Football

The Vault: Chicago vs Washington, 2001

Welcome back to THE VAULT, the place where I wax nostalgic over players that eventually let us all down in one way or another (save for Peanut Tillman, he could never let me down). The overarching theme of these so far has been “remember this time the Bears sucked?”, so today I’ll highlight a win from a Bears team that had a strikingly similar vibe to the team that the field in 2018. Seriously, look at the 2001 and 2018 Bears side by side. They each had:

-Dalton-Line level quarterback play given their respective eras
-A young defense that just absolutely wrecks shit
-An inability to sweep the Packers
-Offensive players who were useless in fantasy football
-A young, potentially dominant middle linebacker
-A free safety known for defensive touchdowns
-Beaten in the playoffs at home by the Eagles

The 2001 Bears were the first squad that really gave me hope. It was destiny: the back-to-back Mike Brown overtime walk-off pick sixes were only two of the five comeback wins that season. Jerry Azumah was about to be Devin Hester before Devin Hester was a thing, and Anthony Thomas ran for over 1100 yards, which looks like a typo but I swear is accurate. Looking at the Bears offense in 2001 is awful, but we’re two weeks into 2019 and I don’t want to watch current game tape because it’s SO SO SO BAD, so not much has changed.

A lot of the 2001 team is etched into my memory. I won an award in 2016 that the Bears sponsored, so when I won they asked me who my favorite Bear of all time was. Out of the 16 teachers that won, there were three players listed: Brian Urlacher, Walter Payton, and Mike Brown. Guess which one I picked. I really do believe Mike Brown could’ve been Ed Reed if he stayed healthy, because he was always around the ball. Book it: the Bears win Super Bowl XLI if Mike Brown doesn’t get hurt in the Arizona comeback game and Daniel Manning isn’t put back there and toasted to a crisp by Peyton Manning. Tony Parrish used to lay motherfuckers out, and Rosevelt Colvin looked like an all-time great pass rushing LB. It was literally impossible to run up the middle on this defense, sporting 700 lbs of combined BEEF between Keith Traylor and Ted Washington. Just looking at the defense lined up on Youtube today looks downright goofy with all that space those two managed to occupy. It’s also weird to see the 4-3 look so good, since the NFL seemed to make the switch wholesale to 3-4 being the dominant defensive front a few years after this season.

This shit-ass offense managed to beat Washington in 2001, but it took Brian Urlacher’s first ever offensive touchdown on a pass from the illustrious Brad Maynard on a fake field goal to push the Bears to a win. The box score tells you all you need to know about this game:

Jim Miller: 13/26, 98 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT- 59.3 QB rating
Brad fuckin Maynard: 1/1, 27 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT- 158.3 QB rating

Brian Urlacher was the second leading receiver for the Bears in this game, but the defense managed to sack Tony Banks six times and force two fumbles. This was the second of four straight wins for the 2001 Bears, a streak that took them straight into the woodchipper against the Eagles in the playoffs as demolition crews sat outside Soldier Field to begin renovations. I heard totally unfounded rumors years later that the Bears were paid to throw the game so construction could start (I’m pretty sure the dude who told me that was wearing a Korn shirt so take that shit with an entire shaker of salt), but if there’s anything that could undermine a team as fated for the Lombardi Trophy as the 2001 Bears were, it would be Chicago political graft.

To end on a positive note: two weeks after this game the Bears played the Jaguars, and Keith Traylor returned an interception 67 yards. No politician, regardless of how corrupt they are, could ever take that from us.

Football

Do you know who the quarterback of the Washington Redskins is? No? Well, when the Bears face the Redskins this week on Monday night, they will be going up against a quarterback who is quietly having as good of a season of anybody not named Mahomed or Prescott. Redskins QB Case Keenum–yes, Case Keenum–has started the season by putting up the following gaudy numbers:

There is not a single stat on this line that an OC, HC, or GM wouldn’t be ecstatic about. Now take it a step further and realize that every stat is better than what Mitch T is doing here in Chicago. Pay especially close attention to the 70% completion number, the 300 yards/game, the 5-to-0 TD to INT ratio, the two sacks taken, and finally, the 111.2 passer rating. If, and it’s a big if, these numbers continue through the next 14 games, Case Keenum will be in line for a Pro-Bowl appearance and more importantly for him, a huge pay raise heading into unrestricted free agency. Could this be a guy that is brought in to replace compete with Mitch Trubisky next season? Only time will tell, but I’m not counting it out and I’m not not excited about it.

Monday Night Football Matchup

Enough about next season, what can we expect for Keenum on Monday night? For one, you can anticipate most of his throws to be completed 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Last week against a very good Cowboys defense, Keenum’s throw chart looked like this:

What also stands out is Coach Jay Gruden’s affinity for both traditional screen and tunnel-screen looks. 12 of Keenum’s 37 attempts were within two yards on the LOS. Additionally, only three passes over 20 yards were attempted. What all this means is that the Bears linebackers will play a significant role in pass coverage; something that they struggled with against Green Bay in the opener when Jimmy Graham was able to get open for much of the game.

The Redskins QB throw chart in Week 1 against an Eagles defense that quashed the Bears in the playoffs last season was very similar within that 10-yard range. However, the screen package was not as evident as most of the short passes were the 3-7 yards range. Keenum’s overall performance against the Eagles was uber-proficient:

In Comparison

Just in case you were wondering, here is a quick snapshot of Mitch Trubisky’s performance against what amounts to same Eagles defense last year:

My biggest takeaway from comparing these charts was that Keenum was vastly more effective on virtually the same amount of attempts. What is ultimately most maddening about the overall comparison is that Keenum was undrafted while we all know where Mitch was drafted and what was given up to get him. Fuck!

Can Case Keenum Beat The Bears By Himself?

On Monday night, Keenum will ultimately be responsible for how his offense performs. The Redskins running game is brutal; rushing for 28 yards and 47 yards in their first two games. Adrian Peterson will go down as one of the greatest dads running backs in NFL history but it’s not 2009 anymore and Peterson is probably best suited not suiting up. The dire running back situation puts the onus on Case Keenum and his receivers to carry the franchise. Keep an eye on rookie Terry McLaurin, who has been phenomenal thus far with almost 190 yards and two TDs thru two weeks. However, in what appears to be an effort to ease McLaurin into the offense, he lines up exclusively on the left side of the field. If this trend continues, this will undoubtedly help the Bears match up with the electric rookie out of THE Ohio State.

So What Does This All Mean?

Reskins coach Jay Gruden is an offensive genius. He is going to find ways to match up his skill guys with linebackers and try to exploit as many of these scenarios within 10 yards of the LOS as possible. I think Case Keenum will continue to perform at an elite level and the Redskins will defeat the Bears in a very close game.