It doesn’t seem to matter how bad the Green Bay Packer defense is, the Chicago Bears can’t score on them.
That was supposed to change with Matt Nagy taking over, but it hasn’t.
In four games against Green Bay defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, the Bears have averaged a pathetic 14 offensive points and 324 yards per game — the latter being a total that was inflated when the team fell behind big in the most recent match-up. Considering Pettine nearly lost his job at the end of last season as his team has allowed 22.7 points and 354 yards per game since he took over, the Bears inability to score is downright confusing.
Yes, we know the Bears generally haven’t been a good offensive team for most of any of our lives, including the last two years. But they’ve done much better against the rest of the division. Mike Zimmer has had two top-10 units since Nagy came to the Bears, but the Bears have scored 19.5 offensive points and averaged 312 yards per game, both slightly better than the Vikings have allowed on average. Same goes for their performances against Detroit. (Also consider that the Bears have gone nearly full games against both Detroit and Minnesota with Chase Daniel.)
Whether it’s Nagy, Trubisky or somebody else, the Bears just can’t seem to solve Pettine and the Packers. But they may have hired the answers this off-season.
Andrew Hawkins played under Kyle Shanahan and Pettine with the Cleveland Browns and he offered a tidbit from practice that has proven to be a major advantage for Shanahan when he faces Pettine.
Kyle Shanahan had one major advantage over Mike Pettine’s defense… Pettine had been showing it to him for years during Browns’ practices.@Hawk tells the story on an all-new ThomaHawk!
— ThomaHawk (@ThomaHawkShow) January 20, 2020
“(The Browns defense was) game planning our specific offense, which didn’t make sense because you know what we’re running essentially. I remember Shanahan and the offensive coaches saying ‘if we played them in a game, we’d kick their ass.’”
Shanahan has since faced Pettine three times, scoring 30 points the first time before dropping 37 on his former boss twice last season.
Shanahan’s replacement, John DeFilippo is now on the Bears staff. Hawkins indicated that Flip had the same experience as Shanahan. Flip has since faced Pettine twice, both coming during the 2018 season when he was the offensive coordinator of the Vikings. In the first game, the Vikings scored 29 points before putting up 24 in the second. In those two games, Kirk Cousins threw seven touchdown passes to one interception, completed nearly 75 percent of his passes and totaled 767 yards.
The Bears don’t have Cousins, but Cousins wasn’t close to as successful without DeFilippo last year, passing for two touchdowns and three interceptions and 352 yards combined in two games last year. Green Bay’s defense was much better in 2019 than it was in 2018, but it wasn’t that good.
DeFilippo’s problem was that he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — run the ball against the Packers, or anyone else for that matter in 2018. But the Bears could have an answer for that too.
Much has been made about Juan Castillo and his connections to the Andy Reid offense, but the veteran offensive line coach also has connections to the outside zone that the Shanahan family made famous and Pettine has been unable to stop. In two seasons with the Packers, Pettine’s defense has given up an average of 145 rushing yards per game against teams that feature that famed running scheme.
Castillo has said in the past that he runs a variety of schemes, but he has preferred the outside zone in his most recent stops. That preference was noted in the 2013 article in the Baltimore Sun:
“The zone-blocking scheme hasn’t changed drastically since Castillo took charge of the running game this offseason, but there have been tweaks. The Ravens have used more outside stretch runs…”
That style helped Castillo keep his job the next season when the team hired Gary Kubiak, one of the first to leave Mike Shanahan and have success with the outside zone scheme.
Castillo was the offensive line coach as Justin Forsett gained more than 1,200 rushing yards. He didn’t fit with Marc Trestman and eventually made his way to Buffalo where was hired as the run game coordinator under another Shanahan disciple Rick Dennison, where they again featured the outside zone.
At any level, football is about the players, but if the players have the answers before the test, they’re going to be much more likely to succeed.