Football

This is what I get? Off a bye week. After a loss. This is how you respond. Go ahead and ask yourself; can you remember a worse 3-3 football team? The Bears suck right now, and I don’t envision a scenario where they are going to get any better.

Before you go off on Mitch Trubisky and how he’s a joke of a QB, lets address the running game. A running game that really isn’t a running game. The Bears tried to run the ball seven times. Seven times in an NFL football game. Who in the actual fuck runs the ball seven times in actual NFL football game? Not in a drive, not in a quarter, not in a half, but in a game. What you ask, did the seven rush attempts yield? A grand total of 17 yards. That means 2.4 yard per carry. Not only did Matt Nagy call for seven rush attempts, he asked his lead back and prize draft pick to carry the ball two times. Again. TWO times. There is not a quarterback alive that can expect to see any sort of open passing lanes when the threat of a run is non-existent. It’s tee off time, 1-Mississippi type of rush that the Bears are facing. This is especially dreadful when you have an O-line that can’t block for dick.

When you have a terrible offensive line, you, in turn, have a quarterback who wants/needs to rush everything. This results in first read throws that are hurried, but more importantly, throws that your quarterback is not convinced he should make. Its easy, and borderline lazy, to say that Trubisky put up his respectable numbers when the game was over. But what do you want the guy to do? Stop playing? Start throwing picks? What he showed me is that he wanted to compete. He wasn’t great early, but he didn’t quit. I appreciate his effort and so do his receivers. Probably none more than Tarik Cohen, who played his ass off in route to nine catches. Cohen competed until the end, something you love to see.

Anthony Miller had five catches, but its clear there is a disconnect and unhappiness between him and Trubisky/Nagy. His poor body language was evident late in the game and he simply quit on some routes late in the game. I don’t know what’s going on with this guy, but its time he makes a name for himself on what he’s done instead of what he’s going to do.

I have never been a big Corradelle Patterson guy, but there is no question that he balled out today. Guy was everywhere and made plays in all phases. He’s going to be an Pro-Bowl special teams players and is someone that the young guys on the team can learn from.

Much like this entire Bears team, this defensive unit isn’t as good as we thought they’d be. 36 points allowed to a Saints offense that was without Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara? Get the fuck outta here. Not only did backup running back Latavius Murray run for his second 100 yard game against the Bears in two games, but Michael Thomas caught 9 balls for 131 yards against a Bears secondary that has continued to struggle this season. Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater continued to impress in a reserve role, throwing for 281 yards, but more importantly, only getting sacked one time.

This is going to be a long week for the Bears. Especially so: Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy. Questions are many, answers are few, and we still don’t know who this team is seven weeks into the season.

Football

vs

Saints (5-1) at Bears (3-2)

TV: FOX 32, 3:25 PM (GAME OF THE WEEK™)

Radio: WBBM 780 AM/105.9 FM

Aaaaaaand we’re back. The Bears come out of the bye and welcome the Teddy Bridgewater-led Saints into Soldier Field with a lot to prove.

The Saints arrive winners of four straight, games that can best be described as “winning ugly” – but wins nonetheless. New Orleans holds a slim lead in the NFC South on the back of this steak, but they’re no juggernaut. They rank middle of the pack in DVOA on offense and defense and really don’t do anything great, but they’ve done enough in most of their six games to eek out victories. Bridgewater is getting a lot of love for his play since Drew Brees went down, but it’s not exactly warranted. 41.2 QBR, 217 yards/game but seven TDs against two picks and only 10 sacks in a little under five full games. He’s protected the ball and moved the offense juuuuuust enough to get the job done, winning all four of his starts by one score.

Bridgewater looks like he’ll be without some of his better supporting cast on Sunday as Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook have both missed practice all week. The two rank second and third in targets, but team leader Michael Thomas will still suit up for what will be a tough matchup against Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller. The Saints boast one of the most under-appreciated weapons in the league’s best punter Thomas Morstead, recent special teamer of the month of September and the honor for last week after having five punts downed inside the 15-yard line. The Saints keep winning the battle of field position, and without some key offensive weapons that will be important on Sunday.

The Bears should be ready for all this, having two full weeks to prepare and get themselves in order after the semi-shock loss in London to the Raiders. And it’s really time for Matt Nagy to show everyone what he’s got. The 2018 coach of the year spent all off-season saying this offense was all set to hit a new gear, ready to score at will and produce touchdowns while running a special defense out every week – a championship contender in every sense. The results thus far leave a lot to be desired, injuries or not. Mitchell Trubisky is back, albeit with a restrictive sling on his non-throwing shoulder, and he has as much if not more to prove than his play-caller.

Will we see the inventive offense that was promised? Don’t expect fireworks out the gate, though it’s fair to think that the offensive line should be improved after the merciful IR-ing of Kyle Long. In comes Rashaad Coward and Alex Bars to save the day, or at least save the running game some space at the line of scrimmage and, hell, maybe even getting to the second level now and then. There have been a great many plays that appeared dead before the ball made it to a running back or the QB had finished his drop back. The Bears had to know as soon as the game ended in London that the switch from Long would be made and it’s fair to expect some immediate results against an up and down Saints defensive front. The key will be executing on first and third down, and Nagy spoke to the former earlier this week. Making first down plays count, run or pass, to keep themselves out of third and long will dictate success. It’s really that simple.

Chicago’s defense and Chuck Pagano will be ecstatic to see Kamara sidelined, but Latavius Murray (remember him?) has been solid in his own right playing backup, averaging 4.3 yards/carry in his limited role. There’s plenty to be concerned about after letting Josh Jacobs run wild seemingly all over England, but containing the run game and making Bridgewater try to beat them through the air is likely to lead to success. The loss of Akiem Hicks definitely hurts, but this is where Pace can show his drafting/signings are worth it with the depth he’s created.

This is the Show Me game for Chicago and Nagy. Show me you’re that Coach of the Year, and not a Juron-esque fluke. Show me you can game plan for your young, struggling QB to be successful. Show me you can clean up the lapses on defense and stop an NFC leader on your home turf.

SHOW US WHAT YOU GOT!

Prediction: Bears 19, Saints 10

Football

For the 5th time in six weeks, the Bears will face an opposing quarterback whose name doesn’t exactly bring anxiety-ridden nights to DC Chuck Pagano. But don’t sleep my friends; Saints backup QB Touchdown Teddy Bridgewater is more than capable. Yes, that Teddy Bridgewater, he of the knee injury which had teammates throwing up on their cleats, will most likely be the one leading the “Who Dats” into Soldier(s) Field on Sunday afternoon. In case you forgot, or have been paying too much attention to NFL officiating and LeBron James’ foreign policy, Drew Brees–a top-5 NFL QB of all time–injured this thumb five weeks ago. Brees underwent surgery, and does not expect to play this week, which brings us back to Bridgewater.

In relief of Brees, Bridgewater has gone 4-0; completing almost 70% of his passes for 7 TDs, 2 INTs, and a QB Rating of just under 100. What makes his numbers even more impressive is that his October splits are a completion percentage of 71.4%, 5 TDs, 1 INT, and a QBR of 112.4. What these numbers clearly say is that as Bridgewater is getting more comfortable as a starter, he continues to improve. It also doesn’t hurt that he is playing in one of the best systems in the history of the game.

“Hot route. Hot route. I don’t…what is hot route? Would you just go stand on the other side please?”

-John Beckwith & Jeremy Grey, Wedding Crashers

As Bridgewater has become more comfortable, he has gotten away from quick hitters and hot routes and is taking more chances downfield, a staple of a Sean Peyton’s offense. Since replacing Brees mid-game in Week 2, here’s a quick look at TD Teddy’s throws under and over 10 yards:

Week    0-10 Yards           10+ Yards  

2               24                              6

3               22                              5

4               29                              7

5               23                             11

The Saints have the best offensive line in football, so if, and of course it’s a big if, the Saints can protect Bridgewater long enough, look for Peyton to attack  longer targets more often. The Bears drop ends and linebackers are so athletic and do such a great job of zone coverage, teams are often better off attacking a Bears secondary that have been only average this season.

Michael Thomas Is A Great Receiver, And Also Could Be Your Backup Goalie

Between Mike Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Ted Ginn Jr., and Jared Cook, the Saints continue to produce other-worldly pass catching talent. Thomas is getting the lion’s share of the targets, averaging almost nine catches per game for 105 yards and 3 TDs. He currently leads the league in receptions and is second in yards. In his 11-reception, 182-yard, 2-TD performance in Week 5, Thomas lined up everywhere on the field and ran every route in the playbook. His week 5 route chart looks like 1st grader drawing with his toes:

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that in an effort to mix up defensive coverages, Thomas will line-up everywhere and run anywhere – and he’ll do it while getting over 11 targets per game.

When Thomas isn’t lighting you up, Alvin Kamara is a legit threat in the passing game. Kamara is average almost six catches per game for 8.4 yards per catch and 46 receiving yards per game. What makes Kamara so special is his ability to create big plays with his run after catch capabilities, which were very much on display week 3:

How can the Bears slow Kamara down? Well, they may have caught a break this week as Kamara is dealing with lower leg injury and will be limited in practice leading up to Sunday.

Teddy Ginn Jr. and tight end Jared Cook also provide some respectable options in the passing game as both average over 10 yards per catch. Both of these guys will obviously become more involved in the offense if Kamara is limited or cannot go at all.

So, what will the Saints and Bridgewater be able do against the Bears on Sunday?

The answer to this question relies solely on the heath of Alvin Kamara. If Kamara can play, the Bears are in trouble. Mike Thomas is going to have a big day regardless of Kamara’s health, but the difference between your 2nd receiving option being Kamara and being Ginn Jr or Cook is seismic. Bridgewater and the Saints are going to score, not as much as a Drew Brees led offense, but enough to win…but only if Alvin Kamara is healthy and can be Alvin Kamara.

Saints 24 – Bears 16

 

Football

Ali/Frazier. Jordan/Bird. Brees/Orton. Some match-ups loom larger than the game itself, as two titans of the sport go head to head in a winner take all showdown. It was week 17 of the 2007 season, with both teams eliminated from playoff contention a mere 12 months removed from their previous encounter in  the NFC Championship. Both games were won by the Bears, which in January of that year took them to the Super Bowl, and in December it dropped them two spots in the next years draft, and it would’ve been sweet if Ryan Clady was the Bears pick instead of *checks notes* uhhhh Chris Williams? Jay Cutler would’ve been much better as a Bear if they had Clady, so I’m retroactively blaming the lack of success of the next few years from an offensive line standpoint on this Week 17 Bears game.

This Bears team has a lot of the holdovers from the Super Bowl squad from the year before. You know all the big names, but it’s always the middle of the pack dudes that I love remembering, so let’s reminisce and see how these hidden gems performed that cold December afternoon.

My Favorite Forgotten Bears from 2007 (in no order):

5. Rashied Davis- (1 Kickoff Return, 5 Yards): I have a soft spot for special teams wide recievers (I might be the only person in Chicagoland that misses Josh Bellamy), and Davis was exactly that. Earl Bennett without the flash, somehow.

4. Garrett Wolfe- (4 Carries, 7 Yards, 1 Catch, 32 Yards): I was at NIU when Wolfe all of a sudden played NCAA Football on Rookie mode, and he was electric. I had no idea that I was hoping for him to be Tarik Cohen until I saw Tarik Cohen. Turns out he wasn’t very good and I was so bummed. Fun fact: this was his longest career catch. Bonus fun fact: I drafted Garrett Wolfe in my fantasy league that year, and there’s a harsh noise/grindcore band called Garrett Wolfe and no they aren’t football fans.

3. Israel Idonije- (1 Tackle): Izzy is a guy that nobody outside of Bears fans from this era remember, but those of us that do will always remember how much of a team player Izzy was. He did everything he was asked and played pretty much every spot on the defensive line, while also always being on the punt return teams. There are so many Devin Hester highlights where you can see a huge dude with a 71 on his jersey throwing a key block or escorting Devin to the endzone.

2. Mark Bradley- (1 Catch, 19 Yards) Give me all the special teams wideouts, please. All things considered, Bradley was a bust as a second round pick in the 2005 Draft, but when I looked at the other picks in the 2005 NFL Draft’s second round, they didn’t miss out on anyone that would’ve made sense. 92 career catches and 9TDs in 57 career games is not remarkable, but like I said, dude could block and he just looked the part. I’m also super biased because I crushed Madden 2006 with Mark Bradley, my favorite Bears WR in Madden after Kevin White in Madden 17.

1. Adrian Peterson- (1/1- 9 Yards, 1 Passing TD, 21 Carries 91 Yards, 1 Catch 9 Yards) The OTHER Adrian Peterson. You know, the one that’s lawful good as compared to the lawful evil Hall of Fame running back of the same name. The biggest difference between the two is the talent, but Good Peterson played with the Bears for his entire 8 year career and sure if he was starting you knew someone was hurt, but oh man he gave his all. You’d see him come in on a random 3rd and 18 and catch a 7 yard pass and then cover the punt (since he was always the punt team QB), return to the sideline only to be seen again the next time the special teams was on the field. It’s surreal to think that if your fantasy league played through week 17 that Adrian Peterson would’ve been an RB 2 that week and won your league. If this Adrian Peterson helped you win your Fantasy League in 2007 you should probably Venmo him ten bucks or something. Not because he needs it, but for the principle of the thing. He had the second most receptions on the team that year. Wow that’s ugly.

Anyways, this game was won by the Bears, with Devin Hester scoring twice, once on a long pass and another on a punt return. This was one of those Hester returns where he already has a giant hole to run through and isn’t even touched on his way to the endzone. Before I sound like I’m being critical of the Windy City Flyer or whatever his nickname was, I should establish that he is the greatest returner of all time and absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame.

That said, if you go back and watch his touchdown returns from this era, he is untouched on about half of them. I think a big reason why I have a soft spot for so many of the dudes that anchored the Bears special teams in that era is because the team kept a core together for that purpose and that purpose only and it paid dividends. Bradley, Peterson, Izzy, Brendon Ayanbadejo… those dudes opened up some massive lanes for Devin to take advantage of.

Watching these old highlight reels makes me miss having a solid special teams core like the Bears of that era. The Ryan Pace era has been an improvement in so many ways than the GMs before him, but I do miss the commitment to a group of backups simply because of what they brought to that part of the team.

I hope at some point between now and Sunday’s kickoff, you take a moment and really think about your mid to late aughts Bears players. Sit back and think about Brandon McGowan, won’t you?

Football

Worst title I’ve ever given an article? Yeah, it’s up there but the season is still young, folks!

This week the Bears were gifted a game against a high-octane offense with a backup quarterback under center. Teddy Bridgewater is playing his 6th game this year, his 5th start running the Saints attack. The first question is, who is Teddy Bridgewater? Pick 32 of the 2014 NFL Draft, that’s who. The game managing QB who made his money handing off to Adrian Peterson and throwing to, uh, I’m not really sure. Is Mike Wallace a real person or just a collective fever dream we all went through together, like that one year where Brandon Lloyd was king?

Teddy Bridgewater was the 2014 Rookie of the Year as sponsored by Pepsi and voted on by fans, which is somehow different than the NFL AP vote which pegged Odell Beckham Jr as the best offensive rookie that year. The NFL AP made the better decision, but I still love and respect the concept of the fan vote, since this isn’t the NBA and Yao Ming can’t keep being selected to All Star games even though he didn’t play (Free Hong Kong, while we’re here). 2014 seems like such a different time, and Bridgewater’s path here has been so long and winding that it’s almost surreal to think about OBJ and Teddy coming into the league at the same time. Shit, Teddy was in the Pro Bowl the next season!

…and then you know the rest, I’m assuming. HOWEVER, my bandmate Katie reads these articles for some reason and she has no clue what I’m talking about most of the time, so this one’s for the Katies out there. Bridgewater suffered a non-contact knee injury in practice that was so bad the doctors thought his leg would have to be amputated. He dislocated his knee, tore his ACL, and had significant structural damage. The words that doctors used to describe it sound like metal band song titles:

“Grotesque”
“Mangled”
“Battle wound”
“Worst knee dislocation I’ve seen in sports”

I reached out to my buddy who is a Physical Therapist and asked him his take, and he responded by telling me that a knee dislocation like that can destroy your entire leg and compromise all four ligaments, and the fact that he has anything resembling stability in that knee to this day is beyond him. Shouts out to my homie Virak for the insider tip.

Teddy recovered from an injury that had people fearing he’d never walk again and has now started four games, three years and a handful of months removed from the kneepocalypse. It’s really hard to not root for this guy, but he is at best a replacement-level QB on a team loaded with weapons.

The numbers are nice (69% completion percentage, 7/2 TD/INT ratio), but he isn’t passing the eye test (trust me, I have a number of Saints players in fantasy leagues). Four of those seven scores were against a Tampa Bay defense that plays with the urgency of a pug who just walked a mile and a half. He’s been hot and cold. He was stellar against Tampa Bay and Seattle, and not good against Dallas and Jacksonville.

His stats will give Bears fans Shane Matthews/Kyle Orton flashbacks. His average completed pass travels 4.5 yards in the air. He throws what Football Outsiders defines as a “bad throw” 12% of the time, and he does NOT go deep. The Bears might have an advantage here, with Eddie Jackson lurking on some of those crossing routes underneath. Bridgewater still hasn’t mastered the Drew Brees classic “know exactly which option route Alvin Kamara is going to run and hitting him for a 12 yard gain six times a drive”, but he has weapons.

Teddy is a game manager with an outstanding backstory, but the Bears match up well here against him. If the pass rush can shake him or make him get rid of the ball quickly, I like their odds. Hopefully the defense doesn’t have to send too much extra pressure to get after the plucky Saints QB, because the big play potential is there if Kamara or Michael Thomas find themselves in man coverage with no safety help. Make no mistake, the Saints have some burners and they can turn a short toss into a big gain. Their screen game is tight, and Ted Ginn can stretch the field. If the line can get to Teddy, the Bears have a chance to slow this offense down dramatically.