Bears Grades: Linebackers struggle to defend Broncos' run D


Bears Grades: Linebackers struggle to defend Broncos' run D

The Denver Broncos came in with a first-time starter at quarterback (Brock Osweiler) and a run game averaging 86 yards per game. They left with a win on the strength of 170 rushing yards (4.7 yards per carry vs. 3.8 prior, 27th in the NFL). The Bears knew the Denver plan was to run and the Bears were able to do less than nothing about it.

"They came down with a plan to run the ball down our throat and they ran the ball down our throat,” said linebacker Pernell McPhee. “We have to do a better job of preparing ourselves to stop the run.”


Linebackers were slow closing in run support early and overmatched in pass coverage, leaving too many receivers open underneath when linebackers’ primary job was to drop into coverage underneath. The Broncos exploited Bears pursuit and reactions in the fourth quarter on a drive that produced a decisive touchdown, and linebackers too often appeared to hit wrong gaps, giving the defense two players in one gap and none in another.

“I don't think we laid down,” McPhee said. “I think they did a lot of good schemed-up things that a lot of young guys on our defense hasn't seen and they took advantage of it."

Shea McClellin blitzed to force a throwaway by Osweiler that was arguable intentional grounding in the end zone. Christian Jones closed on a fourth-and-goal run by Ronnie Hillman to keep the Broncos from going up by two scores in the third quarter.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

But Jones, who led the Bears with 8 tackles, was out of his gap and slow to react to a 15-yard run by C.J. Anderson in the fourth quarter, and none of the linebackers reacted to a tight-end screen to Vernon Davis that netted 18 yards, also on the fourth quarter.

“We knew they were going to come in running the ball,” McClellin said, “and they just got the better of us.”

Moon's Grade: D

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

USA Today Sports

Under Center Podcast: Bears trounced by Saints, and questions abound

Laurence Holmes is joined by Olin Kreutz, Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, and Alex Brown to break down the Bears' highly dispiriting 36-25 loss to the Saints at Soldier Field. The guys discuss why the loss was so disappointing and frustrating (2:00), the lack of progress for many players since last year (5:00), the possibility of somebody other than Nagy calling plays (10:00), whether the Bears can save their season and still make the playoffs (14:00), and the massive problems in the run game this season (22:00).

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


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Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Another lackluster return from Mitch Trubisky leaves the Bears offense in a state of panic

Given Sunday’s parallels to the Bears’ 2018 clunker against the Rams, the spotlight on QB Mitch Trubisky may have been even brighter against the Saints than it usually is – which is saying something. 

Four quarters, 250 yards and one blowout loss later, the only thing that’s changed is that the Bears no longer have the luxury of hiding another subpar performance from their franchise quarterback behind a monstrous, game-changing defense. Trubisky’s numbers against New Orleans look better on paper, but the eye test told a much different – or similar, technically – story. 

“It's hard to pinpoint it,” he said after the 36-25 loss. “Just frustrating, ugly. Couldn't swing momentum in our way – couldn't really get going. Just sputtered out. We've just got to find ways to stay on the field, especially after 3rd down and move the chains and get going."

“I want to go back, watch and see like progression-wise [how he did],” Matt Nagy added. “I know there's one there early in the game where we missed a corner route on 3rd down, and Mitch knows -- he knows that he can connect on that. We've connected on it a lot in practice.” 

That specific miss sums up much of what’s plagued Trubisky through his time in Chicago. On 3rd-and-6, with Taylor Gabriel finding separation on a 20-yard corner route, the QB rushes through his throwing motion and misses an easy first down. 

“I'm going to go back and watch it because that's one of my favorite throws,” Trubisky said. “And I hit that every single time this week in practice, so why it didn't translate to the game is really frustrating for me. I felt like that's an easy throw that I make easily, and I just wasn't on the same page and didn't put it in the spot to give my guy a chance.” 

Another miss – this time overthrowing Anthony Miller on a seam route – provided a great example of the communication issues that have plagued the passing game. Miller had a step on two defenders, but according to Nagy and Trubisky, cut in on the route when the play directed that he cut out. 

“That's one of Anthony's really good routes that he runs,” Trubisky said. “And he separates and gets open, and I just felt like I had to get the ball out within that time because they created pressure up front. Someone slipped through, and from what I can remember, he just went inside, so I tried to throw a tight seam and give him a chance. But I was on the ground after that, so I'm going to have to go back on the film and watch it and correct it.” 

“Those are plays that you look at and you just -- you'd like to convert on those and connect.,” added Nagy.

The coach also conceded that Trubisky looked rusty on some throws, but was quick to credit the quarterback for making others (he didn’t specify which). Still, silver linings were little consolation to the Bears on Sunday night, and will continue to mean less and less as the season goes on. For being a team that supposedly has great weeks of practice, plenty of questions remain about where all that goes on Sundays. 

“Why it's not translating, I don't have a theory,” Trubisky added. “All I know is, go back to work and make sure that you put in all that work during the week to make sure it translates.”

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