The Bears’ offense has shown more signs of regression than progression through the first two weeks of the 2019 season. There are a number of ways to attack that angle, but for today, let’s zero in on one aspect Matt Nagy addressed in the aftermath of the Bears’ 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos this weekend: The lack of explosive plays.
The Bears rank last in the NFL with 13 plays of 10 or more yards through two games, per Pro Football Reference, a stat underscoring the lack of rhythm Nagy’s offense has achieved. Part of that dearth of explosiveness, at least against the Denver Broncos, was by design: Nagy committed to quick throws and runs in an effort to scheme edge rushers Bradley Chubb and Von Miller out of the game — an effort which succeeded, as neither Chubb nor Miller had a sack.
Still, it was notable that the Bears’ only touchdown drive of the season was sparked by two explosive plays: First, Cordarrelle Patterson’s 46-yard rumble on a toss sweep, and second, a well-schemed and well-executed run to Taylor Gabriel which carved out 14 yards.
“That (rhythm) showed on that drive where CP broke that run,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “That really made it for everybody, especially in the backfield, we were like, oh yeah, I want to be the next guy in.”
There’s a playcalling rhythm Nagy is able to get into when he’s dialing up consecutive plays on first-and-10, instead of going first down, second down, third down and trying to pick up yardage that way. It’s a lot easier to be aggressive as a play caller when a coach feels his offense has the opposing defense on its heels.
The issue here, though, is the Bears weren’t all that good at generating explosive plays last year.
The Bears ranked 28th in plays of 10 or more yards in 2018 (180). At the top of the list were the league’s great offenses (Rams, Chiefs) and some good offenses that played from behind quite a bit (Buccaneers, Falcons). Only the sub-optimal offenses of Washington, Buffalo, Miami and Arizona finished with fewer plays of 10 or more yards than the Bears last year.
The solution was supposed to be Trubisky’s ability to better read opposing defenses and get the ball to a group of playmakers fine-tuned for 2019. So far, Trubisky hasn’t been able to do that — for instance, he missed an open Gabriel for what would’ve been a chunk gain during the second quarter of Sunday’s game.
Solving this problem wouldn’t entirely fix the Bears’ offense, of course. But even one or two more chunk plays per game could have a marked impact on the vibe on the Bears’ sideline and Nagy’s playcalling rhythm.
“When I dig into that thing, does that mean you’ve got to throw the ball downfield more? Does that mean it’s throwing the ball always? No,” Nagy said. “We just need more explosive plays. That doesn’t mean 40, 50-yard gains. What it means is plus-10 to make it first-and-10 the next time.”