DECEMBER RELEVANT FOR 15 DAYS IS NOT BAD

 

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Never being one to toot my own horn but it was really good to se Mitchell Trubisky have such a great game, after calling it. I think that’s the high point of the season though.

I looked up the numbers a while ago, but in the last 10 seasons the Bears have only beaten the Packers four times. 

It’s frustrating. I live up in Wisconsin country and Packer fans have come to expect the victory and take extra joy in seeing the Bears do poorly. 

The reasons are complicated and have a lot to do with the close proximity of the two states and the fact when Illinois people come across  the border they can act like total idiots. 

That’s another column for another day.

This one is about if the Bears have a chance at all, what must happen. Let’s break some of it down.

KEYS TO THE GAME

PACKERS OFFENSIVE LINE VERSUS BEARS DEFENSIVE LINE

The first key is containing Aaron Rodgers. He can scramble for a first down, and his offensive line is probably the best in football. I have seen them block guys for as long 10 seconds. If you give a qb all sorts of time in the pocket he usually picks you apart. Rodgers is extraordinarily gifted at moving his feet, keeping his eyes downfield, and not getting rattled. You can see it in his face, last year aside. He usually is very calm and joking around with the other team. It keeps people off guard. He’s a Bear killer and the only way the Bears have a chance of beating him is if he’s off his game. If their front four can get pressure they have a chance. Akiem Hicks should be back, if he’s ready that could be big difference. If not, they’ll have to blitz and take their chances.

CAN MITCHELL TRUBISKY PLAY LIKE HE DID AGAINST THE COWBOYS?

It’s a different game when he’s running the football. He’s got good instincts when he runs, he looks around for guys who are about to hit him and he’s fast and quick. If he plays with a high qb rating and throws td passes and scrambles well, they got a shot. He has to play great though. The Packers defense has been good at hurrying quarterbacks and that is Trubisky great weakness, he doesn’t always make good decisions under pressure, and often tries to force the ball. 

WHERE’S THE TIGHT END?

Probably the most surprising part about the Cowboys game was seeing them find the tight ends. JP Holtz and Jesper Horsted? Who? Exactly. When you look at the KC Chiefs and see how prominent the role of tight end is in their offense, it’s fair to ask where has this been all year. A big tight end is a nice target for a fair to middlingly accurate quarterback like Trubisky. He doesn’t have to be perfect. If these tight ends can get separation from the safety guarding them, I like their chances. Horsted and Holtz combined for nearly 100 yards on eight catches. Do that again against the Packers, is a whole other animal.

PACKERS 24 BEARS 14

onlyifyoudream tidbits……………since when did Nick Kwiatkoski become such a factor? He’s become a stud. He looks fast and strong and is always around the ball…………I keep hoping they find a way to get Tarik Cohen going but I think Nagy is afraid he’s going to fumble. How many time have we seen him run sideways this year? More than I care to count……………….Kevin Toliver made several nice tackles in his first start last week. Is he going to be their guy in the future?

 

CAN MATT NAGY SAVE THIS SEASON?

 

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Most people when evaluating their own work, have to be honest about what they’re doing well, what they’re not doing well and what they need to work on.

The blame and success is placed by the feet of its leaders and so it is with these 2019 Chicago Bears. 

Which is why when you hear about how this team is doing, invariably names like Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy, Mitchell Trubisky, always come up. 

In fact, you can’t read a story about the Bears without hearing their names get mentioned.

So what it is about this Bears team that makes you feel like the season is already over?

The offense, plain and simple, is so bad that it reminds you of those teams in the 70’s that would just run the ball up the middle for three time for five yards and then punt.

Ranking last in nearly every category is not the way to get you to believe in a new head coach who was specifically brought because of his offensive chops.

So why can’t the Bears move the ball, get first downs, and score touchdowns?

Or another way of asking the question, is there anything they’re doing well? Anything they can build on? 

I don’ know what the stats are but when they let Trubisky move around in the pocket they do well. When they have him finding his tight end they do well. When he’s looking to run the ball they do well. When they run for more than 2 yards a carry they do well. When they take chances they do well.

You get the feeling that Nagy is keeping the reins so tight on his quarterback and offense that they can’t play with the way it’s set up now.

I like Matt Nagy. I can’t think of a coach who impressed me so immediately than he did last year. That team had a chance to compete for a super bowl and he was a big reason.

You get the feeling if they just improved a little on offense they could start to look a pretty good team.

Having bigger run plays, passing to receivers, passing to running backs, passing to tight ends is going to be the way they do it, if they do it.

We’ll see. 

I’m not confident this week about this game against the Rams. But with a great defense anything is possible.

RAMS 21 BEARS 17

onlyifyoudreamtidbits………………what in the wide, wide world of sports happened to Tarik Cohen? Did he just go from stud to dud or have they failed miserably in getting him the ball? He looked like a number 1 draft pick last year and now he’s nowhere to be found…………also where are the tight ends? Seeing Ben Braunecker catch that td pass last week was so nice to see. Why not give the guy more chances?

YOUR 2019 FAUSTIAN BEARS

 

 

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To borrow one of Lovie Smith’s little analogies, the Bears are in the second quarter of their season with still plenty of ball left to play. 

Good to see Lovie get a win over my Wisconsin Badgers. The way the fighting Illini were celebrating that victory you’d think they were the team destined for greatness and not the Badgers.

So are these Bears destined for anything so raucous? Why does it feel like they’re down by 21 points already in this football season of a game? 

Are they actually in the middle of a crossroads? 

Robert Johnson’s crossroads. 

Robert Johnson who sold his soul to the devil to become a legendary blues guitar player. 

Are you going to sell out with everything you got to make the playoffs and mount a Super Bowl challenge or start planning ahead for next year’s team knowing you’re not good enough?

Of course the Bears don’t need to sell their soul to make the playoffs and possibly win the Super Bowl. But they do need better than average quarterback play, great talent that plays like great talent and a little bit of luck. 

They also need to run the football, when David Montgomery is averaging 3 yards a carry and Tarik Cohen hasn’t even been a factor what’s going on?

ONE THING TO ASK THE DEVIL FOR MIGHT BE A BETTER QUARTERBACK

Mitch Trubisky is playing like the worst quarterback in the league. I hate to say this. I thought he was going to turn the corner and be great but that obviously hasn’t happened and I think the league is figuring out why.

He’s just not a good pocket passer and he’s not very accurate. He doesn’t really lead his receivers too well and hit them in stride. Probably the toughest thing to see is how uncomfortable he is just standing there. Part of this is Matt Nagy’s fault. 

How many times do we see the Bears get to the line of scrimmage and just stand there for 20 seconds, letting the defense catch their breath, and failing to get his quarterback into any kind of marching rhythm. 

How many times do we see him rolling out? Escaping the pocket? Creating on the fly?

It looks to me he wants Trubisky to be a kind of player he isn’t and so he hasn’t adapted to what his strengths are yet like moving without the ball and running.

ANOTHER FAUSTIAN DEAL TO MAKE MIGHT BE GETTING THE RUNNING GAME GOING

All we heard in training camp was how good David Montgomery is, how tough he is to tackle, and what a season he was going to have. He in fact might be and do all those things but something needs to change. 

I think he’s got talent. The number of guys he’s made miss has already exceeded what Jordan Howard could do last year. He can be a better back than Howard but so far he hasn’t shown it.

He looks like he’s tentatively hitting the holes and has no real long rushes from scrimmage. 

Plus the offensive line really doesn’t look like it’s been blocking as well this year and really pushing guys around.

And where is little scatback Tarik Cohen. Where are his attempts and targets? 

And where is Matt Nagy’s commitment to the run? All this adds up to 3.4 yards an attempt and one of the worst rushing offenses in the league.

DO YOU NEED TO SELL YOUR SOUL WITH SUCH AN IMPRESSIVE DEFENSE ALREADY?

It might be the most impressive thing about this year’s Bears is what the defense has done considering the offense has done squat. Even after losing Akiem Hicks and Bilal Nichols and Roquan Smith for a game they look tough. 

They haven’t been thoroughly dominating teams like last year and scoring touchdowns but they still have got some great players. Hopefully losing Hicks won’t be too big a loss and other guys will step up.

My guess is Robert Johnson before selling his soul must’ve had some amount of talent or something like a massive heart or else he wouldn’t of gotten to meet the devil in the first place, or ever wanted to be so great. 

I’m not suggesting the Bears sell something so vital to win a measly Super Bowl, but they might have already. 

DID THEY ALREADY SELL THEIR SOUL?

Khalil Mack can flat out play football as good as Robert Johnson can play guitar, but missing high draft picks for a young coach and rebuilding team is quite a high price to pay. Can he, Mack, by himself make the defense great? I think he already has. Can he continue to make those around him better? Looks like he’s doing that too. If the Mack and the defense has anything to say about it this team would already be famous.

ONLYIFYOUDREAM tidbits………..if all one did as a Bear fan was listen to and read Hub Arkush one would need little else to know how good the Bears are doing. A master craftsman at his work and I can only tip my cap and nod my head. In one of his columns last week he was talking about acquiring Colin Kaepernick as a no brainer to help make your team better and of course he’s dead on. Kaepernick is not the devil but the way the league has treated him you’d think he was. It would be a ballsy move to be sure, but greatness doesn’t sit and wait.

 

 

 

UGH!!!

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I was all set to deliver this rampage against Matt Nagy. How he got outcoached by Doug Pederson. How the decision to keep Cody Parkey on the roster came back to bite him in the ass. How he decided not to get Tarik Cohen involved in the offense when the guy is his number one threat. How he seemed to get really conservative when the very thing that got him there in the first place was his willingness to take chances.

Then something occurred to me and I fell in a deep sleep thinking about how many days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

The Bears were never supposed to be this good, this first year under the Matt Nagy regime. I went to look up 2018 NFL season record predictions, randomly found Sports Illustrated, and a writer in SI who picked the Bears picked to go 4-12 and the Eagles to go 12-4. They also had the Vikings at 13-3 and the Packers at 12-4. Most places had them finishing in last place.

in SI in June they said

The Bears got better at crucial positions they had to get better at this offseason. Chicago brought in Taylor Gabriel, Allen Robinson and Trey Burton to help their second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The offensive line took a big hit losing guard Josh Sitton and the defense, while improved with Roquan Smith at linebacker, still needs to find a pass rush. It may take one more year for this group to gel.

Granted it was before the team got Khalil Mack but the point is that they got considerably better than how they looked on paper with a first year head coach.

They other thing that is incredibly encouraging is that they’re a young team. Five years ago they were ranked 29th in the league with an average age of 26. 8 and this year they’re ranked 10th with an average age of 25.7, the same as the Eagles and the Packers.

Ryan Pace did what he said he was going to do, he made the team younger, which made the team better.

Just look at what’s coming—-Roquan Smith, 21, James Daniels 21, Bilal Nichols 22, Tarik Cohen 23, Mitchell Trubisky 24, Anthony Miller 24, Jordan Howard 24. All their Pro Bowl defenders——Eddie Jackson 26, Kyle Fuller 26, Khalil Mack 27, Akiem Hicks 29 are all under 30. 

Saw an interesting article   

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/why-coaches-and-qbs-should-divorce-after-five-years-of-not-winning/

on 538 last year about how the window for new coaches and their QB’s is about five years. Of the 31 head coaches to win at least one super bowl, 27 of them won it within the first years of that team.

Jim McMahon was drafted in ’82 the same year Mike Ditka started coaching the Bears. It took them four years and they finally did it. 

Some other pillars on that team—-Walter Payton drafted in ’75. Hampton in ’79, Mike Singletary in ’81, Richard Dent in ’83, The point is it took some time.

But not too much time. In the history of Chicago Bear coaches only Ditka and Lovie Smith made had multiple playoff appearances. Ditka made it to the playoffs 7 times and Lovie Smith 2. 

Jack Pardee made it to the playoffs once, Neil Armstrong once, Dave Wannstedt once, Dick Jauron once. They were all fired soon after.

Another big point is that a team often catches fire one year only to revert back to being a mediocre team the next. There are very few Sean McVay’s who was 11-5 last year and then was 13-3 this year. That will be the challenge for Matt Nagy. Can he improve on an already incredible year? Or will it prove to be an outlier, a fluke, something he won’t be able to reproduce?

Another thing about the Bears offense that showed promise is that they have a lot of guile and at times look really competent. In the Eagles game they came back when they had to (the last drive notwithstanding). 

You hope that as Trubiksy grows more comfortable in clutch situations when the game is on the line, and that Nagy starts to have more trust in him and as an offense they can really start to control the ball when they have to. Most Super Bowl winning teams have offenses who control the ball, make big plays, and score a lot of points.

One last thought. Like a lot of fans I thought this could’ve been the year, but I think something is missing on the offensive side of the ball. A LeVeon Bell or Kareem Hunt kind of back I think is needed. Somebody great. Somebody who is a difference maker. An All Pro. For Trubisky to be that great player he has to be, he’ll need great support. 

But the number of throws that should’ve been picked off yesterday and really the whole season, leave the judgment of how good he is still way up in the air. The clock is ticking. Unless he gets really bad, he’ll have about 2-3 years to prove it.

It all stings with that typical Chicago Bear disappointment. The truth of the matter is that to be a Chicago Bear fan is a difficult proposition. In fact it’s really fu*&ing hard being a Chicago Bears fan. They’re an enormously mediocre franchise trying to sell a championship team to a hungry fan base. 

There are franchises like the Steelers, and the Niners, and the Giants, and the Patriots, and the Packers, and then there are franchises like the Bears. The difference is so palpable. The expectations are from legitimately different sides of town and walks of life. How do you change a culture like that without taking a lot of risks?

36 days until pitchers and catchers report.

108 days until the NFL draft.

204 days until Bourbonnais training camp.

UGH! 

Good bye 2018 Bears it was fun.

It’s already taking too long.

5 REASONS WHY THE BEARS ARE WINNING

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RYAN PACE

Give him credit. Give him a lot of it. Give him holiday cheers of it. After swings and misses he seems to be getting better at his job. Better at picking the right coach. Better at drafting difference making players. Better at using free agency as a way to find difference making players and also players who can fill obvious needs. 

Just look at this list——Matt Nagy, Khalil Mack, Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Roquan Smith. The list goes on and its impressive and its young and its really, really good. 

There are so many things that need to go right and Ryan Pace is a guy that makes sure it does.

I know New Orleans and Los Angeles, hell even the Green Bay Packers look like big mountains, but I don’t see why the Bears couldn’t make some loud noises in the playoffs.

MATT NAGY

It all starts with the coach and the way he implements his vision, gets people buying in it, and how they execute. 

John Madden always said you got to be authentic, because the players can spot a phony, and I think that may be his best quality. He’s a genuine dude and that helps players trust him. 

Plus the Bears finally look like a complete team. So many of their teams have always looked one sided. If only they had an offense, you can hear the Bear faithful whine. 

The fact that Nagy was a quarterback I think has really helped Trubisky. He’s gone from being an indecisive quarterback, to playing a game of pitch and catch. It really doesn’t have to be a complicated game. Hit the open guy, and if he’s not, scamper for some yards. 

Is it possible the Bears have an offense that can win a championship? If they do Nagy will become a legend and get all sorts of credit, as will a handful of players. One of the things I look for in a team is how good are the second and third string players. It says a lot about the coach when the whole roster is ready to play.

KHALIL MACK

Ok this was the ballsy move of the century. 

Word had it that the Packers were about to pull the trigger too and the Bears just out bid them. 

I mean could you imagine the Packers with Mack? People who say the Bears spent the farm to get him are ignoring the most important point. Mack is a once is a lifetime player. 

Every Super Bowl team always seems to have Hall of Fame type players on it, at least one or two and hopefully more. 

Is he at 100% yet? If he is I think that defense climbs a few more rungs on the ladder. When he’s a step quicker, he’s going to require a double team. That opens huge chances for everyone else on that line to get the quarterback. 

If they can pressure the quarterback with four they are going to be a handful come winter.

MITCHELL TRUBISKY

I keep thinking they did something to that offense. The team that just beat Arizona by two points is now seeing a confident decision maker in Trubisky. He looks better. Cooler. A cooler head to prevail whilst sitting in the hottest seat in professional sports. But he still makes some decisions where you just scratch your head.

He of course is the key. If he fails the team will fail, but if he has these kind of dominant performances, I don’t see why this team can’t win it all. Nick Foles doesn’t have a giant contract with 80 million dollars guaranteed, yet, but he did have a career day in the Super Bowl, and went throw for throw with the unmatchable brilliance of Tom Brady. 

Is Nagy getting him to play a little over his head, or is his ceiling still being set? Does he have the potential to be not just good but great? If he’s not great, even with that defense, I don’t see them winning it all. 

Also, does he have to run all the time and does he know how to slide?

INTANGIBLES

I could pick a lot of players in this last spot. The ones I named earlier, the whole defense, the whole offensive line, how about how good those playmakers have been? 

Something about confidence makes it impossible to keep it hidden. The world can’t help but notice it. 

I remember from my own competitive playing days how important it was to believe in yourself and in your team. It always seemed to me that intangible quality of belief was just as important as skill. They’re both critical don’t get me wrong, but guys who possess qualities like attitude, character, and enthusiasm always seem to be the guys holding the trophies up. 

Football is such a sport that demands you play with an edge about you, and this team is doing that. Finally some swag to back up the way you play on the field.

Happy Thanksgiving!

SUCCESS AND CONFIDENCE

 

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You could argue that Matt Nagy had the perfect game plan called for the Bucs.

You could argue the Bucs defense has been awful all year.

You could argue the Bears defense is looking like one of the best in the league and Khalil Mack is on his way to an MVP season.

Or the favorite I’m sure—-you could argue that Mitchell Trubisky when given enough time and is decisive enough might have the makings of being a star. 

6 TD passes? A Bear QB?

Whatever they did to simplify things I think also should get mention here too. Whatever works keep doing it until they stop you. It doesn’t have to be a complicated game. They have fast guys. Somebody’s usually open.

If you give enough time to a good NFL QB he should be able to march down the field.

I always remember what the late great Buddy Ryan said about pressuring the QB. He said essentially, “we’re not going to just let sit back there and pick us apart.”

Does it take elite level QB play to win the super bowl? Does it take big numbers on offense and defense? Those are great subject to discuss another time.

What the Bears did to the Bucs is what good teams do. They dominate by scoring a lot of points and playing great defense.

If you’re like me at the end of the year, if the Bears have a chance at making the playoffs, when you’re eating your breakfast in December you can’t get enough Bear stuff to read. I love looking at the Points For versus Points Against differential and how for the better teams the difference is larger and they’re usually in first place. They also have lots of sacks, turnovers, and touchdowns. They get home field advantage. You get the point.

One last thing to mention is Tarik Cohen. In this column you’ve heard me mention him every week. Well he finally got the chance to be featured and the little guy played like I thought he would—-like he was one of the best on the field. He’s a matchup nightmare and he could be very, very good maybe even great.

But for now Trubisky steals the show. He looked so calm and at ease, and hit guys in stride with beautiful throws.

No greater teacher guides a young man more than success and confidence.

Whoo whoo! 3-1!

Keep Taking Baby Steps

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I know you want sexy. That you want that 15 to 19 yard pass play in the middle of the field hitting the tight end in stride on a skinny post and marching like the Patriots with a potent offense threatening to score every time you touch the ball.

I know that’s what you want and if you were paying attention after the second Bears touchdown where they marched down the field with short passes and runs you saw Matt Nagy whispering into Mitch Trubisky’s ear before commercial.

That right there is why I feel good about this team. The fact that Nagy knows what it’s like to be QB1 and the fact that Trubisky is humble enough to want to learn is all reason for hope.

Yes Trubisky threw two picks and made some really bad decisions. Yes they might’ve tried to stretch the field a bit too far. Yes they probably need to run a little bit more.

I’d like to see Cohen and Howard get more touches. Cohen particularly. Give him a chance to bust it wide open because the guy has all sorts of talent. 

It would’ve been nice to see the Bears blow that team out. Maybe they’re learning how to do that.

And what about that defense? Six sacks in a game?! It only seems logical to me that all that pressure on the quarterback is going to give those corners a great chance for more picks. Will they step up?

And Mack? My goodness! Yet another great Bear defender in the Bear tradition of great defenses. 

I’m glad they got their night games over with. A night game is more pressure on a young qb than a day game and if he’s already doing this well in prime time, what might he be?

An 83 qb rating while still throwing two picks is impressive. Why can’t he get better?

I know to be December relevant would be a dream. So let us just keep it there for now and in the mean time keep taking baby steps.