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Dannehy: Late Game Heroics for Fields, Bears Could Come

| November 16th, 2022


The Bears have had the ball with a chance to win three times in the last five weeks and have fallen short every time. But anybody suggesting that means the young quarterback is incapable of leading the team to wins in those situations is misguided. There is no question that at some point the Bears and Justin Fields have to come through with game-winning scores. There is also no question that can develop with experience.

Turn back the clock a handful of years and you’ll see that in Aaron Rodgers’ first season as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, the team went 1-7 in one-score games. Worse yet, they had chances to win most of those games only to fall short.

On Oct. 5, 2008, the Packers had the ball trailing 20-17 against Atlanta with about seven minutes left only for Rodgers to throw an interception. Atlanta went on to score a touchdown and won 27-14. Less than a month later, the Packers had the ball with a chance to break a 16-16 tie but punted. Tennessee missed the game-winning field goal in regulation, only to make it in overtime.

On Nov. 30, the Packers had the ball, trailing Carolina by four before a Rodgers interception. They were tied with Houston the next week but had to punt and the Texans won the game on the next possession. It became three straight weeks in which Rodgers failed to deliver as they had the ball trailing 20-16 before a Jacksonville Jaguars interception essentially ended the game.

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Wednesday Thoughts from Around the League

| October 19th, 2022


We are entering the seventh week of the season and it’s an opportunity to take stock of the league. It might be the strangest beginning to a season in recent memory.

  • MVP: He’s averaging 330 yards passing per game. His TD/INT is 17/4. His passer rating is 109.1. His team is 5-1. Josh Allen is already +150 to win the MVP and I recommend betting him now because in a few weeks the bet might be off the board. The best team in the league also has the league’s best player.
  • Coach of the Year: Brian Daboll has done a wonderful job reinventing the culture in New Jersey, but their wins have been mostly smoke and mirrors. What Arthur Smith has done through six weeks in Atlanta is a legitimate revelation. The Falcons are 3-3, in first place in the NFC South, and they’ve actually been better than that. Their three losses are by a point, four points and a ridiculous roughing the passer penalty that deprived them the opportunity to beat Tom Brady. But even more importantly, Atlanta is one of the most entertaining teams in the league and that’s because of Smith’s offense.
  • When one watches the Packers, there is a bizarre trend. About five times a game, Aaron Rodgers just floats a ball deep down the field into double and triple coverage. The pass has almost zero chance of being completed but he doesn’t seem to mind. It’s as if he’s trying to prove a point as opposed to get a first down. Green Bay letting Davante Adams leave town is proving to be one of the worst personnel decisions a contender has made in recent memory.
  • The Raiders are good. They just don’t win.
  • The Vikings are not. But they don’t lose.
  • Are the Eagles a bit overrated at 6-0? Probably. Their games share a theme: get out to a big lead and hang on for dear life. But man, looking at their 11 remaining games, they’re unlikely to be underdogs a single time. Does that mean they’ll go undefeated? No. But they are headed to 13-14 wins minimum and the top seed in the conference.

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Dannehy: Opener Displays the 2022 Recipe for Success

| September 14th, 2022


If you are hoping, for the first time in your life, to see a Chicago Bears team air it out, the 2022 edition is unlikely to fulfill those desires. But there does exist an offensive recipe for this vintage to succeed and it was almost on full display Sunday. The defense will fly to the football. The offense will generate big plays in the passing game. The Bears will run it a ton. They did two of three successfully against San Francisco and laid the groundwork for the rest of the season, monsoon or not.

With a defensive head coach, the defense is probably going to remain the straw that stirs the drink. While that may bring a collective groan from Bears fans, it shouldn’t. If they can run the ball and Justin Fields can keep making big plays, they will be competitive each week. But perhaps the most interesting part of the postgame reaction, though, was Matt Eberflus saying flat out that the team needs to be better.

There were a number of blown coverages that Aaron Rodgers is going to take advantage of in Week Two, assuming his receivers catch the football.

Fields put the team on his back at times, but he also had one horrible interception and barely avoided a couple more – including on his first pass attempt of the game, a screen in which the ball was thrown high with several Niner defenders closing in. He has to learn from those mistakes in a way past young Bears quarterbacks haven’t.

While it was Flus’ first win, the coach wasn’t puffing a victory cigar. He has an eye on next week and the future of the team. We’ll see what’s cooking for the rest of 2022. The recipe looks simple enough.


Herbert v. Montgomery

The hottest take to come from Sunday’s game was that Khalil Herbert is better than David Montgomery. That is a conversation that has more layers than their yards per carry averages though.

There is no question that Herbert was better running with the ball on Sunday. He was decisive and got whatever yardage was available. Montgomery seemed to have a difficult time finding the line of scrimmage at times.

But there is another factor. While NFL GSIS shows Herbert as having the most positive influence on the Bears running game, he was the biggest negative in the passing game. Herbert’s struggles in that regard aren’t just about catching passes. He has also had issues as a blocker.

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Dannehy: Aaron Rodgers Doesn’t Like Bears Scheme & Other Preseason Thoughts

| August 24th, 2022


While fans have celebrated the offensive scheme change the Chicago Bears have implemented, count Aaron Rodgers as one who thinks it is a downgrade. In a somewhat recent interview with Pardon My Take, Rodgers went on a tangent about how the West Coast offense — which the Bears ran under Matt Nagy — is better than the scheme Luke Getsy is bringing from Green Bay.

“This scheme has flaws,” Rodgers said. “I grew up in the West Coast offense, which I think is the most beautiful offense ever created. It’s about timing and rhythm and balance and everything makes sense protection wise. You know where your hots are, you know where your eyes are going every single time, you know how the concepts fit together.”

Rodgers was drafted by Mike Sherman, who ran a variation of the West Coast he learned from Mike Holmgren. Mike McCarthy then took over, bringing a version that he learned from one of the scheme’s originators, Paul Hackett. Rodgers offered many complaints about the Shanahan-style outside zone scheme implemented by Matt LaFluer, when he was hired in 2019.

“This is a schematic offense. That (West Coast) was not a schematic offense. That was built on timing and precision and rhythm and guys being in the right spot at the right time and putting the ball on the proper number,” Rodgers said. “(It is) predicated on winning one-on-one matchups and being accurate throwing the football.”

Roughly translated, it sounds like Rodgers prefers the West Coast because it’s more about Jimmy’s and Joe’s than X’s and O’s. He probably has a point.

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Week 16 Thoughts from Around the NFL

| December 28th, 2021


All that remains for the 2021 Chicago Bears are the decision on Ryan Pace and the firing of Matt Nagy. Dissecting these individual games just seems like a pointless enterprise. So, after a few days of watching the rest of the league, here are some thoughts on those games, and perhaps some lessons the Bears can learn (but not really).

  • Justin Herbert’s numbers don’t reflect how bad he was Sunday in Houston. And that’s not an uncommon occurrence this season. He’s had 5-6 flat out poor performances and it’s a reminder that becoming a great QB in this league takes time and even immense talents like this face road blocks.
    • Side note: Lovie Smith coached a brilliant game against the Chargers.
  • Josh Allen was as good against New England as a QB can be and if his receivers caught the football consistently the Bills would have won by 30. Buffalo is going win their final two games and be a team to reckon with in the tournament.
  • Nobody compiles more hollow statistics than Kirk Cousins. And Justin Jefferson has had enough, questioning just about every aspect of the organization postgame. The Vikings should listen to him because he’s one of the best players in the league and his statements are the statements of leaders.
  • How are the Rams not worried about the Matthew Stafford Experiment? Stafford’s season-long numbers are solid but he’s now prone to these blowup games where he looks like a third stringer. Does anybody trust him to win multiple playoff games?
  • The Giants are under the spell of Joe Judge and, while I understand their reluctance to fire another coach, they are making a mistake by not doing it. His postgame press conferences have been the most embarrassing I can remember, continually claiming progress that no one on earth by he can see. Judge was handpicked for this gig by Bill Belichick, but Belichick has proven an inability to produce the kind of coaching tree that many legendary coaches produce. The Giants are lucky Mike Francesa no longer has the country’s most prominent sports radio platform.
  • The initial three frontrunners for the Jags head coaching gig – Doug Pederson, Jim Caldwell, Byron Leftwich – are the right guys. And while it might not be conventional, the team should have each meet with Trevor Lawrence before making the decision. That relationship could define the franchise for the next decade and Lawrence knows more about offensive football than the team’s owners.
  • I am not a Bill Simmons guy (generally) but his Monday “Guess the Lines” podcasts with Cousin Sal have been excellent this year. Kyle Shanahan’s record, Michele Tafoya’s sabbatical, Kyle Murray as the new Mr. October, the Vegas Raiders as Michael Myers, etc. It’s also a nice way to recap an NFL Sunday if you’re not interested in the excruciating (and frankly, boring) detail of Robert Mays and The Athletic pod.
    • On the latter podcast, I just don’t understand the approach. It is Monday morning. At that stage, most of us have watched MAYBE three games. When Mays and Nate Tice are breaking down specific plays in Bengals/Ravens, I have no frame of reference. Thus, the discussion isn’t interesting. People want the specific details when it comes to the teams they follow. Do they want that across the league? I sure don’t.

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Bears Fall to 4-9 at Lambeau.

| December 13th, 2021


Late night. More to come later today.

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Bears at Packers Game Preview: On the Rodgers Legacy in GB, Sondheim at the Cinema, Another Loss?!?

| December 10th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And the game has significantly more juice with Justin Fields in the starting lineup. The idea of Nick Foles starting at Lambeau Field, in primetime, had some Henry Burris vs. Tampa (2002) vibes.


On Rodgers.

This could be the last time the Bears see Aaron Rodgers in a Green Bay Packers uniform. And it is very difficult to contextualize his tenure with the team. So here are a bunch of thoughts.

  • My biggest disappointment is the Bears never fielded a quarterback to go toe-to-toe with him. For all the talk of his “owning” the Bears, look at the opposing quarterbacks he owned. (I own a 2005 Chevy Cavalier with 206k miles on it. I don’t brag about it.) Jay Cutler was his best opposition, and nobody puts Cutler and Rodgers in the same sentence, unless that sentence starts, “If I were to rank quarterbacks by how much I didn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with them, it would go Cutler, Rodgers…”
  • There’s an odd symmetry between the regular season careers of Rodgers and Tom Brady, as both dominated weak divisions for the entire careers. But the symmetry ends there. Rodgers’ stats don’t fall in almost any important category in the postseason, except one. He is 135-65-1 in the regular season and 11-9 in the postseason, reaching only one Super Bowl. But is he really to blame for that?
    • His numbers do plummet in the NFC title game. He is 1-4. His TD/INT is 9/8. His rating is 83.7, a good 20 points lower than his regular season and non-title game ratings. If there is a fly in the ointment of his career, it is those games.
  • People have tried to assign logic to Rodgers’ desires to leave Green Bay, questioning why he’d want to abandon one of the better rosters in the league. But you can’t apply logic to people as thin-skinned and temperamental as Rodgers. If something the organization did offended him, it is unlikely he’ll ever move on from it. (This is a guy who cut off his entire family over a woman and she was like five women ago.) Rodgers is still on the Packers in 2021 because GB knew they had a title-contending roster this season and they also knew that wouldn’t be true with Jordan Love.

Sondheim at the Cinema

Once again, I’ll be writing more extensively about Sondheim this off-season when content is harder to come by, but I am using these game previews to simply share his work. Sondheim was a cinephile to an intense extent (I know the feeling). He and Anthony Perkins co-wrote the excellent film The Last of Sheila, which you can rent on Amazon or anywhere else you do those things. Here are some other contribution to the world of movies.

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Stavisky (1974)

Sondheim wrote the absolutely lovely score for this underrated Alain Resnais picture.

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Reds (1981)

Sondheim provided the song “Goodbye for Now” for Warren Beatty’s score. It’s a gorgeous melody that stands out dramatically in the film.

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Dick Tracy (1990)

Sondheim won the Academy Award for “Sooner or Later” but I actually think “Back in Business” is the better song. However, I don’t know a Sondheim junkie that doesn’t consider Mandy Patinkin and Madonna’s gorgeous duet of “What Can You Lose” their favorite musical passage in the film.

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Thoughts on Falling to 3-3 After Another Loss to the Green Bay Packers

| October 18th, 2021


It wasn’t a particularly unique affair. The Bears have lost this game to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers plenty of times. If you need additional details beyond which is provided below, search the archives and find all the recaps of those games.

  • Justin Fields continues to show signs, and that’s all you are asking for each week from a rookie quarterback. The touchdown drive he led in the fourth quarter, that could easily have been derailed by a nonsense holding penalty on Sam Mustipher, was a thing of beauty.
    • The Bears have to open up this offense for Fields moving forward and that should start Sunday against Tampa. The Bucs have a terrible secondary but are impossible to run against.
    • The clock still has to speed up for Fields. Sunday, his “run clock” was there. When he saw the space, he took it. But he’s still struggling to recognize how fast these pass rushers are. He ain’t playing Rutgers anymore. Once he starts to feel it, and it’ll be soon, he’ll stop taking unnecessary sacks.
  • The refs were not to blame for this Bears loss. But they were dreadful.
    • Has an offsides ever been missed before? There are officials literally staring down the line of scrimmage pre-snap.
    • The hold on Mustipher and pass interference on Jaylon Johnson were both nonsense.
    • I still don’t understand the OPI on Green Bay, or how that touchdown catch was originally ruled incomplete. Neither were close calls.
    • Why was Justin Fields’ timeout attempt rejected? I have never seen that before.
  • Aaron Rodgers was the best player on the field. Again. And it’s not surprising when the best player on the field wins, especially when that player is a quarterback. That’s the goal for the Justin Fields Chicago Bears. They have to get there.

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Week Six Game Preview, Volume II: Why Not, Thoughts on Not Drinking (Again), Bears Take Division Lead?

| October 15th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And this young 2021 campaign has been building to the Packers, and Justin Fields, at Soldier Field. If the Bears win, the fan march back into the city will look like this:

(I realize those who drive to Soldier Field have never experienced this walk but it is truly one of the most unique, remarkable things about the experience. Win or lose, it’s always amazing.)


Why Not?

So often, these Packers games can be approached with a sense of resignation. Everything feels like it has to go right for the Bears to beat Aaron Rodgers. Khalil Mack wrecks the game. Lose. Defense holds Rodgers to 10 points. Still lose. It is obvious the Bears will be out-gunned at quarterback when these teams play but too often they have felt outplayed at the 21 other positions, and out-maneuvered on the sideline. Honestly, it hasn’t been a fair fight.

This fight is fair. The Packers are not the Packers. They struggle to run the ball. They are a bit one-trick on the outside, with Davante Adams pulling away from the field when it comes to targets. And injuries to Za’Darius Smith and Jaire Alexander have rendered what was an ascending defense to the realm of gettable. (Kevin King may also be out this week.) They are still the best team in the NFC North, and overwhelming favorites to win this division, but they also could have easily lost to both the Niners and Bengals. What would we be saying about this team if they were 2-3 right now?

Why not now, Bears? Why not roll this two-game winning streak into Soldier Field and beat your oldest rival? Why not ride the crowd energy created by this young quarterback to a franchise-invigorating victory? Why not make the statement that, “Hey, we might not have the weapons or corners of the best teams in the league but we’re coming and coming soon”?

This is likely to be Rodgers’ last game in Soldier Field as the Packers quarterback. Why not make his swan song a dirge?


Stats of the Week

  • Hinted at this yesterday but the Bears and Packers are oddly close in a lot of defensive statistical rankings. They are 8th/6th in yards allowed, 12th/10th in passing yards allowed, 14th/16th in opposing passer rating and 12th/11th in rushing yards allowed. The big defensive gaps are sacks (18-10 Bears) and points allowed (20 Bears, 24.4 Packers).
  • The Packers blitz on 25.7% of opponent drop backs; the league’s 14th highest rate. The Bears blitz on 15.7%; only three teams blitz less. For a game that will come down to pressuring the quarterback, these numbers seem pertinent.
  • First downs.
    • The Bears have 38 first downs on the ground. (8th in the league) The Packers have 25. (23rd in league)
    • The Packers have 67 first downs through the air. (11th in league) The Bears are dead last with 35. They simply have to get more creative in short yardage.

Thoughts on Not Drinking

Years ago I wrote a longform piece about taking time off the drink, titled Diary of a Boozer (Off the Booze). You can visit the link for the post HERE or download the PDF right HERE. For someone who drinks a lot, taking an extended break from it can feel like an earth-shattering experience.

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