Bears offense’s lack of explosiveness remains an issue

Bears offense’s lack of explosiveness remains an issue

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.”

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Former Bears DC Vic Fangio off to rough start as Broncos coach

Former Bears DC Vic Fangio off to rough start as Broncos coach

Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was one of the few head-coaching candidates last offseason whose reputation in the league was based on defense. With most teams looking for the next young offensive guru, Fangio's stature as a veteran defensive coach made the Denver Broncos' decision to name him their head coach a pretty bold move.

After a 3-6 start and a change from Joe Flacco to Brandon Allen at quarterback, Denver's lacking offense has sparked internal frustration, according to CBS Sports' Jason LaCanfora.

The real source of the difficulty, however, appears to be Fangio.

Fangio has had issues with offensive assistants, the sources said, and at one point top receiver Emmanuel Sanders in essence walked out on the team, leading to his eventual trade. Lines of communication have been strained, and Fangio has been quick to dispute play calls and come across as overbearing on the headsets, sources said, which has created issues in-game and otherwise.

Fangio's time in Chicago was highlighted by the dominant performance of the Bears' defense in 2018, one that led the team to an NFC North championship and its first playoff berth since 2010.

But he was never able to establish himself as the kind of coach who could handle the media or other responsibilities that come along with being atop the coaching food chain. His to-the-point and sometimes brutally honest style worked well for a grizzled defensive coordinator, but head coaches are held to a different standard.

It would be unfair to expect Fangio to change who he is at this point in his coaching career, which began with the New Orleans Saints 33 seasons ago. 

Maybe we're just starting to see why it took so long for him to actually land a head coaching position.

(Too) Bold Predictions: The Blake Bortles-Mitch Trubisky debate gets answered once and for all

(Too) Bold Predictions: The Blake Bortles-Mitch Trubisky debate gets answered once and for all

(Too) Bold Predictions aims to take nuanced, well-researched information and use it to make wildly improbable predictions. Analysis! 

J.J. Stankevitz
1. Eddie Jackson -- finally! -- has his first two interceptions of the season.
Does this count as a bold prediction if I've predicted it, incorrectly, multiple times this year? Whatever. Either way: It finally happens! Jared Goff has nine interceptions this year and the Rams' offense has looked broken at times. Sunday should be a nice opportunity for Jackson to finally get that takeaway he's so hungry for, and we'll say he stacks another one on it. These things do come in bunches, after all.

2. Blake Bortles vs. Mitch Trubisky gets settled once and for all.
Sean McVay intentionally put Blake Bortles in the Rams' loss to the Steelers last week, as if one of the NFL's foremost offensive minds was taken over by Jason from "The Good Place." The prediction here: Things go catastrophically wrong for Goff in the first half Sunday night, but the Bears aren't able to capitalize, holding a 6-0 lead at halftime. With the Rams' season on the line, McVay breaks the glass and gives Bortles a shot in the second half, which goes...actually, kind of well? I have the Rams beating the Bears in my official prediction, and I wouldn't imagine a Bortles-led offense would be good enough to beat the Bears. But is a Trubisky-led offense good enough for the Bears to beat the Rams? This could be an ugly, yet fascinating, night if Bortles and Trubisky wind up quarterbacking against each other.

Cam Ellis
1. David Montgomery has his most impressive game of the season. 
The Bears probably aren't going to have a lot of success running it through some of the interior gaps, because, you know, Aaron Donald and all. The Rams' run defense is great (3rd in DVOA) so getting over the (kind of arbitrary) 100-yard mark may not happen, but without Adam Shaheen, Trey Burton, and Jalen Ramsey smothering Allen Robinson, the Bears aren't going to have that many options available to them on Sunday night. It sounds like Montgomery may be a gametime decision, but it's hard to imagine how the Bears move the ball at all without him. Whether it's total yardage, the number of touchdowns, or some jaw-dropping display of his space alien abilities to avoid being tackled, Montgomery's the story on Monday morning. 

2. The Bears' offense looks as good as it has all year. 
Like I said in prediction 1, the Bears' offense goes into Sunday night with a serious lack of NFL experience at the skill position. Shaheen and Burton are out, so they'll have to rely on JP Holtz, Ben Braunecker, and Bradley Sowell, who I promise are all real people. Allen Robinson has to go up against Ramsey, and David Montgomery's ankle has made him a maybe. But who cares?! All the common sense says a Trubisky/Cohen/Braunecker core probably isn't getting the best of Wade Phillips, but (Too) Bolds is not the place for common sense. For no rhyme or reason, something about the Bears' offense clicks tonight. Will it be fun? Yes! Will it continue going forward? No!