Bears

Bears film breakdown: Two red zone plays show where Bears need to improve, and how they can be effective

Bears film breakdown: Two red zone plays show where Bears need to improve, and how they can be effective

The Bears had three possessions enter the red zone in Sunday's 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals, but only managed 10 points on those drives. Another pair of possessions stalled just outside the red zone, leading to Cody Parkey attempting four field goals, making three. 

With explosive plays hard to come by for this offense, an emphasis this week will be converting long drives that get into the red zone into touchdowns, not field goals. Against Arizona, though, we can see in two different plays, two quarters apart, how far the Bears have to go in the red zone but also how this group can find success. 

We'll start with a play that caught some attention on Twitter during the game: 

At the top of the screen, three Cardinals defenders are lined up across from a group of four Bears — Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Tarik Cohen — in a diamond stack formation. At the bottom of the screen, Allen Robinson is lined up in single coverage against Cardinals cornerback Jamar Taylor. 

Trubisky takes the snap and doesn't look to his right, only identifying Robinson in single coverage and lofting a pass to him on a fade route. Coming down with jump balls/50-50 balls in the end zone are a strength of Robinson's, but Trubisky's throw doesn't give him the best opportunity to make the catch. 

It's worth noting that linebacker Josh Bynes (yellow arrow) does immediately break left when the ball is snapped, and even if the play was blocked well by the other three guys on that side of the field it wouldn't have been guaranteed to be a touchdown. 

"There are some advantage throws, there’s some choices on that play," Nagy said. "So that’s where he decided to go with the ball, and so we didn’t execute that play. We gotta regroup and pick another one."

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Alright, on to a well-called and well-executed play in the red zone. 

Trubisky lines up in the shotgun with Cohen (blue arrow) to his right and Benny Cunningham (green arrow) to his left, with Robinson (yellow arrow) on the near side. Trubisky takes the snap and flows to his right, and Bynes (white arrow) drifts that way. Center Cody Whitehair (red arrow) gets two yards beyond the line of scrimmage and has to determine if he's going to block Bynes or linebacker Gerald Hodges. 

By the time Cohen accelerates near the line of scrimmage, Hodges (white arrow) is too far away to make the play. Whitehair (red circle) blocks Bynes. 

"You gotta read the most dangerous guy and make your decision from there," Whitehair said. "I felt like the guy a little bit to my left (Bynes) was the most dangerous guy with the misdirection play."

Cunningham (green circle) lands a strong block on safety Antoine Bethea, which triggers the play. 

"I knew as soon as he called it that I could trust in Benny Cunningham to make the most important block, so when he made that block I knew I had to cut off that and just keep running for the end zone," Cohen said. 

Worth noting: Had Hodges not been fooled by the misdirection on the play, he could've been able to crash toward the line of scrimmage and make a stop. 

"It was a good setup by coach Nagy," Whitehair said. "... If a defense is flowing hard like they were, it was a good time to use it."

Cohen, meanwhile, reads that Robinson's momentum in his block of Taylor is going to the sideline, so he cuts back over Robinson's inside shoulder, even with safety Tre Boston (black arrow) crashing down on the play. 

Boston gets his hands on Cohen around the four-yard line, and Cohen is eventually tackled at the one for a gain of 17 yards. Jordan Howard finishes the drive off on the next play with the Bears' only touchdown of the game. 

Still, "I was supposed to get in there," Cohen said. "I smelled it." 

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

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Brian Baldinger: 'I'm not so sure anybody could've seen the jump that Mitch Trubisky is making right now'

On Thursday, Brian Baldinger released another video clip on Twitter for his #BaldysBreakdowns series, this one praising the recent play from Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.

Baldinger states that Trubisky is "making some kind of jump", referring to how impressed he was with Trubisky's play when compared to his rookie season. 

In the video Baldinger explains in the video how you expect franchise QBs to make a big leap from year one to year two, and a big part of that leap for Trubisky is being unafraid to make aggressive throws downfield.

Baldinger highlighted a play where Trubisky hit Taylor Gabriel 47-yards down the field, choosing to trust his wideout after he hit him with perfect ball placement despite tight coverage. He continued this theme later on in the video, showing Trubisky's TD strike to Allen Robinson, which was whipped right past a Dolphins defender. 

But Baldinger's video wasn't exclusively compliments for Trubisky. He discussed Tarik Cohen's effectiveness as a pass-catcher, saying that you "can't cover him" and comparing him to a Ferrari with his ability to go from first to fifth gear "about as fast as anybody."

He ended his video by showing Trubisky punishing the Dolphins for a blown coverage, hitting rookie Anthony Miller in stride for a 29-yard TD. Baldinger's point in including this clip was to show Trubisky's improved recognition, as he may not have spotted the blown coverage last year. Noticing when and how to take advantage of defensive sloppiness is one of the many things that seperate a "franchise QB" from a stopgap, and Trubisky is trending in the right direction. 

If Baldinger's breakdown is any indication, we should expect Trubisky to keep his incredible momentum rolling when the Bears take on the New England Patriots on Sunday. New England is 3rd worst in the league in passing TDs allowed, giving up 15 scores through the air in six games.