Bears

Bears-Rams shaping up as Smiths-vs-Grabowskis II?

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USA TODAY

Bears-Rams shaping up as Smiths-vs-Grabowskis II?

“Some teams are fair-haired. Some aren't. Some teams are a Smith, some are a Grabowski... We're a Grabowski.” -Mike Ditka, 1985
 
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A long time ago in an NFL galaxy that now seems far, far away… .
 
…a Los Angeles team exuding Hollywood came to Soldier Field for an NFC Championship game. They were the “Smiths,” aka the Rams. Waiting for them were the Ditka-styled Grabowskis, the Bears. Ditka, missing no opportunity to cast any event in apocalyptic terms, set the game as an epic struggle between the fair-haireds and the scruffies.
 
History usually doesn’t repeat itself verbatim. But sometimes it can come interestingly close...

Then
 
Those Smiths were LA Flash. Eric Dickerson running the football. Henry Ellard catching it. Ron Brown with his Olympic gold medal opposite Ellard. All three of them All-Pro’s. A Heisman Trophy winner (Charles White) as a backup. Four of five offensive linemen with Pro Bowls on their football curriculum vitae, topped by Hall of Fame-bound tackle Jackie Slater. 

Waiting for them were a bunch of Grabowskis, who had their own elites (No. 1’s Jim Covert, Willie Gault, Dan Hampton, Jim McMahon, William Perry, Keith Van Horne, Wilber Marshall, Otis Wilson, and Walter Payton).

But they were relative mutts compared to the LA Flash, or at least Ditka set it up that way. Jay Hilgenberg was undrafted; Mark Bortz and Richard Dent would’ve been now, being eighth-round selections back then. New England didn’t want Steve McMichael and cut him.

Now

So here’s another bunch of “Smiths,” with seven No. 1 picks (theirs and others’) on defense alone, plus three more on offense (quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, wide receiver Brandin Cooks) and four No. 2’s. All this topped by a head coach – Sean McVay – hailed as the embodiment of the new NFL flash and innovation.
 
Waiting for them Sunday night will be the “new” Grabowskis, who have their own No. 1’s (theirs and others’): Prince Amukamara, Leonard Floyd, Kyle Fuller, Khalil Mack, Roquan Smith (how’d an actual “Smith” slip in here?) and Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears traded up for their quarterback just like the Rams did for theirs. And their coach Matt Nagy is certainly offense-cool ’n’ all.
 
There are some similarities. Both have high No. 1’s at quarterback; both teams jettisoned defense-based head coaches (Jeff Fisher from Los Angeles, John Fox from Chicago) in favor of young-ish guys from backgrounds of offense.

But sorry, it’s just not the same.
 
Aaron Donald’s press conference was national stuff when the Rams made him the highest-paid defensive player in history before this season.
 
Mack brought his mom and dad to his.
 
Donald’s original team (Rams) just kept throwing money at him until he signed; Mack’s (Raiders) didn’t want to pay him and preferred college kids in the form of draft choices.
 
The Rams were hailed for being bold for dealing up to get their quarterback (Goff). Bears GM Ryan Pace was widely dubbed an idiot for doing the same to get his.
 
The Smiths have arguably the best running back (Gurley) in the NFL. The Grabowskis finish each week answering questions about where theirs (Jordan Howard) is.
 
The Smiths have a galaxy of star No. 1’s up front on their 3-4: Donald, Michael Brockers, Ndamukong Suh. The Grabowskis don’t have any No. 1’s in their “3” and their best defensive lineman (Akiem Hicks) was cast aside, traded by the team that drafted him (New Orleans) and not re-signed by the team (New England) that traded for him.
 
The first Smiths-Grabowskis confrontation ended with the snow swirling as Marshall picked up a fumble and was escorted to the end zone where the Super Bowl waited.
 
This one could end amid swirling snow, and Mack could reprise the Marshall drama. No one expects these Grabowskis to go on to the Super Bowl, of course, but…

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AP writers vote Matt Nagy for 2018's best coaching job

AP writers vote Matt Nagy for 2018's best coaching job

It may only be Week 15, but Matt Nagy's already winning awards. 

Earlier today, Nagy was chosen as "having done the NFL’s best coaching job in 2018 in voting released Friday by a panel of 10 football writers for The Associated Press." 

AP football writer Howard Fendrich explained the decision, saying,″(Nagy’s) overseen a total turnaround of the Bears in just his first year as an NFL head coach, taking a team that hadn’t finished above .500 since 2012 and turning them into the best of the NFC North. He’s an offensive guru who learned from former boss Andy Reid, and Chicago’s play calling has been creative and fun — and overcome limitations at the QB spot to be good enough to let a superb defense lead the way.”

Nagy's led the Bears to a 9-4 record in his first year as head coach, with a chance to win the division if the Bears can beat the Packers this weekend. 

Nagy came in ahead of Pete Carroll, who finished in 2nd place. Andy Reid, Nagy's mentor in Kansas City, rounded out the top 3. 

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Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

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USA Today Sports Images

Lack of flags another reason why the Bears’ defense is the NFL’s best

A thought here after watching Thursday night’s Chargers-Chiefs tilt, which featured eight flags for either defensive pass interference or defensive holding...

As the NFL makes it harder for defensive players to play defense (and as TV ratings go up), the Bears are one of the cleanest teams when it comes to their opponents’ passing game. They rank second among teams with only eight combined defensive holding and defensive pass interference penalties: 

1. Dallas (5)
2. Chicago (8)
3. Oakland (10)
4. Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers (11)
6. Arizona, Indianapolis (12)
8. Carolina, Cleveland, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia (13)
14. Cincinnati, New York Jets, Seattle, Tampa Bay (14)
18. Baltimore, Pittsburgh (15)
20. Los Angeles Rams (16)
21. Buffalo, Minnesota, New England (17)
24. Denver, Detroit, New York Giants, San Francisco (18)
29. Atlanta, Miami (20)
31. New Orleans (23)
32. Kansas City (36)

The Chargers entered Thursday night’s game tied with the Bears with eight holding/pass interference penalties, but where whistled for three during the game — and not all were clear fouls, either. And that kind of stuff can be annoying for defensive players around the league to see. 

“100 percent,” Bears safety Eddie Jackson said. “.. .I’ve seen some things, I’m like come on, man. But there’s some things you can’t control. Control what you can control, and that’s go out there and play ball and to the best of your ability try not to hold or get a flag for pass interference called on you.”

Jackson credited four members of the coaching staff with the Bears’ ability to avoid holding/interference penalties: Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, assistant defensive backs coach Roy Anderson and quality control assistant Sean Desai. From teaching proper technique for being told what to watch out for, this is a well-coached group. Only cornerback Prince Amukamara — who’s usually in press coverage, subjecting him to the most contact — has been whistled for multiple interference or holding flags this year (he actually has half the Bears’ total, with four). 

“It’s a combination of both (coaching and technique) I would say,” coach Matt Nagy said. “The players, technique-wise is a big part of it. You’ve got to be really disciplined in that area. And then I think the other part of it is with the coaching is making sure that they’re watching to make sure to see where they’re at with it. So far, to have that, you want that overall as a team to be the least penalized, specifically in that area, that’s always a good thing.”

Consider it another feather in the cap of the league’s best defense: Even when passing-oriented rule changes and tweaks supposedly make it harder to play defense, the Bears largely haven’t suffered for it. 

“It’s more difficult for the referees, too,” Nagy said. “It’s difficult for them. It’s difficult for the players. There’s some subjectiveness to it. But you gotta try to not be too grabby.”  

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