Bears

Bears' playoff hopes on the brink after loss

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Bears' playoff hopes on the brink after loss

This time there was no Marion Barber, no Roy Williams to blame. The offense gave as many points as it scored. The defense did about the same. And the Bears playoff hopes moved so close to the brink that, with a trip to Green Bay coming up next Sunday, any scenarios by which the Bears could make the playoffs didnt seem worth figuring out anymore.

The 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks (7-7), in which Seattle scored 31 unanswered points in the second half, allowed yet another team to slip by the Bears, who were 7-3 this time a month ago and wondering who besides themselves would be in the wild-card round.

Until someone tells us were eliminated or something like that, said coach Lovie Smith, well continue to play, but theres disappointment right now.

Uphill run

But no Bears team has ever lost four straight games and made the postseason that year. And the suspicion after Sundays death spiral in the second half is that the Bears are not done losing this season.

The Bears have lost in stunning overtime fashion in Denver and to Kansas City by way of a Hail Mary heave at the end of halftime. This week, they were blown out in the second half as the defense allowed 202 yards and appeared rocked into submission by lack of help from the offense or special teams.

Its been a tough way to lose, said defensive end Israel Idonije, who scored on a fumble recovery in the end zone in the first quarter. All of these losses have been extremely tough to swallow.

The Bears can still qualify for the playoffs if they win at Green Bay and Minnesota, and the Detroit Lions lose the rest of their games. But the Bears have not won in a month and there is little reason to suspect they will start now, even against a Packers team that finally lost and has little to play for now beyond late-playoff seeding.

Hanie disastrous

Caleb Hanie completed just 7-of-15 passes through three quarters for 92 yards. He had a 25-yard TD pass but also had a crushing interception returned for a touchdown by a Seattle defensive lineman.

Hanie finished with 10-for-23 passing for 111 yards and three interceptions, the last returned 42 yards for a touchdown by cornerback Brandon Browner late in the fourth quarter.

Hes had his ups and downs. Its just something hell learn from, said wide receiver Roy Williams, who may given the best indicator for Hanies future.

Best of luck to him the rest of the way.

No. 2 quarterback Josh McCown came on with five minutes to play and was unable to make any difference. It will be an NFL-grade surprise if McCown is not under center with the No. 1 offense this week after the Bears futility reached 0-4 under Hanie.

The defense put points of its own on the board but was pushed around in a listless second half, 137 yards in the third quarter, and appeared to be simply going through the motions as Seattle rolled off 31 unanswered points in the second half, albeit with huge help from Hanie.

Hurtin Bears unravel

This defeat was marked by several scary injury moments. Wide receiver Johnny Knox had to be carted off the field after suffering a back injury following his fumble in the first quarter. Safety Chris Conte was lost to a foot injury in the second quarter.

After going in with their first halftime lead in four games, the Bears came unhinged.

The defense allowed Seattle only 40 yards in the first quarter and 44 in the second. The Seahawks virtually matched those two plays on their opening drive of the third quarter, with Marshawn Lynch finishing an 80-yard drive with a three-yard scrum into the end zone.

The drive included Tarvaris Jackson completions covering 33 and 43 yards, the longest plays other than the Kansas City Hail Mary in the past three games.

That was followed by a nightmare dj vu for Hanie as he responded to a blitz in his face by linebacker K.J. Wright and unloaded a pass right into the midsection of 323-pound defensive end Red Bryant.

Bryant did exactly what Green Bay nose tackle B.J. Raji did with a similar Hanie gaffe in the NFC Championship game: returned it for a touchdown, covering 20 yards and putting Seattle ahead 21-14.

The disasters gave the Seahawks 14 points in the span of 50 seconds.

Finally

The Chicago offense got into Seattles end of the field three times in the first half. The third time was the charm, ending with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hanie to Kahlil Bell.

That throw gave Hanie a brief stay of job execution after an otherwise punchless offensive first half in which the Bears totaled 168 yards of offense.

The score gave the Bears their first halftime lead at 14-7 with Hanie as their quarterback. The difference was that the offense converted all three third-down opportunities on a 57-yard drive, the Bears longest under Hanie since the fourth quarter of the Oakland game.

Horrible beginnings

A team desperately needing a fast start suffered anything but. Hanie was nearly intercepted by defensive end Chris Clemons dropping into coverage on Hanies first attempt. Then Hanie completely overthrew a wide-open Bell on a third-down attempt inside the Seattle 40.

Far worse, Knox caught a third-down pass on the previous possession, had the first down but then fumbled. The ball was recovered by Seattle but that was secondary to a frightening injury to Knox, who was bent backwards by defensive end Anthony Hargrove.

Knox was carted off the field, done for the game, but fortunately able to move his extremities sometime later.

The fumble was turned into points despite the Bears throwing the Seahawks for losses on three straight plays starting at the Chicago 1. But on a short field-goal attempt, Corey Graham used teammates to gain additional height trying to block the kick.

The leverage personal-foul call gave Seattle a break that became 7 points when Marshawn Lynch powered in for a touchdown.

Explosive answer

The defense picked up both the offense and special teams as Peppers slipped down on his pass rush, got back to his feet and arrived with second-effort in time to knock the ball out of Jacksons hand before the Seattle quarterback could start his arm forward.

The resulting sack-fumble, in the end zone, was recovered by Idonije to give the Bears their first first-half touchdown under Hanie since the Oakland game.

The Bears aren't leading the analytic revolution, but that doesn't mean it's not a part of their game plans

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USA Today

The Bears aren't leading the analytic revolution, but that doesn't mean it's not a part of their game plans

Throughout the early months of Nagy 202, much of the conversation around the Bears’ offensive growth has been framed in terms of personnel. Mike Davis and David Montgomery will be the pass-catching backs that Nagy’s system needs. The wide receiver room is six, seven guys deep. Adam Shaheen and Trey Burton give the Bears that elusive edge in heavy sets.  

If roster-structuring was the earthquake that got every NFL team's attention, the use of new-age analytics are the aftershock tremors. In 2019, there’s nothing inventive about surrounding a first-contract QB with skill position talent. The Rams did it and became a juggernaut overnight. The Eagles did it and won a Super Bowl. Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy have followed suit in Chicago, and impressively so. What remains to be seen is how much the Bears have invested in taking it one step further, like other teams – Philadelphia being a prime example – have already done. 

To be clear, Nagy and the Bears aren’t kicking kids off his lawn. He is, after all, a disciple of Andy Reid and Doug Peterson - both widely lauded for being on the forefront of the analytic movement. The key for Nagy is finding the right balance. He pointed to situational football - end of halves and games, going for it on 4th down - as places where the numbers can be advantage. 

“Yeah, there is a weight to it,” Nagy said before Wednesday’s practice. “I’m kind of a feel person in regards to calling plays, and how I think that something’s going.

“So there’s a balance there. Everyone’s a little bit different, but I am certainly a feel guy.” 

One of the poster boys of the analytics movement has been reevaluating how to handle 4th-and-short situations. Per Warren Sharp’s site Sharp Stats, here are the league-wide numbers on offensive plays run on 4th and short (anything between 1-3 yards): 

2018: 188 Runs/196 Passes
2017: 153 Runs/146 Passes
2016: 150 Runs/ 170 Passes 

For some more context, the Bears ranked 20th in 4th down attempts (15) in 2018. The Eagles (23) ranked 2nd, while the Rams also had 15. Nine of the Bears’ attempts were in short yardage scenarios, and came with mixed results. On one hand, they ranked 18th in 4th down passing success (67%). On the other, they were 2-2 on 4th-and-short runs. (Insert small sample size caveat, etc). And despite much of the on-paper numbers telling the Bears to go for it more often, in-game situations (like weather conditions, for example) dictate much of the decision making. 

“It’s just another feel thing,” quarterback Chase Daniel said. “I don’t think it’s something that’s like, ‘hey, on the first 4th-and-3, no matter where we’re at, we’re going for it.’ I think it’s a feel thing. In the game, how your defense is playing, where you’re at on the field, how your quarterback is throwing, how your run game is going. Stuff like that. All that plays into it.” 

The analytics movement, as it regards to quarterback play, has been a hot-button topic with Bears fans for a few years now. Sites like Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, and Sharp Stats see Mitch Trubisky as a 2nd overall pick who, in Year 3, still struggles with deep ball inaccuracies, forcing throws, and decision making. Fans see a Pro Bowl quarterback who’s become a vocal and beloved leader, not to mention one that led the Bears to 12 wins and an NFC North title. To them, stats like QBR, DVOA, or Passer Rating are just talking points. The Bears tend to agree. 

“I see value in how your coaches evaluate you, everyone’s different,” Daniel said. “... You definitely see it. I mean, anything over 90 is pretty good. You definitely see it, but it’s not something you pay that much attention to. You can see it and go, ‘yeah, cool,’ or ‘woah, that was bad, but we won so who cares.’” 

Trubisky’s deep ball has been one of the most scrutinized aspects of his game since being drafted in 2017. The analytics – this time from Pro Football Focus – say it’s a mixed bag: 

Deep Left: 10/25, 337 Yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, 97.5 Passer Rating
Deep Center: 4/15, 132 Yards, 1 TD, 2 INT, 46.4 Passer Rating
Deep Right: 13/33, 408 Yards, 4 TDs, 3 INT, 88.1 Passer Rating

NFL’s Next Gen Stats paint a less rosy picture. DVOA puts Trubisky in the middle of the pack. Given the wide variety of answers, you can start to better understand why the Bears prefer to stick to their own internal evaluations. 

“Never, [those stats] have never once come up [in meetings,” Daniel added. “It’s about protecting the football and getting the win.” 

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

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USA Today

Under Center Podcast: Is Matt Nagy right to rest his starters in preseason games?

J.J. Stankevitz is joined by John "Moon" Mullin and Cam Ellis to debate whether or not Mitchell Trubisky, and the rest of the Bears starters, need preseason reps to fully prepare for Week 1. Plus, the guys share their latest thoughts on Eddy Pineiro and the kicking situation.

00:40 - Moon doesn't think everything adds up with Matt Nagy holding Trubisky out of preseason games

03:20 - Highlights from Matt Nagy's Wednesday press conference on the growing trend of coaches sitting starters in the preseason

05:45 - Cam understands why coaches don't want to risk injury in the preseason, but also thinks something else may be afoot with Nagy sitting Trubisky

08:10 - Is joint practice the future of preseason football?

14:00 - Can teams really get the same quality of work done in practice as they can in a preseason game?

19:50 - Talking about Kalyn Kahler's Sports Illustrated article that gave an inside look to the Bears' kicking competition from rookie minicamp

21:20 - Moon says that the Bears are actually in a worse position now, than they were last year with Cody Parkey

23:15 - Did the Bears do future kickers a disservice by fixating on 43-yard kicks?

24:50 - All the guys are excited for Olin Kreutz to join Football Aftershow this season

Listen here on in the embedded player below. 

Under Center Podcast

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