Bears film review: Mitch Trubisky's worst miss against the Denver Broncos

Bears film review: Mitch Trubisky's worst miss against the Denver Broncos

Midway through the second quarter of the Bears’ trip to Denver on Sunday, you might’ve been frustrated with Mitch Trubisky overthrowing a seemingly wide open Taylor Gabriel. 

Those kinds of misses, on the surface, are enough to drive even the biggest Trubisky backers nuts. The FOX television broadcast showed Gabriel sneak along the fray at the line of scrimmage, then dash upfield as soon as inside linebacker Josey Jewell picked up running back David Montgomery in the backfield. 

So this is the view those watching the broadcast were afforded:

Gabriel looks wide open, right? If Trubisky just lets the pass rip, this pass should be completed for at least a first down, moving the Bears closer to Denver’s red zone as they sought their first touchdown of 2019. 

This is not, though, a defense of Trubisky’s throw on the play. Gabriel was wide open, and a throw with less loft would’ve led to at least a chunk-gain completion and a first down. Instead, this was the result: 

The coaches/All-22 film, via NFL GamePass, as well as Matt Nagy’s explanation of the play, afford a more complete picture of what went wrong. 

“It's a shot play to where (Gabriel) sneaks down the line and runs down the sideline and he's totally uncovered,” Nagy said. “It started that way.”

Here’s how the play looked when it began with Trubisky faking a handoff to Montgomery:

Jewell, the yellow arrow, picks up Montgomery on play-action while fellow inside linebacker Corey Nelson blitzes (more on him later). Gabriel is the blue arrow running just beyond the trenches. Allen Robinson’s route is the orange arrow and is designed to carry his cornerback as well as safety Kareem Jackson to the field side. And in the red, Adam Shaheen and Cordarrelle Patterson are tasked with double-teaming Broncos edge rusher Von Miller. 

“You're always aware that 58's over there,” Nagy said. “Our guys did a good job of double teaming him.”

The play design initially works. Jackson goes from the boundary to carry Robinson up the field (orange circle), leaving Justin Simmons to cover from field to boundary to catch up with Gabriel (blue arrows), who has plenty of green grass with which to run his route. As soon as Jewell crashes toward the line of scrimmage to pick up Montgomery (yellow arrow), Gabriel cuts upfield. Meanwhile: Shaheen is winning physically against Miller (red circle) as Trubisky slides to his right, leaving little threat of one of the game’s most disruptive edge rushers making an impact on the play. 

Simmons was late picking up Gabriel, but not so late to give the Bears a shot at turning this play into a touchdown. Still, Trubisky has a clear shot at connecting with an open Gabriel for a chunk gain on first down at the very least, and at the best Gabriel could’ve made Simmons miss and taken the play to the house. 

"That angle of where Taylor was and where Mitch was wasn't the greatest of angles,” Nagy said. “I think Mitch would tell you, listen, if I had that over again, it would be more of a line-drive shot and kinda a back shoulder (throw).”

These, simply, are the kind of throws the Bears need Trubisky to make. The play design worked, perhaps not perfectly, but Nagy schemed one of his receivers open. The blocking was good, with Shaheen and Patterson neutralizing Miller on the right and Charles Leno keeping Bradley Chubb at arm's length on the left. Center James Daniels nailed his protection, pancaking Nelson in the process. There was some pressure in Trubisky's face from defensive end DeMarcus Walker, for what it's worth, but it came late. 

The Bears wound up settling for a field goal on this drive, which wasn't completely unproductive (it was a 52-yarder, one yard shy of Eddy Pineiro's game winner, which went the same direction in the fourth quarter). But for the Bears' offense to truly find its rhythm, it needs to take advantage of these kind of plays and pick up chunks of yardage on first down. In this one instance, the play was there, but the execution was not. 

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Matt Nagy 'productive plays' yardstick for staying with run game may be too much for his level of patience


Matt Nagy 'productive plays' yardstick for staying with run game may be too much for his level of patience

For all of Matt Nagy’s stressing before Sunday that Bears run game would be better, it was at a near franchise-low against New Orleans – seven attempts, 17 net yards. If there is a puzzling side to all of that, it lies in what Nagy sees as how a run game needs to operate at before abandoning it.

Nagy has been credited with calling run plays at pretty close to the NFL run-pass ratio. But in the Bears’ three wins he called 24, 24 and 33 runs; in the three losses, 15, 17 and 7. Nagy’s “average” is closer to the situation of having one hand in the oven, the other in the freezer; on “average,” you’re comfortable.

What Nagy is comfortable with, though, is an open question.

He talked Sunday and Monday of wanting “productive plays,” which ostensibly sounds like a reasonable threshold for staying with a concept. But Nagy has a suspect patience fuse, coming from the Andy Reid scheme tree with its roots in high-percentage passing.

Nagy’s wafer-thin commitment to the run game is reminiscent of former coordinator Gary Crowton and coach Marc Trestman, who routinely gave up almost immediately on the run as soon as a series failed to have success on the ground.

But “the run game has to get going. It's as simple as that,” Nagy insisted post-Saints and reiterated on Monday. “And it just has to get going. You can't run for 17 yards in the NFL and think you're going to win a game. You should get 17 yards on one run play.”

Getting 17 yards on one run play certainly would be a lofty positive. Too lofty for the Nagy offense, however, and obviously not what Nagy or any other coach sets as a realistic literal requirement for sticking with a play. Besides, the Bears have just two runs longer than 17 yards, plus runs of 12 and 14 yards, through six games. None of those four 10-yard runs have come since the fourth quarter of the Week 3 Washington game.

But if Nagy is somehow using big plays as the criterion for staying committed to the run game, the run portion of the offense is a distant long shot.

“Early on, we were zero, one and two on our yards running the ball,” Nagy said by way of explanation for getting off the run so completely on Sunday. “It's really simple math. As a play caller, when it's 2nd and 9 and 2nd and 10 and 2nd and 8 and you're moving the ball throwing it, you're getting first downs throwing it, that's what the objective is to get first downs.

“I don't care if I have to throw the ball 60 times a game, if that's what's going to help us win a game, or if I have to run it 60 times, I don't care, I want productive plays. It's not that hard. That's probably why. That's probably where that went, and then you come out in the second half and you want to be more balanced. As bad as all that was and everything that's going on, we came in the locker room, it's 12-10. As bad as that was, 12-10. Think about that, right? So, now you come out in the third quarter, they go down, they score and then we fumble first play. That's hard. That's hard.”

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Will Tom Brady be the Bears' starting QB in 2020?

Will Tom Brady be the Bears' starting QB in 2020?

By the time his career is over, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will have a very strong argument to be considered the greatest player in NFL history. And even if there's a debate about his status as the best who's ever played, there's no denying his standing as the league's all-time greatest winner.

His six Super Bowl titles are evidence of that.

Brady is a throwback to the days before free agency and player movement. He's been a Patriot for his entire career, one that started in 2000 as the unassuming sixth-round pick from Michigan. Now, 20 seasons later (only four players in league history have spent that much time with one team), we could be witnessing his final year in New England.

ESPN's Adam Schefter suggested all signs are pointing toward Brady eyeing a new challenge in 2020. He voided the final year of his contract and is putting his home up for sale (as is his longtime trainer). 

He's gone. 

That begs the following question: what destinations make sense for Brady next season? Buckle up, Bears fans:

Brady and the Patriots are off to one of the best starts in franchise history. He's completing 65.9% of his passes (one of the best completion rates of his career) and hasn't lost any juice from his fastball. He's taking advantage of the incredible start by New England's defense and continues to prove, year after year, that productive offenses don't necessarily need superstar skill players. Instead, it starts with strong offensive line play and a quarterback who knows how to win games. The Patriots are 7-0.

It's shaping up to be a great final act, the momentum of which he can bring to a city like Chicago.

Brady to the Bears would make a ton of sense. First, Chicago's defense is in the second season of a legitimate championship window. And while there will be a few departures and some new faces added this offseason, the core will remain the same. That defense, with Brady leading the offense, is a recipe for NFC dominance.

Second, Brady has the kind of pinpoint accuracy to take advantage of wide receiver Allen Robinson's my-ball skill set. He'd also force opposing defenses to respect the passing game, which by default will make the running game better. He'll enhance the entire offense just by stepping onto the field.

Third, and most important, Brady can stare Aaron Rodgers in the eyes and make him flinch. For the first time in modern franchise history, the Bears would have the best quarterback in the NFC North, and on any given week, the best quarterback in the NFL.

Sure, Brady is getting old. He's going to be 43 at the start of next season. And yes, eventually, Father Time will catch up with him. But there's no reason to believe his end is right around the corner. So if the Bears can harness one year of Brady, with Mack leading the defense, it would be like football heaven opening above Chicago.

Speculation like this, even if it's nothing more than a far-fetched pipe-dream, is the direct result of Mitch Trubisky's struggles. If the third-year quarterback was having the kind of breakout year that was expected of him in 2019, no quarterback (not even Brady) would be in the Chicago sports conversation. The Bears would have their guy; a young gunslinger who can wow fans with his athleticism and playmaking ability. Instead, entering Week 8, there are as many questions surrounding the quarterback position in Chicago as there's ever been, dating back to before then-GM Jerry Angelo traded for Jay Cutler.

It's only natural for fans and football media to connect an all-time great like Brady to an all-time great franchise like the Bears who have what could be an all-time great defense, especially when the team is lacking what appears to be an even average quarterback.

Trubisky can silence this kind of conversation with a strong final 10 games of the season. But at this point, and with Brady potentially hitting the market this offseason, do you even want him to?

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