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


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

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context


Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Matt Nagy and the 2018 Bears during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Some of the highlights:


On the Bears’ season as a whole:


“The Bears have lost two games, one on a game when they were in control of the game and another one they lost in overtime. This really looks like a 5-0 team to me, if you change one or two plays. You can say that about a lot of teams, but that’s the league we’re in.”


On Mitch Trubisky:


“I think he’s done a good job of getting ball to the players that are open or in space and letting them be playmakers. He has a lot of them. That’s the quarterback’s job is to deliver the ball to the playmakers and let them go. I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s a tough kid, which I respect. That’s what we would ask our quarterbacks to do, to make plays to help our team win, to get the ball to the players that are open and in space. It’s not about stats. It’s about doing what you need to do to win.”


On Tarik Cohen’s usage:


“He plays about a little bit less than 50 percent of the time and he’s in a lot of different places, he’s hard to find. He’s a dynamic player that can run, catch, really threaten every yard of the field from sideline to sideline, up the middle, deep. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him and he’s elusive with the ball and he’s elusive to be able to get open so the quarterback can get him the ball. Those are great skills to have. Any one of those is good and he’s got several of them.


“He’s very hard to tackle. But they do a great job mixing him, not just putting him in the game but who he’s in the game with, what the combinations are and then where they locate him and so forth. There are a lot of multiples. It’s hard. Coach Nagy does a good job with that and he’s a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.”


On Trubisky’s 54-yard bomb to Taylor Gabriel on Sunday:


“That’s about as good a throw and catch as I’ve seen all year. The execution on that was like 99 out of 100. It was a great, great throw, great route, great catch. There was like a few inches to get the ball in there 50 yards downfield and that’s where it was.”


On Akiem Hicks’ impact, who played for the Patriots in 2015:


“He’s hard to block. It doesn’t make any difference what the play is, you can run to him and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side. He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player. He’s hard to block on everything.


“I appreciate all of the plays he makes. He makes plays on all three downs, against all types of plays, whether it’s reading screen passes or power rushing the pocket to help the ends, to help (Leonard) Floyd and Mack and (Aaron) Lynch rush on the edge. He’s a powerful, disruptive guy. (Eddie) Goldman has done a good job of that. (Bilal) Nichols has done a good job of that too. They have some really powerful guys inside that are hard to block, and they change the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It really creates a problem, frees up the linebackers in the running game and helps the ends because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket in the passing game.”


On Matt Nagy:


“Obviously he's done a great job, as has Ryan with building the team. They have a lot of good players. They have a really experienced staff and they do a great job in all three areas of the game. They're good in the kicking game, they're good on defense they're good on offense. They have highly-skilled players in all three areas.


“It's a well-balanced football team that does a lot of things well. Run the ball. Stop the run. Throw the ball. Rush the passer. Intercept passes. Return kicks. Cover kicks. Cover punts. They're at the top of the league in all those categories. Turnovers. Points off turnovers. It doesn't really matter what area you want to talk about, they're pretty good at all of them. That's why they're a good football team.


“Coach Nagy and his staff certainly deserve a lot of credit. It's not a one-man band. They're all doing a good job. It's a good football team. I'm sure there will be a lot of energy in the stadium this week. It will be a great test for us to go into Chicago and be competitive against them.”


While listening to Belichick rave about the Bears, this missive from former Patriots general manager Michael Lombardi stands out:


“Whenever Belichick tells the media on Mondays or Tuesdays that he has already moved on to the next game, trust me, he’s not lying. I worked with Bill for five years in Cleveland, and then during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England. Belichick treats every game like a Super Bowl; no detail is too small, no possible scenario or situation goes overlooked. I have heard Belichick break down a bumbling Jaguars team as if it was the reigning two-time Super Bowl winner and treat Blake Bortles like he’s the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. Belichick does it with tape to back up his claims, only showing his team the opponent’s greatest strengths. (With Bortles, I swear, he must have used George Lucas to doctor the video.) No Patriots opponent is underestimated or taken lightly — EVER.”


One of the myriad things that make Belichick the best coach in the NFL — and maybe the best coach in NFL history — is how he never takes an opponent lightly, and then how he’s so successful at scheming against what an opponent does best.


The Bears are undoubtedly better in 2018 than they were in the John Fox era, or when these two teams last met in 2014 (when New England waxed a moribund Marc Trestman side, 51-23). And a lot of Belichick’s points are valid – that throw Trubisky made to Gabriel was outstanding, for example.


But Belichick talks this way about every team he faces. And that, again, is part of what makes him the best at what he does.

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

Under Center Podcast: What will we learn about the Bears against the Patriots?

On this week's Under Center podcast, JJ Stankevitz and John “Moon” Mullin look at how Bill Belichick and New England will attack Matt Nagy and the Bears on Sunday, and if Mitch Trubisky can get to the point where he can reliably lead a late-game scoring drive like Tom Brady is so good at doing.

You can listen to the whole thing here, or in the embedded player below: