Bears

The Bears' offense is preaching patience, even if that's easier said than done

The Bears' offense is preaching patience, even if that's easier said than done

The Bears aren't trying to hide it.

In fact, they know better than anyone how underwhleming the offense has been through the first two weeks of the season. After failing to get into the end zone against the Packers in Week 1, last Sunday's one-touchdown affair – though a much better result – still left the team, as guard Kyle Long put it, 'back to basics.' 

"I know that it starts up front," Kyle Long said on Wednesday. "There are a lot of things I can do better, a lot of blocks I’m not making, a lot of guys not accounted for. I’ll be on guys at the beginning of the play and then at the end of the play, they’re around the pile. I need to make it my personal goal to not allow my matchup to make the play."

"If we all do that, and I know that everybody strives to do that, I think we’ll have success."

The stats are already well-worn: 28th in passing yards and passing yards per game (164); 29th in total yards (527) and yards per game (263.5); and 30th in points (19) and points per game (9.5). The only two teams with consistently worse results are the Jets (0-2), who have been outscored 40-19, and the Dolphins (0-2), who have been outscored 102-10. You'd hardly blame the offense for feeling a bit frustrated. 

"I wouldn’t say it’s frustration, so to speak," Allen Robinson said. "I would say it’s more so guys wanting to make plays. That’s what it comes down to. There’s many ways you can look at it. In this game, it comes down to a lot of situational stuff. When you look across the league, that’s what it comes down to. It comes down to playing good in crunch time." 

If there's one part of the offense that the Bears have been pleased with through two weeks, it's been the situational play. The Monday after the Broncos win, Matt Nagy talked at length about how the team was pleased with the absence of pre-snap penalties and how the line neutralized star pass-rusher Von Miller:

"We did a good job at that," he said. "That was impressive. We protected the football in a game like that, where field position and low-scoring, we didn’t give them a short field with any interceptions or fumbles. And I think overall in two games, with their being a lot more negatives than positives offensively, we’ve done a good job at protecting the football." 

As is usually the case with negatives, the word patience was thrown around Halas Hall a bunch on Wednesday. Long compared the season to a boxing match, noting that people very rarely land knock-out blows in the early rounds. But when so much more was expected of the fight, is it hard to stay patient in the moment? 

"Absolutely," he said. "You go out there and you’ve got stuff schemed up, dialed in and you run it and it doesn’t work out like you want it to. But that’s what football is all about: sticking to your guns and sticking with what you know." 

The Bears will get a good opportunity to land a clean punch on Monday night, when they head into Landover, MD., to play a defense that's been one of the NFL's worst so far. It's maybe the best opportunity yet to showcase what Nagy 202 can really be. 

"Definitely. We all want the big plays," Robinson added. "We all want all of that. I think that's pretty evident from an offensive standpoint. Each and every week we're going out there trying to put in the work.

It'll come out."

 

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Anthony Miller's earned the Bears' trust. Now he just needs to prove he can keep it.

Anthony Miller's earned the Bears' trust. Now he just needs to prove he can keep it.

Given how confusing and uncertain the Bears’ offense has been this season, there’s a bit of irony in the fact that it has always been clear when they do or do not trust Anthony Miller. 

Like, for instance, the first three games of the season, when Miller was targeted five times, catching three balls for 17 yards. Or in the three weeks leading up to their Week 11 loss in Los Angeles, when Miller had four catches on six targets. He’ll disappear as quickly as he reappears a month later, and working to remain consistent throughout a full season has proved difficult through the first two years of Miller’s career. 

“He cares. He cares a lot,” Mitch Trubisky said. “He works his tail off in practice. Just that communication from him – that he wants the ball, and you know that he has the ability to get open within this offense. He's done a lot from the learning standpoint about where he belongs within each spot, within each concept, and even when he's not getting the ball, where he's blocking, who he's blocking.” 

Then there are stretches, like over the last month, when he looks like he could be a focal point of the offense. He’s been targeted 37 times over the last four games, with 18 receptions, 313 yards and a touchdown (finally!). Miller’s not the first wide receiver to insist that he’s a volume guy and definitely won’t be the last, but the offense is inarguably more dynamic when Miller’s involved – which, so far, has meant finding a drive or two where he gets four or five targets. 

“I definitely feel different,” Miller said after setting a career high in receptions (9) and yards (140) during the Bears’ Thanksgiving win over Detroit. “I feel like I’m getting more opportunities, I feel like I’m getting more involved. When I’m more involved I feel like I can make a lot of plays for this team. Coaches have just been giving me the opportunities and I’ve been taking advantage.” 

The Bears’ coaches will certainly take 9 receptions for 140 yards, but his talent as a pass catcher has never been what frustrated Matt Nagy, Mark Helfrich and company. It was Miller’s habit for mental mistakes – like cutting a route off two yards short on an interception in Los Angeles – and undisciplined play, like the taunting penalty on a touchdown celebration in London. To Miller’s credit, Nagy is quick to give the wide receiver credit for never making the same mistake twice; a finer attention to executing details also happened to be what the head coach liked most about Miller’s touchdown against Dallas. 

“What I liked about Anthony was he caught the ball and he set up his blocks and got vertical,” Nagy said. “It was aggressive. He had a mindset that no one's stopping him getting to that goal line and you felt it. And you felt the energy after he scored. Just again another example of guys detailing leverage, detailing what they're supposed to do, executing and making us look like good coaches.” 

This season Miller’s seemed to have a weird, probably-coincidental habit of playing well for three game stretches, and then disappearing for three game stretches. It’s actually kind of uncanny. If you’re superstitious you may want to look away, because right now he’s one (quiet) game removed from his best three-game stretch of the season. Give us some reassurance, Mitch! 

“He's earned that trust and he's been busting his tail to get on the same page with me,” the quarterback said on Wednesday. “And he's done a tremendous job for this offense, especially stepping up when some of the other guys being out.”

Was David Montgomery's fumble against Cowboys actually a good thing?

Was David Montgomery's fumble against Cowboys actually a good thing?

Turnovers are never a good thing for an offense, but sometimes, a young player learns a valuable lesson after an interception or fumble. In the case of Bears rookie running back David Montgomery, his third-quarter fumble against the Cowboys in Week 14 gave running backs coach Charles London an opportunity for a teaching moment.

“He learned a good lesson the other day,” London said on Tuesday. “He runs so hard, and he’s hard to bring down. So I said, ‘That’s how people are going to try to attack you now. They’re going to try to hold you up and strip the ball.’"

Montgomery's on a bit of a hot streak over the last few weeks, including his performance against Dallas sans the fumble. He carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards in the Bears' 31-24 victory and now has 36 carries for 161 yards over the last two weeks. It's the first time this season he's averaged better than four yards per carry in back-to-back games.

But fumbles can squash the brightest of careers. 

“He knows you have to do a better job taking care of it," London said. "You never want to take away that spirit he has, of trying to fight for extra yards. But that time also has to be calculated, to take care of the ball.”

Montgomery's want-to is evident on almost every carry. Rarely is he brought to the ground by the first defender and he's beginning to set the tone for a rushing attack that struggled to find its identity over the first 10 weeks of the season.

Montgomery's rookie season hasn't been as productive as fantasy-footballers may have hoped for, but he's still managed 680 yards and five touchdowns through 13 games. He hasn't received much help from his offensive line, and while his 3.5 yards per carry doesn't appear overly impressive, it's actually quite good considering how often he's been met at or behind the line of scrimmage. He's the Bears' third-highest graded player on offense, per Pro Football Focus, and is now beginning to prove just how effective he can be as a pro.

Still, he's not quite a finished product yet.

“Just go down,” London said of his advice to Montgomery. “Take care of the football. Take the profit. Live to play another play.”

Montgomery is a competitor. It's obvious in how he runs. And while his fumble in Week 14 wasn't a play he'll showcase on a highlight film from his rookie season, it was an important building block for the young running back.

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