weeks before he was banned for life from the league for testing positive for Mango Juul pods. The Packers lone score was a dropkick through the AMAZON PRIME 3 point field goal target, just barely missing the 10 point uprights in the first year of “NFL Rock N’ Jock” rules. Chester “The Clump” Clumps grinded out 84 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown against a defense running the iconic “Cover 11” that as you know was invented by Rich “The Hedgehog” Ryan, son of Rex “The Wolfman” Ryan, who was the son of some dumbass radio DJ or something.

The Peoria Bears would ride the momentum of the Cheese Bowl victory to finish the season 21-1, and then win the first four MICROSOFT SURFACE Playoff games before losing in the WAL-MART NFC Championship to the New Orleans Football Pelicans, a game decided by the infamous broken back sack where Mack’s back cracked on impact and the loose ball was returned for the game winning touchdown. Thank god we all have free health insurance and readily available robot bones so Mack was back in black with a knack of beating the Pack. The Packers haven’t won since and I hear if they go winless again in 2083 they’re gonna be relegated to the 3rd division, the last stop before NFL teams get the death penalty. I think it’s about time they were replaced with the Arlington Heights River Rangers, personally. 

Please help me they’re keeping me here against my will and they’re forcing me to watch All-22 footage of the Second American Civil War and after this they’re gonna (REDACTED)

Football

Welcome to the new weekly look at what’s happening with Chicago’s immediate rivals, and a look around the league of the who’s who of everyone’s favorite brutal shitshow of a vice, the NFL.

Minnesota runs roughshod through Atlanta

The Vikings and Dalvin Cook ran wild out of the starting gate in 2019, posting 172 rushing yards en route to a comfortable 28-12 home victory. Cook was the star early, breaking off big chunks of yardage seemingly at will. He’d finish with 111 yards on 21 carries with two TDs. The Vikings defense was as good as Cook, blocking a punt on the first series of the game and frustrating the Falcons all day long. Four sacks, three turnovers and a shutout through three quarters gave this game a very efficiently boring feel, just what you want out of your team’s D.

This game was so well out of reach early that Kirk Cousins had a great, quiet day: 8/10, 97 yards, one passing TD, one rushing. He did fumble the ball twice and was lucky to keep both, but all in all a capable performance that won’t sound any alarms. The biggest takeaways are this defense is looking very strong, and if the offensive line and Cook/rushing attack can follow this blueprint most weeks Minnesota will be a very tough out all season. Now, if a team can stymie the run and make Cousins beat them….

Looking Ahead: 9/15 @ GB – Lambeau and the great equalizer Aaron Rodgers await. The GB Defense looked equally impressive against an odd Bears offense, so the matchup to watch is that front 7 vs Cook.

Detroit plays not to lose in the desert, somehow does worse than a loss

Matt Patricia was supposed to sort out Detroit as a defensively stout team, at the very least. They were gifted the first start of the Kyler Murray era in a road test to start the 2019 season, and for 3.5 quarters they looked pretty damn stout, ahead 24-6. Then, they somehow allowed the rookie Murray to DOUBLE his stat line in the 4th quarter alone. He went 15/19, 154 yds and 2 TDs, including the game tying toss to Larry Fitzgerald and two-pointer to Christian Kirk with 43 seconds on the clock to tie the game at 24.

Detroit was having their way for the most part on offense, especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Matthew Stafford is locked in with rookie TE T.J. Hockenson, who opened his career with 6-131-1 stat line. Stafford put up 385 yards and 3 TDs with no INTs, but a middling rushing attack (32 carries/111 yards) made things difficult late once they tried to burn up the clock. The defensive implosion and then lackluster OT have to be giving this team some concerns given their opponent. Credit to Murray/Kliff Kingsbury for the comeback, but that doesn’t happen without some help. Detroit has plenty to work on after a pretty positive first few hours to their season.

Looking Ahead: 9/15 vs LAC – The Lions head home in Week 2 and face a true test in the Chargers. They boast some exciting pieces on both sides of the ball, even without holdout RB Melvin Gordon. The same mental mistakes that lost a sure win in Week 1 could be a full on disaster against this much tougher opponent.

Packers do enough to hold off inept Bears

Many a word has been typed about this Chicago debacle, so I’ll spare you more of the same. The Packers defense looks very legit, and Mike Pettine is the mastermind there. Matt Nagy and his offense were not ready for the game plan in front of them, and with opportunity after opportunity handed to the Bears, Pettine’s group was there to stop them.

Green Bay did not look very strong on offense outside of a single drive, which was boosted by a wild deep ball and jump ball TD catch. Chicago’s defensive unit looked as advertised and while that’s not an easy puzzle to solve, Matt LaFleur has his work cut out to make changes ahead of another difficult matchup this coming weekend at home.

Looking Ahead: 9/15 vs MIN – LaFleur coaches his first game at home, but the task doesn’t get any easier against a Minnesota team that looked finely tuned in an easy Week 1 win. Let’s see if Pettine can keep the Pack in it late two weeks straight.

Around the NFC…

The LA Rams and Carolina Panthers played what might be a a very early preview of NFC Division winners, with the Rams leading the whole way and holding on late…New Orleans, looking to hold Carolina off, played a thriller of their own on MNF, coming from behind a few times to beat Houston at home on a walk-off Will Lutz 58-yard FG. The Saints get the NFC defending Champion Rams in Week 2…Carson Wentz and the Eagles looked awful for a quarter or so in Washington before seemingly scoring off deep pass plays at will…Not to be outdone, Dak Prescott found himself and the Cowboys down early at home to the lowly Giants before storming to a commanding 35-17 win that saw him account for four TDs.

 

Football

All right boys, how much of what went on Thursday night is the product of just a bad night at the beginning of the season, and how much of it is definitive going forward?

Wes French: I think there’s a little bit everything, feeling-wise, that’s acceptable here. Yes, it’s one game. Yes, there were positives, but basically all on the defensive side. Yes, the offense was appalling and it was basically all bad from Nagy/Mitch. Yes, it’s fixable…but Nagy is going to need to fix it in 10 days time after a summer of work that was supposed to have fixed this already.

The most glaring thing to me was the discrepancy between running/passing play calls and the lack of any kind of rhythm. Nagy earned the benefit of the doubt to handle the summer/preseason however he pleased with his 2018 and essentially had MONTHS to get this game plan ready. What came about was a slow start, followed by panicked, weird decision making thereafter. Mitch was all his bad qualities  as well – inaccurate, unable to read the defense, locking in on a lone route, giving up on a pocket/play within a second of the snap….it was like the preseason game he never got to play. So maybe he should’ve gotten a quarter or two after all.
Pagano gets some praise for some nice designs, especially the blitzes and how effective they were. The secondary looks like it’ll take some time to gel, but overall the defense is going to be fine. They did get a rookie coach that looked equally as inept as Nagy, but still a solid showing out the gate.
But, man. You tell me Rodgers gets 10 points all night and I’d think we’re all smiles and sunshine today. What a let down.
Brian Schmitz: Guys continue to disappear for entire games. But I don’t blame the players. The coaching staff and play calls are where you have to look to find fault. How can you spend 2 years talking about how gifted Cohen and Miller are, but then not get them the ball? 
Another huge takeaway is what opposing players think of Trubisky; and it’s not pretty. Mitch has a lot work to do; and while I am not giving up on him yet, you are what you stats say you are, and he’s just hasn’t been very good.
Tony Martin: Should be noted- the only Packers TD Drive was the one where Deon Bush was in for Clinton-Dix. Should also be noted that on the Rodgers deep ball they had Eddie Jackson playing close to the line and Bush playing centerfield, where he got beat deep. Just seemed like a weird call, not having BoJack do what he does best. Other than that, it’s good to see Pagano keep some aspects of the defense consistent. Roquan is gonna be a superstar. 
Nagy had a bad night and going for it on 4th and 10 is the classic “frustrated kid playing Madden” move. I don’t get the distribution of touches, either. They’re trying so hard to make Cordarrelle Patterson happen. Stop trying to make Cordarrelle Patterson happen. 
What would you guys like to see change against Denver, specifically?
Wes: I’m sure the balance of run/pass will differ significantly. Nagy was very adamant that he called runs, but they were RPOs that Mitch checked out of or decided to keep the ball and make a throw. Maybe there should be less that’s up to Mitch given what it all looked like last week.
There can’t be much that Vic Fangio would consider a surprise, but I wonder if Nagy and Co. were getting a little too cute and not wanting to show anything on tape to their former defensive coordinator. The type of plays need to change as well. The offensive backfield didn’t feel involved enough, on the ground or through the air. I feel like Davis/Montgomery/Cohen/Patterson are all interchangeable to a degree, and that could become a nightmare for the league in any of them can lineup in any play design. The key to unlocking the offense and shielding Mitch is going to be sorting out how they maximize those four in week 2 and beyond.

Brian: Aside from Cohen and miller getting more touches, I’d like to see if Allen Robinson can parlay his game 1 performance into a guy that can considered in the conversation as a top tier receiver. This of course, is a 3 way conversation and is contingent on if Nagy gets some things figured out and if Trubisky can become something more than below average. 

I also want to see if Khalil Mack can have a greater influence on the game. He’ll continue to draw doubles and chips on almost every play, so it’s hard to look at his performance form strictly a statistical view. His value in game 1 was opening up other guys to have a lot of success, which many did. 
Football

Hello there. This is something I did at FanSided last year, except FanSided is evil and you deserve it more here. This isn’t meant to be totally serious, because nothing with the Bears can ever be totally serious. If you’ve come for hardcore analysis, you’ll have to wait on that. But at least now I don’t to worry about fucking slideshows and tagging photos correctly. Much more my style. 

10 Days Is Far Too Long For A Narrative

Because you know that’s what you’re going to get. Adding three days between games means everyone is going to talk about PRESEASON for 42% longer than they normally would have, and what they normally would have would have been insufferable anyway. Most of the bleating about starters not taking reps in four games that don’t mean anything and can only get you hurt is going to come from guys who went through two-a-days while getting cat o’ nine tail’d by a very angry dipshit with sunburns on 75% of his body, and they’re going to take those regrets out on someone on TV and in print. And if it’s not those guys doing it, it’s guys who wanted to be those guys doing it, or guys who went drinking with those guys doing it, and so on.

Yeah, the Bears offense looked like shit last night, and so did the Packers’. Neither did anything with the real jerseys on in August, and it’s easy to connect those two things. It’s probably not even wrong, though it seems to ignore that the Bears did the same thing last year and the offense looked pretty zippy when it came out in Green Bay before Matt Nagy somehow turtled under his visor (and let’s face it, the reason the Bears lost is because Nagy didn’t keep wearing the fedora he entered the stadium with throughout the game).

No one can argue that everyone wouldn’t have benefitted from a rep or two more, but that won’t change the NFL preseason to not being stupid and evil and greedy. And considering the vanilla stuff all teams run in preseason games to not give anything away, I’m unsure how much it translates to when teams run their real stuff in the first game. Oh, there will be teams that look ultra-sharp come Sunday, and a lot of pointing with exclamations of, “SEE?!” But then the next week a whole different set of teams will look sharp and the teams that looked sharp will look like shit and what will be the explanation for that? It’s just annoying that there will be more space to fill.

Critics Of Mitch Will Get Through The O-Line Faster Than The Packers Did

Any rational Bears fan, if such a thing is in the wild, knew before the season that inconsistency was going to be part of the game with Mitch. I’m inclined to toss his whole rookie season out, given the horse-feed-brain nature of the coaching staff. So this is at most his 2.5th (nd? rd?) year. The fact that it came against the Packers, in primetime, in the first game of the year, after last year’s first game of the year, has this amazing ability to white-out any logic from our minds. But you didn’t become a fan to be rational and logical, and that’s ok. We save that for the rest of our lives (maybe).

What’s of more concern is that the offensive line put up as much resistance to an oncoming force as the volunteers at Wicker Park Fest. Little seemed to have been made in the preseason of the switching James Daniels and Cody Whitehair between center and left guard, and I guess I took that to mean it was always coming. And yet any blitz the Packers came up with, or even a simple line stunt…sorry, let me correctly Doug and OB that…LINE STUNT the Packers did, the entire line became a Dali painting.

We can bemoan the play-calling and QB play, and you’re not wrong, but what contributed to that was Matt Nagy not being sure what they could actually block. There wasn’t time, most of the time, to get the ball down the field, or to open up holes for a run game (that would have gone to Sec. 106’s beer vendor ahead of the three RBs on the roster, apparently). That should be of much bigger concern, because neither Nagy or Mitch are going to be able to do much if the roving hordes get to plunder and pillage in the backfield at their leisure.

Perhaps it’s just a fit and time thing, and not that Kyle Long might just be old and completely bionic at this point and Bobbie Massie never felt like he was all that good anyway. But not even Mitch can torpedo this season as quickly as a dysfunctional offensive line will.

Creativity Is Going To Spill Over At Times

I get as angry as anyone at times when Matt Nagy appears to get way too cute with his play-calling. But it’s hard to think of mad offensive geniuses who don’t. Andy Reid has been wearing that label for 20 years. Certainly all of his proteges have. You lived through the Mike Martz Route Tree (which isn’t as hard as any of the defensive systems the Hawks run, or so they’d have you believe). Brady and Belichick never get that label, but that’s something you clearly can’t recreate. Perhaps we just have to accept it’s going to happen at times and just pray it’s not at the critical juncture. Which sadly, it’s been the last two times we’ve seen the Bears.

And even if I could get past that, it’s on Nagy that his team, and himself, didn’t look ready to play. And the one that sticks out is the second delay of game penalty one a 3rd quarter drive, and getting two delay of games on one drive is some serious how-does-this-work-what-does-this-button-do shit. Somehow, in my new phase of trying to be positive and forgiving (it’s going great), I could let the first one with 10 guys on the field go, even though that’s also a sign of massive unpreparedness. I think sometimes coaches are too panicky with timeouts, and five yards–depending on field position and time–isn’t worth losing the timeout.

However, the Bears had gotten to the Packers 28 in the third, and took the second one. Was no one paying attention to the clock? Did no coach start screaming about it? Because 3rd-and-5 is something you want to keep ahead of 3rd-and-10 and is worth a timeout, especially when it becomes the line between trying a field goal or not. Or having a makable 4th down. How does everyone miss this?

If all these things are relegated to the first week and kink-ironing-out (back to the cat o’ nine tails, I see), fine. But that is some disheartening-ass shit right there.

Football

Welcome to a new FFUD staple: The Vault. Here in The Vault, we talk about a game from the past between the Bears and this week’s opponent. Also, technically this isn’t a staple of FFUD yet since it got a lukewarm reception when I pitched it to the brass, so I gotta work super hard to promote this new idea since the Chicago sports blogosphere is about RESULTS and I need at least 200 shares on Twitter if I’m ever gonna marry into the Arkush family.

Today’s vault: Bears vs Packers, NFC Championship 1/23/2011

Final Score: Packers 21, Bears 14
Fun Fact: January 23rd, 2011 was the 89th anniversary of the first time Insulin was used. Coincidence?

The Game: We all remember this one, right? The collective dagger in the hearts of fans who, like me, were too young to remember the ’85 team and lived our formative years watching the likes of Steve Stenstrom, Shane Matthews, and Cade McNown lead this legendary franchise. We thought this was it, that this time it was real. Mike Martz was (only) kind of an asshole at this point, but the offense looked okay sometimes and the defense was as good as it was in ’05 so there was a chance for sure. Johnny Knox was still playing! God, I miss Johnny Knox.

So after the Bears easily beat Seattle, they got the opportunity to get into the Super Bowl by serving it up to Green Bay. How sweet it was, baby! I ordered roughly $45 in Little Caesar’s and was fine with what that meant for my digestive system. Little did I know the Bears would do to my heart what that greasy pizza would do to my digestive system. These two events happened concurrently.

To put it poetically: shit hit the fan. Aside from Matt Forte putting up dominant numbers in that boring mid 90s/early 2000s way (17 rushes for 70 yards, 10 catches for 90 yards, no touchdowns), everyone else sucked. Rodgers faced no pressure all game, and the crucial mistake he did make didn’t end up costing him, as he managed to tackle Brian Urlacher on his interception return that would’ve been the equalizer, instead leading to another three-and-out. Aside from getting juked by Tom Brady, that is the one play I bet Brian still thinks about between Restore billboard photo shoots.

Olin Kreutz got hurt and played the whole game, but the narrative was all about Jay getting hurt and not returning to the field. Honestly, I know how shitty this sounds but I still take Jay’s side. You gotta believe if he could have played he would’ve been out there, and its not like dusty old bones Todd Collins and future Hall of Famer Caleb Hanie did much better. Plus, the field itself has always been so terrible that there’s always colossal potential for re-injury. However, it wasn’t limited to the QB; the offense was a dumpster fire that day, asking quarterbacks to consistently take 7-step drops and get pummeled. BJ Raji picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked. Sam Shields picked off Caleb Hanie and it sucked even more, and the sun set on the season with the Packers heading to the Super Bowl. Oof.

Why pick this heartbreaker to kick off the Bears 100 campaign? Simple: hope. Just like 24-year-old me gorging on awful pizza and crazy bread, 33-year-old me is gorging on frozen pizza and drinking flavored water with a strong sense of hope in the Bears. I’ve been so conditioned to expect the Bears to suck at worst, or be a middling team at best that I actually thought they could be champions when they got the smallest taste of playoff success. We haven’t watched a meaningful snap yet, but this season is going to be the most exciting one I can remember as a Bears fan. I’m feeling that same hope about this team that I did back then. I can’t even find it in me to be jaded, fuck it. I’m ready for you to hurt me again, Bears. I’m finally all-in, not expecting it to all go wrong. I’m going full Randy Quaid from the last half hour of the first Major League film.

2019 is gonna rule for the Bears, y’all. Let’s have some fun. FTP.

 

 

Football

1991, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers.

1991 is the last year the Green Bay Packers had to worry about who might start at Quarterback.

1991 is the last time Chicago fans had anything on Green Bay. It’s been misery since.

Aaron Rodgers (against what have to be wildly absurd odds considering what you see when you scan this hellscape for capable, reliable, nearly indestructible, nevermind no-doubt HOF QBs) extended this misery that started almost three decades ago. Green Bay lucked into Brett Favre and nearly 15 years of his wizardry/bullshit and then hit the jackpot again when Rodgers slid into their lap and became the best QB of this generation. Fight me, all of Boston.

Rodgers, now 35 (!!), isn’t really showing his age. 2019 marks his 15th season and 12th straight as leader of the Pack. He’s coming off a subpar season in record only, as you’d assume throwing for 4,442 yards (2nd best of his career), 25 TDs and only TWO INTs (career low) would get you better than 6-9-1, but that gives a better idea of his surrounding cast of late. The season was basically Rodgers vs. his former Head Coach Mike McCarthy, or the guy that kept trying to get Rodgers killed the last 2-3 years. Rodgers entered 2018 coming off his shortest and worst season in his career, an injury shortened campaign that saw him start only seven games, a product of his garbage offensive line and McCarthy’s aforementioned affinity for putting his meal ticket in the worst situations possible at all times.

Enter Matt LaFleur, Green Bay’s dive into the pool of Sean McVay disciples/clones. LaFleur could barely be described as Rodger’s senior at just 39 himself, and honestly I don’t think most NFL fans know anything about him outside of he’s now the HC of the Packers. This feels a bit like an odd sort of experiment for Green Bay. LaFleur has nothing in the way of a resume, at least not one you’d think would get him the top job for a team trying to get what they can out of the last few years of Aaron Rodgers. This could be the team giving in a bit to their mega star, and trying to catch HC lightning in a bottle at the same time. LaFleur learns from Rodgers on the job and plays 1b to his QB1. This would actually be a pretty interesting and possibly successful situation….but this is the NFL. This is Green Bay thinking they’re getting the next young genius, but will he be smart enough to stay out of his own way?

Rodgers sure hopes so, and the blueprint is really laid out for him. McCarthy’s play calling, while clearly pissing off the most important man in the building, had become stale and easy to solve. Rodgers gets a lot of credit/flack for throwing the ball away so often, but that was mostly a product of the bad play calls. He’s smart enough to know when not to take a chance on a small window or when they play is just busted and he can extend his career with an incompletion. Sure, the meatheads wearing cheese might take issue with this, but doing this his entire career has helped him remain the best for so long.

Rodgers is more than just a guy living for the next play, though, and his ability to get his is something a defense can hope to contain more than stop completely. The Bears at least pose a strong threat to Rodgers and the Packers, being able to rush the quarterback effectively. McCarthy’s ineffective play-action won’t be a factor, though, and we’ll see if/how laFleur’s differ. Aaron Jones should contribute to the latter, with establishing a rushing attack now quite important to aiding Rodgers. Chuck Pagano and his league-best secondary will play a huge role as well, and they’ve got a high bar to clear after Vic Fangio’s work the last few years.

Everyone is well aware of the heartbreak from last season’s opening loss to Rodgers in Green Bay, and Rodger’s 4th quarter comeback is the type of thing he’s always capable of – three TDs in one quarter, two over 35 yards, one of which went for 75. The good news? In seven other quarters the Bears held Rodgers under 400 yards passing, picked him off once and sacked him seven times. Essentially, don’t take your foot off the gas against him on defense. Keep the pressure up and be relentless with it while trusting your coverage to make the plays that rush creates.

Khalil Mack said his favorite part about Packers week is sacking Aaron Rodgers. Chicago will need him and the rest of the defense to start the year the way everyone wants to – atop the NFC North and help Rodgers out of his gatekeeper role for this division.