Bears

15 on 6: Bears Beat Themselves in Red Zone

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15 on 6: Bears Beat Themselves in Red Zone

Sunday, October 18th
Bears Let One Get Away

Literally, the Bears two years in a row let the Falcons get the best of them. They were not beaten physically, they were not out schemed offensively or defensively, they beat themselves with critical mistakes at key moments. They dominated all statistics, just not the one that matters.

Red Zone Efficiency

What did I last write in the Detroit Lions Blog? When you have an opportunity to score in the Red Zone, you have to make it count. The Bears failed in this area of the field and were only 25 in Red Zone efficiency. An interception, a fumble, and a crucial off sides penalty were the main reasons the score was not 28-21 and the Bears walk away with a 4-1 record.

It started rocky for Jay in the first half with two interceptions. I want to break down the first interception on the Bears opening drive as it directly affected the Bears ability to score. It could have been an easy completion and the Bears at minimum walk away with three points. The Bears team I was a part of called the play "772 Z Drive". The Flanker or called the "Z" (Devin Hester) runs a shallow cross or is driving across the field at five to seven yards depth. His responsibly is to run away from man coverage or hook up in zone coverage on the far hash while occupying the middle and weak linebackers. The tight end (Greg Olsen on this play) drives up the field 10 to 12 yards depth and runs an "in cut". If Devin influences the LB's and Greg beats the front side safety, he will get the ball as the number two receiver in the read. The running back (Matt Forte) checks protection to the strong side (TE side) for the SLB. If he does not come, he hooks up two yards up field and two yards outside the tight ends original alignment on the line of scrimmage. He is your number three.

The coverage was a zone, "quarters look", typically seen in the NFL in the Red Zone. The four defensive backs occupy a 14 of the field. It was 3rd and nine situation for the Bears and no one is designed to occupy the back side safety. In this case, it was Thomas Decoup of the Falcons. As a quarterback, you are trying to work this inside triangle between the flanker, tight end, and the running back. That is your progression. Jay thought he could squeeze it in to Devin, when if he simply moves on in his read, his number three receiver was wide open for a completion.

The old clich holds true. "Never beg a receiver to get open!" Jay has completed a throw like that to Devin many times in Denver versus the exact same coverage. But when windows to throw get tighter down in the Red Zone, if it is at all "harry", move on in your read. Especially, on the road and it's the opening drive. If the Bears walk away with three points, everyone is feeling pretty good and it silences the crowd early.

The last two points are what quarterbacking is all about. We forget Jay is still young in his quarterbacking career. We expect miracles because he is so talented. If he harnesses the mental part of the game and weighing the risks and rewards, he will truly be a multi time Pro Bowler. There is much to learn young Jedi. I believe Jay is up for the task.

Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

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USA TODAY

Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

Thirty is one of those milestone numbers in life where people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. For most, reaching 30 years in age signals an advanced maturity towards accountability and a mastering of destinies.

Sports, being extremely reflective of society, mirrors the notion of 30 as a noteworthy number. For example, once a baseball player attains membership in the “30-30 club” – hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases – his status elevates among other major leaguers.

Conversely, depending on the circumstances, 30 sometimes has negative implications attached to it. For instance, once NFL running backs hit the age of 30, conventional wisdom speculates that his skills will erode, making him less effective.

This week, as far as the Washington Redskins are concerned, the number 30 represents a level of futility and ineffectiveness that’s led to two losses and zero wins this season. Let’s use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Stats) to sift through the ebb and flow of 30 and how it affects this week’s contest between Chicago and Washington.

Washington hired Jay Gruden to be its head coach in 2014, and have since amassed a 35–46-1 record, with one playoff loss. Overall, Gruden has coached in 83 games but, unfortunately for the Redskins, they’ve lost 30.1 percent of those games after allowing teams to score 30 or more points. Yes, typically, any NFL team giving up 30 points in a game all but insures the likelihood of a frustrating loss.

For the past 3 seasons, the league average for losing games after giving up 30 points is 20.4 percent, and only five teams are at 30 percent or higher. Only one of those five teams made a playoff appearance within those three years, the 2016 Miami Dolphins. Since 2016, every team in the NFC East from Dallas (11.8 percent), to Philadelphia (3.8 percent), and the New York Giants (18.4 percent) are below the league average in games lost by allowing 30 points or more.

Washington’s defense is so bad it’s offensive. Speaking of offenses, last season in games where the Redskins lost giving up 30 or more points, their opponents averaged 436 yards per game. The NFL average for yards allowed per contest last year was at 352.2, and this season it’s increased by a few to 356.2 yards a game. The Redskins are even worse so far in this campaign, giving up 455 yards per game, essentially 100 yards more than the league average.

Another strong contributor to Washington’s ineffectiveness is their turnover to takeaway numbers. Since Gruden’s arrival in 2014, the Redskins have turned the ball over 52 times, while only taking it away 22 times for a minus-30 margin.

Going by the Redskins’ pathetic defensive output, this should be an easy win for the Bears, right?

Not so fast - as inept as Washington’s defense has been, Chicago’s offense has been equally futile. Mitchell Trubisky is ranked 28th in the league in passing yards, and has only completed 58.3 percent of his attempts with no touchdown passes. Chicago is scoring less than 10 points per game and most of those scores are from their kicker, Eddy Pineiro.

Washington, on the other hand, has its QB Case Keenum completing 69.1 percent of his passes with five touchdowns thrown to zero interceptions. Plus, the Redskins under Gruden have never allowed 30 points scored against for 3 consecutive weeks. Through the first two weeks, Washington has given up 32 and 31 points, respectively.

The Bears’ offensive scoring issues are not a recent phenomenon, because looking back over the last three games played, they only tallied 34 points combined. That's under 12 points a game. The Bears, and specifically Trubisky, need to take advantage of a porous Redskin defense and “get right” sooner than later. The Bears’ defense is among the top-3 in several categories, and should stymie Keenum and the Redskins offense enough to give Trubisky plenty of opportunities to score.

The Bears will win if…

  • The offense can match or exceed the league average of 356.2 yards total offense per game. The Redskins are giving up 455 yards on average this season
  • The defense continues suffocating offenses, not allowing more than 12 points per contest
  • The defense can force any turnover to give a struggling offense a shorter field to traverse for an easy score

 

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Matt Nagy preaches patience with Mitch Trubisky, but comparison to Drew Brees falls short

Matt Nagy preaches patience with Mitch Trubisky, but comparison to Drew Brees falls short

Matt Nagy rattled off a handful of numbers during a press conference Saturday afternoon: One touchdown, nine interceptions, a 53.3 passer rating and a 60 percent completion rate for a quarterback who was four games into his second season with a specific offensive-minded head coach. And Nagy stressed this quarterback, without naming names, is a sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Famer. 

Nagy’s point was to offer some optimistic context to Mitch Trubisky’s slow start to Year 2 running his offense. That’s because the quarterback he referenced is Drew Brees. 

“I understand everyone wants it now, now, now, now," Nagy said. "I get it. So I need to make sure that I pull back, I stay patient with our offense and who we are because there’s a lot of evidence out there of this stuff that goes on, where the story’s a really good ending in the end.” 

Brees was awful over the first four games of the 2007 season — Sean Payton’s second year as the head coach of the New Orleans Saints — putting up those aforementioned horrific numbers. While the Saints only managed a disappointing 7-9 season that year, Brees led the league in passing attempts and completions, and threw for 4,423 yards with 28 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a rating of 89.4. The next year, he began his streak of seven consecutive Pro Bowls, during which he led the Saints to a Super Bowl. 

But there are a couple of problems with Nagy’s analogy. First: Brees was an All-Pro in 2006, his first year with Patyon, and had an established track record of success with the San Diego Chargers before landing in New Orleans. 2007 was Brees’ sixth year in the league, too. He not only had experience, but he had prior production. 

Trubisky did have a 95.4 passer rating in 2018, though that’s not a good stat to compare quarterbacks from different eras (Trubisky’s 2018 passer rating would’ve been seventh in 2007; it was 16th last year). Overall, the prior production does not exist for Trubisky in the way it existed for Brees. 

So there’s not really a comparison there. But let’s unpack Nagy’s comments about instant gratification, especially in the face of what Patrick Mahomes is doing with the Chiefs and what Deshaun Watson is doing with the Texans. 

“It doesn’t shock me with Kansas City and what’s going on there with coach (Andy) Reid and Patrick and the rest of those coaching staff and players,” Nagy said. “There’s a lot of good things that are going on there. And then you talk about a guy like Deshaun Watson and what they’re doing down there with Houston. 

"But I remember specifically dealing with all three of those quarterbacks, them talking about wanting to be the best quarterback class ever. But that doesn’t happen in 2-3 years. That doesn’t happen in 2-3 years. They’re all going to have their highs and lows. We need to face that.”

The problem here is teams that draft a quarterback in the first round do need some level of instant gratification. Trubisky’s cap hit in 2019 is about $7.9 million, and rises to a little over $9.2 million in 2020. That’s incredibly cheap, and allows the Bears to make the sort of aggressive moves in free agency they have. 

But the Bears need to figure out if Trubisky can be a long-term “eraser,” the kind of quarterback who’s good enough to life an entire roster when he’s taking up a significant chunk of cap space after earning a massive contract. Brees is one of those guys. So are Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and, when healthy, Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton. Mahomes and Watson look capable of being that type of quarterback for years, too.  

But is Matthew Stafford, whose $29.5 million cap hit in 2019 is the largest in the NFL, that guy? Or Derek Carr? Or Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota? 

Every one of those players carries a cap hit of over $20 million in 2019. That’s the cost of doing business with quarterbacks no longer on their rookie contracts (or, in the case if Winston and Mariota, on their fifth-year options). Of Stafford/Carr/Winston/Mariota, can you imagine any of those players leading deep playoff runs? Probably not. 

One of the worst places an NFL team can be stuck is paying an okay-to-good quarterback a ton of money. The Bears are deeply tied to Trubisky, but need to figure out by the end of the 2020 season if he’s worthy of the kind of contract extensions signed by Carson Wentz and Jared Goff, and will be signed by Mahomes and Watson. 

The Bears can, right now, wait for Trubisky to realize the potential they collectively believe he has in him. It’s a lot easier to be patient when your quarterback is making under $10 million on his rookie contract. It’s much more difficult to be patient in that fifth-year option season or during a rich, long-term second contract. 

Two bad games aren’t enough to implode the Bears’ confidence in Trubisky. Four bad games, even at a 2007 Brees-like level, aren’t either. But the Bears will have to make a decision on Trubisky in the next 16 months, and at some point won’t be able to be patient anymore. 

“We know that what we’ve done in the last two games — that’s not what we want to be at all,” Nagy said. “But then there’s patience involved in that and there’s zero panic. So do we want to be better in Week 1 and Week 2? Yes. What are the reasons for that? That’s our job to figure out those solutions. That’s why we have 16 games, is to figure that out.”

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