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Bears Fall to the Falcons in Atlanta: Some Thoughts

| November 21st, 2022


The Bears are at a very interesting point in their organizational development. The wins and losses simply don’t matter. And the quarterback has displayed he’s capable of being one of the most dynamic, exciting players in the sport. So, where exactly are we supposed to focus our attention? Here are a few thoughts.

  • Justin Fields is banged up and the Bears should consider putting him on ice next week. The game doesn’t matter for the Bears. Get Fields in the best shape possible for the final stretch of the year. If that means missing a few weeks, so be it.
  • Jack Sanborn is the answer for the Bears at inside linebacker. Take the Roquan Smith savings and build up these lines this spring.
  • Luke Getsy has been calling the offense that best suits the personnel, specifically the offensive line. But the team can’t go the rest of the season slow-playing Chase Claypool into the offense or ignoring what Velus Jones can potentially provide. This coaching staff has to maximize the developmental potential of these coming games and get these guys involved.
  • Seems that Cairo Santos has a pretty definitive range as a kicker. He maxes out at 55 yards. Not an inch more.
  • It is an understandable storyline, but I don’t make much of the Bears not winning these games late. The Bears can’t line up and throw the ball when the opposition know they have to. They don’t pass block well and their receivers don’t separate. Most of the explosive plays this offense produces are a direct result of the athleticism of the quarterback. And that is difficult to utilize with a minute left on the clock.
  • The Bears had several major breakdowns on the offensive line in this game. Not plays where guys were beaten but plays where guards didn’t even attempt to block the pass rusher in front of them. Is this a system thing? If so, it might be time to dramatically simplify things upfront.

I never direct the comments section, but I do have a request. Below, I want you to comment on how you think we should approach these games for the remainder of the season. Start each with APPROACH so I can easily locate the on-message comments.

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155 Comments

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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All That Matters, Plus Off-Season Needs Power Rankings

| November 15th, 2022


Where do the off-season needs rank? We’ll keep updating our top five.

5. Corner. Jack Sanborn showed that Roquan Smith’s replacement is quite possibly on the roster. Jaylon Johnson showed the Bears don’t have a top tier corner in the building. Johnson is good. Kindle Vildor is serviceable. Kyler Gordon has potential. The Bears need to address the CB position with urgency in March.

4. Right Tackle. Braxton Jones is having the kind of rookie season one might expect. But the Bears need to improve their protection and if there’s an elite tackle prospect available to them in the first round, they have to consider it.

3. Wide Receiver. In Claypool and Mooney, the Bears have solid pieces to a receiving corp. But they need to find game-breaking talent at the position. This wasn’t just evident watching the Bears Sunday, but it was vividly on display in the Vikings v. Bills game, where two top receivers on two top teams squared off.

2. Defensive Tackle. The Bears get blown off the ball every Sunday. They need size in the middle.

1. Pass Rush. There is no such thing as a contending team that can’t pressure the opposing the QB. The Bears can’t do it without blitz packages, and even those are failing to get home. Strengthening the pass rush will remain the focus for the next six months.

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298 Comments

Week 10: Lions at Bears Game Preview

| November 10th, 2022


Does the question even need to be asked?

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


Here’s the Game.

  • The Bears allow 147.2 yards per game on the ground. Only two teams are worse in that category, including the Lions, allowing 148.8. That’s a push.
  • The Bears have the league’s top ranked rushing attack, anchored by their quarterback’s ability to gain huge chunks of yardage. But the Lions are ranked ninth in that category. Might not be a push, but pretty close.
  • The Bears have only 13 sacks on the season. Only three teams are worse in that category, including the Lions, with 12. That’s a push.
  • Jared Goff’s last four QB ratings: 62.7 (Patriots), 71.2 (Cowboys), 108.1 (Dolphins), 78.5 (Packers).
    • When one watches Goff tape, two things stand out. First, he throws 3-5 balls a game that should be intercepted. Second, Amon-Ra St. Brown is now his only reliable weapon, with T.J. Hockenson shipped off the Minnesota. He’ll look to force him the ball on most third downs.
  • Justin Fields’ last four QB ratings: 71.5 (Commanders), 85.2 (Patriots), 120 (Cowboys), 106.7 (Dolphins).

With both of these teams being able to run it, neither being able to stop the run, and neither being able to generate pressure, this game will come down to quarterback play. And right now, that is a mismatch that favors the Chicago Bears.


Tweet of the Week, Lions Edition

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Dannehy: “Special, Special, Special, Special Special” Justin Fields.

| November 9th, 2022


It should not be possible for a quarterback to run toward the line of scrimmage, leave his feet for a pump fake, come back to the ground, and then outrace the defense for a 61-yard touchdown.

But that’s what Justin Fields did on Sunday and such plays are becoming a weekly occurrence.

What makes Fields special isn’t just what he’s doing, it’s that so often the defense appears to be in position to make a play and they don’t because he is too good. Perhaps most telling are the comments from opponents. 

Melvin Ingram has been around the block, he said Fields is special five times. Jaelan Phillips called him a monster, Mike McDaniel said Fields is “as dynamic with the ball in his hands as any player in the league really.”

Luke Getsy deserves credit for checking his ego and installing an offense that works for his quarterback. It’s fair to question why it took so long to do that, but that’s old history. The true challenge for Getsy will be coming up with a counter when opponents are able to adjust.

That said, the Bears offense is taking off because of the quarterback.


Did Poles Mess Up?

Imagine if this offense was paired with a top fifteen defense? It isn’t that crazy because that’s exactly what the Bears had prior to the trades of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith.

When the Bears entered the season, the common thought was that the defense would be good, and the offense would be only as good as Justin Fields. That proved true through the first seven weeks as the team struggled to score points. The defense was still pretty good.

Now they have an offense that looks like an absolute machine, but they’re still not likely to win many more games simply because their defense cannot get a stop.

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361 Comments

Dolphins Coach Asks Justin Fields to “Stop it!”

| November 8th, 2022

Justin Fields has thrown for 1,322 yards and ten touchdowns.

He has now rushed for 602 yards, with four touchdowns.

That gives the young quarterback a total of 1,924 yards and 14 touchdowns.

If you project that production for the rest of the season, Fields is looking at 3,634 yards and 26 touchdowns.

The Bears don’t just have their quarterback of the future. The Bears have one of the most dynamic talents at the position in the sport.


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230 Comments

Week 9: Dolphins at Bears Game Preview, or Their WR Speed vs. Our Safeties = Fun!

| November 3rd, 2022

The Bears are selling off their best defenders and about to face one of the most explosive offenses in the league. So…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago.

Bears.


So, who are the Chicago Bears Now?

The answer to that question is simple. They are their quarterback.

This franchise will no longer, at least in the short term, be defined by the question, “Can they get enough from the quarterback position to be competitive?” Their quarterback is settling into a groove, the coaching staff is building their plan around his abilities, and that combination of groove/plan is going to be the Chicago identity for the foreseeable future.

The Bears scored 33 against the Patriots. Because of their QB.

The Bears scored 29 against the Cowboys. Because of their QB.

As they trade off pieces, especially on defense, winning and losing will almost be arbitrary. If the Bears can steal a few takeaways, they can win almost every game left on their schedule. If they don’t, they are destined to lose some shootouts.

Shootouts.

The Chicago Bears.

Because of the quarterback.


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283 Comments

Dannehy: Claypool Trade the First Sign Bears Might Be in on Fields

| November 2nd, 2022


With Tuesday’s trade for Chase Claypool, Ryan Poles gave his first actual indication the team is looking to build around Justin Fields.

Claypool doesn’t have a single 1,000-yard season and is currently struggling with an average of 9.7 yards per reception, but failures in Pittsburgh may not carry over to Chicago. Claypool will be best used as a downfield target at 6’4” with low-4.4 speed, but the Steelers, with Mitch Trubisky and Kenny Pickett, have struggled throwing deep. That’s an area in which Fields excels. Claypool also entered the league known for devastating blocks and, at nearly 240 pounds, should be an asset in the running game.

The move is about more than the player, it’s about the vision of the team. It’s clear that Poles wasn’t sold on Fields until the last month. This move is a strong indication that now he is ready to push the pedal to the floor and build an offense around the quarterback that is already on the roster, not sure prospect currently in the college ranks.

Ultimately, Poles will be defined by the players he brings to the Chicago Bears, not the players he lets go. Claypool has a chance to be a very good player for a long time.


Roquan Trade Leaves Huge Hole

While focus regarding the Smith trade has been on his contract and the second-round pick received, the Bears created another problem: they have to replace him.

Linebackers have always been crucial to the success of this defensive scheme. Perhaps off-ball linebackers aren’t important in some schemes, but it is for the Bears and, suddenly, they need to find not one, but two high level linebackers.

And that’s not all.

As was apparent last Sunday, the Bears very likely will need a complete overhaul of their front seven. They’ll need blue chip players at defensive end, defensive tackle and linebacker, along with solid starters elsewhere.  While fans have been mocking wide receivers to the team – a projection that certainly seems unlikely after the Claypool trade – the Bears are much more likely to look defense early in the 2023 draft.

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At Quarterback, What Hope Looks Like.

| October 31st, 2022


Justin Fields is now stacking good performances, a pivotal development in the life of a young quarterback. Since October 9th, with his excellent second half against the Minnesota Vikings, Fields has established himself as a rising young star in the league and quite possibly the class of his position from the 2021 NFL Draft. (Over this same span, Trevor Lawrence’s regression has been palpable.)

First, a mea culpa. Earlier this season I suggested Fields be given a few weeks on the sideline. Not as punishment, mind you, but the game seemed to be moving far too fast for him and he looked like he needed to take in a few Sundays as a spectator and student. (Also, with the modern practice schedule, it is very difficult for a player to improve week-to-week, on the field.) I was wrong. Fields has seemingly played through his issues. His clock has slowed. He’s processing the game quicker. He, along with his offensive coaches, have found a balance when it comes to how the quarterback uses his legs to move the chains. And perhaps most impressively, he’s more accurate on the short and immediately throws.

Fields hasn’t just been better. He’s been good. Most of the box scores are irrelevant. The offensive line, already not among the better units in the league, is now besieged with injuries. And as Fields has become more confident and accurate with the football, the deficiencies of the wide receiving corps have become more evident. They drop too many passes. They fumble too often. They never attack the football in the air. They are a passive, unimpressive group in desperate need of 2023 upgrade.

[Note on this: We are seeing, however, the value in pieces like Mooney, Velus and Kmet. But the team lacks a top thread on the outside.]

There are, however, a few relevant stats.

  • Fields’ last four QB ratings: 118.8, 71.5, 85.2, 120. (And the 85.2 against the Patriots was too dramatically impacted by the interception.)
  • In those four games he has a TD/INT ratio of 5/2.
  • Yet those stats are only about his throwing, and we are seeing each week that his abilities as a runner are perhaps his most special trait, and about as special as you’ll see. In those four games, he has 277 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns. He has not lost a fumble.
  • This means that Fields, when these rushing stats are coupled with his passing numbers, is responsible for about 250 yards of offense per game over the last month. He has also accounted for 7 TDs and only 2 turnovers.

For a young QB in a new system, this is terrific production. And for a franchise desperate for stability at the sport’s most important position, this is what hope looks like.

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