Chicago Bears

Looking Ahead: The Chicago Bears

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Quick flip on the script! The Green Bay Packers are moving on to their next opponent and it’s a familiar one… the Chicago Bears.

It’s time people… they made us wait until week 12 but we made it here together. It’s the first game against the Chicago Bears and this one is right here in Lambeau Field!

As Romeo Crennel would put it… they are who we thought they were. The Chicago Bears are, as they always have been, predicated on their defense. They’ve recently prioritized their defense during the offseason and it’s paid off.

This unit is top ten in yards allowed (340.1) and points allowed (20.9) per game, same as they were in 2019 – they’re one of just two teams that can boast that – the other being the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s the second week in a row that the Packers are facing a top-ten, arguably top-five defense.

The Chicago Bears, however, do not have the consistent, methodical offense of the Indianapolis Colts. As much as the stats like the Bears defense, they equally hate the Bears offense – and the stats don’t lie. The Chicago Bears are 31st in the league in both yards per game (296.8) and points (17.5). If you’ve watched them at all this year, this doesn’t surprise you.

It’s a mess over there in Chicago and we’re here for it. Let’s take a deeper look.

Gameplan

Offense

Gone, is the 2018 Chicago Bears offense. Gone, is the short-lived, single-season production that had NFL pundits crowning Head Coach Matt Nagy as the next Bill Walsh. It’s gone – rather it never existed. Even at its mid-season peak, that offense was still worse than the WORST offense the Packers have had over the last ten years.

The Bears have been consistently awful on the offensive side of the ball. If you’re looking for an explanation as to ‘why’ they’ve performed so terribly, look no further than the quarterback position. Between ‘Mitch’ Trubisky and Nick Foles (and the lone, pathetic drive with Tyler Brey), the Bears passing attack has been placid.

The Bears knew they were done with Trubisky after the 2019 season, which is why they traded a fourth-rounder for Nick Foles and his $8 million/year contract. It’s been clear, however, that Foles is not the future either. There’s no rational option for this team, going forward.

Foles, Trubisky, and Brey have combined for 2,430 passing yards, completing 63.2% of their passes over the first ten games of the 2020 season, which in itself, doesn’t sound bad. It’s the 16-11 touchdown-interception ratio that hurts them, along with their lack of consistency in the intermediate level of the field. The Bears’ inability to move the ball, along with their inability to protect it, has resulted in an inefficient passing game.

We do not yet have a “little blue pill” for disappointing performance at the quarterback position – sorry Bears’ fans – but I digress. This is an offense that actually looks quite similar to the Green Bay Packers’. We’ve been using the term “illusion of complexity” to describe the Packers’ offense and it applies equally here.

Matt Nagy uses a wide variety of formations to do one specific thing – shove David Montgomery down the opponent’s throat. However, Montgomery has been in concussion protocol since the Bears’ week-9 matchup against the Tennessee Titans. The Chicago Bears used Cordarrelle Patterson in his place, against the Vikings, and the results were not good. Even off the week 11 bye, Montgomery’s health is still in question, though he is on pace to return.

Even with Montgomery sidelined, Nagy is still operating his outside zone-blocking scheme. It’s a single back offense with an under-center quarterback. There’s no fullback so we see ‘11’, ’12’, and some ‘10’ personnel. We see a lot of tight formations, which helps the run game if your wide receivers actually block, which most of the Bears’ receivers do not.

 

Defense

As I mentioned earlier, the Chicago Bears are one of two teams that have had a ‘good’ defense the last two seasons. They’ve been solid on that side of the ball since trading for Khalil Mack prior to the 2016 season. From his outside linebacker position, he’s proven to be a solid building block for the Chicago Bears.

Defensive Coordinator Chuck Pagano was brought into town during the 2019 offseason and strengthened what was already a solid unit. Much like what we saw with the Colts this past Sunday, the Chicago Bears have top-tier talent at every level of the field.

Mack is dominant on the edge but the middle of the defensive front is protected by 2018 Pro-Bowler Akiem Hicks and the middle linebacker duo of Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. After a couple of middling seasons, Smith has finally come into his own, as one of the top coverage linebackers in the game. He has a rare combination of length and athleticism.

On the back-end, Kyle Fuller has been shutting down his side of the field for almost a decade. Next to him is free safety, Eddie Jackson, who’s been middling this year but he was an absolute stud from 2017-2019. Jackson has been one of the most solid coverage safeties in the league, both in zone and in man.

Pagano has a long list of dudes who consistently ‘ball out’ for him but he equally balls out for them. Pagano knows how to set his defense up for success. He operates out of a base 3-4 but pulls an interior defensive lineman for nickelback, Buster Skrine, who’s basically a starter in Pagano’s defense.

Pagano is content to pressure the quarterback with just his four or five players along the defensive line, though we see Smith and Trevathan get involved as well. No player from the back-end has double-digit pass rushes on the season. It’s worked fine as the Bears have 21 sacks on the season, which is about average. The man coverage scheme on the outside has been the calling card for the Bears’ ability to defend the pass.

While this defense has only recorded 6 interceptions this year, they have forced five fumbles which puts them at a middling 11 takeaways on the season.

 

Three Factors for the Chicago Bears

Turnover Differential

I’ve spoken at length about the inefficiencies of the Bears’ passing game. That’s led to 14 giveaways by the Bears’ offense this season and they have only 11 takeaways this year. That leaves the Bears with a -3 turnover differential. They are one of just 11 teams that have a negative turnover differential.

One thing you can be certain of is when you’re playing Nick Foles, he’s going to throw you one, maybe even two or three.

Allen Robinson

While we’ve seen the Bears’ quarterbacks consistently miss wide open deep and intermediate shots, we’ve seen efficient play when delivering the ball to no. 1 receiver Allen Robinson. It is worth mentioning that left tackle Bobby Massie has the best receiving grade for any Bears’ player. Robinson has converted 63 of his 94 targets, for a 67% success rate. Robinson has not dropped a pass this year, which is impressive.

He combines hands and route-running ability with a 6’ 3”, 211-pound frame. He’s the prototypical possession receiver but is not great after the catch. He’s averaging just 2.8 YAC per reception, which is low. Robinson has only 755 yards and 3 touchdowns this season, so he probably won’t be a Pro-Bowler but he deserves some recognition for being the lone buoy on a sinking ship.

Surprising play from Brent Urban

Urban has been around for awhile. He was drafted by the Ravens and bounced around for a bit before landing in Chicago last year. He’s played a number of roles in the past but seems to have found a home as Chicago’s 5-tech.

With nose tackle, Eddie Goldman, opting out prior to the season, Urban found himself part of the defensive line rotation. He’s earned more snaps as the year has worn on.

While he still isn’t generating much pressure on the quarterback – just three on the year out of 105 opportunities, Urban has been a stud against the run. He’s consistently winning the battle at the point of attack and balancing penetration with responsibility. Since offenses don’t like running at Hicks, they’ve been running at Urban, and with little success.

 

So there we have it folks – the Chicago Bears – great defense and terrible offense. We knew the Bears were a fraudulent 5-1 and they’ve only proven us right by going 0-4 since then. Coming out of their week 11 bye, the Bears are 5-5 and second in the NFC North.

If the playoffs started today, the Chicago Bears would be the first team out, as they are currently the 8th seed. They’re still very much in the hunt but they’ll likely have to win atleast 5 of their last six games to qualify. Seeing as how the Bears have two games remaining against the Packers, I don’t see that happening.

It is worth mentioning, however, that the combined record against the other four remaining opponents is 12-28. There’s a chance that the Bears make a push for the playoffs but they’ll have to do something they haven’t been able to do so far this season – get consistent production from their offense.

The Green Bay Packers are early home-favorites with a +7.5, depending on where you’re looking. Late in November, the weather may prove to be a factor, which could make this a classic Bears-Packers matchup. Let’s hope the Bears show up and make this an entertaining game. Either way, the Bears still suck! and Go Pack Go!

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[…] “What are the Bears doing differently?” The answer is simple – “Not much”. Since my Week 12 Looking Ahead article the Bears are running the exact same offense. One major difference has been Head Coach Matt […]

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