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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 Minute-By-Minute Report: 49ers at Bears

| September 11th, 2022


7:14 AM ET

It’s almost unbelievable to think it’s here, the 2022 football season. After so much bullshit, so much nonsense, we finally have real things to discuss. I’ll be back in five hours. (I’m going to need every minute of it to shake off the dozen Pilsner Urquells I drank last night at the Bohemian Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens.)


12:45 PM ET

The conditions look absolutely miserable at Soldier Field today. But the squeegee crew is working hard to at least get the standing water off the grass pitch. (This is a proper minute-by-minute report. We’re going to use the proper nomenclature.


12:52 PM ET

Hey, did you guys here that Queen Elizabeth died?


12:55 PM ET

Sean Payton just showed up on the Fox pregame show to make a prediction. He looks enormous. Clearly he hasn’t retired from New Orleans cuisine.


12:59 PM ET

I just saw Deebo Samuel on the sideline and thought, “Is his name actually Deebo?”

Turns out, it is not.

His name is Tyshun Raequan “Deebo” Samuel per Wikipedia. That’s a badass name.


1:02 PM ET

Pretty sure Jim Cornelison just put an extra syllable in “perilous” while doing the anthem.


1:06 PM ET

My cat Bea doesn’t get the play Bear gets on Twitter, but she has decided to watch this game on my lap, while staring directly at my face. I’m not sure if she’s trying to display affection or instill fear.

Kickoff!

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Opening Sunday: 49ers at Bears Game Preview

| September 8th, 2022


For the thousands in attendance, and the millions watching at home…

Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears this Week?

I.

Always.

Like.

THE.

Chicago Bears.


What Do We Make of Week One?

Not much.

No one has ever seen a Luke Getsy-run offense.

No one has ever seen a Matt Eberflus program in action.

No one has ever seen Trey Lance play starting quarterback in the NFL.

No one actually knows what the football game being played Sunday at Soldier Field will look like. But here’s what we do know about these two teams: one (the road team) almost made the Super Bowl last season and the other (the home team) didn’t come close. And that seems to be the basis for the seven-point spread on the game.

But what a dramatic matchup for the opener. And the entirety of the football world, intelligently or not, will see the contest as Lance vs. Justin Fields.

Lance spent the entire 2021 season on the bench, after a few early cameos. The Niners are a popular preseason pick to make the Super Bowl but that will be wholly dependent on his performance. (And the team has a built-in insurance policy with the re-signing of Jimmy Garoppolo.) There are folks inside the building in San Francisco that aren’t sold on the young signal caller. Might that change after Sunday?

Fields had a terrible rookie season, primarily due to mismanagement from the whole of the Bears’ football operation. His mechanics have been altered. His confidence has grown. And his performance in the third preseason game was a line of optimism cocaine for a city of football addicts. The Nagy narrative has spared Fields any high-profile criticism for his rookie performance. Starting Sunday, the performances land solely on his (hopefully broad) shoulders.


Tweet of the Week (Kinda)

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Dannehy: Memories of Cade & Culpepper, Plus Thoughts on San Francisco

| September 7th, 2022


For Chicago Bears fans in their 30s, or early 40s, it might be hard not to compare Sunday’s quarterback showdown at Soldier Field with a similar contest 22 years ago. This one will hopefully end far better for the Bears in both the short and long term.

The San Francisco 49ers are led by a raw, second-year quarterback with tantalizing physical tools. They face a Bears team with a second-year quarterback who struggled as a rookie but was more highly thought of as a complete player. On Sept. 3, 2000, the Minnesota Vikings – a playoff team the year previous – started Daunte Culpepper, a raw, second-year quarterback with tantalizing physical tools. He faced Cade McNown, a second-year quarterback who struggled as a rookie but was more highly thought of as a complete player.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I watched this game as a college student at the ESPN Zone in Times Square. Most bars in NYC still didn’t have league-wide accessibility.]

That game ended up being perhaps McCown’s best as a professional. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception. He also ran for 87 yards on 10 attempts, adding another touchdown. The Bears managed 425 yards and 27 points, and the Gary Crowton offense looked like the future of the league.

But the Bears lost the game.

Culpepper struggled as a passer, completing just 13 of 23 passes for 190 yards and an interception. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass but ran for three scores and 73 yards. A 20-9 Bears lead disappeared in the second half but both teams exited Week One feeling good about their young passers. Ultimately, neither proved a long-term answer. McCown was benched eight weeks later and exited the NFL abruptly. Culpepper had a far more substantial career, but the Vikings continually fell short of lofty expectations.

What can we learn? Simply that one game does not make a season and certainly won’t define a career. But the quarterbacks will always be connected.


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Justin Fields Has His Breakout Game (But Bears Just Aren’t Good Enough Elsewhere)

| November 1st, 2021


Pregame

Without Matt Nagy,

Bears try to save their season.

On number one’s back.


Quarter One

Deebo cannot catch.

Slye, one for two from distance.

Snoozer tied at three!

Additional points:

  • Soldier Field turf is an absolute embarrassment. I hate the Arlington Heights move but if the city can’t maintain grass, what’s the point?
  • Robert Quinn remains the team MVP.
  • Two big drive-killing penalties from James Daniels can’t happen. He’s supposed to be the team’s best offensive lineman.
  • Justin Fields looks far more comfortable running the offense when he’s not being harassed on every snap. (He looked a bit “happy feet” early but that’s settling down.)

Quarter Two

Fields rolls to his left,

His eyes see him, “The Outlaw”

Touchdown. Touchdown, Bears.

Additional points:

  • Ryan Pace has done a nice job building a rotation on the inside of the defensive line. Both Tonga and Blackson are players. But the team’s pass rush can’t hold up when there is an elite left tackle on Quinn and no Khalil Mack.
  • The drops have been a serious issue for the Niners all season. They have three critical ones in the first half of this game already.
  • Two ineligible men downfield in a half? I’m not sure I’ve seen that before.
  • Khalil Herbert is 100% a starting running back in this league. (And he’s going to keep the Bears from paying Montgomery.)
  • Third down and short and Lazor dials up a designed swing screen. Don’t take the ball out of the quarterback’s hands in spots like that. His legs are a serious weapon.
  • The Bears only have one corner and no pass rush, sans Mack. The bomb to Deebo to end the half isn’t surprising. What will be surprising is if the Niners don’t try a ton more of it in the second half.
  • It has become very apparent the Bears don’t have a top wide receiver. They have a pair of second options but they don’t have anyone capable of being the centerpiece of an offense. They need that if they want to play modern football.

Bears 13, Niners 9

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Niners at Bears Game Preview: Loser Goes Home, The (Beautiful) French Dispatch, Snoozer Coming?

| October 29th, 2021


Why Do I Like the Chicago Bears This Week?

I always like the Chicago Bears.

But currently there are elements of the franchise I like far more than others.

Offensively, the team is an off-night at the Comedy Cellar: predictable, boring, bad. Every time you think things might improve, maybe THIS comic is the next big thing, you are drowned in a sea of discarded Louis C.K. material.

And it is very hard to like the them defensively without Khalil Mack and possibly without Robert Quinn. The entire defense is built on the availability and dominance of those two players. Without them, and without a pass rush, what are they?


Loser Goes Home Match?

The Bears are 3-4. They’ve been embarrassed in all four of their losses. Another loss sends them to 3-5, and leaves them needing a 6-2 finish to play in the tournament as the likely 7-seed. (And hey, that might earn them a return visit to Tampa!) Their head coach even has me calling for his firing. This is it. This game is the fork in the schedule.

The Niners are 2-4. They’ve lost four straight and their season is drifting away from them. They don’t know what they’re doing at quarterback. They’ve played about 28 running backs. Their head coach – who until this point has received zero criticism from anyone – is now being asked to defend a pretty poor NFL coaching record. A loss Sunday and it’s another wasted season.

There’s always a mathematical argument to keep a team alive but the loser of Sunday’s game at Soldier Field is dead. The Bears will not lose to a bad Niners team at home and then go on the road, in primetime, and beat the Steelers. (Especially without the ability to pressure Roethlisberger.) The Niners won’t be marching Jimmy G. out there much longer as the losses mount. And a move to Trey Lance, while inevitable, will announce the end of their 2021 prospects.

No, both of the teams are desperate to win Sunday. But more honestly, they are desperate not to lose.


HughesReviews: The French Dispatch

It is often hard to explain what one doesn’t like about a particular filmmaker but in the case of Wes Anderson, I have never found that to be the case. His films – at least the films since Rushmore – have always felt like artifice for artifice’s sake; polished, pretty, planned within an inch of their lives, while being devoid of all human life. They are admirable works, sure, in the same way a high-end French restaurant can deliver a plate of beautiful cuisine. But at some point you have to pick up your fork and eat the fucking thing.

The French Dispatch is a distinct, and powerful, departure. Because of the picture’s narrative framing – stories told by the brilliant writers of an expat periodical in the fictional village of Ennui, France – the visual devices that might have previously felt indulgent instead feel essential to the storytelling. Dispatch is, in my ways, the first perfect marriage of story and style for Anderson. And in that regard, it is arguably his best picture: a beautiful story, beautifully told.

And while Tilda Swinton’s toothy lecturer had me cackling in my seat as she announced the crowd she’d be taking her drink, the entire cast, even in truncated form, are delightful. Anderson lets his performers breathe in this film. He frames them beautifully, of course, but he lets them live in that frame. And we should all be thankful for that.

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Why I’m Not Writing a “How the Bears Beat the Niners” Column

| October 28th, 2021


Let me walk you behind the DBB curtain.

Every Monday, for about 5-6 hours, I watch the Short Cuts presentation of every NFL game played on Sunday through the digital Sunday Ticket package. If you have the time, this makes the exorbitant cost of that package somewhat worth it, as you find many of the national narratives surrounding these games are just wildly inaccurate. (It is amazing how many games are decided by big drops and even bigger penalties but we never hear about those things.)

During these sessions, I take specific notes on all future Bears opponents. I’m not trying to get an advanced degree in this stuff; these are aren’t thorough, multileveled notes. But if I see a team struggle to defend a certain concept Week One, I will note it. If the team struggles with that concept again Week Four, I note it again. Alas, when the Bears play this team, I suggest they involve this concept. It’s that simplistic.

But the Bears never do it.

Any of it.

And it’s exhausting.

Because I am not Nate Tice or Robert Mays or Brian Baldinger. I have made it a point over the years to avoid being too technical when writing about football. How much do people really want to read about sluggo routes and robber technique? Do you really want to read about why dagger concept is more effective against Cover 2 than Cover 1? I value the X and O writers tremendously; they make us all smarter. But I’m just far more interested in the big player, making the big play, in the big moment. That’s what makes me want to write about the sport. (That’s what really, in a sense, makes me wanna write about anything. I’m far more interested in Tevye battling against the crumbling of religious/cultural tradition than in learning how he supports his family selling milk and cheese to poor Russians. Mays would be giggling through his podcast, discussing Tevye’s wagon/mule overhead.)

What do the Bears need to do to beat the Niners?

They need to block them. They need to tackle them. They need to catch the football. They need to hit Garoppolo. The Bears are underdogs at home to a two-win mess of a team. They need to play like they’re embarrassed by that fact. If they do these things, no matter who their coach is, they’ll be 4-4 Sunday afternoon. If they don’t, their season is over.

Yes, I have moved on from Matt Nagy as the head coach of the Chicago Bears. (And hopefully George McCaskey will do the same soon.) The Bears are not going to out-scheme any remaining opponent on their schedule. But they can still outhustle and outwork them. They can still give their fans something to care about on Sunday. They can still win games despite the ineptitude of the fella on their sidelines.

So let’s see it. Because I’ve got a bunch of Steelers notes for next week and I’d like to use them.

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Super Bowl Preview: The Data Prediction

| January 29th, 2020

I’m very excited for this Super Bowl matchup between two of the best teams in the NFL. Here’s what I’ll be watching for on Sunday night.


When Kansas City Has the Ball

  • I can’t wait to see Patrick Mahomes vs. San Francisco’s defense. The NFL’s best QB against the NFL’s best front 7. How can you not love that?
  • San Francisco has played 4 games against the top 10 QBs in passer rating this year (Wilson 2x, Lamar Jackson, Drew Brees). 3 of the 4 averaged less than 7 yards per attempt, threw 2 or fewer TDs, and led their team to 27 or fewer points. San Francisco’s defense is really good.
  • The 4th was Drew Brees, who averaged 8.7 yards/attempt, threw 5 TD, and put up 46 points. What did Brees do differently? He got rid of the ball before he could get hit. His average time to throw was 2.45 seconds, which was faster than any QB in the NFL as a whole this year (the other 3 were all over 2.7 seconds). As a result, Brees didn’t get sacked. This meant that he had to throw the ball short, with his average completion traveling only 5.1 yards past the line of scrimmage. Instead, he relied on his pass catchers to pick up yards after the catch, and they responded with an average of 6.9 YAC.
  • Patrick Mahomes generally doesn’t get the ball out super fast; his average time to throw this year was 2.82 seconds, and it was 2.91 seconds in 2018. Yet he’s had 5 games in his career where the ball has come out in under 2.6 seconds, and his results there have been remarkable: 73% completion, 10.2 yards/attempt, 19 TD, 0 INT, and only 6 sacks on 198 dropbacks. His team has averaged 35 points per game in those contests too. If you want to get even pickier, he’s had 2 games getting the ball out in under 2.5 seconds: 79% completion, 11.5 yards/attempt, 9 TD, 0 INT, 1 sack. He’s capable of getting the ball out quickly and effectively, even if it’s not his preferred style.

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Data Responds: Bears vs. 49ers

| December 3rd, 2017

The Bears led for almost the entire game, but pretty much everybody watching the game knew what was coming when San Francisco got the ball back down 14-12 with just over 4 minutes to go. The 49ers methodically marched down the field and longtime Chicago kicker Robbie Gould drilled his 5th field goal of the day to send Chicago to their 5th straight loss.

Offense

  • Chicago’s offense came out on the first possession and ran the ball twice in a row out of heavy sets. Anybody who’s watched Chicago this year can already guess how that ended: with Chicago in 3rd and long. That led to a sack of QB Mitchell Trubisky for a nice quick three and out.
  • Speaking of running on first down, the Bears did it 11 times in 14 chances today. Only one of those runs went for more than 3 yards; most went for 0 or 1.
  • It looks like any confidence rookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earned from the coaching staff completely evaporated after a bad game last week. They finally opened things up two weeks ago, and the offense shockingly had their best game of the year. Now they’ve had back to back terrible weeks after reverting to horribly predictable play calling.

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