Football

I had some friends over for the game, and as Eddy Pineiro’s last second kick hooked left, there was no anger. No rage, no Youtube-worthy TV smashing, no nothing. I think this level of numbness is part of the basic experience of being a Bears fan, this existential cloud that hangs over moments like today’s loss where we say to ourselves, “I knew he was gonna miss it”.

This game was gift-wrapped to the Bears by a vastly inferior Chargers team, with multiple end-zone drops, missed field goals, and drive-extending penalties. The last sequence before the end of the first half, with three defensive penalties awarding the Bears first downs in the red zone should have been a decisive score. Taylor Gabriel had a linebacker beat on a 4th quarter go route that Mitch overthrew, missing a sure touchdown. Naturally on the next play Mitch lost the ball and Los Angeles recovered.

That two play sequence exemplifies the 2019 Bears: even when they catch a break, they can’t catch a break by capitalizing on it; and before you can lament that missed opportunity, they do something even worse. This one stung, friends. This was still a winnable game, in spite of the Bears lack of offensive panache. They had three trips inside the Chargers 10 and came away with 9 total points. Eddy Pinerio missed a 33 yard kick earlier in the game. The Bears were in Pinerio’s range TWICE in the last three minutes and came away with zero points, after the second to last drive ended with a Trubisky sack taking the Bears out of field goal range.

I can’t write an entire article without mentioning how great it looked to see the Bears commit to the run, and how explosive David Montgomery looked. There was even a Mike Davis sighting! 162 team rushing yards is something to be proud of, especially for a team like the 2019 Bears. The run blocking looked better than it has all year, and the balance really opened up throws for Mitch. Anthony Miller looked great, creating separation and running deeper routes with ease. Mitch looked comfortable taking deep shots on the two free plays he got after drawing the Chargers offsides. It’s weird, I had no idea that having a good run attack might help set up the pass…?

Matt Nagy used the I-Formation a few times after mentioning it in a presser earlier in the week, and it looked good. I appreciate the Bears bringing in an extra lineman on a few plays and using J.P. Holtz as a fullback since he’s on the 45 man active roster and, well, idk I like seeing a power run game. I guess I am turning into my dad after all.

The defense looked good, with Kyle Fuller coming up with a great interception that he almost took to the house while Chris Spielman kept calling him Kendall. Khalil Mack came up with a crucial 4th quarter sack, and the team did well save for a few nailbiter deep shots that should’ve been touchdown catches but were dropped. Of the two touchdown drives they gave up, one was on a short field after a turnover and the other was a long Chargers possession when the Bears did their classic “we’re up by more than one score so we’re gonna play a soft zone” defense that I’ve seen my entire life.

Playoff teams win that game. Playoff teams score touchdowns in the red zone, playoff teams hit open receivers and playoff teams make field goals.

Ugh.

Football

vs.

RECORDS: Chargers (2-5) at Bears (3-3)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 12:00pm

TV: FOX 32 

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Is it possible for both teams to be looking at the same game as a “get right” matchup? Sunday at noon we’ll find out which of these teams is worth saving, and which one needs to start “assessing the talent on the roster” (tanking). The Los Angeles Chargers show up to Soldier Field on a three-game losing streak, and the Bears come in losers of their last two, but really let’s be honest the Bears don’t look like they could beat the bye week so let’s just say both teams are damn near on tilt. Barring huge turnarounds, this game (which looked like a great matchup six short weeks ago) will have zero national attention and no relevancy to anyone but fantasy football players. That said if you have any Bears players on your fantasy team who aren’t Allen Robinson, you should quit fantasy football (as I glare at David Montgomery on my bench).

Something’s gotta give, right? Looking strictly at DVOA, the Bears on offense are -12.5%. That’s bad. The Chargers on defense are 12.1%. That’s also bad. The Chargers are 22nd against the run this year, the Bears are the 28th ranked rushing attack in football. I’m picturing one of those electric football games to take place when the Bears offense is on the field, in fact it might be an improvement if it was. At least during electric football the margin of error is so big you couldn’t blame the offense for being hot garbage.

Brian Baldinger (he of the amazingly disfigured pinky) had an outstanding Baldy’s Breakdown video of a Bears run that I think encapsulates the problem. In the video, a shotgun run up the gut with Tarik Cohen, Baldy shows how Nagy’s jet motion brings the DB into the box that ends up going unblocked and stuffing the run, when otherwise there’s nothing but green grass in front of the diminutive speedster. Can Matt Nagy scheme his way out of a wet paper bag and embrace the run, or is this game another seven rushing attempts game? Will Joey Bosa destroy Mitch Trubisky? Can the Bears contain the one Bosa brother I actually LIKE rooting for?

The answer is going to depend on how well the Bears defense and special teams play. Remember when the defense was getting to the quarterback, stopping the run, and forcing turnovers? Last year seems so far away right now. The Bears are getting turnovers, but have been exposed by Jon fucking Gruden by all people. Teams know to run away Khalil Mack now that Akiem Hicks is out. The linebackers are getting blown up on the second level, and the defensive backs are playing more on their heels instead of jumping short routes. The Chargers have the blueprint to beating Chicago, and Chuck Pagano hasn’t adjusted.

The special teams is so bad. So, so bad. Sherrick McManis is still in concussion protocol as of this writing, so punt returner Desmond King has the chance for a big day, assuming the Bears punt protection holds long enough for Pat O’Donnell to get a kick in the air. He was only credited with one block last week against New Orleans, but it should’ve been two; and the Bears starting defense was brought in against the Raiders to stop a fake punt and couldn’t do that either after a running into the kicker penalty moved Oakland up, a sequence that eventually cost the Bears the game. A good punt and kick return over the last two games doesn’t negate the pisspoor blocking and kick coverage.

Keenan Allen is a stud at wideout, and if the Chargers are trying to get Melvin Gordon back into form they’d be wise to run him early and often. The team has rushed for 106 yards over the last three games COMBINED, and a goal line fumble by Gordon sealed their fate last week against Tennessee. Mike Williams and Hunter Henry are also outstanding players, even if Henry is basically a slower Evan Engram and Williams is almost exclusively a jump-ball threat.

Oh, and Philip Rivers is still around, somehow. The man has been the starting QB for the Bolts since 2006, which was three Presidents, like 18 children, and countless bolo ties ago. His 11 TDs to six picks this season looks a lot more impressive than it really is, considering most of it has come via checkdowns. Let’s find out if the Bears can stop Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen from dominating with the short routes that make everyone look good statistically. Rivers is basically the upgraded Jay Cutler, with constant temper tantrums and meltdowns on various sidelines over the years, but if the Bears had Rivers during those early 2010s teams, Chicago would have at least one Super Bowl trophy.

Since around November 2nd 2016, Chicago sports has begun to worship the hallowed “players only meeting”. The Bears had one of their own this week, which is either a total indictment of Matt Nagy or just what they need to right the shit. Yeah I know that’s a typo, but if you’ve been watching this team you know why I’m leaving it in.

Final Score Prediction:
Chargers 23 Bears 6, and Virginia McCaskey comes down from the luxury box and fires Matt Nagy, making herself head coach. The Bears win out the rest of the year.

Football

Hey it’s yr boi DJ Yung Milwaukee- Wes and I decided to collab again on a matchup post for Sunday’s weekly nightmare. One of the greatest things about football is it’s ability to take us away from the problems of the workweek or whatever. Watching the Bears in 2019 is still therapeutic, because no matter how bad things get for me at least I’m not on this team, I just write about them

*sobs to the tune of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”*

Mornin, Wes! Let’s chop up these Bears/Chargers matchups, shall we? Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ll take the Bears offense vs the Chargers defense.
 
Looking at the NFL.com stats for the Bears offense this season is a new, special form of torture. It’s the kind of torture that you know will keep bringing you back for more, but I think hopefully for us the expectations have been completely removed so we can laugh. They say comedy is tragedy plus time, and I’d say it’s time we went full Joker.
 
Look, the Bears live in a society. A society where they have 420 rushing yards in six games. They have gotten 17 first downs this year via the run game, and 15 first downs via penalty. Mitch can’t run a simple RPO. Kids are getting booed at Hawks games for going as Trubisky for Halloween, as if that wasn’t the spookiest costume in Chicagoland right now.
 
Anthony Miller is officially a ghost, Taylor Gabriel exploded for a huge game and is now also a non-factor, and the Bears customary jet sweep motion is bringing extra men into the box to stop the run. They’re shooting themselves in the foot left and right. The line isn’t performing well, but how well can you expect a line to hold up when they’re constantly facing 2nd-and-8 or 3rd-and-10? Hopefully the Bears take advantage of the Chargers allowing for 3rd down conversions literally half the time (39 conversions in 78 tries).
The interior of the Chargers line (Justin Jones and Brandon Mebane) are both out, so hopefully the Bears take advantage of that and establish the run for once. That said, Joey Bosa is still a monster and I’d hope the Bears keep some extra blockers back there to chip and give Mitch extra time to survey the field before eventually taking a sack.
 
Basically I’m afraid that Ryan Tannehill is going to have a better game against this team than Mitch will, but if the Bears watch tape they’ll know that the best way to beat the Chargers is to run the ball. Darwin James has been out all season, which opens up the box for more running lanes. You would think the Bears have plenty of options this Sunday going against a middling defense missing both it’s defensive tackles and safeties, right? The Chargers hemorrhaged yards to Titans receivers last week, with Ryan Tannehill going 12/13 for 181 yards and 2 TDs when targeting the middle of the field last week. Naturally, I’m expecting Matt Nagy to do the opposite.
 
Well, I’m thoroughly depressed now. What ya got, Wes?
I wish I could tell you that I’ve got a pick me up…and I might?

The Chargers offense can boast the third highest average passing yards a game at 293 and change, but they’re only one spot ahead of the putrid Bear rushing attack at 74 yard/game. So while they’ve been able to move the ball through the air with some ease, they are just as atrocious running the ball and the passing yards are nice, but they’re a 11/6 TD/INT ratio through the air and fumbled five times, bringing the overall TD/TO ratio to 14/11. The Bears TD/TO ratio is 10/6.

This is NOT going to be a battle of competent offense/teams; things will be ugly.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Chargers before they even leave for Chicago. Recently promoted G Forrest Lamp broke his ankle last weekend and will miss the rest of the season. It’s another hit to a line that’s already down Mike Pouncey and Russell Okung, though even with Okung reportedly be back this week you could expect some rust.
Melvin Gordon will continue trying to get up to speed after ending his hold out a few weeks ago, but neither he or Austin Ekeler have gotten much going at 2.3 and 3.6 yards/carry, respectively.

Ekeler is helping to prop up that passing game with 44 receptions for nearly 500 yards and four TDs, most on the team. He’s joined by Keenan Allen with 49/564/3, but after that it’s a steep drop to Mike Williams at just 23 catches. In fact, only TE Hunter Henry is in double digits for receptions on the season, and he’s gotten 14 of them the last two weeks. Philip Rivers has a game plan, and it’s to feed Allen, Ekeler and now Henry.

The Bears will need to get the pass rush back on track to create pressures and get Rivers forcing balls to those guys to early or into what should be some stiff coverage for his three favorite targets. Ekeler gets most of his on designed screens and check downs, so Roquan Smith will need to shake out of his funk to keep himself and his front-7 on task to stymie the few things the Chargers do well. The way that Allen makes more of his catches in the short to intermediate route tree, I’d like to see Prince Amukamara stick with Allen all over the field, but the next time we see the Bears employs such a tactic will be the first.

This really feels like the perfect “get back to basics” opponent for Matt Nagy and Chuck Pagano to hit the reset button. You already spoke to the offense having an opportunity to exploit a battered and ineffective defense. The Bears defense doesn’t really need a full reset, but they need an easier matchup in terms of the game as a whole, and if the offense can put even some semblance of sustained drives together, that alone will make the job a much simpler one for the defense. They’ve also got a strong potential for turnovers, which we know they thrive off of and use to build confidence.

This could game could lift a lot of spirits IF Nagy and Pagano and be simple, be basic and just play a clean game, because Anthony Lynn’s Chargers are more than capable of demolishing themselves if you give them slight trouble and can mitigate the big play here and there. Would be nice to see that from the other side in 2019.

Football

Welcome back to THE VAULT, the much celebrated weekly history column where I try to remember why I still care about this team in spite of the many heartbreaks they’ve given me. I’m going to spend these next couple weeks while I’m between jobs rewriting Kanye’s magnum opus “808s and Heartbreaks” to make it about the Bears, so look for me in the FFUD “Album of the Week” section crooning over some reverb-drenched synths. My version of “Love Lockdown” is gonna be about Nathan Vasher. Million dollar idea right there.

Potential album titles:
“85 Bears and Tears” (doesn’t rhyme but I’ll make it work)
“Jim Miller is a Homophobic Idiot” (true but not as catchy)
“One Night Stands and Josh Bellamy’s Hands” (there it is)

2003, week 9 of the NFL season. The Bears limped in to this home tilt against the San Diego Chargers at 3-5, and the Chargers somehow hobbled into Soldier Field at 1-7. Bear in mind this Chargers team had Drew Brees at QB and LaDainian Tomlinson in the backfield, with noted PED user and future “Crime in Sports” episode subject David Boston lining up outside next to perennial “undersized with a big heart white WR” Tim Dwight. Tim Dwight was always one of those wideouts that announcers described as “a student of the game/a gym rat/sneaky fast” which for some reason are only superlatives given to white wideouts. Whereas receivers who are nonwhite are always considered “freak athletes.” It’s weird.

Casual racial bias aside, the wildest thing about this game is the fact that DREW FUCKING BREES was benched in this game for DOUG FUCKING FLUTIE, who massively outperformed the QB who would go on to define this generation (screw Tom Brady, he’s just the best system QB of all time- Brees is the GOAT). It’s almost a fever dream to think about a Bears team led by Chris Chandler, Anthony Thomas, and David Terrell sticking it to the Chargers with two future Hall of Famers in their backfield so severely that they thought it prudent to bring in Doug Flutie.

The 2003 Bears were, you guessed it, a fucking mess. The QB carousel featured the aforementioned Chris Chandler coming in to start for Kordell Stewart for his 3rd game in a row. The 2003 Bears had hotshot Rex “Sex Cannon” Grossman on the bench as a rookie, which is kind of like having the opportunity to re-watch a movie knowing how the tragedy is going to unfold. They also drafted useless defensive lineman Michael Haynes in that first round. After that nightmare first round, they picked up Charles Tillman in the 2nd and Lance Briggs in the 3rd, which is almost “Sayers-Butkus” levels of draft success. As much as it sucks to see that the Bears could’ve drafted Troy Polamalu instead of Haynes, at least they didn’t pull a Detroit Lions and draft Charles Rogers with the 2nd overall pick, he of the multiple failed drug tests. Fun Charles Rogers fact: three career failed drug tests, four career receiving touchdowns. Trust me, I’m not trying to shit on a dude that would’ve maybe had a chance in the NFL a few years from now, when players are finally allowed to use marijuana to help with pain relief. I feel bad for those players who can’t medicate with something that isn’t a habit-forming painkiller that actually shortens people’s lives.

The Bears went on to hold off the Flutie-led Chargers 20-7, keeping LT to a measly 82 total yards on 16 carries and four catches. Drew Brees went 7-15 for 49 yards and an interception in this game, with his pick lobbed into the hands of Charles Tillman before Peanut was suplexed to the ground by the aforementioned David Boston, who looks like those cat memes where people sketch in preposterous muscles on pics of napping kitties. Tillman also downed a punt at the 1-yard line, which is always a play that gets me going. His downed punt led to a game-sealing interception of Flutie by Jerry Azumah, a regular here in THE VAULT.

Anthony Thomas led the team with 31 carries (!), 111 yards, and two scores. Honestly, as bad as those teams were, it’s refreshing to watch the old highlight videos of the Bears lining up in the I-Formation and running up the middle with success, instead of watching the offense line up in the shotgun and send the smallest player on the roster up the gut on 1st and 10 when the other team has 36 men in the box. David Terrell and Dez White each had seven catches, which would be a career day for most of the players on the 2019 squad. Bobby Wade, Justin Gage, and even my all-time favorite Bears undersized useless WR Ahmad Merritt caught a pass from Chris Chandler. Man, I miss Ahmad Merritt, who didn’t do anything in the NFL but was a BEAST in NFL Europe, catching 6 TDs for the Berlin Thunder. What a weird fucking sentence.

The Bears in 2003 finished 7-9, before finishing 5-11 in 2004 with what is considered one of the worst offenses in NFL history. Welcome to heartbreak.