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Bears at the Mini-Bye Volume I: Offense

| October 13th, 2020

We’re five weeks in to a wild season in which we’ve already seen the Bears make a quarterback change and post three comeback wins from 13 or more points down. Since they’re on a mini-bye following their Thursday night victory over Tampa Bay, now is a good time to take a step back and see what we’ve learned so far.

Obligatory warnings:

  • These are still small sample sizes, especially given that each QB basically played 2.5 games. So think of any lessons learned here more as observations that are worth monitoring going forward than hard and fast conclusions.
  • Statistics for Bears are updated through 5 games, but all other teams only have 4 at the time of this writing, so NFL ranks may have changed a bit by the time this is published.

I have a lot I want to get to, so let’s dive right in.


Better Lucky Than Good

The Bears may be 4-1, but I don’t think anybody would argue they have played well so far this year (including Matt Nagy). As you can see from the pie chart below, which shows the % of offensive snaps the Bears have taken in a variety of score situations, they have actually spent the majority of the season trailing.

They’ve taken 2/3 of their offensive snaps while trailing (33% by 2 or more scores) and only 19% with a lead. To somehow go from that to 4 wins in 5 games is remarkable, but it should not be expected to continue going forward. The Bears need to play better if they want to keep winning games. The good news is that they started to look better in week 5; the defense in the 2nd half looked the best it had since week 4 of the 2019 season, and the offense was something approaching competent for the last 40 or so minutes of the game.


QB Comparison

The Bears switched from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles in the 2nd half of week 3, which means both QBs have actually played a similar amount of snaps so far this year (Foles is at 168, Trubisky 169). Let’s see how each performed. The table below shows stats for each passer, as well as the average for the entire NFL this year, broken up into deep and short throws (anything that travels 15+ yards in the air past the line of scrimmage is considered deep). YPA = yards per attempt.

A few thoughts:

  • Keep in mind that Nick Foles has played 2 of the best defenses in the NFL the last 2 weeks, while Trubisky played all of his snaps against 3 of the worst defenses in the league. Still, it’s hard to argue Foles has been better so far, at least on a statistical basis. He needs to play better going forward.

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Bears Beat Brady: Rapid Fire, Quarter-By-Quarter, Real Time

| October 9th, 2020


Did something a bit different with this week’s recap. Took notes quarter-by-quarter. So don’t judge what you read in quarter one, follow the entire narrative.

Quarter One

  • Troy Aikman in the pre-game commentary suggested that the Bears running game was built around Mitch Trubisky’s abilities and had to be rethought for Foles. I had never seen or heard that anywhere, but it should be assumed that came from the Bears.
  • Roquan Smith missed a big TFL opportunity and I’m thinking, “Bears need their defensive stars to PLAY like defensive stars.” Smith has to make that play and all-but kill the drive. Khalil Mack has to make the interception last week. This defense has opportunities every single week. They have to take them,
  • Where is Robert Quinn?
  • Nick Foles absolutely can’t miss the easy third down conversion throw on the Bears’ first drive. That’s amateur hour.
  • Does Ted Ginn ever catch punts on the fly? His ball awareness as a return seems severely lacking through a few games. (And boy it seems the Bears miss Tarik Cohen more than I expected they would.)
  • Get the sense Tashaun Gipson more an old school strong safety, even though that position doesn’t actually exist anymore.
  • Allen Robinson, perfect back shoulder throw, off both of his hands, intercepted. Does this guy ever win a contested ball? It seems weekly the answer is no. I know he’s a very good wide receiver but I’m not giving $80 million to a guy who does this every single week.
  • The touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Evan was absolute perfection. He’s Tom Brady for a reason.

Quarter Two

  • Deep ball to Darnell Mooney and third down pass to Robinson, Foles threw the ball to the wrong spot. Foles looks absolutely lost in the playbook right now.
  • Bruce Arians going for it with a sneak on fourth and inches inside his own 20 is borderline insane. But it was the decision I did not want him to make. So that makes it he right one in that spot.
  • Roquan Smith again exploding into the hole and not wrapping up the ball carrier. After Sunday’s game, he’s pitching a dud.
  • Jaylon Johnson called for a pass interference on a deep ball. Terrible mistake on a pass that had no chance of being caught. He’s got to learn to trust his coverage skills. Because he has them.
  • Is it bad that when a kickoff goes over Cordarrelle Patterson’s head my first thought is, “Get a first down before you punt”?
  • Terrific drive orchestrated by Foles to get the Bears into the end zone. Made short, precise throws and gave his guys a chance to make plays.
  • Khalil Mack knocking down Brady’s first down thrown on the Bucs’ final drive of the half was a crucial moment.

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A Desperate Plea Not to Overreact Tonight

| October 8th, 2020


Everyone who supports the Chicago Bears wants them to win tonight. Everyone wants the defense to shut down Tom Brady and for the offense to put together four consistent, productive quarters. But the most likely scenario is there will be some great and a bit of bad on defense, a tad bit of good but mostly bad on offense, and the Bears will lose because Brady plays for the other team.

And you know what? That’s okay.

I know preaching patience is not going to win DBB any awards in the clicks department. Patience and nuance are anathema to the whole of the sports media landscape. Anybody familiar with Mike Greenberg’s new radio show on ESPN can tell you that. Every single day he proclaims a new team “the best” in football. (After Week 2, I believe that was the Arizona Cardinals.) Every single day a new player “is the frontrunner for MVP”. (Kyler Murray, of course.) The trick to being successful in this climate is to make absurdly bold yet utterly forgettable proclamations as often as you possibly can. Five Things Ryan Pace Needs to Improve Upon columns are met with resounding indifference. Five Reasons the Bears Must Not Only Fire But Perhaps Murder Ryan Pace in His Sleep columns? Click click click click click click click.

Nick Foles had his first full practice with Bears starters a week ago. A week ago. He will have had about four serious practices with this offense as they head into tonight’s game, against the greatest quarterback in the history of the sport. If you expected Foles to take over the job midway through the third week and arrive in midseason form, I’d only ask one question: why? Why would you believe that?

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Bears Lose an Ugly Affair to the Colts, Fall to 3-1.

| October 5th, 2020

Here come the rapid fire reactions to a snooze of a ballgame. And a ballgame the Bears deserved to lose.


  • The Colts were quite simply the better team. They played harder, hit harder, committed fewer penalties and won at the point of attack consistently.
  • Rivers was bad in this game, as expected. But bad was good enough.
  • Nick Foles played a terrible game, generally. But it was to be expected. The Bears have to figure out a way to get their QB up-to-speed before Thursday or they’ll be heading into a ten-day layoff at 3-2.
  • Who do the players perform their celebrations for when the stadiums are empty? Do you think they feel as ridiculous as they look?
  • Rich Gannon, who NEVER STOPS TALKING, referred to Khalil Mack as an “all day sucker”. That might be the most disgusting description of a player I’ve heard.
  • Has there been a great return man who is also great at covering kicks? Cordarrelle Patterson is every bit that.
  • Three pivotal moments in the first quarter:
    • Kyle Fuller called for a pass interference on the touchdown drive. Just didn’t feel like that call needed to be made. But here’s the bigger issue: do you know what PI is? Do the players know what PI is? It’s become a vague, undefined penalty.
    • Khalil Mack’s dropped interception. That’s leaving points on the board.
    • Bears allowing Alie-Cox to beat them for the touchdown. How is not the focal point for Chuck Pagano on that play? Rivers has been looking to him constantly for weeks in those exact situations.
  • Guard play was terrible for the Bears early in the game. Daniels and Ifedi missed pivotal blocks that killed drives.
  • Re-capping the first half:
    • About as undisciplined a half as the Bears can play. Penalties and mistakes everywhere. Strange coaching decisions.
    • Defense has to get off the field on third-and-long, especially when they’re getting pressure. The middle of the field is just wide open weekly. Why?
    • Bend-don’t-break is what this defensive identity is becoming. They’re not dominant. They’re solid, across the board. With this offense, currently, that’s not gonna be good enough.

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Foles Takes Over: Rapid Fire Response to the Bears Winning Their 3rd Straight

| September 28th, 2020

Read this Tweet. Now, read it again. This quote from Nick Foles illustrates why many, including myself, argued he should have been the starter from day one. He is a smart, competent quarterback. The sham quarterback “competition” could have cost the Bears wins. Thankfully, it didn’t. Foles is now the quarterback. And the Bears are undefeated.

Rapid fire.


  • Tarik Cohen’s loss can’t be understated. But one would think Cordarrelle Patterson will see a significant increase of offensive snaps and Anthony Miller will assume the punt return duties full-time. Question. Why not use Ted Ginn as the punt returner? He was electric in that role at Ohio State.
  • Two of the more telling moments of this broadcast were sideline cuts.
    • After Mitch was benched, Kyle Fuller made it a point to go over to him and give him a fist bump. Mitch wanted nothing to do with it but the moment mattered. Mitch will still be needed by this time at some point this season.
    • As Nagy and Foles were scheming later in the game, Mitch was seated on the bench, alone. Yes it sucks getting benched but Mitch needed to be right up beside them, listening to everything, devouring the concepts, learning. It’s great that he did the Zoom conference call with reporters after the game but the Zoom conference call isn’t making him a better quarterback.
  • Don’t have the snap counts yet but Danny Trevathan played more than I expected. And not particularly well.
  • Did Mitch Trubisky throw a single deep sideline route in bounds?
  • Trubisky’s interception was awful but from all reports the Bears were considering making a QB change at halftime. That tells me Nagy was infuriated by the Miller deep miss late in the second quarter. Nagy had been setting it up the entire first half and Miller had three yards on the secondary. That’s an easy touchdown for most, if not all, starting quarterbacks in the league.

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Unique Talent on Offensive Side Should Give Foles – the “Point Guard” – an Edge

| August 26th, 2020


Flip called Nick Foles a point guard. Nagy has praised #BDN’s ability to process information. It’s these two attributes that should make him the frontrunner to start against the Detroit Lions in a few weeks.

The reasons why are pretty simple.

(1) The Bears have a pretty standard 1-2 punch at wide receiver with Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. But outside of that combination they’re going to be looking at a unique collection of players to move the football through the air. Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson are hybrid backs that present match-up problems. Jimmy Graham is a “tight end” who doesn’t block but has shown a propensity to be uncoverable down in the red zone. These are guys who need the football in their hands quickly, and in space. A second or two of indecision from the quarterback could cost the Bears a big play.

(2) This team’s offensive line is not as bad as many suggest but they’re not one of the league’s best units, especially on the outside. Both Charles Leno and Bobby Massie are good players but they’re unlikely to hold the edge for 4-5 seconds. It will be imperative for the signal caller of this offense to read the defense QUICKLY and get the ball out of his hands. This has been one of the more intense weaknesses in Mitch Trubisky’s game.

(3) Who is more accurate with the deep ball? It’s not very close. From Data a while back:

Both have a very low completion percentage, but Foles is around league average in yards/attempt, while Trubisky is awful there. This suggests that Foles takes deeper “deep” shots, and thus gets a higher yards/completion mark to make up for his low completion percentage.

Foles has higher than normal rates of both touchdowns and interceptions, which leaves him around the league average in TD:INT ratio on deep shots. I don’t put too much stock in these numbers for Foles due to a small sample size; he only has 89 deep passes compared to over 200 for every other QB in the table, so we’re talking a total of 8 TD and 6 INT here. Still, the data at least suggests to me that Foles is aggressive in his deep passes, giving his guys a chance to make a play but also leaving himself prone to defenders making a play on the ball.

And the Bears now have, in Teddy Ginn and rookie Darnell Mooney, two players capable of taking the top off every defense in the league.


This space will not be used only to argue for Foles starting over Trubisky. But unfortunately it’s incredible difficult to make the argument for the other side.

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Nick Foles: Reasons for Optimism

| August 3rd, 2020


There’s a popular opinion shared among Bears fans (and certain media types) that Nick Foles isn’t good. Because of this belief, these individuals have reached two conclusions: (1) it’s in the best interest of the Bears for Mitch Trubisky to “win” the starting job this summer and (2) the Bears won’t be any good in 2020.

Here’s where I differ: I think Nick Foles is good. Great? No. A franchise quarterback? Of course not. But Nick Foles has led a franchise through a miraculous postseason and won Super Bowl MVP. Nick Foles has thrown twice the number of touchdowns as interceptions in his eight seasons. Nick Foles has pitched to a career QB rating of 88.2, more than two points better than that Cam Newton with whom everybody seemed so enamored.

And Foles’ goodness goes beyond statistics. I remember seeing him look absolutely dominant running Chip Kelly’s offense in Philly. I remember the calmness he brought to the huddle after Carson Wentz’ injury. I’ve seen him for what he is: a stabilizing force within an organization.

That’s what stood out when he and Mitch Trubisky addressed the media Friday. Trubisky seemed immature, still spouting well-rehearsed cliches and insinuating – somehow – that he’d never make mechanical adjustments before. Trubisky seems like a good enough kid but the act is tired now. He wants to “prove everybody wrong” but the opinions of everybody are based solely on one thing: his wretched play.

This organization, city, fan base is lost in the quarterbacking desert, so thirsty for good play from the position they’ll enthusiastically believe any watery mirage is real and pretend to be quenched after consumption. Trubisky couldn’t even satisfy the most delusional among us.

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Thursday Lynx Package (7/23/20)

| July 23rd, 2020


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