Bears

Can the Eagles save the Bears from themselves?

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Can the Eagles save the Bears from themselves?

Monday, Dec. 27, 2010
1:54 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Philadelphia Eagles can do the Bears a favor by winning Tuesday night. They may be saving the Bears from themselves.

Some teams benefit from bye weeks in playoffs. The Lovie Smith Bears are not one of them. If the Eagles lose, the Bears will have the No. 2 seed in the NFC, which is good, and they would have it in advance of their final game, which is not good.

A little background setup here first:

A Philadelphia win over the Minnesota Vikings in the special weather-induced Tuesday Night Football event is in fact pretty likely. The Vikings have (literally) been traveling around with a thundercloud hanging over them and dumping snow and worse all over them the past few weeks. The dome collapse forced them over to Detroit and a thrashing by the New York Giants (insert joke here).

Then the Bears hang 40 points last Monday night despite Drama Queen Bretts Willis Reed impersonation with the can-you-believe-hes-going-to-start?! Nonsense. Now the perfect storm plays out with the postponement out east.

All of which makes Minnesota that perfect Bears partner.

By losing to the Eagles, the Vikings would ensure that next Sundays flexd Bears game will matter for the Bears quest for a first-round bye in the playoffs. Perversely, this is a good thing, because the Bears have not handled these situations, where because of byes you can rest key players in final regular-season games, at all well recently under Lovie Smith.

The Bears had a first-round bye clinched in 2005, rested Rex Grossman and others against Minnesota, had their week off and then couldnt get the engines re-started in The Great Steve Smith Embarrassment in the divisional round.

In 2006 the Bears rested players in a meaningless sleepwalk against (coincidentally) Green Bay. Then, again they could not get find the On switch after their week off and needed two fourth-quarter defensive stops and overtime to escape at home against the Seattle Seahawks, a team they had beaten 37-6, at home, in the regular season.

The bye week is a good thing. The early clinch and resting players is decidedly not. (And repeating a clarification from earlier this season: The Bears have not had a bye week yet. What they had back in October was an off week. A bye is when you advance in a tournament, like the NFL playoffs).

Predictably perhaps, Smith doesnt see the pitfalls and perils of taking his foot off the gas in last regular-season games.

I think we kept the pedal down then, he said. In 05, we lost. In 06, we went through the same schedule and we won. Either way, you can get the job done. I think the 06 team was better, and thats why we won. I think it still comes down to that.

But that actually makes my point. The 06 team was better, yet barely defeated a team it had previously destroyed.

Still, Smith has lived by things like rotations of players and limits on contact as ways of keeping players fresh, and thats worked pretty well. So hes not likely to deviate from the fresh guys approach at this point.

I think by resting a few guys, I dont think you all of a sudden -- if guys get 20 less plays or something like that in a game -- that all of a sudden they stop playing good football, he reasoned. I just dont see it that way. If we were in a position where we didnt play our guys the entire game, I dont think that has a whole lot to do with what would happen that next week.

Well see. The Eagles can take the issue out of Smiths hands Tuesday night, and they might be doing him a favor ultimately.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

Revisiting Jimmy Graham's contract after George Kittle, Travis Kelce extensions

The tight end market has officially been reset. 

George Kittle (49ers) and Travis Kelce (Chiefs) each inked massive new extensions on Thursday that will make them the highest-paid players at their position by a wide margin.

Kittle signed a five-year, $75 million extension while Kelce put pen to paper on a four-year, $57 million deal.

Suddenly, Jimmy Graham's two-year, $16 million deal doesn't seem so bad. Then again, you get what you pay for, right?

Graham joins the Bears after a 2019 season in Green Bay that totaled 38 catches for 447 yards and three touchdowns. Compare those numbers to Kelce, who had 97 catches for 1,229 yards and five scores in 2019, and Kittle, who had 85 catches for 1,053 yards and five touchdowns, and it's easy to understand why they're nearly doubling Graham's annual average salary.

Does Graham have enough left in the tank to justify his $8 million per year paycheck? He's earning more than players like Jared Cook (Saints) and Darren Waller (Raiders), who each flashed more playmaking upside than Graham in 2019.

The good news for the Bears is that they'll be out of the tight end market for a while, assuming second-round pick Cole Kmet lives up to his scouting report. He'll be a cheap starter on a rookie contract for the next four seasons.

Hopefully, we'll be talking about Kmet as one of the highest-paid players at the position when his second deal rolls around. Until then, it's Kittle and Kelce who rule the tight end universe.

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Bears were among worst teams on fourth-down decisions last season

Matt Nagy's reputation for being an innovative offensive mind took a hit last season when the Bears finished the year ranked 26th in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards, and 27th in total touchdowns.

To make matters worse, Nagy was also among the league's worst decision-makers on fourth down, according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF used the following qualifiers to evaluate which teams made the most of their fourth-down situations last year:

To these aims, we looked at all fourth-down plays in the first three quarters during the 2019 season that met the following criteria: 1) there were four or fewer yards to go for a first down or a touchdown, and 2) the expected points when going for it were higher than when kicking a field goal (with 35 or fewer yards to go to the end zone) or punting (36 or more yards)

The Bears whiffed on 75% of their fourth-down calls and left 12 additional points on the board, according to PFF's metrics.

Chicago lost two games by three points or less in 2019, so it isn't like Nagy's failures on fourth down prevented this team from winning 12 games. That said, could the Bears have reached nine or even 10 wins and been in a better position to make the playoffs had they flipped fourth downs into points? It's possible.

There's another factor that has to be considered that extends beyond Nagy's playcalling, however. Let's face it, He didn't have the players needed to attempt fourth-down conversions with confidence. Mitch Trubisky was barely watchable and David Montgomery didn't get much help from his offensive line. The offense ranked as low as it did for a reason; it just wasn't very good.

I'd expect some positive regression with the Bears' fourth-down efficiency in 2020, which should mean more points and maybe, just maybe, more wins.

 

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