Bears

Matt Nagy says 'earmuffs and blinders' are keys to offensive turnaround

Matt Nagy says 'earmuffs and blinders' are keys to offensive turnaround

Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy was so confident in the growth of his offense and his young quarterback this summer that he declared Mitch Trubisky a graduate of level 101 of his offense and onto level 202. He was a teacher more than a student.

Unfortunately, the first two weeks of the 2019 season haven't produced results that match that confidence. And of course, Nagy is searching for answers. In the meantime, he wants his players -- Trubisky included -- to ignore the outside noise.

"Making sure we have the earmuffs on and the blinders," Nagy said Thursday from Halas Hall. "And I say that. I mean that. It's hard in this world today because it's everywhere. People are talking and saying things, and when you're doing real well, everyone's all about it. When you're not doing well, everyone's all about it. So we have to make sure that we control what we can control and that's today's practice."

Those earmuffs and blinders better fit just right this week. Chicago plays in front of a national audience in Week 3's Monday night matchup against the Redskins; the outside chatter will turn deafening if the offense struggles against one of the NFL's worst defenses.

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Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

Chris Simms says the Bears' offensive struggles make the defense, Khalil Mack easier to gameplan for

What a difference a year makes.

On November 14, 2018, the Bears — with a record of 6-3 — were riding a three-game winning streak into a Week 10 matchup with division rival Minnesota Vikings. They would go on to win that game, and the next one, en route to an eventual 12-4 regular season record and NFC North title. The offense was humming, the defense was dominant and, at the heart of it, their best player: Khalil Mack.

But 2019 has been a different story. Heading into Week 10 of this season, the Bears are 4-5 and living in a reality where every game is a must-win. A sputtering offensive attack, helmed by the increasingly-maligned duo of Mitch Trubisky and Matt Nagy, has catalyzed struggles across the team — including a half-step back for a defense that once appeared unassailable. They are still one of the league’s best, but not quite the death star of a unit they were in 2018.

Though many of his stats are comparable to his 2018 pace (outside of raw sack totals), Mack, specifically, hasn’t wreaked the same kind of havoc this season as he did last. Recently, NBC Sports NFL analyst, Chris Simms, posited a few theories for that development:

“In the big picture of the Chicago Bears: In general, when you’re not playing from a lead ever, to where the team playing against Chicago goes, ‘Oh man, we’re down by 14 or we’re down by 20. We gotta start throwing the football more,’ you know, those were the opportunities last year where Khalil Mack and the Bears were in control of the game,” Simms said.

“When you’re playing the Chicago Bears right now, you gameplan and you go, ‘Ok, what’s the big picture here?’ We’re not scared of their offense, so you can play it conservative on offense when you are playing the Bears,” he continued. “We know the one way we can lose to the Bears this week is if we let Khalil Mack get off on us, and we try to throw complete passes down the field, and then stripe-sack[s], fumbles and things happen.

“Within playing the Bears, most teams go into the games with conservative offensive gameplans because they don’t trust that the Bears offense is going to be able to move the ball a whole lot on their defense, and it’s short passes and things like that to where one guy that may be able to ruin a game on a weekly basis… Khalil Mack kind of gets taken away in those circumstances.” 

Opposing offenses have also been able to devote even more attention than usual to Mack in the form of double-teams and chips, given the increasing amount of injuries the Bears have sustained in their front seven — a fact Simms also acknowledges.

“[Mack] really creates a lot of attention,” Simms said. “And without Akiem Hicks there, a lot of offenses don’t have to worry about that beast in the middle and we can focus on our attention [to] let’s not let 52 ruin the game for us on that side.”

With the loss of Danny Trevathan on Sunday, that special attention Mack receives is only like to increase.

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Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

Bears not on initial list of teams attending Colin Kaepernick workout

The Bears are considered one of the NFL's most quarterback-needy teams after Mitch Trubisky's uninspiring play through the first half of the 2019 season, but that doesn't mean they're searching for his replacement just yet. 

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will conduct a workout on Saturday in Atlanta and the Bears were considered to be one of the most likely landing spots for the one-time dual-threat. But according to Thursday's announcement by the league, Chicago isn't one of the 11 teams who have confirmed their attendance.

The clubs who will have a representative on-site are Arizona, Atlanta, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, NY Giants, NY Jets, Tampa Bay and Washington.

It's possible the Bears could confirm their attendance over the next few days, but at this point, it doesn't appear like there's much interest.

We'll continue to update the Kaepernick story as news breaks.