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Dannehy: Handling of Fields Leaves Big Picture Questions

| December 28th, 2022

The Chicago Bears can’t possibly know if Justin Fields is capable of winning games for them if they don’t give him the opportunity to at least try to do so.

While many storylines have been about Fields’ inability to take the team down the field for wins late, those arguments have mostly ignored the positions in which the Bears have put the quarterback. The 2022 season has, essentially, been the organization asking Fields to make it look good without much support.

We saw it again last week.

The Bears had a chance to make the game interesting when on the last play of the third quarter, Fields uncorked a strike 44 yards down the field for Velus Jones Jr. Trailing 21-10, the team had life.

Then, it didn’t.

The Bears proceeded to run the ball three straight times before calling a pass play that relied on Fields threading the needle short of the first down marker. The Bears didn’t let Fields open the offense up again until the outcome of the game was already decided.

The next drive began with a swing pass that lost two yards (do they ever gain yardage on those plays?). On second-and-12, they ran the ball for no gain and relied on Fields to save them on third-and-12.

They got the ball back again, trailing 21-13. They proceeded to run the first two plays then asked Fields to make magic happen on third-and-13.

It isn’t as if the running game was working. After the first drive, David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert combined or 30 rushing yards on 18 carries. Montgomery has averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in just two games this season. Herbert wasn’t quite up to speed after missing a handful of games on IR.

Fields is the straw that stirs the drink. Yet, with the game on the line, the Bears decided to go with what wasn’t working and ignore what could have. What about calling play action passes? RPOs? Rollouts? Anything that might have a chance to work because the traditional running game was not.

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Dannehy: Serious Concerns About Eberflus

| December 8th, 2022


First and goal from the 19 when the quarterback is playing well shouldn’t be a running down.

Third-and-five from the 23 when the quarterback is throwing smoke should not be a running down.

There is a difference between being conservative and being bad. It seemed like Matt Eberflus was trying to lose to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. He wasn’t, and that raises some major red flags.

Leading 16-10 with a chance to put the game away, the Bears took the ball out of their best player’s hands. What they followed with was 14 out of 18 plays in which they either ran the ball or passed it behind the line of scrimmage. The Bears did everything they could to not win. The Packers came back and took the lead.

On the plays in which they actually let their quarterback do his job, they got passes of 49, 14 and 24 yards, as well as a one-yard scramble. The team’s best player is obvious to everyone at this point, but apparently not to the head coach. How can we not be concerned about that?

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Dannehy: Too Early to Draw Conclusions about Flus, Bears Defense

| November 30th, 2022


While concerns about how terrible the Chicago Bears defense is right now might be warranted, there’s no real way of knowing if it will be a long term problem.

Since the trades of Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith, the Bears have struggled to get stops. Their defense has gone from a top-15 unit to, very likely, the worst in the entire league. There is certainly a lack of talent, but a significantly greater concern is that it doesn’t appear the unit is getting any better.

How many times must we see the entire team bite hard on a simple play action fake? That should be fixed by now. How are their defensive ends still not able to contain? (Didn’t Daniel Jones teach them anything?) It’s hard to say if the team lacks coaching or if the players are incapable of taking the coaching.

There are examples of defensive coaches who struggled early and turned it around and there are others who simply never were able to correct the issues. The Bears could’ve looked across the sideline for an example of the former last week as Robert Saleh had the worst defense in the league in 2021 and the Jets are a top five unit in 2022. Or, it could be like Brandon Staley who was given a pass for his 29th-ranked scoring defense in 2021 and, after an infusion of talent, still has the 29th-ranked scoring defense in 2022.

There really is no way to tell at this point.

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Week 8: Bears at Cowboys Game Preview, Volume II (Game Prediction)

| October 28th, 2022


Three Things I Think Will Happen Sunday:

  • Micah Parsons et al will wreck the game. It is just too tall an order for this Bears offensive line. Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy will likely approach this game about as conservatively as they have all season but there are very few mismatches this obvious in the NFL.
  • The Cowboys, on offense, have been one of the more poorly coached teams in the league. But Mike McCarthy and Kellen Moore seemed to discover something against the Lions: their OL and running game can dominate. Expect 10-15 carries each (again) for Tony Pollard an Ezekiel Elliot and expect them to rush for well over 100 yards combined.
  • The return games will be pivotal, especially when it comes to field position. KaVontae Turpin is one of the more electric return men in the sport and the Bears can’t let him give Dallas short fields. Also, this might be a Sunday to encourage whoever is returning kickoffs for the Bears – and it should be Velus Jones – to take a few chances and try to spring a big play. It will take one for the Bears to win.

Dallas Cowboys 20, Chicago Bears 10

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How to Approach the Next 11 Games (A Twitter Thread)

| October 14th, 2022


A thread explaining why the rest of this season is going to be a tough watch and why you should emotionally detach yourself from the remaining 11 games for the sake of yourself and those you love.

The Bears didn’t try to win this year. From the moment Poles and Eberflus were brought in, they made it clear with their moves that winning games in 2022 was not a priority.

They didn’t spend on OL or at WR. They traded Khalil Mack to clear money in 2023.

You can criticize that strategy all you like but that’s clearly the strategy: lose in 2022 and then use the full slate of (high) picks and copious cash of 2023 to dramatically remake the complexion of the roster.

The Bears look like they’re “close” to winning because (a) they won a game in a monsoon against a terrible QB and (b) they have played 2 of the 4 worst teams in the league through 6 weeks. Their performances have shown they’re in same class with Hou, DC, Pitt, etc.

Bears next three are at Belichick, at Parsons, home Dolphins.

This team is going to be 2-7 when the Lions come to town and are favored at Soldier Field.

By then, apathy will have settled in across the whole of the fan base.

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Bears are Bad, Time to Throw Out the Conservative Playbook

| October 3rd, 2022


The Bears are a bad football team. And they are going to win some games this year because there are several other bad football teams, and their schedule is laden with them.

Through the first month of this season, Matt Eberflus and Luke Getsy have called the games they believed they needed to call in order to win. They have operated with that singular mission It worked, twice. It failed, twice. But at 2-2 there are obvious truths about this 2022 team that need facing.

The Bears are not good. (If you embrace this point, you can skip the next few sentences.)

The Bears cannot compete with the better teams in the league.

The Bears are allowing Rutgers-level yardage on the ground.

The Bears don’t have a passing game.

The Bears have liabilities across their young roster.

The Bears have nothing to play for in 2022, except for 2023.

And this last point is why Flus and Getsy must transition from the “try to win games” approach to the “see what we have at quarterback” approach. If Justin Fields has any chance to be the future of the Chicago Bears at quarterback, the next 13 games have to be centrally focused on answering that question. If that means he throws a bad interception on 3rd and 16, so be it. If that means he bails on a pocket too early around the goal line and fails to score a touchdown, so be it. If that means the team loses a few games they should win, so be it. Playing offensive football, the way they are currently playing it, has zero – I repeat, ZERO – long-term benefits for this organization.

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Dannehy: Bears Defense Could Be Good

| September 28th, 2022

If the Chicago defense is going to establish itself as a good unit, Sunday in New Jersey is the perfect time to do so.

The unit’s numbers are a bit mixed, which probably best describes their performance. The team is 11th in points allowed and 20th in yardage. They’re 9th in passing defense, 30th against the run. That’s all fine, especially considering their talent. But a deeper dive is less encouraging.

They are 17th in points allowed per drive, 22nd in yardage. However, because they’re seventh in takeaways – The Eberflus Effect – they are 11th in DVOA.

At the very least, this defense is mediocre. They have a chance to be better than that. They struggled in the first half against San Francisco and Green Bay and had some issues early against Houston. But they have been lights out in the second half, another effect of having Eberflus at the helm. (A lot of this is due to Kyler Gordon’s second half performances being far superior to his first halves.)

They need to put it together for four quarters. Sunday is a prime opportunity.

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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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Week One Victory a Significant Moment for Head Coach Matt Eberflus

| September 12th, 2022


It was a dreary affair.

My cat, Bear, hides under the bed when he’s not feeling particularly well. I know this is pretty common for cats, but I love Bear and I don’t like it when he’s under there. In the second quarter, when the football game was unwatchable, I spent a few minutes laying on the cold wood of my bedroom floor, petting him as he purred. This seemed to me, at the moment, a far better use of my time.

Then halftime happened.

And the Chicago Bears that emerged from the locker room bore little resemblance to the team that went in fifteen minutes earlier. The offense, which looked like it was trying to operate in a phone booth over the first two quarters, expanded from sideline-to-sideline and let their athletic quarterback maneuver his way through the game.

Three drives.

5 plays, 72 yards, touchdown.

10 plays, 84 yards, touchdown.

5 plays, 21 yards, touchdown.

The defense had been doing their job. The offense finally showed up for work. And in those three drives, each uniquely odd, Matt Eberflus established, without argument, the Bears have a capable professional in the head coaching gig. Pioneering sports talker Mike Francesa has always defined the role of NFL head coach as having two tasks: giving players a plan for success and motivating them to execute that plan.

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Dannehy: Upside is Evident, Especially at Coach and Quarterback

| August 31st, 2022


While the most likely scenario is the 2022 Chicago Bears being out of contention before December, last Saturday’s preseason game was a reminder that the outcome of this campaign is far from certain.

There are plenty of question marks on the roster. Will Larry Borom, Teven Jenkins or Kindle Vildor end up being quality players? Flip a coin. Will Justin Jones and Nicholas Morrow stay healthy? Who knows? But there is a world in which a lot of these roster decisions go right, and fans caught a glimpse of that world on Saturday night. The talent on this roster may be better than it has been given credit for, especially considering some think it’s the worst in the league.

But there are two positions on every team that can drastically improve the outcome of any season: head coach and quarterback. That’s where fan focus should rest.

Eberflus.

It has been said over and over that Flus had top-10 defenses with worse talent than he has now. Of course, Eberflus isn’t the defensive coordinator (still a question mark) but his scheme is relatively easy to learn and the principles that made him successful in Indianapolis are being taught in Chicago.

What we’ve seen from the preseason is a Bears team that plays fast, but in control. Control is everything. They’re disciplined and assignment sure. Gone are the days of overcomplicated systems. The Bears will be simple, and they will play harder than their opponent.

Fields.

Enough has been written about his struggles as a rookie.

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