Bears

Bears film breakdown: Tarik Cohen remains a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season

Bears film breakdown: Tarik Cohen remains a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season

Tarik Cohen's 61-yard punt return score -- on which he actually ran 127 yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats -- was one of the most exciting plays by a Bears player in recent memory, and was a much-needed reminder for this team than 2017 hasn't been a complete disappointment. 

"I wouldn’t necessarily say it we drew it up like that," Cohen said. "It was designed for me to get to the left somehow. So when I first got it, my job is to set the defense up and they were really coming aggressively, so that’s why I had to take it that far back to finally turn around and get back to the left side. When I got back to the left side I had all my teammates there, my blockers, to escort me to the end zone."

Cohen nearly had another explosive punt return in Sunday's 15-14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, too, though that 67-yarder was called back due to a penalty on Ben Braunecker. He played 16 of the Bears' 37 offensive snaps and had six touches, cathing four passes for 39 yards and rushing twice for five yards. 

"I think we're using Tarik just fine," coach John Fox said. "As a guy out of the backfield, you know he's one of our most explosive players so I don't think there's a lack of knowledge of who and how we use him."

Cohen's numbers should've been better against San Francisco, too, had there been better execution on these two offensive plays: 

This is the first one, coming with the Bears on the 49ers 44-yard line late in the first quarter. Dion Sims (blue arrow) is going to pull to his left, as is right guard Kyle Long, into a hole between left tackle Charles Leno and tight end Adam Shaheen, with Cohen following him. 

Long (red arrow) is pulling and will block Brock Coyle (50) in the hole, while Sims' man is linebacker Reuben Foster (56). 

Things are setting up well here, with Long and Sims plunging into the hole ahead of Cohen. Also worth highlighting is the green arrow: Adam Shaheen doing a good job blocking linebacker Eli Harold. 

If Sims can block Foster (blue arrow), Cohen will have a clear run at the second level, perhaps even the end zone. 

But Sims whiffs to the outside shoulder of Foster, who's able to bring Cohen down. Coyle was credited with the tackle in the official box score, but this was mostly Foster's tackle. 

***

The second one is a passing play early in the second quarter, coming one play after Jordan Howard dropped a pass from Mitchell Trubisky on first down. Cohen (yellow circle) is matched up with cornerback Greg Mabin at the top of the screen. The left side of the Bears' offensive line (blue arrows) will head for the second level and look to trigger an explosive play. 

Cohen runs a good route, faking a quick slant and stopping on a dime to come back to receive the pass from Trubisky, who just completed a play fake to Howard. Leno (72), Josh Sitton (71) and Cody Whitehair (65) quickly get into position to barge into the second level. 

Cohen catches the pass and the Bears have what they want: Two offensive linemen bearing down on a pair of defensive backs in Mabin and Adrian Colbert (38).

Colbert slips and takes out Sitton's knees (blue circle), but Leno engages with Mabin instead of running through the 49ers cornerback. He doesn't disengage until Cohen is past him, and a flag is thrown, negating what would've been a 25-yard gain to midfield. 

These are the kind of plays the Bears need to clean up by the 2018 season, when the team can hope Cohen is a key weapon in a much-improved offense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Good things happen when the Bears open up the playbook

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Good things happen when the Bears open up the playbook

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Patrick Finley (Chicago Sun-Times) and Danny Parkins (670 The Score) join Kap on the panel. The Bears actually win a football game. So was Sunday’s huge victory over the Bengals a sign of things to come with Mitch Trubisky? Legendary Chicago sportswriter Fred Mitchell joins the panel to discuss.

Plus the guys discuss if Brandon Morrow will struggle next year because of his heavy usage.

[embed]https://www.art19.com/shows/sportstalk-live-podcast/episodes/bf629aab-94e1-4b49-9d1f-538417f0c254 [/embed]

John Fox, Dowell Loggains handling of Mitch Trubisky not all it appears

John Fox, Dowell Loggains handling of Mitch Trubisky not all it appears

A double-digit win over a phoning-it-in Cincinnati Bengals team likely doesn’t change the direction of where John Fox’s future has been trending ever since the off week. But it does at least halt the slide for a few days, and for reasons far more important than the 33-7 score.

What Sunday’s game at Cincinnati spotlighted was the development of a rookie quarterback, and Mitch Trubisky’s day was what GM Ryan Pace had in mind when he made a draft gamble for someone with 13 college starts. It also was what the organization had in its fondest imaginings back at the beginning of October when the change was made from Mike Glennon to Trubisky.

This isn’t an especially easy situation to evaluate. For one thing, no single position in sports is more important than quarterback. For another, anything other than demonization of Fox invites dismissive scorn. Just a thought, though: If Fox has been criticized for stunting Trubisky’s growth, shouldn’t he get credit when Trubisky does grow? And for he and O-coordinator Dowell Loggains listening when the rookie spoke up that he was ready to open up his game up more?

Maybe the decision on Fox, Loggains and the staff after this season already has been made. That’s speculation, and three more performances like Sunday’s couldn’t be disregarded. But that’s actually not the main point of Sunday. Trubisky is.

Grading on a QB curve

Trubisky and GM Ryan Pace are destined for careers of comparisons with Deshaun Watson. But Trubisky after nine NFL starts compares favorably with some of the more celebrated young quarterbacks whose careers his will coincide with.

Just for purposes of loose perspective: Trubisky now has upped his passer rating on the season to 80.0, with a yards-per-attempt at a respectable 6.7. Jared Goff’s rookie season ended with numbers of 63.6 and 5.3. Carson Wentz, 79.3 and 6.2.

Marcus Mariota, No. 2-overall in 2015, finished at 91.5 and 7.6. So if Pace wants to second-guess himself about not paying a draft ransom to pry that pick away from Tennessee, at least he has the satisfaction of being right about his take on Mariota.

But Trubisky has impressed a veteran coach who doesn’t impress easily, particularly with rookies.

“I think he’s prepared hard since he’s gotten here,” Fox said on Monday. “Like anything in any walk of life, it takes a minute and some repetitions to get it all figured out. Developing an NFL schedule, it’s completely different than college – what to look at, how to do it, how to study, how to prepare. And then the in-game experience – there’s little tiny things… .

“You can talk about those and stress in situational practice. But until they happen to you, it’s important. You’re going to make mistakes in every game but it’s not making the same ones, and that’s what really impresses me about Mitch.”

Maybe Fox is and has been stumping for his and his coaches’ jobs. Then again, maybe the jobs being done aren’t as bad as the record, because an individual player and his development actually can be critiqued separately from the whole.

Making do

The drumbeat of scathing criticism directed at coordinator Dowell Loggains, and by extension at Fox, has to some degree missed the point. It has centered on a supposed unwillingness to expand the realm of the possible for Trubisky. Given that Loggains last year oversaw an offense that was 61 percent pass, and that with a QB musical-chairs of Jay Cutler/Brian Hoyer/Matt Barkley, this has bordered on the laughable, probably born more out of antipathy toward anything connected with Fox.

Does anyone seriously believe Fox and Loggains, whose offense averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt last season – among the Bears’ highest over the last 20 years – would suddenly choose to go to just dink-and-dunk when they’ve been handed a potential sharpshooter’s rifle in Trubisky? Maybe the reason the Bears have been conservative with Trubisky lies elsewhere, as last year when the offense was late “discovering” Jordan Howard when the real story was that the young man just wasn’t in whole-game shape early on.

Airing it out is more than a little problematic when confronted with protection issues. The Bears were top-12 in sacks per pass attempt when Trubisky took over for Mike Glennon. Since then, with a transient offensive line, backs with blitz-pickup shortcomings, receivers with limited separation skills and a rookie sorting through progressions and defensive schemes, the Bears have slipped into the mid-20’s.

Trubisky was sacked twice in 34 drop-backs by the injury-riddled Bengals, compared with the one every nine drops he’d taken before Sunday.

Not surprisingly, Trubisky averaged 8.5 yards per attempt against Cincinnati. Only six of his 32 attempts went to running backs (19 percent). Against San Francisco, 40 percent of his 15 throws went toward backs. The chief reason for Trubisky’s effectiveness, and why Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen were combining for 227 rush yards, was right in front of them.

“It all starts up front,” Fox said. “Not taking anything away from any of the skill guys, but whether it’s pass protection or its run blocking, I think that all starts and finishes up front. Our front had a good day.”