Bears see Allen Robinson becoming a valuable weapon for playoff push

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Bears see Allen Robinson becoming a valuable weapon for playoff push

There was one play Allen Robinson made last weekend against the New York Giants that signaled to Bears wide receivers coach Mike Furrey the 25-year-old was, truly, “back” from the torn ACL that ended his 2017 season. 

It wasn’t the one you might be thinking of, if that’s the spectacular David Tyree impression that was a “Sportscenter” Top 10 play. It’s the gritty, tough route he ran on fourth-and-seven in overtime, catching a Chase Daniel pass to convert a game-saving first down, and giving perhaps his most emphatic celebration of the season afterwards (Robinson knowingly chuckled when presented with that thought). 

“(To) make that big fourth down catch — I would say he’s back to doing what he can do,” wide receivers coach Mike Furrey said. “And obviously he’s shown that over the last couple of weeks. 

“… I think he’s starting to get more comfortable in our offense, he’s starting to understand the why, how to get open, where to get open. And the quarterbacks are starting to really rely on him. Make plays like that, and the catch that he made on the sideline, that definitely set the tone of you can throw me the ball.”

As the Bears aim to secure their first NFC North title — and playoff appearance — in eight years over the season’s final four games, this team feels like Robinson is coming into his own at the right time. Coach Matt Nagy said he’s feeling more comfortable with what plays he can call for Robinson, and in turn, Robinson has been more demanding in certain situations. 

“There's been a couple times when he's said to me on the field, 'hey give me this.' And the very next play I give it to him, and so I love that,” Nagy said. “Give that to me. When players are feeling that way and they want something I want to know, and we weren't doing that the first couple of weeks. Now we're getting to that part." 

Since returning from a groin injury in Week 9, Robinson has been targeted 28 times, with 16 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns — not necessarily standout numbers, but fitting with the Bears’ spread-the-ball-around approach on offense. 

But those numbers aren’t totally off what he averaged on a per-game basis while being the Jacksonville Jaguars’ No. 1 receiver in 2015 and 2016 (nine targets, five catches and 71 yards). While he’s not the Bears’ No. 1 receiver this year — so far, that’s Tarik Cohen — he hasn’t had an issue with how he’s been used. 

“It’s not tough at all,” Robinson said. “I came here to win games. That’s the biggest thing. I’m trying to do my part to be able to help us do it. We have a lot of selfless guys on this offense and winning takes a selfless effort from each and everybody. 

“A big thing for me wanting to come here, I knew this was an offensive scheme and it’s a real offense, not just float the ball to one person or whatever like that. But I knew I had the chance to make my plays so whenever my number is called, I try to do that. But again, it’s translating to wins and that’s the most important thing.”

Sunday night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Rams — who just got Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib back last week — will be another test for Robinson. But this is also part of why Robinson signed with the Bears: His opportunity to play in a playoff race was taken away from him a year ago when he tore his ACL in Week 1 of the Jaguars’ eventual push to an AFC South title. 

While Robinson was around the Jaguars for that playoff run, this December represents the first time in his career he’ll be able to make big plays down the stretch for a team pushing for a postseason berth. And the Bears are confident the guy they gave a three-year, $42 million contract can deliver when it counts this month. 

“He’s always wanted to be in this role,” Furrey said. “He wants that role. When you want that role, you obviously have a great understanding of what that role is instead of just hoping that you have that role.”

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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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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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