Bears

15 on 6: Painfully obvious offensive problems

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15 on 6: Painfully obvious offensive problems

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
Posted: 10:15 p.m.
By Jim Miller
CSNChicago.com

I think it was pretty clear watching the Bears fall to the Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers, 27-17, that there is a huge difference between the two offenses.

Green Bay displayed timing, precision and came into the game with a plan to execute. The Bears offense looked like a mixed bag of play calls, as if they were playing in a preseason game.

I don't think anyone should condemn the Bears' gameplan for throwing. They were not going to be able to run on Green Bay. But who were they attacking, isolating or trying to match up against?

With all the dropped balls, it's as if some Bears receivers did not even expect the ball to come their way. Here are a couple of examples of very good Packers game plan:

1. Look at the play-by-play in the game book. Aaron Rodgers lined up in shotgun for six of their first 10 plays and peppered the Bears with short, precise passes. The last play of the opening drive was the quick out to Jermichael Finley for the touchdown. Green Bay came into Soldier Field with a plan to soften up the Bears defense and expand it in order to get their running game going. They stayed in shotgun for two more series, until seeing the Bears adjust.

2. Sticking with the same personnel groupings, Green Bay went to the ground game with Rodgers under center for their "check with me package." The result: another Finley TD.

3. The Packers went back to the top of the script that started the game from the shotgun.

Finley finished the game with eight catches, 85 yards and three TD's. If you can remember Finley's last touchdown, which was a "Nod route" where he faked a quick out then turned up the seam, it was called by Mike McCarthy to specifically attack the Bears "Tampa Two" Defense. The timing of the play call was beautiful because it was set up throughout the game when Finley was repeatedly hit on the quick out.

McCarthy also came into the game knowing he would "flex out" Finley several times outside the other receivers to see how the Bears would match up. The Bears put safety Craig Steltz on him early, but quickly learned their lesson after a couple of big gainers. Everything McCarthy called was with a purpose. I'm not saying the Bears did not do this at all, but they looked limited.

About the only isolation plays I witnessed was the out-and-up interception intended for Roy Williams, a fake wide receiver screen to Johnny Knox an "Empty Set" to get Matt Forte on Green Bay's linebackers.

Two of those three are trick plays and a fudged "Wildcat" play was another. So now, basically three of four plays calls all backfired by lack of execution. This is why they are trick plays, they are not your base offense and are not practiced regularly.

The Bears struggle to execute their base passing attack so why take calculus when you haven't mastered algebra? It's frustrating because the timing and precision is nowhere near where it needs to be for the Bears.
"The Bears struggle to execute their base passing attack so why take calculus when you haven't mastered algebra?-- Jim Miller.
When Rodgers drops back and hits his back step, the ball is out! He knows his receiver is coming out of his break and where the ball is going. Conversely, Jay Cutler was waiting at the top of his drop, pumping the ball, unsure how routes were going to unfold.

To me, this was pretty obvious to see. The best example was the pump fake "out and go" to Williams that was intercepted early in the game. If you watch the play again, one, it was a terrible route by Roy, and two, the pump fake did not even marry up with Roy's route. Jay was late on the throw because he clutched the ball again before he threw it.

It was bad football and not what anyone is looking for at Halas Hall. Lovie Smith will demand execution of the basics, and has to for the offense to get going. They must plan with a purpose, practice with a purpose and play with a purpose.

The Bears aren't getting anything out of their offense right now and are still good enough to win. That is incredible when you think about it.

Jim Miller, an 11-year former NFL quarterback, is a Comcast SportsNet Bears analyst who can be seen each week on U.S. Cellular Bears Postgame Live. Miller, who spent five seasons with the Bears, analyzes current Chicago QB Jay Cutler in his "15 on 6" blog on CSNChicago.com and can be followed on Twitter @15miller.

What do the Bears have in their running backs? They’re about to find out

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USA Today

What do the Bears have in their running backs? They’re about to find out

The Bears were pleased with what they saw from their overhauled running back room during non-padded OTA and minicamp practices during the spring, but consider that an incomplete evaluation. 

David Montgomery, in particular, impressed with his quickness, athleticism and route running. Nothing Mike Davis showed dissuaded the team from believing in the free agent signing’s untapped potential. Positive things were said about seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr. and second-year undrafted free agent Ryan Nall. 

The only running back returning from 2018’s unit is Tarik Cohen. But while Ryan Pace, Matt Nagy and the Bears’ talent evaluators did their homework on their new players, they won’t really get to see what they have until the pads come on in Bourbonnais (Nagy expects the first padded practice of training camp to be Sunday). 

“I know (Montgomery) kept asking coach, ‘when do we put the pads on?” Pace said. “And so we’re to that point. One of his greatest strengths is his contact balance and his ability to break tackles, and now we’re at a point where that can be showcased.”

It’s one thing for a rookie to stand out during OTAs and minicamp. Tight end Adam Shaheen did two years ago, bodying up NFL-caliber defenders to make some impressive plays in those non-padded practices. But he faded when pads came on in training camp and didn’t play a significant role in 2017’s dour offense. 

The Bears believe Montgomery’s ability to break tackles — he forced the most missed tackles among FBS running backs in 2018 with 99, per Pro Football Focus — will translate to the NFL, giving their ground game a dimension it didn’t have in 2018. Jordan Howard avoided 22 tackles on rushing attempts last year, 28th in the NFL and nearly half the total of Kareem Hunt. Hunt appeared in 11 games (five fewer than Howard) before the Kansas City Chiefs released him after video surfaced of him pushing and kicking a woman; Montgomery’s style of play has favorably been compared to Hunt’s.  

As for Davis, Pace said: “I think I feel like he’s a little bit under the radar right now. Mike’s had a great offseason and we’re fortunate to have him. That’s a strong room — we talk about the receivers, we feel the same way about the running back room. And Mike Davis is a real important part of that.”

The Bears feel like Montgomery, Davis and Cohen leading their running back room will allow them to be less predictable and more efficient on offense. Last year, Howard carried the ball two-thirds of the time he was on the field, while he was targeted with a pass on just six percent of his plays. Yet no skill position player (except Mitch Trubisky, of course) was more involved in the Bears’ offense last year — 33 percent of the Bears’ total plays involved Howard. 

All three of the Bears’ top running backs in 2019 will be expected to catch passes out of the backfield as well as running the ball with a blend of efficiency and explosiveness. We’ll begin to find out this week in Bourbonnais if Pace’s overhaul of that corner of his depth chart will produce the results the Bears’ offense needs. 

Confirmed: Vic Fangio is still grumpy as hell

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USA Today

Confirmed: Vic Fangio is still grumpy as hell

Former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is starting his first (overdue) season as an NFL head coach. 

It's his first time running the show, making the rules, etc. One particularly important rule that Fangio has emphasized to start the year? Music has no place on the football field! 

Fangio won't be playing music during practice because, as noted Grump Bill Belichick can attest to, if you're having fun, you're not getting better. Here's his rationalization: 

"There's no music in games. And when it comes to the point where we need to simulate crowd noise in practice, which we will do, it will be noise. It won't be music," said Fangio, via NFL Network's James Palmer. "Noise, by definition, sounds annoying. Music sounds nice."

He's not wrong - music DOES sound nice. That's about where he stops making much sense, though. 

Vic Fangio: still kinda grumpy!