By their math, Bears should be 8-3


By their math, Bears should be 8-3

As far as more than a few Bears are concerned, only three teams have legitimately “beaten” them. But not the three most outsiders would assume.

The Seattle Seahawks. 26-0. One. The Arizona Cardinals. 48-23. Two. Green Bay Packers, three?

Nope. Players were fuming after the Week 1 loss to Green Bay, not satisfied with coming close in an eight-point loss, more angered that they had the Packers (up 13-10 at halftime, down 17-16 after three quarters) and lost a game in which they out-gained Green Bay, 402-322.

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No, the third loss in which the Bears concede they were out-played was, surprisingly, the Denver Broncos. The 17-15 defeat may have been within their reach, but they were out-gained, out-schemed (Broncos tight ends caught 10 passes for 137 yards.

“Those tight end screens killed us,” Bears linebacker Pernell McPhee said, admiringly at the creative plan and techniques used). “Other than that... ,” McPhee said, shaking his head.

The Bears aren’t wallowing in the past or might’ve-been’s, but rather looking at where they are and where they’ve been all in the context of where they’re going.

One simple fact amid the aftershocks from the Bears’ 17-13 win over the Packers last Thursday is that it can be rendered just a pleasant footnote to the 2015 season if the Bears turn around and merely wobble through the final five games with a playoff shot as motivation. The Bears have fumbled chances like this before and one measure of how far the Bears have come under John Fox's staff will be what they do now.

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“It's a little bit different knowing that we're coming off a big victory in a short week,” said cornerback Tracy Porter. “We've never said we're out of the playoff hunt, but we kind of put it on the back burner because we want to take things one step at a time, we don't want to look to far down the road because then we can overlook an opponent and then they come in and that's how you get beat by an inferior team.

“So we just want to take each game to heart like it's a playoff game and at the same time we never put the playoffs out of question for us.”

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

Anthony Miller is hyped about Nick Foles' knowledge of Bears' offense

One of the main reasons the Bears targeted Nick Foles in an offseason that was overflowing with quality quarterbacks to challenge Mitch Trubisky for Chicago's starting job is his familiarity with Matt Nagy's offense. The Bears knew what they were getting when they traded a fourth-round pick to the Jaguars for the former Super Bowl MVP, and in the current COVID-19 reality, that knowledge of who Foles is as a quarterback is more valuable than the team could've ever imagined.

So is Foles' comfort with the playbook. 

Unlike traditional offseasons when players have a chance to acclimate themselves with their new city, teammates, coaching staff, and offensive system, the novel coronavirus has thrust the Bears' quarterback competition into a shotgun four-week run that Foles is oddly equipped to handle. He's already made a positive early impression on wide receiver Anthony Miller.

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“You can definitely tell that Nick has been playing this game for a long time, and he knows this offense very well," Miller said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters. "He’s very detailed in practice, you can catch him in the back of an offensive play going through his progressions and he’s not even in, so that’s just the type of player he is, and I can’t wait to see him live action to see what he really can do.”

It feels like the Trubisky vs. Foles showdown has been underway since March, but the reality is it's just getting started. Padded practices begin next week and will give Chicago's coaches and players their first real opportunity to evaluate which quarterback gives the team the best chance to win.

According to Miller, the starting gig is up for grabs.

“This is going to be an interesting competition to see and the best man is going to get the job.”


Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

Super Bowl or bust? Why Bears' championship formula is backward in 2020

First, the good news: The Bears can win Super Bowl LV.

Why not? It’s August.

If Matt Nagy can find the right quarterback and Ryan Pace’s play to overhaul the tight end room pays off, this offense could be a ton of fun to watch. And if the addition of Robert Quinn gives the Bears the sort of fearsome pass rush we expect it will, this defense should be among the best in the NFL – and more than good enough to win a Super Bowl.

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There’s absolutely no part of me that’s going to tell you the Bears cannot win a Super Bowl before we’ve seen them practice, let alone play a game, in 2020.

“We want to win a Super Bowl,” wide receiver Allen Robinson said. “Every day we come into the facility, all our meetings and things like that, I think that our coaches are doing a really good job for everybody to keep that in mind and that's the main thing.”

Okay, but you’re probably waiting for the bad news. I just didn’t want to start with it. Because while it's not impossible for the Bears to make a Super Bowl run, there's a big reason why it feels unlikely. 

The Bears’ formula for winning in 2020, seemingly, is pairing a good enough offense with an elite defense. It’s what got them to the playoffs in 2018 as NFC North champions. It’s what could get them back to the playoffs again this season.

But an “eh, it’s fine” offense coupled with an awesome defense is not a formula that wins you a Super Bowl in 2021. As the last 10 Super Bowls tell us, it pays to have a great offense – and doesn’t matter if you have a great defense.

The last 20 Super Bowl participants, on average, had the sixth-best offense in a given year as ranked by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. The average ranking of their defenses was about 12th.

It’s been even more pronounced over the last four years. On average, a Super Bowl team in that span ranked fourth in offense and 16th in defense.

Only two teams in the last decade reached a Super Bowl with an offense outside the top 10 in DVOA (Denver in 2015, Baltimore in 2012 – notably, both teams still won). Eleven of the last 20 teams to make a Super Bowl had a defense outside the DVOA top 10, including last year’s Kansas City Chiefs.

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So the Bears, as currently constructed, do not appear built to win a Super Bowl. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done – we’re not all that far removed from the 2015 Broncos hoisting the Lombardi Trophy with the No. 25 offense and No. 1 defense – but recent history suggests it’s unlikely.

That is, unless Nagy can find the success his former peers (Doug Pederson, Andy Reid) had with his offensive scheme. Make no mistake: Offense leads Super Bowl runs, with defense a supporting character. Not the other way around. And it feels like the Bears have it the other way around.