Finding Fun in the Wake of the Coming Sunday

| September 20th, 2023

Today and tomorrow I’ll try to keep things light and positive — or, as positive as they’re going to be.

Andrew Billings was incredibly fun on Sunday:

Looking to get a similar reel (maybe video) done on Wright & Carter, hopefully I’ll have them posted later.

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Checking the Tape: Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 19th, 2023

The short version: Fields struggled mightily on Sunday, though the Bears’ offensive line and offensive coordinator certainly made their fair share of mistakes. But we’ll talk more on that later this evening.

The slightly-less short version: Justin Fields is struggling to consistently get to his 3rd (sometimes 2nd) read without running into timing issues, and there’s no pair of plays where that was more evident than Fields’ 1st sack of the game, where he missed DJ Moore wide open on the play’s backside…

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Notes from Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 18th, 2023

This Bears season has gotten off to the worst start possible — they haven’t just lost two winnable games, they haven’t just watched the coaching staff struggle, but the QB that carried the weight of the franchise into the 2023 season looks like the most worry-fraught version of himself imaginable. Right now, every part of this football team is ugly to watch.

Worse yet, if you listen to the early portion of the Twitter Spaces that Jeff and I recorded pre-game, it’s as if we could see this loss coming. After so much struggle in Week 1, how far could the team truly bounce back in Week 2?

It’s heartbreaking. If Chicago loses to the Chiefs next week (and certainly if they lose to the Broncos the week after), the season may be over before it fully started. So how do we assess the blame?

The Head Coach

Let’s start at the top. Matt Eberflus took over for Alan Williams as the defensive playcaller in yesterday’s game, but the results were every bit as uninspiring as they were the week before.

It’s not as if the Bears didn’t try to make changes — Matt Eberflus called quite a few blitz/pressure looks early, but Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers offense handled the extra rushers and punished the Bears with the brutal efficiency of a bona fide NFL offense.

Now 2 weeks into the 2023 season, the Bears’ defense has allowed an almost perfect passer rating on 3rd & 4th downs — that’s unacceptable. It’s one thing to understand that Chicago’s defense lacks talent in the front 4, but to invest the money and draft picks that they did into their defense & produce so poorly on key downs is untenable for a coach that specializes in that side of the ball.

Expectations for this defense were never high, but after signing 3 new defensive linemen in Free Agency (DeMarcus Walker, Yannick Ngakoue, Andrew Billings) and drafting 2 more with Top 70 picks (Zacch Pickens, Gervon Dexter Sr) I think it’s fair to expect better from this unit than what what may be the worst results in football for the 2nd year running.

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Bears at Bucs Game Preview: In the Land of Strip Clubs, the Bears Must Arrive at the 2023 Dance

| September 15th, 2023

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?







The Second Week, or Why this Game Matters

Everybody is down in the dumps, especially those fans who spent the last six months absurdly taunting other fans on social media with dumb phrases like “Fields is going to own the North” and “King Poles.” The Bears are still, quite obviously, not a good team. But no objective analyst expected them to be a good team. We did, however, expect them to be a far better team than was seen at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Forget a grain of salt. Week 1 should be digested with the tonnage of salt that is dumped on Michigan Avenue in anticipation of a January blizzard. That is not to say one should ignore the failings of the Bears against the Packers. But looking around the league, it was quite obvious that half the sport (if not more) was not ready to play regular season football. Joe Burrow couldn’t complete a pass. The Chiefs couldn’t catch. The Giants, with their supposedly top head coach, forgot they had a game. And then there is whatever Josh Allen was doing Monday night.

The Chicago Bears goals for the 2023 season do not change with Sunday’s result. This Bears team can still play relevant football in the month of December. They can still mount a campaign that inches near .500. But in order to do so they have to find a way to win Sunday in Tampa. With Kansas City looming in Week 3, they must do everything in their power to avoid an 0-3 start. (And one could argue a 1-1 start would give the Bears an opportunity to erase the sadness of Week 1 with a Week 3 upset.)

But perhaps most importantly, this program needs to overcome the building toxicity around it and deliver a solid effort. No more somber faces on the sideline. No more complaining about fans to the media. The Bears need belief, and belief only comes with victories. And this club hasn’t had one of those in a long time.

A Single Sentence on Several Films of 2023

Bottoms. Emma Seligman’s up-and-down comedy has a tour de force final half hour that’ll make it the most rewatchable film of the year.

Oppenheimer. Flashy and beautiful, Christopher Nolan’s historical epic is also a dramaturgically flimsy and emotionally hollow experience.

Past Lives. The foreign darling of the art house scene, Celine Song’s film is a lovely, if minor, effort.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. If serving no other purpose, this James Mangold-helmed fifth Indy picture has erased the jaundiced memory of the disastrous fourth installment and given one of Hollywood’s finest action heroes a suitable ending.

King Coal. This documentary tone poem, set in central Appalachia, could have been the natural heir to Barbara Kopple’s brilliant Harlan County, USA, but instead is a politically muddled and incomplete work, lacking the depth more voices from the community could have provided.

Note: The First Lady of DBB and I are seeing Barbie tonight, after several failed efforts to check it out. I’ll have thoughts on it next week. 

Five Key Points

  • The Bears defense must limit Tampa’s big play potential, if it exists beyond Mike Evans. The Bucs had four scoring drives in their game vs. the Vikings, and they tell the story of an offense that struggles to move the ball with any authority. The drives were:
    • 4 plays, 0 yards (FG)
    • 7 plays, 61 yards (TD)
    • 16 plays, 75 yards (TD)
    • 10 plays, 38 yards (FG)
  • Kirk Cousins was not good against the Bucs, but that was mostly on Cousins. Even with his errant tosses and multiple fumbles, he still produced 344 yards in the passing game. The plays will be there down the field for the Bears.
    • Two things have to happen for the Bears. Eberflus and Getsy must allow their quarterback to fling it and Fields must deliver the football, down the field, on time. Neither happened in Week 1.
  • The Bucs gave their three backs – Rachaad White, Sean Tucker and Chase Edmonds – a shot, totaling 24 carries at only 2.5 yards per clip. Todd Bowles won’t care if the run game is successful. After watching Bears/Packers tape, he’ll stick with it for four quarters. (Tucker seems the most explosive of these backs by a sizable margin.)
  • Ignore Minnesota’s rushing stats in the opener. Alexander Mattison was only given 11 carries and that offense is clearly going to be pass-first/pass-often. The Bucs gave up north of 120 yards per game rushing in 2022 and the Bears should be able control the game on the ground. The biggest question is whether this coaching staff will acknowledge the energy Roschon Johnson brought to the unit when on the field; Johnson looks like the kind of bruising back that can wear an opponent down over four quarters.
  • Three defenders the Bears have to identify and deal with on every snap: Shaq Barrett, Antoine Winfield, Anthony Nelson. When the Bucs disrupt the pocket, they most often do so with these three guys. Barrett and Winfield are to be expected, but Nelson was all over the field against Minnesota.

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Previewing the Matchups within Bears @ Buccaneers

| September 14th, 2023

Following Sunday’s loss, the Tampa Bay game feels like a huge one for Chicago’s coaches coaches in particular — if you felt like I did, the most frustrating part about the Green Bay game was that the Bears’ supporting cast wasn’t nearly the issue it was in 2022.

  • WRs got open
  • DBs made plays in coverage
  • Tremaine Edmunds flew around in coverage (sometimes too much)
  • Andrew Billings went to war in the trenches
  • The OL, while inconsistent, held a pocket against a good DL through the first quarter
    • In particular, Braxton Jones & Darnell Wright played well enough given their matchups

This isn’t a recipe for automatic and unquestioned success, but it’s enough to put together a competitive performance — I thought Chicago outplayed Green Bay in the first half, but after the Packers hit on a few big plays in the 3rd Quarter, it felt like the wheels fell off. You could call it a lack of poise, you could call it a lack of faith, but when fans & analysts alike started questioning a team’s effort before the 4th quarter began, you’ve got more problems than just roster talent.

Chicago’s coaches can win back quite a bit of favor with a big win on the road, but how will they go about doing it? What does Tampa like to do on defense, and how can the Bears counter that? How will they shift things to stop the Bucs’ offense? Nick Whalen & I put together a hell of a game preview on today’s episode of Bear With Us, but I wanted to share some of my thoughts in print. Let’s get into it.

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Dissecting a Drive: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Chicago’s Offense

| September 13th, 2023

Originally I was planning on dissecting one of the many defensive drives, but while prepping for last night’s stream I found a drive that perfectly encapsulated the Bears’ issues against Green Bay — with that in mind, I broke down all 8 plays from Chicago’s 2nd offensive series in the latest episode of Dissecting a Drive.

In the video we discuss:

  • Where did Justin Fields improve from 2022? Where did he struggle on Sunday?
  • How did Getsy set up his offense for success? What could he improve?
  • Route spacing issues, bad snaps, and other execution errors
  • Much, much more

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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Checking the Tape: Bears’ Offense vs Green Bag

| September 12th, 2023

All-22 Breakdown Stream:

If you’re into All-22 film breakdowns, I stream every Tuesday Night during the season to talk through the ups and downs of the game! Come check it out!

I watched the Packers-Bears All-22 tape so that you don’t have to — here were some of my notes:

Getsy Gets Ahead of Himself:

Luke Getsy and the Bears started this game off strong, but as the contest wore on Getsy displayed a strange habit of telling on himself with the Bears’ formation — below is a screenshot of the infamous D’Onta Foreman screen pass that lost 7 yards, and if you look at the personnel that Chicago split out wide you too will see the screen coming.

But that wasn’t the only moment where it seemed as if Green Bay read Luke Getsy’s mind — here’s another example of the Bears’ formation tipping a play and resulting in a massive start to the second half. With Blasingame (a fullback) out wide to the left side, the Packers send Devonte Wyatt straight upfield in anticipation of a Justin Fields bootleg that Blasingame would usually block for. Wyatt ends up on top of Fields before the quarterback fully turns around.

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Notes from Packers @ Bears:

| September 11th, 2023

That was one way to start the season, wasn’t it?

The Chicago Bears, after months of build-up and roster additions, came out flat from the first whistle against Green Bay and got blown out of their own building before the 3rd quarter had ended. It was a day that could’ve heralded a new chapter within the storybook Bears-Packers rivalry, but instead it was… well, I’ll let Jeff say it for me.

After a game like that, I felt the need to sleep on my thoughts. I’ll have more posted later this afternoon, but I want to wait until I can watch the tape before really diving in on this game — I have a bad feeling that the tape may give us uncomfortable answers to questions we didn’t want to ask on both offense & defense.

It’s only Week 1, but that was as bad of a Week 1 game as I could’ve imagined. Chicago will need to turn things around in a hurry too — a loss to the Buccaneers (who just beat Minnesota on the road) will create legitimate stakes as the Bears take on the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. Only six NFL teams since 1979 have ever started 0-3 and still made the playoffs.

The 2023 Bears don’t have outrageous expectations, but I’d think the organization had their sights set on a 7th seed playoff spot & major development from the roster’s young players. That may yet be achieved, but with tough matchups littered throughout the early weeks of Chicago’s schedule, the road to a playoff season got much harder last night.

Postgame Podcast:

Your Turn: Do you feel any better about yesterday’s game today?

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