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

It doesn’t mean anything, unless Anthony Miller’s shoulder actually detached from his body this time. The Bears finish 8-8, which seems more fitting for this team, the very definition of completely mediocre and pointless. They couldn’t be more in the middle. They couldn’t block the Vikings’ backups, and the defense did just enough to put the game on a knife-edge both good and bad.

It was somehow telling and symbolic that the Bears only TD drive, the first of the second half, was when they cut out the bullshit, lined up in the I, and ran the ball. David Montgomery had 57 yards on six carries and a touchdown on the drive. Mitch Trubisky had to throw one pass, and it was for a first down.

And then we never saw it again.

Also symbolic that on the biggest play of the game, a 4th and 5 at midfield as the Bears were trying to find the winning field goal, Mitch finally got out of the pocket (not sure it was designed that way) and found Ridley for a first down and set up the winner. That was just about the only time we saw it.

So the game was more of what we already knew. When Mitch gets to be an athlete–getting on the move or stepping into his throws and being decisive–he’s ok. When he’s doing all the gadget stuff, he doesn’t make plays. When the Bears keep it simple, they can move the ball. But they don’t keep it simple. They didn’t get enough sacks, though they did get the turnovers today and even a safety.

No questions will be answered by this. We’ll have to wait some months for those.

Everything else…

-I would imagine Riley Ridley is being groomed to take Taylor Gabriel’s role next season, as that’s one spot the Bears can get some cap savings.

-Khalil Mack will end the season with 8.5 sacks. No matter what else was going on, that’s just not going to get it done.

-Yeah I think I’ve had enough of Ha-Ha. Try something else next year.

-Mitch didn’t even end up with 3,000 yards. That’s hard to do these days. And while it certainly speaks to his struggles, it also speaks to an offense that could never push the ball down the field. Some of that is the o-line, a lot of it is Mitch, but a lot of it is the playcalling. We’ll at least hear whispers of someone being brought in next season to take that over. Don’t know if it will happen, but it should at least be discussed.

-The Bears actually got two turnovers today, which has been a problem this season. That they only resulted in six points is why this was a game at all.

Ok, that’s enough. It’s over. We lived. That’s about all we can say.

Football

vs.

RECORDS: Bears 7-8   Vikings 10-5

KICKOFF: 12pm

TV: Fox

READY TO BE KICKED IN THE NUTS AGAIN: Daily Norseman

It was only a year ago that the season ended in the same exact spot with just about the opposite feeling. The Bears marched up to Minneapolis, with nothing to play for essentially as the Rams were up big by the 2nd quarter to eliminate any chance of grabbing a playoff bye. The Vikings however, had everything to play for, needing to win to get into the playoffs. And the Bears used their face to mop the floor simply because they felt like it, because they wanted to. It really felt like they were on to something then, that it was just the beginning. After all, a team that does that simply for the sheer joy of it must’ve been capable of so much more.

One scared playoff game, one missed kick, and a broken coach and QB later and now it feels like that game might as well have taken place in another dimension. Of course, the funny thing to think about is if the Bears had rested everyone, let the Vikings in, would they have simply kicked their ass again a week later on the Lakefront? How would that have changed things? Rather pointless to think about in the end, but you can’t let it go completely, can you?

Either way, the Bears will slink off the stage tomorrow after a dead rubber against the Vikings. Minnesota is locked in as the 6th seed, preparing to watch Kirk Cousins embarrass himself in Green Bay, or Seattle, or New Orleans. Take your pick. So they’ll be resting everyone who matters, making it unclear what the Bears can get out of this other than a win that makes the record look a little better. And hopefully no major injuries to carry over into training camp or something.

The Bears are intent on playing the full team, or at least the one they have. The long-term casualties are still out. You get the impression if the Bears had even been representative last week, not even won necessarily but played well, they might treat this as a time-filler as well. But last week so helpless and sad, they probably can’t end the season with two of those. The offseason will be long and unpleasant enough without that kind of stench hanging over it. Or at least they can fool themselves into thinking there’s less stench.

Maybe 8-8 looks way better to them than 7-9. The difference in draft position won’t matter all that much, they’ll be entrenched in the middle of the second round either way. There won’t be any answers tomorrow, and those won’t come for a few months. The post-mortems have already started.

It’s funny, there have been far worse Bears teams in recent memory. But rarely has a season been this unenjoyable. Even the wins were whiskey-dick experiences. Only the one in Denver due to its excitement and the still very much present hope that was around in just Week 2, the first Vikings game, and the Cowboys win were ones you could get excited about. Feel good about. Washington was what was supposed to happen. The two over the Lions were far harder than they needed to be. The Giants suck. When were you excited to watch the Bears past September?

So we’ll dispose of this season tomorrow, slamming its head into the wall before throwing it out the door, cursing its presence in our lives at all and hoping to never see the likes of it again. We probably will. It’s the Bears after all. But at least there will be time to cleanse.

Football

The Bears won’t get to see Kirk Cousins Sunday. Because the Vikes have nothing to play for, they’re the 6th seed who will get murdered by the any of the Packers, Saints, or Seahawks. Which is unfortunate, because seeing Kirk Cousins is usually high comedy. Until now, because it might be what’s coming for the Bears.

You probably know the records by now. Cousins is 6-30 against teams with winning records. 0-9 on Monday night. Not much  better in other primetime games. Whenever the Vikings need Cousins to be good, he’s been terrible. This includes last year’s finale when they needed to beat a Bears team that essentially had nothing to play for. And the Bears whacked him around simply because they felt like it.

Cousins changed the narrative around him a bit after the first Bears games this year, where once again the Bears sat on his head without Akiem Hicks. He threw 22 TDs and just two INTs before last week. There was some hope in Minneapolis that maybe he’d turned a corner. And then he took a big shit against the Packers on Monday night, ending the Vikes’ hopes for the division, once again puking it up against a good team, and the Vikings are left with all the same questions.

And this could be the Bears’ future. Not Cousins, of course, as he’s slotted to make all the money in the world for one more season yet. But if the Bears decide to move on from Mitch Trubisky, and that’s still a rather sizable if, they choices from there are of the same ilk of Cousins. Andy Dalton? He has the same amount of playoff wins that you do. Cam Newton? One Super Bowl appearance that he pissed down his leg in and one other playoff win where he didn’t even break 200 yards and both of those were five years ago. Teddy Bridgewater? Way more questions than answers. Phillip Rivers and his arm that was 107 years old when he was 25?

All could be steadier than Trubes, that’s for sure. And maybe steady is all the Bears need that figures to be at or near having a contender-level defense next year (especially with a healthy Hicks). But you’d be asking QBs to do things they haven’t proven they can do or haven’t done in a very long time. How’s that working out for the Vikings, who in the Cousins era will have one wildcard berth and a playoff tonking to show for it?

Bears fans should know that once you get on the QB carousel, it’s really hard to get off of it. Maybe you draft someone in the second or third round you really like and hope they just provide competition for Trubisky, thereby still keeping your QB costs down so you can have the rest of the roster in place. That’s the other thing about the names available. They’ll still cost a lot. Cousins himself has a $31M hit next year. Any of the others really coming that much cheaper?

Maybe paying $9M with reasonable competition through the draft doesn’t sound so bad here.

Football

Welcome back to the last regular-season edition of THE VAULT, my weekly column dedicated to giving you 700 or so words about a nightmare of games past. For the 4th straight season, the Bears and Vikings will clash on the final week of the NFL’s regular season, and the words I’ve seen being used to describe this game are as follows:

“meaningless” (NBC Sports)
“disappointing” (BearsWire)
“miserable” (CBS Local)

This shit reads like a Kafka short story. So, in the interest of keeping myself interested in this bit, I’m going to go in-depth on last year’s season finale (a 24-10 Bears victory) as seen through the eyes of a fictional Bears superfan going through what could be best described as an “existential crisis”.

As Gregor Olson awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into Don Wachter (AKA “The Bearman”). He lay on his bed in suburban La Grange, Illinois, and looked at the dark ceiling. His alarm was going off, it was 3am. Time to get ready. Gameday. Noon. Bears/Vikings.

“Who am I? How did I get here?” It was no dream. Gregor’s room had transformed from the modest empty desked cold space he knew into one adorned with pictures. Pictures of him.

But that wasn’t him; it was just a facimile of him, like a bad photocopied picture. Him, with so many of his heroes: Bryan Cox. Donnell Woolford. Steve Stenstrom. What he wouldn’t have given to remember times like those. Times that he could use to help explain the situation he found himself in. How long had it been since he became The Bearman?

As if one might breathe or reach a hand to rub a bruise, Gregor was instinctively already at his dresser. His makeup was already halfway applied before he realized he was doing it. “What sort of rabbit hole have I fallen into? Hello?” he yelled. Silence returned his cries, and as the echo bounced off the walls of his rented room, he looked back at the mirror to see his costume for the day already applied. Everything fit perfectly, as if he had worn them in for years, though Gregor’s eyes still saw his old body. His soft limp now gone, he began to operate the body of The Bearman as if it was his own.

In a weird stasis between disoriented and confident, he got into his 2010 Toyota Bear-olla and made his way to Soldier Field, ready to watch the 11-4 Bears face off against the 8-6-1 Minnesota Vikings. In the car, Gregor began to feel more and more uneasy, considering he wasn’t even a sports fan, let alone a football fanatic! His brain began accessing stored knowledge of the current roster, the past legends, and a bunch of useless knowledge about RPOs. Gregor decided to fight it, for if he couldn’t control the whims of the body, he could certainly call out to the world for help, to free him from this prison.

Soldier Field was empty for gameday, and the security guard welcomed him as “Don” before asking why he was there if the Bears were in Minnesota to play at 3:25, having been flexed into an afternoon slot.

“Don, are you feeling okay? You look kinda queasy.” The man said.

“Please help me!” Gregor screamed. Gregor was trying his best to get out. He needed to be free. Free of Bearman. This had to end, Gregor was not welcome in the body of the Bearman. Gregor protested from inside of the Bearman, struggling in a way that to outside observers probably looked like a mild panic attack.

“Don? Um, I’m gonna call 911. You just stay here, okay?”

“PLEASE HELP ME!” The words exploded from Don’s mouth, propelled with all the force Gregor could manage to summon. Without another word, his foot pressed down on the gas and before he could blink an eye, the Bear-olla was on Lake Shore Drive. Gregor was no longer in control, the Bearman was in the drivers seat, literally and figuratively.

Gregor found the Bearman suit appalling, and when it dragged him into the Buffalo Wild Wings, he found himself even more disgusted. A lifelong vegetarian, Gregor knew this B-Dubs was where the final confrontation between himself, the very notion of free will, and his flesh prison would take place. As the game was playing on the TV, people came up to buy free drinks and take pictures with the Bearman. Everyone loves the Bearman. Let’s buy a beer for the Bearman. Let’s buy some wings for the Bearman. Boneless. Low heat, because the Bearman has low tolerance for spicy food.

“NO” he bellowed, the fake teeth on his Bear-hat rattling with the force of his rebuke. “I AM NOT THE BEARMAN.” As the bar fell silent, Jordan Howard ran in for his second TD of the first half, putting the Bears up 13-0. Cody Parkey’s extra point was unsuccessful, and for a moment, the eyes of the bar were no longer on the Bearman, but nervously darting around the room wondering if this team would be looking for a kicker before the playoff run. 

“Bearman, what do you think? Should the Bears sign someone off the street?” A patron said, handing Gregor’s prison a steaming plate of wings. This was it, the time was now. The body of Bearman reached for a wing, and dipped it in the ranch. Gregor fought. Bearman won. The meat entered his body, and the soul of Gregor Olsen became infuriated. As if a medieval army about to unleash their final charge, he balled up all that he had and exploded.

Chunks of Bear jerseys with human remains littered the floor like so much confetti. The playoffs began next Sunday, at home. 3am. There remained a room full of fans who would not see it, nor anything ever again.

Tarik Cohen was running in for a touchdown. The Vikings season was over.

Football

With the first trimester of the season in the rearview, let’s take a look at where the Bears offense if through the first five games. Caution, reader discretion is advised.

Yards Per Game:              Ranked 30th (266 YPG)

This stat is especially alarming because the Bears offense has actually been more effective with their backup quarterback under center. Additionally, the dominating nature of the Bears defense give this offense more time on the field to put up yards – or in the Bears case, not put up yards.

Points Per Game:            Ranked 28th (17.4 PPG)

This is a stat that has plummeted since about the middle of the 2018 season. Three major factors contribute to this: bad quarterback play, bad o-line play, and an offensive playbook that that seems like it has been figured out. It is a chicken or egg scenario: is the system bad because of the players? Or are the players bad because of the system? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I just want it figured out.

Yards Per Play:                  Ranked 30th (4.5 YPP)

This number is easily explainable and falls squarely on the lack of a running game. Consistently being in a 2nd and long position very much limits your playbook. RPO and zone running plays are just not working and I anticipate a change in aspects of this coming out of the bye week.

1st Downs Per Game       Ranked 27th (17.4 1DPG)

What we can deduct from this stat is that Bears are really not a threat on plays 10 yards or longer. A 10-yard play gets you a second set of downs, which in turn, keeps opposing defenses on the field longer, thus equaling a high level of fatigue. When you are averaging only 17 1st downs per game, you are facing a fresh defense on about ½ of your possessions.

3rd Down Percentage     Ranked 23rd (35%)

As we all know, Mitch Trubisky is not an overly accurate passer. So anytime you are facing a 3rd and medium/long, you are looking at routes that are not in Mitch’s 5-yard comfort zone. Add to this a porous line, and you can clearly see why the team struggles to convert 3rd downs.

Penalties                             Ranked 7th Highest (43 Penalties)

Like all coaches, Matt Nagy talks about discipline ad nauseam. And while 43 Penalties are a big number, this is more of an NFL officiating issue than it is a Bears issue. However, don’t take for granted that the Bears O-Line is among the most penalized units in the league. This reasoning behind this is simple: when you are not very good, you get beat, which then makes linemen hold. False starts and delay of games have been minimal, so this is more of talent issue with the linemen than it is an overall team discipline issue.

When looking at these numbers as a whole, the Bears are dreadfully comparable to the Dolphins, Redskins, Jets, and Bengals – four teams that share a combined two wins. And before you speak about the strength of the respective defenses the Bears have faced so far this year, please note keep in mind the only defensive juggernaut this team has faced is the Minnesota Vikings.

Coming off the off week, I am hoping we will see far less RPO and zone runs – the Bears are talented enough in the backfield that getting outside the tackles may be the plan that resurrects this offense. The NFL remains a league in which you have to be successful in the run game to be successful throwing the ball. Very few teams are good enough to be successful being one dimensional; the Bears are not one of them.

My biggest concern is that Matt Nagy is too proud to change his offensive philosophy in the run game and will keep trying to make chicken salad from a chicken shit line. Nagy is a guy who experienced much success and admiration in his rookie year as head coach. How that the sky is falling on him and he is getting figured out, it’s up to him to counter-punch and get this team in the end zone.

**In an effort to give a more accurate picture of the Bears offense, the above-noted rankings were taking prior to this past week’s games.

Football

The Bears Defense Is Now A Comic Book Villain, Or Weapon, Or Both, I’m Not Sure

It dawned on me somewhere in the third quarter yesterday, probably just after the Bears stripped Kirk Cousins first thing in the second half on a drive that was supposed to turn the momentum of the game, that watching a great defense in football is not all that different from watching your team have a true ace in baseball. It’s just that the former is the latter with the music turned way up and sex club lighting.

Still, it’s a kind of visceral to watch one team or player simply swat away anything the other team is trying. Yesterday was little brother-big brother basketball, where no matter what the little tyke does it just gets ruthlessly swatted away into the next yard in a valuable life lesson that sometimes there’s nothing to be done. The Bears made plays from everyone and everywhere simply for the enjoyment of it. Because they felt like it. It was damn near pornographic.

I wasn’t the only Bears fan who greeted the hour before the game with trepidation, when news of Akiem Hicks and Roquan Smith (for whatever reason) missing out became official. That was the middle of the defense against the league’s best running attack. It seemed the worst possible combination of absences against the Vikings.

The Bears just rolled out Roy Robinson-Harris, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Nick Williams and watched them strut, dance, and pose all over the Vikings. Kwiatkowski used Dalvin Cook as his own Spartan shield at one point. They never missed a beat. While Ryan Pace’s tenure will be defined by whatever Mitch Trubisky becomes, it has to be said he can spot talent on the defensive side of the ball consistently.

There was something efficient about Lovie Smith’s defense, the other great defense of recent Bears vintage. They were happy to give up yards because they knew teams couldn’t be patient or clean enough to trickle down the field without fucking up or turning the ball over. They would get you eventually.

This one doesn’t wait around. They don’t give you anything. All they take is your soul. They come after you. And from every angle. Lovie’s team waited for you to fall into the bear trap they set. This Bears defense actively chucks you into it and then pours gasoline on you while twirling a Zippo and grinning all the time.

Kirk Cousins Still Has A Terminal Case Of Being Kirk Cousins

His overall numbers, thanks to one drive at the end of the fourth, don’t look all that bad. But once again, when faced with any quality on the other side of the ball, Cousins pissed down his leg and then asked his teammates to clean it up. Cousins either held the ball too long or didn’t sniff out blitzes or the rush in time. He missed the couple of open shots he had.

With a division opponent, the most enjoyable thing for a Bears fan is to have a QB and/or coach just good enough to break your heart. Cousins and Mike Zimmer will win just enough games to give Vikings fans hope, only for it to be hilariously and gloriously dashes in the most violent way possible. And right now it’s this Bears defense that will do it.

Cousins didn’t get much help from his coaches. Their only drive that produced points came in a no-huddle, which flattened out the Bears rush a bit. They should have been going with that far earlier, seeing as how they couldn’t block anyone normally.

But that’s the Vikings. They’re never going to get it right. Something will always go off the boil. They’ll fuck it up. We lost the Blues. I’m glad the Vikings are still here.

Tony Romo Still Sucks

Don’t try and tell me otherwise. He makes odd noises and in about five years he’s going to sound like drunk Terry Boers. He never shuts up, and his analysis is barely middling. He sounds like an air raid siren. Predicting the play ahead of time isn’t really the job. Give me Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts every damn time when the Bears have to be on CBS.

 

Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Football

vs.

 

Records: MIN 2-1 at CHI 2-1

TV: 3:25 pm – CBS

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prediction: Bears 17 – Vikings 15

 

 

Football

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Prediction:

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

Bears win, 17-13.