Football

The Bears Offense Is Basically My Creative Writing Process – I’ll let you in behind the curtain a bit. From time to time, I like to dabble in fiction writing. Just to do something different, just to see if I can, just for myself. I have these big ideas, and occasionally one of them sounds pretty cool. And I poke around the edges, feeling like I might crack the case on a truly great story that might actually go somewhere one day. I come at it from different angles trying to find what will feel right. I prod, I rewrite, I ponder. But I never really get to the middle of it. Whether laziness or stubbornness or simple lack of talent, I just can’t quite bring to the page what I only have a loose grasp of in my mind. It never looks like it I think it should, even if I can’t actually state what that is clearly.

Maybe that’s why I identify with what the Bears have looked like the past few weeks so closely.

There are times when Matt Nagy and Mitch Trubisky look like they’re really moving toward what makes the Bears offense move. Whether it’s rolling him out, play-action, no-huddle, simplifying everything, the Bears actually get down the field. You saw it. There are big plays. People look open and Mitch looks decisive.

And then it just goes away. For whatever reason. Maybe a penalty, maybe one bad throw or bad decision, or sometimes just overthinking it and a constant telling of themselves, “You aren’t this you are something else so go back to your home, loser!” Or thinking it’s not creative enough and no one will care. And you saw that too, and you keep seeing it, with various pitches to receivers or RPOs or Tarik Cohen finding the next best way to run to the sidelines.

The Bears are inching, at an excruciating pace, to what would have made for an average offense. And it’s probably too late. Mitch has looked better, at an increment you can’t see without various tools, each week. But he only had one way to go. It’s sad, because even the meager total of 19 points every game would have seen the Bears with three more wins and not only in discussion for the playoffs but the division again. And 19 points isn’t even good!

Maybe both the Bears and myself have to hold ourselves to lower standards, and believe that through steady work we can crack open something. Or maybe I just like identifying myself in the ways I choose to waste my time.

I’m Sorry For Ever Doubting Khalil Mack And Am Terrified He Will Come Looking For Me – As you’ve probably guessed, from the very first half against Green Bay last year, Mack may be my favorite Bear of all time. There’s just something about a player who can make other people who are the best in the world at their job look so helpless. So maybe I was just disappointed I wasn’t getting to see him simply throw people out of his way like they were beaded curtains as often this year.

It’s hard to fathom that Mack went through a game like last week that he didn’t scratch anything on the stat sheet. Surely it was Chuck Pagano’s fault for not finding new ways to get him one-on-one. Or maybe it was everyone other players’ fault on the defense for not taking advantage of the wide berth he was giving them. Or, gasp, was it that Mack just wasn’t as good as we thought?

Pish tosh.

Mack has been facing two or three blockers every goddamn play, and without Akiem Hicks to Kool-Aid Guy his way through the middle of the line, the Bears haven’t been able to make that count. That’s not on Mack. And really, the Bears only need one or two plays from Mack to change a game. And they got one yesterday.

I’m sorry Khalil. Please don’t hurt me. I’ll never lose faith again.

Soldier Field Will Always Be Toxic – I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a team booed on the opening kickoff before, but I guess I can scratch that off the list after Eddie Piniero sent that kick out of bounds. After missing two field goals last week, he always was going to have a short leash. And I want to believe a lot were doing it out of humor, but I doubt that. Because when have Bears fans had a sense of humor?

I’m not saying a team should always be cheered when they play like garbage. And lord knows Bears tickets are expensive enough that when the product before the customers is that unwatchable at times, bile and ire are going to rise at a quick rate. But it feels like we’ve become the new Philadelphia, where fans are simply waiting for the chance to boo and are almost only there to do so and are becoming the show. It’s part of the identity now.

And it’s been this way for a long time. If Bears fans had earned any cred, maybe you’d go along with it. But this is the same group that makes as much noise as it can while the Bears are on offense. Who openly bitched about Lovie Smith’s defense and then spent years pining for it again. Turned on Jay Cutler about four minutes into his Bears career. Still thinks Mike Singletary was any good or should be coach now. Ditka.

Look, the Bears have deserved a shit-ton of criticism and booing this year, there’s no getting around that. But when it becomes the main objective, what are we even doing?

Football

This is a feature I used to do at FanSided last season. But it’s not something I want to waste on those evil fucks, so I give it to you, the people, every week. 

Khalil Mack Is The Most Enjoyable Athlete To Watch In Chicago

Oh sure, maybe one say this will be Eloy Jimenez. You could make a case for Lucas Giolito this year. Or Javy Baez every year. Patrick Kane would have an argument, except the best years of his career (statistically) have come as empty calories for useless Hawks teams.

But none of them have redefined a team the way Mack’s arrival has for the Bears, and none of them are consistently making the opposition look like they’re simply not there as Mack. When Mack showed up, the Bears went from an interesting team to the best defense in football. Hope became expectation instantly. And whenever he faces a team that hasn’t made any or all specific plans for him, he simply runs the show.

Note: You should know that this post pretty much is just Mack adulation every week, because he’s just so much fun. You’ve been warned. 

Look at this shit:

Yeah, I know that Washington’s normal left tackle is still holding and out and refusing to play for them (and why shouldn’t he, really?). Still, much better tackles than this don’t even get a hand on Mack. He alters every game he plays, even if it’s offenses shifting three blockers that way and opening up the other side of the field. And yet when you watch games he’s always there, either scaring the piss out of the quarterback or being held on his way to scaring the piss out of the quarterback. It’s real live video game shit. We really are lucky.

It’s Never Enough With Mitch

I think my favorite part of last night’s game was checking on Twitter during the Bears first scoring drive on offense, watching everyone bitch about Mitch’s inaccuracy as he didn’t actually throw an incompletion and the Bears scored. I was sure that was the point of the exercise. Maybe I’m wrong.

Yeah, there were some throws that maybe cost his receivers a few yards after the catch. He also had a rating of 116.5 for the game. Yeah, maybe they didn’t push the ball down the field as much as you would have liked…until he hit Taylor Gabriel on the run in the corner for the killer score. This offense was never going to go from 0-to-60 in one week. They ran the ball a ton in Denver, partly because of the altitude and temperature. The next week they’re going to turn into the Fun-n-Gun? I don’t think it works that way.

All of this felt like it was undone by the simply awful “fade” route throw in the third that was somewhere in the same stadium as Allen Robinson but much closer to the seemingly toast Josh Norman. There’s no way to explain that one. There’s just going to be one or two of those per game, and we can only hope they’re either dropped or so bad they’re not near everyone. But that’s what every QB below the three or four best do. Live with it, because there were other dimes on the night that everyone is neglecting to mention.

Akiem Hicks Is Probably As Important As Mack, Which We Probably Knew

We only have to pray that injury isn’t that serious. Because the one or two drives Washington put together in the third and fourth came without him on the field, and it was the only time Casey Kasum had any time to do anything. The whole thing is predicated on the Bears being able to get pressure with four, especially up the middle when they leave the QB nowhere to go or look. They can’t do that without Hicks, and far better QBs than Keenum will enjoy that more.

That’s what still gnaws about last year. You may never get that health and that level combined from both Hicks and Mack again. Perhaps if the game wasn’t already basically done Hicks could have kept playing. But you’ll notice if he’s hobbled against the Vikings next week, that’s for sure.

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.