Bears

Bears 27, Colts 17: Immediate reactions from the Bears win over Indianapolis

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USA Today

Bears 27, Colts 17: Immediate reactions from the Bears win over Indianapolis

Despite the bombshell Andrew Luck news, the Bears and Colts did in fact finish their game on Saturday night.  Preseason scores obviously aren’t all that important, something Matt Nagy made abundantly clear when he decided to not play any of the starters in what’s traditionally the season’s dress rehearsal. For the time being, Bears fans will have to get their fix through Eddy Pineiro field goal attempts and inside linebacker rotations. You can always find questions if you look hard enough, and that’s exactly what preseason content is for. Who was good? And who wasn’t? A review: 

THE BAD 

Chase Daniel

It was rough. 3-9 with 21 yards type rough. His offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but Daniel also missed on some clean throws. Barring any injury, he’s going to be QB2 when they take the field against the Packers on Sep. 5 - but it’s been a rocky preseason for the 10-year vet. He’s close with Matt Nagy and proved his worth in two games last season, but as the NFL’s highest-paid backup, not having a touchdown pass through three games isn’t great optics. 

The Offensive Line 

Tackle depth has quietly become a pretty big concern for the Bears, who came into Saturday without Rashaad Coward as he deals with an elbow injury. T.J. Clemmings left the game in the 1st quarter on a cart after hurting his leg. Cornelius Lucas didn’t look particularly good. As a unit, the 2’s and 3’s have allowed 10 sacks through three games. A silver lining? Alex Bars – who threw a key block in Ryan Nall’s 69-yard run – got some snaps at left tackle, and has looked strong in both games and practice so far. 

Penalties 

Blame it on the preseason if you want, but the Bears had 9 penalties for 85 yards, including one that wiped out a Ryan Nall touchdown run. They've had  at least eight penalties in all of their preseason games so far.

THE GOOD

Eddy Pineiro

In his first game as the roster’s lone kicker, Pineiro had his best moment in a Bears uniform. The kicker crushed a 58 yard field goal, with room to spare: 

He went 2-2 on the night, and was 3/3 on extra point attempst. Pineiro will presumably get the final two games to definitively win the job, and splitting the uprights from the midfield logo certainly doesn’t hurt. 


The Linebackers 

Matt Nagy mentioned that he was keeping an eye on the ILB’s on Saturday night, and it’d be hard not to like what he saw. Nick Kwiatkoski made some nice plays in the first half, and Joel Iyiegbuniwe had a (relatively easy) scoop-and-score. Josh Woods also put together another strong game. Even James Vaughters – who’s listed on the team’s roster as an OLB – had another strong night after forcing his second fumble in two weeks. Three of the Bears’ five sacks came from linebackers (Kwiatkoski, Vaughters, and Iyiegbuniwe) too. 

More Turnovers! 

Three more tonight makes it eight so far. History says that high turnover rates are almost impossible to replicate, and much of that concern fuels a lot of the regression talk that’s surrounded the defense this offseason. Deon Bush’s 2nd quarter forced fumble scoop-and-score was as impressive a play as anyone had all night. Preseason caveats aside, the Bears’ knack for the ball still looks like a big strength, and it feels like there’s more optimism in that regard than there was three weeks ago. 
 

(Too) Bold Predictions: Leonard Floyd scores the 1st Bears touchdown of the season

(Too) Bold Predictions: Leonard Floyd scores the 1st Bears touchdown of the season

(Too) Bold Predictions aims to take nuanced, well-researched information and use it to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

J.J. Stankevitz: 
1. The Bears' first touchdown of 2019 will be scored by...Leonard Floyd.
The thought here: Denver's offense is not designed to get the ball out quick, and Joe Flacco is generally immobile in the pocket. As long as the Bears' downfield coverage is as good as it was last week (save for one play-action bomb Aaron Rodgers hit), Floyd and Khalil Mack will have plenty of chances to tee off on Flacco. So one of those chances will lead to a strip-sack deep in Broncos territory, with Floyd scooping it up and jogging into the end zone. 

2. Mitch Trubisky will have a passer rating of 95.4.
That was Trubisky's passer rating in 2018...which was 33.3 points higher than his rating in Week 1. Generally speaking, it's hard to imagine Trubisky being significantly worse in 2019 than he was in 2018, even in light of how bad things were against the Packers. So even against a Vic Fangio defense, Trubisky will put up numbers close to or matching his per-game averages in 2018: 66.6 completion percentage, one touchdown, one interception, 230 yards, two sacks. And that'll be good enough for the Bears to win. 

Cam Ellis
1. The Bears will double their season touchdown total in the 1st quarter
This is, admittedly, just a round-about way of saying the Bears will actually get into the end zone this week, which would typically not be very bold. And yet, here we are. After 10 days of having to hear about the run game issues in Week 1, the bet here is that Nagy goes to David Montgomery early and often. Even with Vic Fangio at the helm, the Broncos' defense doesn't yet look like the intimidating sides he's been synonymous with. Let's say Montgomery gets in first from 10-15 and then Trubisky hits Anthony Miller for the 2nd. 

2. Eddy Pineiro will hit his first NFL field goal from 50+ yards
This game has Pineiro's name all over it. Consider: 

a. The way the offense played in Week 1 
b. The thin air
c. How frequently Nagy's decision to not try Pineiro from distance in Week 1 was questioned. 

The Bears spent all summer talking about the 'leg talent' Pineiro had, and while that alone didn't win him the job, it certainly didn't hurt (*Elliot Fry nods sadly*). They also frequently talk about getting Pineiro in a rhythm, and what better place to let him rip some than Denver in September? Since (Too) Bold Predictions are really just thinly-veiled optimism, let's say he sneaks one in from 53.

Three keys and prediction: Bears at Broncos

Three keys and prediction: Bears at Broncos

1. Let David Montgomery eat. Before the season, one of the narratives surrounding the Bears' offense was turning over 75 percent of the running back personnel from 2018 to 2019 would allow Matt Nagy's run scheme to flourish, which in turn would help Mitch Trubisky be a better quarterback. Having Trubisky pass 45 times with only 12 rushing plays to a player in the backfield in Week 1, then, hardly fit that narrative. 

A better run-pass balance will only help Trubisky be more comfortable going through his reads in the pocket, which should lead to him being more efficient. It has to happen this week, too, given the looming specter of Broncos edge rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb 10 days after the Packers generated a ton of pressure and five sacks on the pass-happy Bears. It’ll be a lot easier for Miller and Chubb to get after Trubisky if they can reasonably know a pass play is coming. 

So this brings us to the main point here: The Bears need to get Montgomery going. They didn’t trade up within the third round, sacrificing a 2020 fourth-round pick, to draft a running back who only gets seven touches. Yes, Montgomery will share time with Mike Davis and Tarik Cohen (assuming Cohen doesn’t line up out wide or in the slot on nearly every snap he takes again), but committing to a better run-pass balance — with Montgomery leading it — will work wonders for the Bears’ offense. 

The Oakland Raiders did this in Week 1, with rookie Josh Jacobs rushing 23 times for 85 yards (3.7 yards/carry)…while Derek Carr completed 22 of 26 passes in a 24-16 win. 

2. Don’t let Joe Flacco push the ball downfield. Flacco completed seven of 11 passes that traveled at least 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage in Denver’s season opener, but only one of those traveled 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Broncos’ offense isn’t totally designed to get the ball out quick and scheme out edge rushers, but it might have to with big-ticket free agent right tackle Ja’Wuan James out (though the team trusts backup Elijah Wilkinson). The Bears’ defense should be good enough to make the necessary tackles and plays on those short throws to keep Denver out of the end zone. 

The goal, then, will be to not let Flacco hit a deep shot to Courtland Sutton or Emanuel Sanders, be it on play action or a straight drop-back. The good news is the Bears paired their coverage and pass rush well against Green Bay in Week 1, with cornerbacks and safeties generally not letting things develop downfield while Leonard Floyd/Khalil Mack/Roy Robertson-Harris/Akiem Hicks/etc. got after Aaron Rodgers. Do the same and Denver’s offense will have a tough time getting on the scoreboard. 

3. Win on first down. The best way for the Bears’ defense to deal with the attitude and heat facing them Sunday will be to not allow positive plays on first down. Denver’s offense wasn’t totally inefficient in Week 1, and reached Raiders territory on six of its eight possessions — yet didn’t score a touchdown until its last drive of the game. The Bears would do well to keep the Broncos from having the kind of extended drives they had on Monday (7.6 plays per drive) given the conditions Sunday.

The worry here is if Denver is able to extend drives, the Bears’ defense will get gassed quickly and might be more prone to allowing those drives to end in points than a Raiders defense high on inspiration but middling on talent was. So this means getting a good pass rush if Flacco drops back on first down, or having Akiem Hicks boss the interior while Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan get downhill to stop the run. Do that, and Denver’s offense likely won’t be good enough to overcome second- and third-and-long downs. 

Prediction: Bears 19, Broncos 16. The Broncos haven’t lost at home in Week 2 since 1979, and have a 12-game winning streak in Week 1 or Week 2 home games. Beneath those numbers are two things: First, the Broncos have been one of the NFL’s best franchises over the last 40 years; and second, it’s often difficult to play on the road at altitude early in the season, when players aren’t quite in peak football shape yet. 

The altitude will, of course, be present on Sunday. A good Broncos team will not. This game will nonetheless be close, but the team with the better roster will win. And that team is the Bears.