Welcome into First and Final Thoughts, one of our weekly columns with a title that's a little too on the nose. Here we'll have Insider J.J Stankevitz and Producers Cam Ellis and Paul Aspan give some insight into what's on their minds between games.
Final Thoughts on Week 6
J.J. Stankevitz: On the surface, losing a game to your two previous offensive coordinators (Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains) and a punchline quarterback (Brock Osweiler) is rough. And undoubtedly, it is – Bears players still seemed frustrated by Sunday’s 31-28 loss to Miami on Tuesday, which would break the usual “24-hour rule” implemented by coaches. But the Bears won’t play in 88-degree temperatures all year, and their next two outdoor road games are in Buffalo (cue the lake effect snow) and East Rutherford, N.J. So that’s the good news: The Bears will have plenty of opportunities to prove that giving up all those yards and points to Miami was an aberration. This defense is far better than what it showed on Sunday.
Offensively, this is a quicker thought – Mitch Trubisky is going in the right direction, and that he was able to come out and have a strong second half (minus the end zone interception) after an uneven first 30 minutes was impressive.
Paul Aspan: “Everything points to the Bears beating the Dolphins – which scares the hell out of me.” That sentiment only grew with the news that Brock Osweiler would replace the injured Ryan Tannehill on Sunday morning. Maybe this wasn’t a trap game until that happened, but it became exactly that. The Akiem Hicks goal-line strip sack in overtime is the season-changing type of play that unlikely playoff runs are made of, but even that wasn’t enough. A pretty brutal offensive PI call turned a two score game into a Murphy’s Law spiral of turnovers, poor no tackling, and another 4th quarter / OT let down - and not at the hands of Aaron Rodgers - by the typically stout Bears defense.
The end zone interception can’t happen, but Mitchell Trubisky showed that he is continuing to trend in the right direction especially with the go-ahead, 6-minute TD drive to give the Bears the lead with just over 3 minutes to play. As for Matt Nagy, I guess I get trying to escape with a 53-yard field goal, but if he’s going to preach “We’re going to be aggressive” all offseason, he’s gotta be more aggressive than settling for that.
Cam Ellis: Mitch Trubisky can throw the ball down field a little bit. He still leaves too many throws on the field, and yeah, that interception in the end zone was dumb; he's also only played in 17 games. Later on Sunday night, I watched Tom Brady and his 259 career games scramble around a huge pocket for like, 15 seconds before getting strip sacked and losing the ball. Mistakes are always going to happen. With that said, Trubisky's deeps balls are *gorgeous*:
He throws into double coverage (yeah, I know, whatever) and places that ball perfectly into Taylor Gabriel's hands. The window for that pass to be completed is absurdly small, and a bunch of today's NFL QBs couldn't make that throw. And yeah, if all you had to do to be an NFL QB was throw a pretty deep ball, Jeff George and JaMarcus Russell would be Hall of Famers. But for all the flack that Trubisky gets -- a lot of which is deserved -- it's worth recognizing that he can do some things really well.
First Thoughts on Week 7
Stankevitz: I’ll be very interested to see on Sunday how much scheming Matt Nagy can carry over from his days in Kansas City against New England. The Chiefs ripped of 42 points against the Patriots in their season opener last year, and the Patriots’ defense doesn’t look much better this year. The Bears, of course, have different personnel, but perhaps there are certain plays or concepts that’ll work as well as they did in Kansas City in Chicago on Sunday.
The Bears’ offense nearly picked off the defense on Sunday, and depending on Khalil Mack’s ankle may have to do so again on Sunday. And I’ll leave it at this: The NFL is weird. Just because a team looks like one of the two or three best in the league doesn’t mean they’re invincible. The Patriots are more likely to win than the Bears, but don’t discount the Bears putting together an airtight game and emerging from Tom Brady’s final trip to Chicago with a win.
Aspan: Every (rational? objective? realistic?) Bears fan circled this one as an L before the season started, but hey if the Lions can do it! Khalil Mack not being at full strength is an obvious concern, and Bill Belichick against a young QB is always going to favor New England. But we saw what the Chiefs offense just did to New England and the Bears certainly have a better defense (even if they looked like Kansas City in the second half trying to tackle Albert Wilson). One issue for the D in both losses this season has been opponents getting the ball out quick - and New England does do that quite a bit.
The most intriguing part of this matchup for me is that the Patriots are basically facing the same offense for the second straight week, while Matt Nagy has the phone-a-friend advantage. You have to imagine Nagy and Andy Reid have spent some considerable time on the phone the last two days, and if I were Nagy I would have dialed up his old OC Doug Pederson as well. As much as no one wants to talk about moral victories, playing the Patriots tough, even in a close loss, could set the tone for a strong second half against a pretty weak schedule. As far as this game is concerned, at the end of the day I still think Trubisky misses too many throws (not unlike Patrick Mahomes) to beat the Patriots.
Ellis: The Pats' offense is outstanding, and we all know what the Bears' defense brings. I think this game is going to be won on the other side of the ball, where both teams are fairly medicore. The Bears' offense ranks 14th in passing DVOA and 11th in rushing DVOA; the Pats' defense ranks 19th in pass DVOA and 13th in rushing DVOA. Can the Bears get better production in the red zone? Right now they rank a paltry 20th in points per red zone appearance (PT/RZ) at 4.72. New England has long employed a bend-don't-break defense that gives up huge chunks of "meaningless" yards before buckling down and holding teams to three. If I had to pick one specific thing that wins this game for the Bears, it'd be a smart, creative red zone game plan. You can put up points on this Patriots defense -- but settling for field goals all game is how you lose.