Moon: Phillips implies agreement will be reached


Moon: Phillips implies agreement will be reached

Friday, March 11, 2011
Posted: 12:18 p.m.

By John Mullin

The precarious state of negotiations between NFL players and owners continued teetering through Friday but a tiny choice of words by Bears President Ted Phillips on Friday reinforced the impression that the labor situation will be resolved, later if not sooner.

The Bears are not cutting staff or salaries in anticipation of a lockout or other actions that could imperil offseason programs if not 2011 regular-season games at some point.

Our job on a team level is to continue to do everything in our power to be ready when an agreement is reached to bring another championship back to Chicago, Phillips said, and thats what were focused on.

The operative words from Phillips: when an agreement is reached.

Not if. No qualifiers.

Neither Phillips nor Bears Vice Chairman George McCaskey volunteered thoughts on how a resolution of the complex financial issues may ultimately be resolved. And neither questioned the commitment to reaching an agreement by both sides, as some rhetoric began to suggest Thursday.

I do know that the league and the union are meeting with the mediator again today, Phillips said during show of support by Bears players and the organization and others for legislation dealing with concussions in Illinois sports. So until were told otherwise, we all remain hopeful that the game will continue.

Its the best game in the world and everyones working hard at trying to get an agreement.

John "Moon" Mullin is'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.

There’s no easy fix for the Bears’ running woes, but does it matter?

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There’s no easy fix for the Bears’ running woes, but does it matter?

Here are two valid statements about the 2018 Bears:

1. They’ve never been better at scoring points, averaging 29.9 per game — the franchise’s highest in the Super Bowl era. 

2. Their running backs haven’t ran the ball with much, if any consistency. 

Jordan Howard is the Bears’ leading rusher, with 137 carries generating 460 yards — good for 3.4 yards per carry. Only five times in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) has the Bears’ team leader in rushing attempts had an equal or lower yards-per-carry average than Howard’s 3.4: 

Anthony Thomas (2002): 3.4 yards/carry
Ken Grandberry (1974): 3.3 yards/carry
Lewis Tillman (1994): 3.3 yards/carry
Neal Anderson (1993): 3.2 yards/carry
Curtis Enis (1999): 3.2 yards/carry

The difference in those five years: The Bears, in total, averaged 15.5 points per game in those five seasons — about half what they’re averaging in 2018. That doesn’t mean the Bears aren’t searching for a solution to their run game woes, though. 

“You can’t go through this thing and be one-dimensional,” coach Matt Nagy said. “It’s just too easy for defenses.”

The Bears offense, of course, would be better if Howard and Tarik Cohen were more consistently effective — behind a more consistently effective offensive line and with more consistently effective playcalling. But re-watching the film from Sunday’s 34-22 win over the Detroit Lions, it’s not clear if there’s an easy fix — or a fix at all — to what’s ailed the Bears’ ground game. 

There were some plays in Howard’s 11-carry, 21-yard afternoon on which the running back didn’t appear decisive enough. There were others where the blocking wasn’t there, be it from the offensive line or guys like fullback Michael Burton. On a few of them, the play design didn’t seem conducive to picking up yards. And then there were some where Detroit’s defensive line — led by solid run-stuffers in Damon “Snacks” Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson — would’ve beaten the best-blocked, best-executed or best-called running play. 

“We’re not going to stop until we get it figured out,” Nagy said. “And for what we did yesterday, that’s not good enough. In my opinion, it’s up to us as coaches to lift every stone possible to figure out what do we need to do. Yeah, it is about players and it is about execution, but we need to do our job too and figure out, okay, what’s best for the Chicago Bears run game, what is it. 

“In the passing game, we’re slowly starting to figure that out — we’re not there yet. But in the run game, we have a ways to go and we’re trying to get through that. Now as we get further on in the season here, we gotta get it fixed so we’re not one-dimensional.”

Nagy has to say and believe that last sentence, of course. And for the Bears’ offense to truly fulfill its potential, it’ll need a good running game, as evidenced by what Nagy’s former team, the Kansas City Chiefs, are able to do with Kareem Hunt averaging 4.7 yards per attempt in his standout year and a half in the NFL. 

But the 2018 Bears can’t acquire a Hunt-like talent or different offensive line personnel at this point. Nagy can try to do some things differently to get the running game going, but perhaps he’s on a schematic tightrope: This a team that’s fifth in the NFL in points per game, after all, and has already scored more points (269) than it scored with Howard rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2017 (264). 

Putting too much emphasis on trying to kick-start Howard’s season could have an overall negative effect, if it impacts the rhythm Trubisky and the passing game have found at times (and even when that rhythm isn’t there, this offense has managed to put up points, like the 31 it did against New England with Trubisky completing only 52 percent of his passes). 

While the Bears’ run-pass ratio isn’t completely out of whack (55 percent pass, 45 percent run), perhaps better in-game balance could lead to more running success. The Bears have (including Trubisky scrambles) rushed 72 times against 64 passes in the first quarter, but only attempted 106 rushing plays compared to 166 passing plays in the second and third quarters. Those numbers revert in the fourth quarter, with the Bears having four multi-score wins to close out, to 71 rushing attempts against 59 passing attempts. 

But Nagy also isn’t going to force it. 

“When you run the ball and it’s first and 10 and you get second and nine, (or) it’s first and 10 and you get second and 12, that’s hard,” Nagy said. “So it’s — our guys all understand that. To me, this is a challenge. This is why I’m a coach, this is why we all coach, is to get these answers, figure it out. And we’ll do everything we can — we’re not going to stop trying until we get this thing right.”

Still, Howard’s two least-productive games by yards per carry came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.3) and Detroit Lions (1.9)…which stand as the Bears’ two best offensive games of the season. 

Long term, the Bears will need to find a solution to their issues running the ball with running backs. But for the last seven games of 2018, Nagy may not need to find that solution to make the playoffs. 

Power Rankings Roundup: The Bears are apparently back to being For Real this week

Power Rankings Roundup: The Bears are apparently back to being For Real this week

Nothing warms a city's soul through their first stretch of real winter weather like a long-overdue divisional win. 

After a thorough whoopin' of the Lions, Bears stock is in high-demand once again. They're even *whispers* climbing into the NFC Elite's tier. 

How did they get ranked? Outside of Sports Illustrated, who kept them at 13 (?!) after this week's win, people are IN on da Bears:

Ours: #8, up 3 - 
They're good! Trubisky probably isn't a bust! It's an exciting week to be in Chicago. 

NBC Sports: #8, up 1- 
This space is normally reserved for Khalil Mack’s greatness. We’d have motivation after he two more sacks this week. Nope. This is all about Mitchell Trubisky, who has officially turned a corner working under Matt Nagy. The Bears are the real deal. #9, N/C - 
Nobody wants to give the Bears any respect, citing their schedule. But for two straight weeks, Chicago has essentially dominated the game, even if the win over the Lions on Sunday wasn't as raucous as the shellacking of the Bills in Week 9.

ESPN: #7, up 3 -
The Bears have forced 24 turnovers. Chicago's defense, which had three takeaways in its 34-22 victory over Detroit, is an opportunistic bunch with playmakers at every level. Entering Week 10, the Bears led the NFL with 82 points off turnovers.

Washington Post: #8, up 2 - 
The Bears are for real. Khalil Mack celebrated his return to the defensive lineup Sunday with a two-sack performance in the win over the Lions, and second-year QB Mitchell Trubisky continued his rapid development with another good outing. The Bears aren’t on the level of the Saints or the Rams, but they are a viable playoff team.

CBS Sports: #8, up 2 - 
Mitch Trubisky and the offense are improving each week. They face a stiff challenge against that Minnesota defense this week.

Chicago Tribune: #10, N/C - 
Mitch Trubisky was dialed in with 355 yards passing, three touchdowns and one rushing score in a blowout of the Lions.

Sporting News: #10, N/C - 
The Bears excel at beating up on bad teams, which is important on the road to become a good playoff team. The surprise NFC North leaders have a shot to go totally legit vs. Minnesota on Sunday night.

Sports Illustrated: #13, N/C 

USA Today: #8, up 4  

SB Nation: #7, up 1