Bears

Three big things we learned about the Bears in the third quarter of 2019

Three big things we learned about the Bears in the third quarter of 2019

If you divide the 2019 season into four quarters, the Bears so far look like this: 

Quarter 1: 3-1
Quarter 2: 0-4
Quarter 3: 3-1

The Bears righted the ship in the third quarter of 2019, and will enter the final four games of the season with a 6-6 record. Here are five things we learned about the Bears as they enter December:

1. The Bears built their case for Mitch Trubisky. 

As the Bears’ 2019 season cratered in October, the mantra from Halas Hall was that everything wasn’t Mitch Trubisky’s fault. Now, as the Bears have won three of their last four games, the mantra pointing out steady, incremental progress from the 2017 No. 2 overall pick. 

Ryan Pace, after the Bears’ loss to the Rams in which Trubisky was removed with a heavily-scrutinized hip injury, said: “The past two weeks he’s made strides just with decision-making and conviction.” 

And Matt Nagy, after the Bears’ Thanksgiving win over the Lions, said: “(It’s been) really four games now that Mitch has really stacked some strong games together with decision making.” 

Those are two examples of the consistent message regarding Trubisky over the last few weeks. 

But over his last four games, Trubisky’s numbers don’t show anything special: 94 completions on 145 attempts (64.8 percent), 979 yards (6.8 yards/attempt), eight touchdowns, four interceptions and a passer rating of 91.1. In effect, Trubisky has been exactly league average (64.1 percent completion rate, 7.3 yards/attempt, 2:1 TD/INT, 91.2 passer rating). 

The Bears would be in much better shape as a team if Trubisky had merely been league average for the entire 2019 season. But he was well below average in the first half of the season, so merely being average doesn’t feel like it makes up for that performance — especially when considering the defenses he’s played. 

Detroit: 280.1 yards/game (30th), 7.5 yards/attempt (25th)
Los Angeles: 231.8 yards/game (13th), 6.4 yards/attempt (8th)
New York: 260 yards/game (27th), 8.1 yards/attempt (31st)

Trubisky still needs to finish the 2019 season strong to solidify his footing for 2020 in the eyes of the Bears. But if Pace decides to pick up Trubisky’s fifth-year option before next May and/or doesn't bring in a true competitor for him during free agency or the draft, expect to hear an argument about how well Trubisky played in the third quarter of 2019 — and, perhaps, how it wasn’t all his fault in the fourth quarter of the season. 

2. They’re not among the worst teams in the NFL. 

There was a time when the Bears had a higher chance of sending a top-five pick in 2020’s draft to the Oakland Raiders than making the playoffs, but wins over the Detroit Lions (twice) and New York Giants mean that worst-case scenario won’t play out. 

Still, the Bears only have a four percent chance of making the playoffs, per FiveThirtyEight. And they’d only have a 26 percent chance of making the playoffs if the following best-case scenario plays out in the next three weeks:

-The Bears beat the Cowboys and Packers
-Minnesota loses to the Seahawks and Chargers and beats the Lions
-Philadelphia wins two of three against the Dolphins, Giants and Washington
-Los Angeles loses to the Cardinals, Seahawks and Cowboys
-Carolina loses two of three to Washington, the Falcons and Seahawks 
-The Packers beat the Giants and Washington before losing to the Bears in Week 15

Anything else feels even more unrealistic than all of these results playing out between now and mid-December. The Bears’ playoff hopes largely will hinge on a massive upset — like the Detroit Lions beating the Vikings, and the Vikings still losing to the Seahawks and Chargers — which is completely out of their control. 

So the Bears aren’t out of the playoff race yet, and will play at least one meaningful game in the month of December. But they didn’t prove anything about their ability to make the playoffs in the season's third quarter. Instead, all we can say is the Bears aren’t among the worst teams in the league, in the same realm as the Lions and Giants. 

3. Anthony Miller pulled out of his slump. 

While Miller still made some mistakes — like running the wrong depth on a route that led to a Trubisky interception in Los Angeles — he finally started producing like the guy the Bears thought he could be over the last few games. 

Specifically in his last three games, Miller has 21 catches on 33 targets for 271 yards, good for 12.9 yards per reception. 

Nagy was quick to point out Miller is not “there” yet, though that he’s beginning to have some production is important for how the Bears view him heading into 2020, his third year in the NFL. 

“We want to make sure that we’re still honing in on the details,” Nagy said. “And so, numbers-wise, he’s done a good job. But we can all still improve in some areas and he knows that. That’s gonna be important here moving forward that make sure that regardless of a stat line, that we make sure that on every play we’re doing the right thing all the time.” 

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The road to Super Bowl LIV filled with plenty of intrigue for Bears fans

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USA TODAY

The road to Super Bowl LIV filled with plenty of intrigue for Bears fans

Super Bowl LIV is going to have plenty of intrigue for Bears fans. There are many connections in terms of the players in the game and each team's journey to Super Bowl LIV contained plenty of points of interest for the Chicago fan base along the way. With the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers set to faceoff on February 2, 2020, let's take a look at the most important connections for Bears fans to monitor and think back on as they prepare for the big game. 

Aaron Rodgers' big dud:

Aaron Rodgers, who has otherwise had a great season (4,002 yards, 26 touchdowns), laid an absolute dud in the first half against the 49ers, resulting in the Packers entering the half down 27-0. In Rodgers' first-half performance he threw for under 70 yards, had one interception, and two fumbles, losing one of them. 

There is no shame in playing poorly against the San Francisco defense, which is No. 1 in the league in postseason total defense (yards per game) but that being said, Rodgers and the Packers were thoroughly dominated. Rodgers pick was to Emmanuel Moseley on what appeared to be a miscommunication and his fumble was a result of a bad handoff exchange between him and center Corey Linsley. 

Rodgers capped off the game with his final turnover, an interception to Richard Sherman, as the Packers fell 37-20 to the 49ers.

Welcome to "The Show" Raheem Mostert (Remember him?)

For the most diligent of Bears fans, the name Raheem Mostert may ring a bell. For those who are drawing a blank when it comes to the connection between the explosive Mostert and the Bears, you need to go back to 2016, when Mostert was a running back on the Bears practice squad. The Bears signed Mostert in Septemeber 2016 and he actually was elevated to the Bears active roster at some point that season. Mostert appeared in two games for the Bears in 2016, not seeing much action in either contest. The Bears released the running back out of Purdue on November 24, 2016. He landed on the 49ers practice squad in 2016 and was used sparingly over the years before his big break in the 2019 season. 

Mostert lit up the Packers' defense to the tune of 220 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He had touchdown runs of 36, 9, 18, and 22 yards.

The San Francisco rushing attack is extremely potent. evidenced by the fact that they had three different players rush for over 500 yards in the 2019 regular season. Mostert led the way with eight rushing touchdowns in the regular season but Matt Breida (6) wasn't too far behind. When the Bears had Mostert, he likely wasn't running the way he is now. But the 49ers are tops in the league in postseason rushing yards per game and Mostert's play is obviously a big reason, leaving Bears fans to wonder what could have been. 

The local kid vs the 2018 NFL MVP 

He didn't have to do much on Sunday but local product Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his Super Bowl debut after going

Graoppolo, who grew up in Arlington Heights, went to Rolling Meadows High School, where he performed well enough to end up at Eastern Illinois. In his three years with the Panthers, Garoppolo broke the pass completions record that was held by former Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo on his way to becoming a New England Patriot and one of the hottest trade chips in the NFL. The Pats eventually traded Garoppolo to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in a move that many fans are still wishing the Bears would've or could've made. 

The 49ers' handpicked franchise QB had a solid 2019 regular season, throwing for 3,978 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Similar to Mitchell Trubisky in 2018, "Jimmy G" is backed by a great defense that allows him to operate as stress-free as possible. While Bears fans are surely intrigued about the idea of Garoppolo as a Bear, it is no doubt Patrick Mahomes who induces the longest sighs. 

Mahomes, who the Bears and a bunch of other NFL teams now infamously passed up on in the 2017 draft, is already a league MVP who is now getting ready to play in his first Super Bowl all before the age of 25. Mahomes lit up a very physical Tennesse Titans defense, throwing for 294 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 53 yards and another touchdown. For a team that has had no trouble scoring as is, Mahomes' recent surge in rushing yards adds another dimension to an already potent attack.

Garoppolo-Trubisky comparisons could be interesting depending on how the rest of the season shakes out. But it was already unfair to compare Trubisky's solid career to what has been a meteoric rise for Mahomes in KC, and will be an even tougher comparison should Mahomes rack up some additional hardware in February. 

The Bears REALLY made an impact in this one 

We mentioned that running back Mostert was a former Chicago Bear, but with Chicago-favorite Robbie Gould still acting as the kicker for the 49ers, former Bears scored all 37 of the 49ers points on Sunday.

We told you the Bears had a strong presence in this one! Super Bowl LIV will kick off on February 2, 2020 at the Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida

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Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Tom Brady to meet with other teams in 2020 free agency

Let the games begin! After spending his entire NFL career at Gillette Stadium with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady is entering free agency. Per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, Brady is open to talks with other teams for what is to be the last contract of his playing career.

Brady has been a staple of the Patriots franchise for 19 years. There are young New England fans who haven’t ever been alive during a time without Brady under center. The Patriots are certain to undergo changes in the future, with many wondering how much longer Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick will be at the helm of the organization, so it is understandable to see Brady ready to explore his options.

RELATED: Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason

At 42-years-old, Brady has been telling those close to him that, unless he is sidelined by injury, he anticipates playing until age 45. Brady is also excited at the prospect of mentoring a young quarterback so that whatever organization he plays with during his final NFL stint, it is set for success after he retires. The question for Bears fans is, could that young quarterback be Mitch Trubisky?

After an uninspiring season, there is much talk about creating some competition at QB for the three-year Bears starter. Some healthy competition could drive Trubisky to play like the draft pick that Ryan Pace hoped he would be. The Bears are currently in the bottom-five of salary cap space in the NFL, meaning they would have to do some serious budgeting to be able to afford Brady, but fans will have to wait and see what Pace intends to do this off-season after a disappointing 2019 campaign.

La Canfora reports that it would “extremely surprising” if Brady were to agree to a new deal with the Patriots before free agency begins in March. There have been other reports of the Brady family moving to Connecticut (still technically in New England, but a move nonetheless) and a deep clean of Giselle Bündchen’s suite at Gillette Stadium, indicating that Brady is indeed ready to move on. We will all just have to wait and see where Brady will end up in 2020. 

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