Bears

Film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's most egregious sack and Brett Hundley's back-breaking scramble

Film breakdown: Mitch Trubisky's most egregious sack and Brett Hundley's back-breaking scramble

The Green Bay Packers headed to Chicago on Sunday with only 13 sacks in eight games, then dropped Mitchell Trubisky five times at Soldier Field. After the game, Trubisky shouldered the blame for that total. 

“Me holding on to the ball, I have to get it out quicker,” Trubisky said. “I have to identify the coverages and we just need to execute as a whole and get better.”

One sack, in particular, stands out because the whole stadium saw an open receiver with plenty of open field around him. The breakdown of that play, which came on a first and 10 late in the third quarter:

The red arrow is Josh Bellamy, who will go in motion to his left on the play. Had the Bears run the ball on this first down, the Packers would've have eight men in the box for Jordan Howard to deal with; calling for what should've at least been an easy throw here was a good change of pace. 

Trubisky flows to his left along with Bellamy (red circle), while Packers cornerback Davon House is matched up with Dontrelle Inman (yellow circle). 

House passes off Inman to safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (yellow arrow), and identifies an open Bellamy in the flat (red circle). Bellamy isn't outrageously wide open, but House is still about 10 yards away from him. Trubisky is pressured by linebacker Nick Perry but has time to get rid of the ball. 

Here's an alternate view -- you can't see House in this frame, which makes Bellamy look a little more wide open than he actually was. 

It's too late for Trubisky to get rid of the ball, and he takes a sack for an eight-yard loss. Perhaps he was looking downfield toward Inman, but a deep throw rolling to his left with Clinton-Dix lurking would've been difficult. While Bellamy maybe only would've gained a couple of yards on the play, that would've been far better than an eight-yard sack on first down. Trubisky needed to be more decisive here in taking the easy completion. 

***

The Bears’ defense hadn’t allowed an explosive rushing touchdown since Minnesota’s Jerrick McKinnon went for 58 yards Oct. 9, and the longest run this group allowed after that was a 30-yarder to Baltimore’s Alex Collins Oct. 15. Carolina’s longest run was 14 yards (Cam Newton), while New Orleans’ was 18 yards (Mark Ingram). 

But in the second quarter on Sunday, Ty Montgomery dashed 37 yards for a touchdown. What happened?

The Packers design this run well, going away from Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks (it's worth noting Eddie Goldman was not on the field for this first-and-10). Green Bay blocks it well at the line of scrimmage, but what makes it an explosive play is happening on the right side of the frame. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson (red arrow) keys on safety Eddie Jackson, while Prince Amukamara (blue circle) is the "last line of defense," as he put it after the game. 

Nelson (red arrow) pays no attention to Amukamara (blue circle) and makes a beeline for Jackson. A hole opens up for Montgomery (yellow arrow). 

Amukamara (blue circle) fills that hole, while Nelson meets Jackson in another hole the Packers' offensive line created between Mitch Unrein and Jonathan Bullard. 

Was this holding? The angles Nelson and Jackson took to meet each other may have made it look more egregious than it actually was. A quick refresher on how the NFL defines holding: 

Use his hands or arms to materially restrict an opponent or alter the defender’s path or angle of pursuit. It is a foul regardless of whether the blocker’s hands are inside or outside the frame of the defender’s body. Material restrictions include but are not limited to:

  1. grabbing or tackling an opponent;
  2. hooking, jerking, twisting, or turning him; or
  3. pulling him to the ground.

Anyways, back to the play:

Amukamara (blue arrow) is too close to the line of scrimmage to make the play, while Nelson seals off Jackson (red circle), leaving an open hole for Montgomery to run through into the open field and, ultimately, the end zone. Amukamara felt he jumped the hole he went into too early, leading to the big play. 

“That touchdown was all on me,” Amukamara said. “I just have to wait back and just fill out where the running back is cutting because I’m the last line of defense. I talked to my coach about it, I talked to (Vic Fangio) about it, and as a vet, should’ve known that, but just being aggressive and trying to make a play.

“I’m the last line of defense, so if it goes outside, that’s me, if it cuts inside I just have to be ready for wherever it cuts and I just shot my shot too early and the running back shot through.” 

***

Newton’s 14-yard run was the longest by a quarterback against the Bears until Brett Hundley ran for 17 yards on a critical third down in the fourth quarter. This was a stop the Bears’ defense sorely needed, but did not get:

The Packers line up with two receivers (Randall Cobb and Nelson) and a tight end (Lance Kendricks) at the bottom of the frame, while at the top, Nick Kwiatkoski is matched up against running back Jamaal Williams, leaving Christian Jones as the only linebacker in the middle of the field. Hicks and Unrein are the two down linemen, with Floyd and Pernell McPhee lined up outside of the tackles. 

McPhee is the key to the play for Green Bay. He's one-on-one with left tackle David Bakhtiari (blue circle), while Unrein (red circle) draws a double-team. Hicks and Floyd (yellow circle) are one-on-one. 

McPhee (blue arrow) makes a move inside, with Unrein (red arrow) continuing to soak up the double team. Floyd (yellow circle) keeps contain. The play is flowing to Hundley's right, so Floyd and Hicks do a good job of making sure Hundley can't move with the play. 

Had McPhee kept contain, and this play could've easy broken down. But as soon as Hundley recognized McPhee's inside move, he knew it would leave plenty of open field to his left. McPhee and Unrein are surrounded by three Packers' offensive linemen, and Hundley has an easy decision to make. 

Christian Jones (white circle) was flowing with the receivers and is too far away from Hundley to make a play. Hundley scrambles for 17 yards, setting up his touchdown throw to Davante Adams that put Green Bay back ahead by 10. 

There was some speculation on the television broadcast that McPhee thought Unrein would make an outside move to contain Hundley, but coach John Fox said that wasn’t what was called. 

“It was just a decision (McPhee) made to go inside,” Fox said. “We weren’t covered on that.”

What should we make of Kevin White's minicamp?

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Associated Press

What should we make of Kevin White's minicamp?

The report on Kevin White from this week’s voluntary veteran minicamp was that Matt Nagy thought he looked “sharp,” played “fast” and, most importantly, was healthy. But that doesn’t mean the Bears will no longer have some difficult conversations with, and about, their 2015 first-round pick. 

The Bears have until May 3 to decide whether or not to pick up White’s fifth-year option, which would be worth $13.9 million, according to CBS Sports. If Ryan Pace wasn’t willing to commit $9.6 million over two years for Cameron Meredith over concerns about his 2017 knee injury, chances are he won’t be willing to commit more money than that for a guy in White who’s only played in five games over three pro seasons. The prudent thing for Pace to do would be to decline to pick up White’s option, setting him up for unrestricted free agency 11 months from now. 

Depending on what transpires in next week’s NFL Draft and then through OTAs and training camp, White still may have to earn his way on to the Bears’ 53-man roster, too. But that's looking too far into the future for a guy who’s suffered three serious injuries and has struggled to stack good practices when he's been healthy. 

“Sometimes you’re going to take a step backwards to go two steps forward — that’s kind of where he’s at,” Nagy said. “He’s a kid (whose) confidence hasn’t been where it needs to be. But what I can tell you is that from what I’ve seen so far, if I was somebody that was coming into this building and facility that didn’t know anything about him, you’d never in a million years know it from what we’ve seen recently.”

White made a handful of good plays during this week’s non-padded practices, for what it’s worth. The Bears need to see White continue to flash here and there on a regular basis, and then build up to having consistently solid practices throughout the offseason program and into the summer. The fresh start he’s afforded with a new coaching staff and new offense could benefit him, especially from a mental standpoint.

“His confidence is there,” linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, who’s been a teammate of White’s since their days at West Virginia, said. “He’s ready to get back on the field.”

This sort simmering positivity about White around Halas Hall is fine, but it’s only April, and nobody is — or should be — getting ahead of themselves. Yes, the prospect of a healthy and effective White is mouth-watering, and would be tantamount to the Bears having two first-round picks this year (running back Tarik Cohen said the offense could be “dominant” with White and Robinson as outside threats). 

But Nagy is taking a narrow view of White’s outlook, one that won’t expand to the bigger picture until — for better or for worse — sometime during training camp, most likely. This is going to be a long process for the Bears to get the most they can out of White, and then they’ll have to hope the 25-year-old doesn’t suffer another cruelly-unlucky injury. 

“If any of us were in that situation and you have a fresh start — forget about the whys of what happened, forget about that,” Nagy said. “That doesn’t matter. What matters is about right now. He’s young. He has a big ceiling. 

“Now, we can try to do it as much as we can as coaches and try to pull it out of him, but he’s got to work hard. He’s got to put time in the playbook. He’s got to put in the extra work after practice when he can. And then when the game comes, he’s got to make plays. When you do that, his confidence will slowly get better and better. 

“The physical tools, forget about it. He’s got all that. It’s just a matter of him mentally, right now, seeing it happen and stacking them play by play in each practice.”

Predicting the 2018 Bears: Turnaround can only come game by game by game

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USA TODAY

Predicting the 2018 Bears: Turnaround can only come game by game by game

With new coach Matt Nagy in place, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky starting Year 2 from the get-go, and a cadre of offensive upgrades, expectations are exponentially higher than they were through the decline and fall of the John Fox regime, which was intended to be a turnaround and bridge to a culture and performance change from the nadir under Marc Trestman.

But the reality is that the Bears could very well be among the most improved teams in the NFL and still finish last in the NFC North for the fifth straight year and under their third different head coach.

Improving on the 5-11 of 2017 will not be all that assured, either. Of their 16 games, six are against teams that reached last postseason. Two each of those are against the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, and Aaron Rodgers missed nine games last year, something that isn’t likely to repeat, making the Packers their usual force – and the Bears couldn’t beat Green Bay even with Brett Hundley in for Rodgers.

The Packers get Rodgers back. The Lions got a new coach. The Vikings got a new quarterback. If you stand still, you’re slipping backwards.

The schedule formula has given the Bears an unintended standard for gauging whether they have gained or lost ground on the league. Half of the games on the 2018 schedule are against teams played by the Bears in 2017 – Detroit (2), Green Bay (2), Minnesota (2), San Francisco and Tampa Bay – and the Bears were 0-8 in those games last season. If Nagy and Pace don’t improve on that…

With game times after Week 4 subject to flex scheduling:

Week 1: at Green Bay (7-9) Sunday, Sept. 9, 7:20 p.m.

The only two times the Bears have beaten the Packers since 2010 have been in Green Bay but Aaron Rodgers has become to the Bears of the last decade what Brett Favre was to the years before Lovie Smith.

Moon’s call: L

Week 2: Seattle Seahawks (9-7) Monday, Sept. 17, 7:15 p.m.

The monster team that came within a TD of reaching three consecutive Super Bowls has let go of defining members (Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman) and has injury issues hanging over others. A team at a fork in its road.

Moon’s call: W

Week 3: at Arizona Cardinals (8-8) Sunday, Sept. 23, 3:25 p.m.

Bruce Arians retired after averaging nearly 10 wins over five AZ seasons. Steve Wilks is a defensive coach and becomes the latest to try winning with QB Sam Bradford, who’s missed 42 games over the last five seasons.

Moon’s call: W

Week 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11) Sunday, Sept. 30, Noon

Bucs’ season start was disrupted by Hurricane Irma but not enough to prevent their blowing out Bears in a delayed game one. Bears and Bucs are meeting for fifth straight year and Bucs have won the last two by 26 and 22 points. Trade for Jason Pierre-Paul should help “D” but Jameis Winston needs to step up to elite.

Moon’s call: W

Week 5: Bye

Week 6: at Miami Dolphins (6-10) Sunday, Oct. 14, Noon

Jay Cutler won’t be back, but Adam Gase hired Dowell Loggains as OC and Jeremiah Washburn as O-line coach so Bears-‘Fins matches up a lot of young offensive coaches with a Chicago connection. Miami getting QB Ryan Tannehill back from ACL tear remains a question.

Moon’s call: W

Week 7: New England Patriots (13-3) Sunday, Oct. 21, Noon

Super Bowl hangover? Maybe. Pats just escaped Jacksonville in AFC title game and then were soundly beaten by Eagles in Super Bowl. And internal scratchiness may help opponents. But Tom Brady still tops 4,500 yards. Trading away Jimmy Garoppolo and Brandin Cooks netted high draft picks that Pats need hits with to stay on top.

Moon’s call: L

Week 8: New York Jets (5-11) Sunday, Oct. 28, Noon

Like Bears, Jets have struggled mightily to get QB position right after two straight 5-11 seasons that have Todd Bowles on the coaching bubble. Jets re-signed Josh McCown and will try ex-Bears assistant Jeremy Bates as OC.

Moon’s call: W

Week 9: at Buffalo Bills (9-7) Sunday, Nov. 4, Noon

What Buffalo does from No. 12 in this draft order will be noteworthy, with Bills holding five picks in top 65, in dire need of a quarterback after dealing Tyrod Taylor and signing A.J. McCarron, but having upgraded front seven with Trent Murphy for edge rush and Star Lotulelei for interior strength.

Moon’s call: L

Week 10: Detroit Lions (9-7) Sunday, Nov. 11, Noon

From a one-time patsy, Lions have won nine of their last 10 vs. the Bears, six of the last seven decided by six or fewer points as part of a disturbing Bears trend toward not making plays on offense or stops at tipping points. Detroit prioritized keeping Ziggy Ansah’s pass rush, although he has just 2 sacks and 10 tackles in seven games vs. the Bears while muscling up the defensive interior with Sylvester Williams and the run game with LeGarrette Blount.

Moon’s call: W

Week 11: Minnesota Vikings (13-3) Sunday, Nov. 18, Noon

“Minnesota Miracle” was THE highlight of ’17 for a team that came up a game short of the Super Bowl. Of concern for the NFC North,  a 13-3 team upgraded at its most vital position: The Kirk Cousins Era is upon the Bears and the division. Cousins is 2-0 career vs. Bears, and an elite Vikings “D” got better with addition of DT Sheldon Richardson.

Moon’s call: L

Week 12: at Detroit Lions (9-7) Thursday, Nov. 22, 11:30 a.m.

What the Lions will be under new defense-based head coach Matt Patricia is anyone’s guess. But the Bears have lost five straight in Ford Field and haven’t won there since Lovie Smith’s final year. Matthew Stafford is becoming the poor-man’s Brett Favre for Bears purposes: Stafford hasn’t missed a game vs. anyone in seven years, is 9-1 vs. Bears over last five years and has passer ratings of 115.0 or better in four of his last Bears games.

Moon’s call: L

Week 13: at New York Giants (3-13) Sunday, Dec. 2, Noon

With the No. 2 draft pick, Giants widely expected to grab either RB Saquon Barkley or DE Bradley Chubb, either projected as impact rookies. But NY grappling with declining Eli Manning and four losing seasons out of the last five, double-digit losses in three of last four.

Moon’s call: W

Week 14: Los Angeles Rams (11-5) Sunday, Dec. 9, Noon

The runaway NFL darlings of ’17 responded to a playoff upset by going all-in with signing Ndamukong Suh, and trades for CB’s Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib for a “D” already boasting Aaron Donald. QB Jared Goff played like a first-overall pick and Rams added Brandin Cooks to on NFL’s highest-scoring offense.

Moon’s call: L

Week 15: Green Bay Packers (7-9) Sunday, Dec. 16, Noon

The Packers were needy enough to make a run at Kyle Fuller to improve their secondary, and decided Jordy Nelson didn’t have enough good football left to warrant keeping him. But the Bears couldn’t beat the Pack with Brett Hundley, Aaron Rodgers is now back, and he has a motivated TE Jimmy Graham to throw to.

Moon’s call: L

Week 16: at San Francisco 49ers (6-10) Sunday, Dec. 23, 3:05 p.m.

Two teams with coaching upheaval this decade. Bears-49ers meet for fifth straight year and sixth in last seven, Bears under their fourth head coach in that span. Another chance to vet GM Ryan Pace’s decision to draft Mitch Trubisky rather than trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, who had ‘Niners 5-0 once he became the starter.

Moon’s call: L

Week 17: at Minnesota Vikings (13-3) Sunday, Dec. 30, Noon

Bears haven’t won in Minnesota since ’11 and last three L’s there were by 21, 28 and 13 points, as Vikings have been on the rise and Bears on the decline both during recent seasons and as competitive franchises. Bears desperately need prove-it road “W” to start regaining relevance in NFC North. Bears have ended three of the last four seasons with losses in Minnesota.

Moon’s call: L

Season prediction: 7-9