Bears

Bears Grades: Coaching staff's creativity shines in win over Raiders

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Bears Grades: Coaching staff's creativity shines in win over Raiders

Some of the late-game clock management seemed curious as the Bears allowed time to run down late in the fourth quarter rather than run (risk?) another play to give Robbie Gould something less than the 49-yard field goal he needed to provide the game winner.

But for the third time in four games the Bears outgained their opponent, this time with the number of mistakes reduced enough to take away a victory.

“Anytime you work as hard as all those guys work – coaches, players, staff members – obviously it’s a lot more gratifying when you win and that was our first opportunity,” said coach John Fox. “I was really, really happy to see smiles in there. And I’m really happy for our fans, because we haven’t exactly lit it up here in our first two home games."

Perhaps as an indicator of some of the creativity to come, certainly on offense, within the first three plays, using three tight ends, the Bears used a straight Matt Forte run, a Jay Cutler pass to Martellus Bennett, and a wildcat formation with a shotgun snap to Forte, Jaquizz Rodgers as his lead back and Cutler split far left as a receiver.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Coordinator Adam Gase was forced to work around a depleted receiver group in addition to being without injured left tackle Jermon Bushrod (inactive), then losing center Will Montgomery (broken leg) and needing to work with new players at three of the five offensive-line positions.

“There were a lot of challenges,” Fox said, “a bunch of them.”

Play design in the second quarter produced a wide-open touchdown pass, using tight end Zach Miller as the inside decoy, left Bennett unattended in the end zone for a much-needed five-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Oakland was among the worst in the NFL at defending tight-end throws and the Bears went at the Raiders with heavy doses of Bennett in particular.

Gase, who was calling just the second two-minute drive of his career as a coordinator, had acknowledged that he’d needed to open the game up a little more in Oakland with Jimmy Clausen and he did so against the Raiders but within the context of a balanced game plan. The Bears ran 22 pass plays in the first half to 17 running plays, a 56:44 ratio against a team whose weakest area is its secondary. Through three quarters of a 17-16 game Gase operated at 55:45 pass-run, tilting toward pass as Oakland tightened up front to limit Matt Forte’s effectiveness.

Credit coaches with using Rodgers and Jeremy Langford in relief of Forte early, keeping Forte fresh through the entire first half, during which Forte ran 14 times for 69 yards and caught two passes for another 48.

[MORE: Bears lose Montgomery, Rolle to injuries]

The defense held its first opponent to under 21 points and fewer than 300 total yards, but that effort has been generally consistent, with 322 to Green Bay, 300 to Arizona and Oakland’s 243. For the second week in a row the defense held an opponent to two touchdowns, this time both in the second quarter and then just two field goals in the second half.

With only four healthy down-linemen, the defense as a whole controlled one of the AFC’s top rushers (Latavius Murray) while dealing with an Oakland passing game built around rookie receiver Amari Cooper and holding that unit to fewer than 200 yards.

Special teams turned in a generally difficult week, with penalties and other mistakes. Coaches appeared to give in to coverage concerns by having Gould go with pooch kickoffs as preferable to the risk of more long returns.

Grade: B

The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

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The Bears' defense is ahead of its offense, but Matt Nagy doesn't see that as a problem

Asking players about how the defense is “ahead” of the offense is a yearly right of passage during OTAs, sort of like how every baseball team has about half its players saying they’re in the best shape of their life during spring training. So that Vic Fangio’s defense is ahead of Matt Nagy’s offense right now isn’t surprising, and it's certainly not concerning. 

But Nagy is also working to install his offense right now during OTAs to build a foundation for training camp. So does the defense — the core of which is returning with plenty of experience in Fangio’s system — being ahead of the offense hurt those efforts?

“It’s actually good for us because we’re getting an experienced defense,” Nagy said. “My message to the team on the offensive side is just be patient and don’t get frustrated. They understand that they’re going to play a little bit faster than us right now. We’ll have some growing pains, but we’ll get back to square one in training camp.”

We’ll have a chance to hear from the Bears’ offensive players following Wednesday’s practice, but for now, the guys on Fangio’s defense have come away impressed with that Nagy’s offense can be. 

“The offense is a lot … just very tough,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “They’re moving well. They’re faster. They’re throwing a lot of different looks at us and that’s just Nagy’s offense. If I was a receiver I would love to play in this offense, just because you get to do so many different things and you get so many different plays. It just looks fun over there.”

“They’re moving together, and I like to see that,” linebacker Danny Trevathan said. “We’re not a bad defense. They’re practicing against us, so they’re getting better every day, and vice versa. It’s a daily grind. It’s going to be tough, but those guys, they got the right pieces. I like what I see out there. When somebody makes a play, they’re gone. Everybody can run over there. It’s the right fit for Mitch, it’s the right fit for the receivers, the running backs.”

Still, for all the praise above, the defense is “winning” more, at least as much as it can without the pads on. But the offense is still having some flashes, even as it collectively learns the terminology, concepts and formations used by Nagy. 

And that leads to a competitive atmosphere at Halas Hall, led by the Bears’ new head coach. 

“He’s an offensive coach and last year coach (John) Fox, I couldn’t really talk stuff to (him) because he’s a defensive coach and it’s like Nagy’s offense so if I get a pick or something, I mean, I like to talk stuff to him,” Amukamara said. “He’ll say something like ‘we’re coming at you 2-0.’ Stuff like that. That just brings out the competition and you always want that in your head coach.”

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

Will Mitch Trubisky be this season's Jared Goff?

The Chicago Bears have been compared to the Los Angeles Rams as a team capable of a significant one-year turnaround after the many moves by GM Ryan Pace to improve the offense and build around second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky.

According to NFL.com's Adam Schein, the comparisons go one step further. He thinks Trubisky is the best candidate to be 2018's version of Jared Goff:

"I'm infatuated with the Bears' offseason," Schein wrote. "The Bears smartly followed the Rams' blueprint from last offseason: hand the keys to an offensive guru/quarterback whisperer (Matt Nagy) and dedicate the offseason to surrounding your young signal-caller with talent (Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in free agency, James Daniels and Anthony Miller in the draft). Trubisky will follow in Goff's footsteps and take a major jump in his sophomore campaign."

MULLIN: Teammates see greatness in Trubisky

The comparison of Trubisky to Goff makes a ton of sense. Both were drafted with franchise-quarterback expectations but had average rookie seasons. Both played their first year with an old-school, defensive-minded head coach who was later replaced by a young up-and-coming offensive specialist. And both Goff and Trubisky were given high-powered weapons to begin their sophomore seasons with (the Rams signed Robert Woods and traded for Sammy Watkins before last season). 

Trubisky has to turn these comparisons into production, however. The Rams' remarkable 2017 campaign was just that because rarely does a team have such a dramatic turnaround in only one offseason. The odds aren't in the Bears' favor.

Still, there's a surge of confidence and support in and around Trubisky from the coaching staff and his teammates. He's doing everything he can to prepare for a Goff-like season. We'll find out soon enough if his preparation pays off.