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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Tired, Lazy, Historically Useless Work Ethic Narratives Persist.

| June 17th, 2022

In 2005, J.P. Losman showed up for work in Buffalo a day BEFORE his head coach, Mike Mularkey. The Buffalo News reported, “…the new Buffalo Bills quarterback has been pretty much in one of three places: in a film room studying the offense, joined at the hip of quarterbacks coach Sam Wyche, or on the practice field.”

Losman threw 33 touchdowns in his entire NFL career and is currently now an admin assistant at the University of Oklahoma.

On August 12, 2009, Mark Sanchez displayed his “work ethic” and the Jets fan went wild.

I’m really, really starting to like this guy. There’s more to being the quarterback than making throws. Part of the position is displaying leadership. In the middle of an otherwise productive practice, Sanchez misses some throws he should hit, and immediately he’s breaking down film to figure out what he’s done wrong. That sets an example for the rest of the team and shows the kind of commitment a lot of rookies with big contracts don’t have.

Sanchez “played” for six teams in an underwhelming NFL career and now works in television.

In June of 2020, Browns OC Alex Van Pelt praised Baker Mayfield: “His work ethic is great. He jumps into other meetings that aren’t required, and he’ll sit in the receiver meetings when they have them and will sit in running back meetings from time to time, as well.”

Does anybody know what team Baker is going to be on next week? He sure doesn’t.

Rest assured, Bears fans. I come not to bury Justin Fields; a player I believe has the potential to be a transcendent figure in the history of this organization. I come to bury a lazy, tired narrative. Being the first guy in and the last guy out is useless if you can’t recognize coverages on Sundays in the fall. Being a leader on the practice field is terrific but the bench is packed with good leaders who can’t hit an open receiver in the seam.

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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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Week Three Game Preview, Volume II: First Fields Start (Of Many), Bears Win?!?

| September 24th, 2021

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

And the Justin Fields era is here!

Let’s Talk About Fields.

There will be two distinct camps emerging on social media over the coming days. Camp one will be the ecstatic, “Fields is gonna light up the league” types. Camp two will be the reserved, “all rookie quarterbacks struggle” types. While I firmly reside in the latter camp, I understand the emotions of the former. Most living Bears fans have only seen quarterback play ranging from mediocre to unprofessional. Pleading for patience may be prudent, but it’s also easy to understand any fan who says, “Screw patience, I want a star quarterback!”

But Sunday is not about Fields’ long-term future in Chicago. This Sunday is about next Sunday and the Sunday after that. Matt Nagy and the Bears need Fields to deliver the kind of performance that closes the book on the Andy Dalton era. That doesn’t mean some splashy statistical affair. It just means a performance wherein the kid displays that he’s got things under control.

It’s not an easy task. This is a good Cleveland defense in a hostile building. Fields will see coverages and pressures the Browns have never put on tape, and likely that he’s never seen before. But he’ll need to handle all of it and leave no doubt as to who is the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears.

Stats of the Week

  • Won through the air? Through two games, the Bears and Browns are two of the top nine rushing defenses in the league, coming in fourth and ninth respectively. With Cleveland’s injuries at receiver and Chicago starting a rookie QB, it’s unlikely either team will abandon the run, successful or not. (The teams rank eighth and third in rushing offense.)
  • Only eight players in the league have more sacks than the 2.5 Robert Quinn currently has.
  • Baker Mayfield is completing 81.6% of his passes. That’s just a gaudy number. There will be a ton of stress on the secondary Sunday to make tackles and limit YAC. Can they hold up?

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Week Three Game Preview, Volume I: How the Bears Beat the Browns

| September 23rd, 2021

VDM. (Victory Difficulty Meter)


The Bears have a rookie quarterback, making his first start on the road, against one of the league’s better teams. This is quite clearly an uphill climb.


What Must the Bears Do on Offense:

  • Allow Justin Fields to get comfortable. This is a big moment in the kid’s life. If the Bears come out tossing it every down it will look like a starting pitcher that gets too amped up to start Game One of the World Series – a lot of high fastballs. Put the ball in David Montgomery’s hands. Throw a few bubble screens. Call a few designed runs for the quarterback. Slow the game down early.
  • The Texans moved the ball effectively against the Browns until Tyrod Taylor left the game with an injury. And they did so by throwing the ball down the field. The Bears can’t win this game with the dink and dunk approach they favored under an Andy Dalton regime. They must stretch the field, and that means Darnell Mooney and Marquise Goodwin over the top. The Bears have now what the speed they’ve desired for years. Use it.
  • Tight ends, tight ends, tight ends. The Bears have talent at the position. Jimmy Graham is still a matchup nightmare in the red zone and Cole Kmet can dictate terms in the middle of the field. But Matt Nagy can’t stick them at the end of Fields’ progressions and hope he gets there. Call their numbers. Make them the first read. Give them a chance to make plays.


What Must the Bears Do on Defense:

  • Stop the run. Yes, this is a generic, goes-for-every-game bullet point but the injuries are starting to stack on the outside for Cleveland. Jarvis Landry won’t play this week. Odell Beckham doesn’t look like he’s playing anytime soon. The Browns will want to run the ball 25-30 times and if they’re productive with those runs, the Bears have very little chance of keeping them out of the end zone.
  • Contain Baker Mayfield. Mayfield isn’t considered one of the game’s running quarterbacks but his ability to move the chains/score with his legs has been a difference maker for the Browns through the first two weeks. With receivers struggling to get separation down the field, the Bears can’t be undisciplined with their pass rush. They have to keep Mayfield in the pocket and when he breaks out of it, they can’t let him roam free.
  • Tight ends, tight ends, tight ends. The Browns completed 11 passes to their tight ends – Harrison Bryant, Austin Hooper, David Njoku – last week. Baker only completed 19 passes the entire game. This is not the week to see aggressive, pass rushing Roquan Smith. This is the week for Roq to work the middle of field and limit the effectiveness Cleveland’s dynamic collection of tight ends.

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Da Saturday Scout: Dorance Armstrong, Pass Rusher, Kansas

| November 18th, 2017

Player: Dorance Armstrong, Edge/DE, Kansas

Game: Home vs. Oklahoma (#3), 2:30 PM CT

Video Highlights

Quick video because, hell, he plays for Kansas.

What They’re Saying

Luke Easterling at USA Today:

Not much has gone well for the Jayhawks on the gridiron in recent years, but every now and then, they produce a legit NFL prospect destined for the early rounds. Armstrong is this year’s installment, and despite a dip in production so far this year from his impressive 2017 numbers (20 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks), the 6-4, 246-pounder has flashed the kind of versatility and explosiveness NFL scouts will love.

From KU Sports blog:

Bleacher Report’s draft analyst Matt Miller loves what he’s seen on tape of Armstrong. He called KU’s star defensive end, “one of my favorite athletes in the entire class. The dude is long-armed, extremely quick and has the moves to beat tackles off the edge…In his preseason Top 25 Big Board of draft-eligible players, Miller ranks Armstrong 18th overall — the fourth-highest defensive end.

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