Chicago was exasperated with hysteria and feverishness was the feeling of fans engulfing the entire state on Thursday. Chicago football matters again and the start of the National Football League season brings hope to all who participate. The hope is increased when a team has legitimate championship aspirations. The 2019 Chicago Bears have elicited that enthusiasm despite a critical eye from some outside the blue and orange bubble.
After a 12-4 season and a stunning playoff loss at the hands of the Eagles last year, the Bears came into this season with high expectations amid the madness of a season long 100 year celebration. An argument could be made that the celebrations were premature. A mediocre Green Bay Packers’ team came into Soldier Field and won a game that they were begging the Bears to take for the majority of the evening.
Similar to 2018, Matt Nagy’s Bears will begin the season with a loss and are now left to pick up the pieces and forge ahead. They have some time to fix what ails them and there were some positives on a night which can be only be described as negative. But in the league’s 3rd largest market, the detractors have descended and the climb will now be uphill due to self-inflicted wounds.
What took place at Soldier Field last night can only be classified as offensive ineptitude. This coach is supposed to be different. Instead, visions of Marc Trestman, Dowell Loggains and John Shoop danced in our heads.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was jumpy and jittery and posted a 62.1 rating while taking 5 sacks. He was 26/45 on the evening for 228 yards and 1 interception. The quarterback was really bad last night. Matt Nagy was worse though. The dime defense employed early and often by Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine stymied the Chicago offense far too often and for far too long.
Nagy stated emphatically in the postgame that the blame starts with him and that “three points is ridiculous“. He’s correct on both counts. The play-calling was absolutely horrendous and overshadowed anything the quarterback did both positive and negative. It’s imperative for this offense to be more effective on early downs and stay ahead of the sticks.
One way to do that is to run the football. Matt Nagy gives the impression that he wants to run the football but he doesn’t commit to it. The Bears spent the off-season gushing praise over 3rd round pick David Montgomery and then they handed him the ball just 6 times for a total of 18 yards. The Bears ran the football 12 times in the game and dropped back to pass 33 straight times from the middle of the 3rd quarter on. That’s not a recipe for success.
Allen Robinson and David Montgomery are the two best players in this offense. Going forward, it’s imperative to act like it. Montgomery flashed on a play where he hauled in a 27 yard reception. Robinson was crisp in and out of his breaks and looked more like the guy from Jacksonville who was given a nice contract. Robinson caught 7 balls for a total of 102 yards and should be the #1 option going forward.
Tarik Cohen wasn’t utilized effectively, Anthony Miller was non-existent and Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis were relied upon much too heavily. The offensive line was rusty but the names in that room are too good to not improve under one of the best line coaches in the league.
It’s up for debate whether or not the 4th down play call or 4th down decision making process was actually worse. If Eddy Pineiro can’t attempt a 50 yard field goal in pristine conditions, what exactly are we doing here? Matt Nagy the head coach has transformed the organization. Matt Nagy the play-caller still leaves much to be desired however.
Defensive regression has been a common trope spouted by the pundits looking at reasons to predict a step back overall. Vic Fangio is now the head coach of the Denver Broncos and the man deserved a head coaching job. His loss was never insurmountable though. Fangio is a great football coach but like others employed in his craft, elite talent got him paid. Chuck Pagano is also a great coach and has inherited the #1 unit in the league.
Fangio’s defense wasn’t the best in the sport until Khalil Mack and Roquan Smith showed up and Eddie Jackson turned into an All Pro. Vic is one of the best schemers in the league but once again, the Jimmy’s and Joe’s will prevail in this case. The Bears’ defense still has the look of the top unit in the sport. This should be expected though with the talent on that side of the ball.
Khalil Mack drew double teams all night and was held consistently despite the officials swallowing their whistles. That bodes well for the next 15 games. Leonard Floyd benefitted from this and compiled two sacks while being a terror throughout the night. The defensive line was stout and the rotation seemed to be effective. Akiem Hicks was used in just under 80% of the snaps and getting him breaks within games should help the entire defense.
This group will be tough to run against. They might regress in the form of turnovers but Pagano’s measured aggression should get the unit off the field sooner in critical spots. The defense did its job and it’s unfortunate that offensive ineptitude was the reason they aren’t getting the praise that they deserve. HaHa Clinton-Dix was substituted out for one drive in the 1st half and that culminated in the lone Packers’ touchdown.
Going forward, this will be one of the best units in the National Football League. There’s just too much talent and hunger to be great to expect otherwise. Holding Aaron Rodgers and company to 10 points on the road should be good enough and that type of result will be most weeks.
It would be easy to blame this loss on a lack of pre-season repetitions but that’s just not the case. It could have contributed to some of the sloppiness but that was apparent on both sides. The Bears didn’t play the majority of their starters in the pre-season. The Packers took the same approach.
The majority of the league did the same thing. Starters sitting out during dress rehearsals isn’t expected to change any time soon either. 40-50 snaps in a meaningless game isn’t going to be the difference in week one. September is the new pre-season and Sunday will be another example of that.
The only way to get better at football is to play football. The risk of fake football games isn’t worth the potential reward though and it’s a conundrum that the league will face as a whole going forward. Coaches will sacrifice the early season sloppiness for controlled atmospheres and healthier depth charts.
The Chicago Bears are mostly healthy and their most important players didn’t play in fake football games. It was tough to watch but it sure beats the alternative.
The Chicago Bears are now 0-1 but they still have unquestioned playoff aspirations. Can this unit win a Super Bowl? Yeah probably. They can’t win one with the offense sputtering though. Right now, the biggest question surrounding the team is the quarterback and that’s not a good place to be.
Mitch Trubisky career:
Nationally Televised Games:
153-246, 1316 yards, 6 TDs, 12 INTs, 5.3 Y/A, 64.0 QB Rating
All Other Games:
358-563, 4328 yards, 25 TDs, 8 INTs, 7.7 Y/A, 96.0 QB Rating#Bears100
— Bill Zimmerman (@ZimmermanSXM) September 6, 2019
Trubisky has played very well at times and struggled immensely at other times. His performances in primetime island games must improve. Matt Nagy must improve his inconsistencies as a play-caller as well though. Nagy is a former quarterback plucked directly off a major branch of the Andy Reid coaching tree. While his disciples have been mostly successful, he shares one of Andy’s worst predilections.
Matt Nagy is allergic to running the football. He’d be the perfect conductor of an Arena League team but he gets lost in his play sheet far too often for my taste. He believes that the passing game is an extension of the run game and I fundamentally disagree with that mindset. Running the football allows a team to develop play-action concepts and put defenders at a disadvantage. It also takes valuable time off the clock and allows the defense some earned rest time.
The 2019 Chicago Bears are still a playoff contender. They can win the NFC North and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Allen Robinson and David Montgomery can take the pressure off of the quarterback and the offensive line. The offense really can’t get much worse. The defense might be the top unit in the sport. One bad football game doesn’t doom an entire season. Joe Flacco, Case Keenum, Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr are on the docket.
The NFL is a week-to-week league and the Bears can beat anyone on their schedule. If that offensive performance rears its ugly head consistently then they can also lose to anyone on their schedule. It’s up to the coaching staff and this talented roster to not let that happen. This team is still too good for this to be the new normal.
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