Bears lose the substitution battle vs. Rodgers, Packers


Bears lose the substitution battle vs. Rodgers, Packers

When John Fox detailed some of the underpinnings in the Bears’ thinking behind changing to a 3-4 defensive scheme, one major underlying question was whether the Bears in fact had the quality and quantity of players needed to play a 3-4, coming from decades of a 4-3 scheme.

A more subtle but no less concerning question surfaced in the Bears’ 31-23 loss on Sunday to the Green Bay Packers. Now the question might be whether the Bears have what they need to run a 4-3, or at least one vital iteration of it.

The Packers schemed via personnel to have the Bears rarely in 3-4, instead using three wide receivers and packages that meant the Bears were forced to answer with nickel personnel. That meant a traditional front-four look, with two tackles inside and long-time 4-3 end Jared Allen in his old spot at the right edge, and Pernell McPhee, signed to be a linchpin as a 3-4 linebacker, effectively a defensive end.

Two problems:

One is that the situation takes away some of one of the major principles of the 3-4, its mystery on which of four linebackers will be blitzing. Instead of McPhee operating in places to create uncertainty in the offense, the Packers knew exactly where McPhee and Allen would be and what they would be doing.

The second, bigger problem is that the Bears were not good enough in that “sub” package to seriously threaten Aaron Rodgers. The Bears registered not a single sack or even a hit on Rodgers; and when they did get close enough to flush him, they’d lost contain and Rodgers both extended pass plays and ran himself.

[MORE: D-line couldn't get a finger on Aaron Rodgers]

Two of Green Bay’s 10 longest plays for the game were Rodgers scrambles, for 15 ad 12 yards, and doesn’t include a 17-yard run that was nullified by a holding penalty.

The reality is, however, as Fox has said, as much as 70 percent of the time a defense is in some nickel variation. Meaning: The Bears may want to play 3-4, but a skilled offense like the Packers’ can simply dictate what the Bears play.

“Well, it is matchups,” Fox said. “So if they put three wideouts out there, I don’t know if it’s a great matchup to put a 290-pound linebacker [McPhee] on him. So they do dictate that. I think that’s why you see more head coaches on the offensive side calling plays because offense does dictate the tempo of the game as well as the personnel substitutions and how you match up.”

The situation is not unique, or new. And more than a few great defensive coaches have been victimized or forced to make that kind of adjustment. And when they don’t...

Classic situation: Buddy Ryan stubbornly left Wilber Marshall in his ’85 Bears defense going against the Miami Dolphins, and it did not take Dan Marino too many snaps to see Marshall left in coverage of Nat Moore. Marshall was fast, but not on Moore’s level. Ryan and Mike Ditka came to blows in the locker room at halftime of that game, the only one the ’85 Bears lost, in part because of the Marshall-Moore situation.

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The Packers exacerbated the situation with the speed of their execution.

“You can’t sub unless the clock is stopped,” Fox said. “They can go to the line real fast and snap the ball if you’re trying to sub. That’s not even trying to match up, just trying to put new guys in. In that setting you can’t do that.”

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller sports Bears uniform at NFLPA Rookie Premiere

Anthony Miller has quickly become a fan favorite on social media. He has the confidence and swagger found in most top wide receivers and it comes through on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Miller was one of 40 players in attendance at the 2018 NFLPA Rookie Premiere where he not only learned about the business and marketing side of football, but also suited up in his Bears gameday uniform for the first time. Of course, he shared the moment on Twitter:

Panini America, a sports collectible company, snapped a picture of Miller with fellow rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (Falcons) and quarterback Mason Rudolph (Steelers):

Miller has become something of a standout for the Bears despite not playing a single snap. He's expected to have a big role in an offense that has several new pieces and roles that are up for grabs.

Miller will compete with former first-round pick Kevin White and free-agent addition Taylor Gabriel for reps opposite Allen Robinson. Miller has the necessary skill set to play as both an outside receiver and in the slot which should give him an even greater opportunity to be on the field quite a bit.

The Bears first three draft picks are all vying for starting jobs in 2018. Roquan Smith (first round) is a lock to start next to Danny Trevathan and James Daniels (second round) will start at guard. Miller should make it three-for-three in a draft class that could end up the best of Ryan Pace's tenure.

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

USA Today

Ryan Pace ranked among bottom-third of NFL general managers

Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace is having what many believe is his best offseason since taking the job in 2015, but after three seasons and only 14 wins, he needs a big year in 2018 to justify the confidence ownership has in him. 

According to a recent breakdown of all 32 general managers, Pace ranks among the worst decision-makers in the league.

No. 23: Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

There’s only so much you can accomplish in one spring. The problem is that Pace let himself accumulate so many needs to begin with. He needs Trubisky and Nagy to springboard a fourth-year turnaround. 

The rankings didn't include six new GM hires, which makes Pace's positioning even more troubling.

Even though the Bears haven't seen wins on the field, Pace has done a solid job through three draft classes and appears to have the right coaching staff in place. His first hire, John Fox, was a calculated move by a rookie general manager to have an experienced football guy to lean on. Now, several offseasons later, the team is starting to take on his identity.

Despite all the talent Pace has added through the draft and the slow but steady transformation of the team's overall culture, it's a win-now business and if his blueprint doesn't start producing more wins than losses, it will be hard to justify more time and patience for his plan to develop.