The Bears offense on Sunday night, much like the rest of the team, was a tale of two halves: one half of success and one of accomplishing nothing.
They came out firing, with ten points on the first two possessions.
And then… stagnation.
Everything wonderful about Nagy’s new scheme came to a screeching halt. The Bears managed but six points in a second half in which they blew a 20-0 lead to their arch nemesis and fell to 0-1 on the season.
Why did this happen? Was it poor quarterbacking, poor coaching, or did Green Bay’s defense just adjust? I went on a mission to find out by re-watching every single offensive play from the Bears’ heartbreaking defeat, as painful as that was, and it turns out it was a combination of all three. So upon further review, this is what changed from the first half to the second half and caused the Bears’ downfall.
Mitch Trubisky‘s confidence
Throughout Sunday night’s game, it was clear that the Bears’ hopeful franchise quarterback can make all the throws. That line is extremely cliché, but it applies in this situation. Whether he has the arm to put the ball into tight spots is not the issue – I only counted two inaccurate passes from Trubisky all night, one of which I’ll go over later. The issue is whether or not he trusts said arm.
At the beginning of the game in Green Bay, Trubisky was nothing short of on fire. He made four spectacular throws, coupled with plenty of on-target easy money. The first one was to Trey Burton, for his only catch of the night and a 15-yard gain.
What makes this throw so impressive is the position of Trubisky’s body when he made it. He’s at the top of his drop back and is onto his second read, which is Burton. He sees the open man, but not before taking a quick step back to adjust to the progression of the pass rush. In doing so, he puts himself at a disadvantage mechanically, but he has the arm strength and pinpoint accuracy to make up for it.
This ball is placed perfectly – not too far outside and low enough where the defensive back cannot knock it down. This set the Bears up with first and goal. The next play: touchdown.
Our next clip is of Allen Robinson‘s first catch as a Chicago Bear, but this one was mostly on Trubisky. Again, it could not have been placed more perfectly on Robinson’s back shoulder. All he has to do is adjust himself, hand fight a bit to create separation, and let the ball come to him, which it absolutely did for a 30 yard gain.
Here, Trubisky finds Robinson again but this time in a much different fashion. He fits the ball into his tightest window yet, with bullet velocity and pinpoint accuracy. There are three defenders in the area but as soon as Trubisky sees Robinson flash a smidge of open-ness, he fires it into his stomach for a key third-down conversion.
Ironically, Trubisky’s most impressive throw in week one was one that was not caught because Dion Sims has extremely limited ball skills – and that’s putting it mildly. On first glance, this seemed like an ill-advised pass where Trubisky was lucky it was only knocked down but in reality, this hit Sims right in the chest. He has to catch this ball.
This was also one of the few times all night where the pass rush nearly got to Trubisky. He had a big man in Kenny Clark directly in his face about to give him a shot, but he stayed strong in the face of pressure an threw a beautiful touch pass to Sims for a near-highlight.
Of course, Trubisky makes throws like these all night. If he did, this article would have a much different tone. As in a “Bears come into Lambeau and come out 1-0” tone. What changed? Not the quality of Trubisky’s passes – that was mostly fine. He just seemed afraid to throw the ball downfield.
If you click the first link, which leads to a screenshot, you’ll find Trubisky about to throw the ball away despite a wide-open Jordan Howard near the sticks at the bottom of the screen. In the second one, Trubisky tucks it and runs too early and fails to see Taylor Gabriel break free of his defender on a comeback route as a result. And finally (and most devastatingly), Tarik Cohen beat his defender on an out-and-up out of the backfield but Trubisky took his eyes off of him and threw short of the first down marker.
We all know that Trubisky is capable of making those throws but he panicked and gave up on the play too early instead of staying strong in the pocket and making the tough play. To put it simply, he has to be confident enough in himself to throw those footballs downfield in crunch time. That was the root of the problem on Sunday night – Trubisky didn’t trust his arm enough, instead relying on dump-offs and his legs.
This is a fixable issue but it’s irritating and maybe even slightly concerning that he’s having these problems in his second year. It’s on Nagy now, after his predecessor John Fox drilled mistake-free football into the young signal caller, to encourage him to take these risks. If he throws picks from time to time, so be it.
Matt Nagy’s play design and play calling
Matt Nagy’s offense was a shell of its first-half self once the third quarter started. It was extremely generic, with significantly less pre-snap window dressing to fool the defense and plays designed to take advantage of the Bears’ unique personnel like Tarik Cohen. It was as if he thought the game was over and was saving his best stuff for next week.
A prime example of this: on the third play of the game, the Bears lined up in a two-back shotgun formation with Cohen and Jordan Howard. Trubisky faked to Howard, freezing the inside backers, and swung it out to Cohen for a hilariously easy seven to nine-yard gain. We never saw any variation of that formation (the swing, a counter up the middle with Howard, or a vertical pass to add an extra wrinkle) again.
Instead, Nagy reverted to a half Trestman half Adam Gase version of attempting to dink and dunk with screen passes with either very little misdirection or far too much Dion Sims involvement. Both ultimately led to failure and Trubisky, with the lack of downfield passes, came out of his rhythm.
The poor play calling came to a climax on the third and one shown above as an example of Trubisky needing to trust his arm. While the quarterback failed to find the open man, Nagy employed zero misdirection and zero creativity on this play call. Just a straight pass play. I saw more creativity on the touchdown Trubisky threw to Trey Burton in the preseason, and it’s disappointing that we saw none of that tonight.
Mike Pettine’s key adjustment
Pettine is a defensive coordinator who loves to run plenty of man to man defense, mostly preferring physical cornerbacks who press, stay with talented receivers, and make plays on the ball.
About midway through the second quarter, however, Pettine realized that this was not going to work for two reasons. First of all, Green Bay failed to consistently pressure Trubisky and gave the receivers too much time to get open. Second, and more importantly, early in the contest, the Bears’ receivers were simply better than the Packers’ secondary one on one. So what did Pettine do? He switched to a mainly zone defense, which threw off the Bears’ game plan significantly.
In the second half, the Bears failed to adjust to Green Bay’s adaptation, evidenced by the amount of man-specific routes they continued to run, like digs and comebacks that simply didn’t work against a zone defense. It also eliminated the mismatch gained by the Bears from the Packers’ inside linebackers and their lack of athleticism.
Trey Burton was nearly nonexistent through most of the game because they checked him with multiple guys at multiple levels instead of one Antonio Morrison. Ditto Tarik Cohen in the short passing game. The key theme here is that the Packers won this battle of Darwinism. The organism who adapts to their surroundings better survives. This time, it was the Packers’ defense.
Other Film Notes
-No question in my mind that Mike Daniels is Green Bay’s best player other than the mustached man dating Danica Patrick and playing quarterback. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the run game, responsible for most of Green Bay’s stops (save for Kenny Clark stalling a third and one in the second quarter). He also hustles his butt off in pursuit on every play. Daniels is the kind of guy that I’d want on my team.
-On the flip side, Muhammad Wilkerson was invisible for most of the night, with the exception of a tipped Trubisky pass on the Bears’ futile final drive. Opposing offenses shouldn’t worry about him too much and instead put their resources into stopping Daniels.
-Green Bay’s inside linebackers, specifically Antonio Morrison, were as exploitable as I predicted, but I was wrong in how the Bears would exploit them. Tarik Cohen didn’t have the field day that I thought he had (though in my opinion, he was underutilized), Jordan Howard did. But that’s not to take away from the performance of…
-The Bears’ offensive line. When Daniels wasn’t wreaking havoc, the Bears’ big boys and Howard did quite well. The line created cutback lanes aplenty and Howard took full advantage. That he only received 15 carries is heinous and can’t continue into next week. Additionally, pass protection was stellar for most of the contest. If this trend of excellent pass rush and excellent pass protection continues, we should be in excellent shape.
Fun fact: in real time before this play happened, I turned to my friend and said: “I’m feeling a screen to Cohen.”
It happened, and it worked, but I did not expect it to work because of a block so exquisite and relentless from Kyle Long. This is why I love analyzing offensive line play: they’re so graceful yet so deadly, like a 300-pound cheetah pancaking its prey.
Here, Long locks onto his target immediately, and as soon as Cohen receives the football, it was go time. He kept his feet churning – so did Martinez, Long just overpowered him – and drove him back ten yards, all before finishing the block and securing a first down for the Bears.
Low Point: The subject of my nightmares until Monday night
Yup. This is the one play, which I alluded to earlier, where I put 100% of the blame for its failure on number 10. Robinson destroys his opponent across from him on a tiny stop and go/fade route, ends up wide open in the end zone and Trubisky just missed him.
This eventually cost the Bears four points and stalled the fantastic offensive momentum that they had acquired. I would also argue that Trubisky’s confidence went downhill from this moment on. He needs to have a shorter memory and move on from his mistakes, however dreadful.
That play everyone is talking about
The great debate started when The Athletic Chicago writer Dan Durkin posted a screenshot of a seemingly wide open Trey Burton in the back of the end zone, implying that Trubisky missed an easy touchdown. Packers cornerback Kevin King responded in Trubisky’s defense, implying that if he threw the ball, HaHa Clinton-Dix would have taken it back for six points.
I lean towards agreeing with King, for a couple reasons. Trubisky COULD have made this throw but it would have been his best of the night by far. For a start, Burton was not his first read. If he was, this was probably a touchdown. Trubisky looked to Tarik Cohen in the flat first, but he would never have made it into the end zone.
He looked back to Burton next, which is when Durkin took his screenshot. By that time, Burton was stationary and Clinton-Dix was moving towards him, and Trubisky would have had to throw the ball about 22 yards before Clinton-Dix, with a running start, could move about 7. Previously, I advocated Trubisky to take risks and trust his arm, even if it means interceptions. The red zone, however, is not the time to do that.
That’s all for this week. Be sure to read more of The Loop Sports’ film breakdowns and scouting reports as the Bears look to bounce back against Seattle.
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