Bears far from the only surprise, good or bad, in NFL’s Week 1

Bears far from the only surprise, good or bad, in NFL’s Week 1

Every NFL season features at least two good-surprise teams and two bad-surprise ones. The Bears and Kansas City Chiefs were ‘goods’ last year, the Atlanta Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars ‘bads’.

This year – after all of one game – the Bears were in the bad-surprise column. They weren’t alone.

The Cleveland Browns belied all their preseason hype and self-immolated at home against the Tennessee Titans. The Miami Dolphins, who jettisoned coach Adam Gase after a 25-point loss to end the 2018 season, started 2019 with a 49-point debacle of a loss at home, giving up 59 points under new coach Brian Flores, who spent the last eight seasons with the New England Patriots coaching assorted areas of the defense. (Insert something here about former Bill Belichick staffers becoming head coaches.)

On the ‘good’ side, albeit not a complete surprise by any means, and certainly not a ‘good’ as far as the Bears are concerned, the Minnesota Vikings played like a football team still mad about letting the playoffs – and the Bears – get away from them last season.

After the Bears lost at home last Thursday, the Vikings buried the Atlanta Falcons in a 21-0 first half and finished up with a 28-12 demolition of a team that was on its way to the Super Bowl three seasons ago.

What was noteworthy, beyond the Minnesota defense that shut out the Falcons for three quarters after finishing right behind the Bears in yards allowed last season and ninth in points allowed, was the Vikings running the football all over the Falcons. Minnesota invested major money last year to button up their quarterback situation with Kirk Cousins, then proceeded to fire offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in-season while running the football on just 35.6 percent of plays, good for 29th in the NFL. Against the Falcons, Minnesota called 10 pass plays and 38 runs, including Cousins kneel-downs.

Somewhere Dowell Loggains, now Gase’s O-coordinator with the New York Jets, is smiling (well, probably not too much, not after the Jets failed to hold a 16-0 lead and lost to Buffalo).

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Two particular takeaways from a thought-provoking column in the New York Times by longtime NFL columnist Gregg Easterbrook, which posits a generally positive future for football despite the escalating concern over concussions:

Easterbrook puts out the idea of banning three- and four-point stances for linemen, offensive linemen particularly, who literally go head-to-head from those starting positions. And he endorses the idea of doing away completely with kickoffs, the most dangerous down in football as it is, even with the increase of touchbacks. At the most, kickoffs only to start the game and second halves.

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Will 'special' throws help Mitch Trubisky keep his job with the Bears in 2020?

Will 'special' throws help Mitch Trubisky keep his job with the Bears in 2020?

Every so often, Mitch Trubisky has conjured up the sort of eye-catching “special” throws expected from a former second overall pick. A few popped up in the Bears’ win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday, specifically his 18-yard touchdown strike to Ben Braunecker and a 33-yard deep ball to Allen Robinson with pressure in his face. 

Those two throws represent two of the more encouraging moments for Trubisky during his third year in the NFL. Quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone called Trubisky’s touchdown to Braunecker “great,” and was impressed by the throw to Robinson given he got hit after releasing it. 

“He lets that thing go with the anticipation, which we’re always preaching to him,” Ragone said. “To me, even though that play wasn’t a touchdown, that throw in general is kind of what obviously we’re hoping more and more of those type plays as the rest of the regular season moves on.”

The question the Bears have to ask themselves is this: Is Trubisky’s ability to make outstanding throws enough to out-weigh the glaring issues encompassing their quarterback and an offense averaging just 18 points per game?

Plenty of teams and coaches have been enamored by “special” abilities in quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, for these purposes, is a prime example). Plenty of coaches, too, have been drawn by the allure of being the guy to finally harness talent that shows up occasionally on highlight reels. 

It’s how the Bears can, at the least, talk themselves into keeping Trubisky as their starting quarterback for the rest of 2019. And it’s how general manager Ryan Pace, speaking on WBBM-780 (the Bears’ flagship radio station) prior to Sunday’s game against the Lions, can make this argument as to why he’s confident in Trubisky: 

“I think this is all part of playing quarterback in the NFL.” Pace said. “Every quarterback goes through this and it’s just part of the experience. … There’s growth that happens on the field. There’s growth that happens off the field. Other young quarterbacks around the league are going through it, the same thing, and honestly we’re proud of the way that Mitch is handling it.”

“You see it within games right now. You saw it in Philly, it was really a tale of two halves. So he’s fighting his way out of it within games. 

“We all know that Mitch can play better. Mitch knows that. He’s just in the process of navigating through this along with the rest of the offense. He has confidence in himself. His teammates have confidence in him. And we’ve just got to fight through this.”
Pace does not speak to the media during the regular season, and is not going to send a message to his quarterback when coach Matt Nagy is sticking behind Trubisky (to put it another way: If he had already determined Trubisky weren’t his 2020 quarterback, he wouldn’t say it publicly). 

Between lauding those special throws and — accurately — pointing out not everything in 2019’s offense is Trubisky’s fault, though, there is some groundwork laid for the Bears to build an argument for not changing starting quarterbacks in 2020. 

But the Bears need to be careful when it comes to thinking they can harness Trubisky’s “special” ability. Quarterbacks, generally, are who they are after making 32 starts — and Trubisky on Sunday will start his 35th game in the NFL. The late-emerging successes of Alex Smith (who was with Matt Nagy in Kansas City) and Drew Brees (who was with Pace in New Orleans) are the exceptions to the rule, not the rule. 

Still, the more “special” throws, the better for the Bears’ (slim) chances of making 2019 a relevant season in their 100-year history. But the Bears in 2020 will need to strike a proper balance between evaluating the occasional high-degree-of-difficulty completion and the routine decisions made by Trubisky. 

“Just continue to try to do my job and I think those really good throws will come,” Trubisky said. “And just, when the normal play is there just continue to make that and put my team in a good position to stay on the field, convert third downs and just try and score points, ultimately.”

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The Bears pranked Tarik Cohen about his height and unfortunately it is hilarious

USA Today

The Bears pranked Tarik Cohen about his height and unfortunately it is hilarious

Some athletes are short, and some athletes are tall (sports!). That's just a fact of life.

And hey, another fact of life is that Tarik Cohen is 5'6. The Bears almost certainly know this, and yet: 

Tarik, I'm sorry. None of this is your fault, and really this isn't even about you. Poor Eli Apple's probably in the locker room scrolling Instagram and ranting to no one in particular about how he made that joke three weeks ago. In a perfect world people who are are 5'6 always have towels available to them, but for now it remains a timeless prank. 

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