It feels safe to say that many Bears fans who decide to tune into an early Thanksgiving game, where both teams have combined for a 3-16-1 record, are doing so to see the latest episode in a soap opera that has developed around Halas Hall. However, a football game will be played! Believe it or not, it is a game that the Bears should win, despite all the distractions swirling around. Here’s how they can pull it off:
BLOCK OUT THE NOISE
Athletes and coaches say they don’t pay attention to rumors and reports that dominate social media and sports radio, but really it’s impossible for them to tune it all out. If they want to win in Detroit, they’re going to have to do their best to focus solely on the game however. On Tuesday, Bill Lazor told a story from his past about rumors trickling into the locker room directly before a game, and said his team “played like crap that day.” The Bears can’t fall into that same trap. For what it’s worth, all the players who spoke publicly on Tuesday supported Matt Nagy and insisted he has not lost the locker room. We’ll see if that translates positively on the field, or if they come out looking distracted and flat.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT DAVID MONTGOMERY
Montgomery continued his effective season on Sunday, rushing for over four yards per carry. But by the game’s end he only had 14 carries. It’s not like he ceded work to Khalil Herbert either, since Herbert only touched the ball once on offense. The major shift in Montgomery’s work came in the second half. In the first half, on first down, Montgomery had rushes of nine, two, 10, seven, five and four yards (not counting Montgomery’s one rush to close out the half). That was good for an average of over six yards on first down, something any offensive coordinator would be happy about. Of those six sets of downs that started with a Montgomery rush, the Bears converted a first down on four of them. One of the two times they did not convert was because Fields fumbled the ball.
But in the second half, the Bears only handed the ball off to Montgomery on first down twice. By comparison, they had four Andy Dalton incompletions on first down (not counting the last drive when the Bears were in desperation-mode). Of the four sets of downs that began with a Dalton incompletion, the Bears earned a new set of downs three times. But one of those came on an 11-yard run from Montgomery on second down, and another came on a fourth down conversion late in the game.
At no point were the Bears down by more than one score, yet they shied away from the run game in the second half anyways. That can’t happen again.
COMMUNICATE ON DEFENSE
Against the Ravens, the Bears once again gave up a big play in a critical moment due to a lack of communication on defense. It arguably cost them the game too. On 3rd-and-12, with the Bears nursing a four-point lead and time winding down, the Ravens lined up in a bunch formation. Kindle Vildor was supposed to cover Sammy Watkins, but doubled another instead. Defensive coordinator Sean Desai called it “frustrating” and “inexcusable.” Robert Quinn said it was “sickening” and a “gut punch.” And it could have been avoided if the Bears had been talking to each other before the play to make sure everyone was on the same page.
This has been a problem since Week 1 and unless they get it cleaned up, breakdowns like that will continue to allow offenses一 no matter if they’re led by Matthew Stafford, Tyler Huntley or Tim Boyle一 to exploit them for explosive scores.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
Despite the soap opera that’s consumed the news cycle at Halas Hall, the Bears are still a better team than the Lions. The players seem genuine when they say they still respect Nagy, and the locker room hasn’t fallen apart, too. In Week 4, the Lions helped the Bears wash off the stink of their disastrous game against the Browns. This week, the Lions will help them wash off the stink again.
Bears 20, Lions 13