Bears

Bears-Buccaneers: Best case, worst case and prediction

Bears-Buccaneers: Best case, worst case and prediction

The best case scenario

This starts with a Bears defense that doesn’t play like the one that allowed 36 points to Tampa Bay last year. Even without Jerrell Freeman, the front seven overwhelms the Buccaneers’ offensive line and renders useless the run game — which will roll with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims without the suspended Doug Martin. Making Tampa Bay’s offense one-dimensional will help the front seven get more pressure on Winston, who’s thrown 33 interceptions in the last two years. You can see where this is going: More pressure on a turnover-prone quarterback leads to at least one takeaway for the Bears’ defense. 

Offensively, the Bears lean on Jordan Howard (who’s questionable with a shoulder issue) and he has a big game — think at least 100 rushing yards — a week after only carrying the ball 13 times. Zach Miller and Dion Sims get involved early and often, as does Kendall Wright, and Tarik Cohen again makes a few “wow” plays when he gets in space. And Mike Glennon, motivated against his former team, plays mistake-free football again, as he did for the most part against Atlanta in Week 1. 

If the Bears are going to win their first game in September under John Fox, it’ll be a close one — but winning the turnover battle will swing this game in favor of the Bears. 

The worst case scenario

Even if the Bucs can’t run the ball, Winston is able to get the ball to his two star receivers — Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson — eventually leaving tight ends Cameron Brate and/or O.J. Howard open for some explosive plays. The Bears are able to pressure Winston but can’t bring him down, and we see a reprise of that 43-yard touchdown to Freddie Martino from last year’s game. And Winston takes care of the ball or, perhaps worse, the Bears' defense doesn't take advantage of the mistakes he makes. 

On offense, Glennon throws his first interception of the year and his pass-catchers struggle to get open. Tampa Bay loads the box and, behind defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, shuts down Howard and the Bears' run game. Cohen is able to make a few plays, but it's not enough as John Fox is denied his first win in September as coach of the Bears. 

Prediction: Bears 23, Buccaneers 21. This one trends more toward the best case than the worst case, with Howard having a strong game and the Bears' secondary notching its first (and, maybe, second) interception of the year.

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.”