Three Bears necessities for a win vs. Vikings

Three Bears necessities for a win vs. Vikings

If the Vikings defense can hold the likes of the Packers and Panthers in check, who knows what the Bears can muster without Kyle Long, Eddie Royal and possibly Josh Sitton? That top-ranked unit has allowed eight touchdowns in six games, just one in each of the last four. So this becomes a “How Low Can They Go?” when it comes to the Bears’ defense versus Minni’s attack, and the need for complementary football. Oh, and how about avoiding a fourth straight 10-penalty game?

1. Use an edge on the edge

We’ll see how much help Norv Turner gives left tackle T.J. Clemmings and the right tackle combo of Jeremiah Sirles and Jake Long, but they were abused last week, albeit by a better defense. Still, this is a chance for Leonard Floyd to build on the flash he showed in Green Bay with his two-sack, touchdown performance, for Willie Young to add to his six sacks and for Pernell McPhee to make his presence felt after knocking rust off with just 19 snaps versus the Packers. Sam Bradford was sacked a half-dozen times and hit 15 times in Philly. Let’s see if the Bears’ pass rush can come anywhere close to that. Going up against what’s likely the NFL’s top defense, points will be hard to come by. The defense will have to keep the Vikes’ offense at a low number.

2. Show what 'Shon can do

It’s not the ideal defense to gamble against. Minnesota entered the week with nine interceptions, 16 takeaways, and a league-best plus-11 turnover ratio. At 1-6, do a few downfield gambles to Alshon Jeffery now that Jay Cutler is back outweigh the risk? Three of Jeffery’s 13 100-yard games have come against the Vikings, who still get elite cornerback play from Xavier Rhodes and forever-young Terence Newman, not to mention Trae Waynes and Captain Munnerlyn.  But Jeffery’s zero touchdowns this season linked to the conservative, interception-free play from Brian Hoyer has been an underlying storyline (albeit not coming from offensive co-captain Jeffery). If there can be enough success keeping the Vikes honest with a dose of intermediate production from Cam Meredith and Zach Miller, let’s see whether the “franchise” wideout can do some damage.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

3. Stay in your lane and contain

If the defense can get off the field consistently, and if the offense can do enough to offset whatever damage the defense takes and those two phases succeed in keeping it a close, low-scoring game, here come the special teams. Cordarrelle Patterson (four kickoff) and Marcus Sherels (five punt) have nine career return touchdowns between them, and each has one at Soldier Field. The once “money” Blair Walsh has had a crisis of confidence since last January’s short game-winning attempt caromed off the left upright versus Seattle and has been shaky on extra points, as well. But then again, it’s Halloween, and who knows what the Bears might get from Connor Barth in the event the offense does enough against that defense to get in position to score?

Get ready for Monday night’s matchup at 6:30 p.m. on CSN Plus when ex-Bears Jim Miller, Lance Briggs and Alex Brown join Chris on Bears Pregame Live. As soon as the second quarter ends, log on for Halftime Live as Jim and Chris break down the first 30 minutes and go over second half adjustments. As soon as the game ends, flip back to CSN when Dave Wannstedt joins Jim, Alex, Lance and Chris for 90 minutes of reaction, analysis, live John Fox and Jay Cutler press conferences and locker room reaction on Bears Postgame Live.

Could the Bears have done more to help their offensive line in loss to the Packers?

Could the Bears have done more to help their offensive line in loss to the Packers?

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Mitch Trubisky finished the Bears’ season-ending loss to the Green Bay Packers with his second-highest passing yards total of the season (334). The obvious and obligatory caveat: he reached that total on 53 attempts, good for a meager 6.3 yards per attempt.

That point has been central the popular laments of Trubisky and the Bears offense. When things tighten up and the pocket constricts — as happened early and often against a boisterous Packers pass rush on Sunday — Trubisky is often prone to shoddy footwork, erratic backfoot throws and general checkdownery. 

Those themes pervaded Sunday’s game. Kenny Clark, specifically, feasted, notching two sacks on the afternoon and seemingly disrupting every rush the Bears attempted between the tackles. Trubisky completed 29 of his 53 passes, good for a 54.7 completion percentage. 

“I felt like they were pretty good,” Trubisky said. “They had a really good front.”

The protection around Trubisky was inconsistent all day, but on plays when Trubisky found success, he operated with a clean line-of-sight and space to step up into. According to Trubisky, that’s not a matter of coincidence.

“I felt like our O-line played really well. I thought we could’ve taken more pressure off them moving in the pocket a little more and me getting out,” Trubisky said after the game. “We’ve got to continue to find ways to take pressure off our O-line. With a good rush like that, continue to mix it up, whether it’s with screens, running it, draws — all that kind of stuff helps.

“Could’ve done a lot of stuff, yeah,” Trubisky added, when asked if he thought the team could have done more to help the offensive line.

But he also credited the Packers’ defense for making things difficult on them. Matt Nagy did the same.

“There’s some things they did. We know what some of that is, and that’s just week-to-week how that goes,” Nagy said. “We’ve got to find out how to communicate that. Not every week is going to be like last week running the football. That’s just how it goes.”

Juxtaposing those sentiments seems to illustrate a rift between quarterback and coach, which would explain the stilted, hot-and-cold nature of  the Bears’ 2019 offense. As the team now turns the page towards the final chapter of a largely forgettable season, the interplay between Trubisky and Nagy is worth monitoring — even without potential postseason contention to fixate on. 

After all, regardless of your thoughts on either, the most likely scenario for the Bears’ 2020 season involves each of them again dictating the fates. As for today, though, the feeling of wanting more stings.

But it wasn’t an entirely discouraging outing for Trubisky. Embedded in a 13-point team performance that fell woefully short of keeping the Bears’ season alive were the flashes we’ve come to expect from him — flashes that make you wonder if, in the right situations, Trubisky could be capable of helming a potent NFL offense. 

One sequence stands out in this respect: Late in the second quarter, with the Bears trailing 7-0, Trubisky sold a play-action fake and grooved a 33-yard pass to Anthony Miller in stride, taking the Bears down to the Packers’ 28-yard line. The team rushed to the line, then Trubisky ran a timely RPO keeper, on which a fake to David Montgomery opened enough space for Trubisky to scramble for nine yards and into the red zone. 

To that point in the game, the Bears had not run the ball effectively (after the first quarter, Montgomery and Tarik Cohen had combined for -2 yards on five rush attempts). But they’d done enough establishing the run to open up some inventive actions for Trubisky, actions that allowed him to utilize his most valuable asset: his feet. 

Two of Trubisky’s other most dazzling throws of the day — one an across-the-body sling to Riley Ridley to convert a 3rd-and-5 early in the second quarter, and a play-action rope down the sideline to Allen Robinson in the third — both featured a moving pocket. 

It’s no secret he and the Bears offense are at their best and most unpredictable when he’s free and loose.

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Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

Bears' WR tandem shows elite upside despite Week 15 loss to Packers

The Bears' Week 15 loss to the Packers brings to an end any far-fetched hope that Chicago would complete a miraculous late-season turnaround and sneak into the playoffs as an NFC wild-card team. And while there's still a chance the Bears can finish 2019 above .500, the theme of this year will be disappointment.

There will be plenty of time to nitpick the 2019 Bears and identify what went wrong to derail a club with Super Bowl aspirations over the summer. For now, though, it's worth pointing out a positive development from Sunday's loss that advanced a recent trend of production in Chicago's passing game.

Wide receivers Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller each eclipsed 100 receiving yards against the Packers and continued to provide the Bears with a look at what could emerge as one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL next season.

Miller caught nine passes for 118 yards and a touchdown while Robinson secured seven catches for 125 yards. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky targeted the duo a total of 29 times in the game.

"We are just trying to make plays," Robinson said Sunday after the game. "Anthony Miller is a very competitive dude. He makes plays when he gets his chance. So for me I am just trying to do the same thing; make plays and give our offense a shot to move the ball and score some touchdowns.”

Robinson's big afternoon brings his season totals to 83 catches, 1,023 yards and seven scores. It's the first time A-Rob has gone over 1,000 receiving yards since his breakout 1,400-yard season in 2015.

Miller, who was an afterthought in the passing offense for the first month of the season, now has career-highs in receptions (50) and yards (649). He's averaged 86 receiving yards per game over the last five weeks.

Trubisky's stat line has benefited quite a bit from Miller's recent surge, too. He's averaging 298 passing yards per game over the last four weeks, which spread across an entire season would total more than 4,700 yards.

It's OK to be frustrated with how 2019 turned out for the Bears. The season got off to an unbearably slow start and didn't come anywhere near the lofty expectations fans had when training camp broke. But it's become very clear over the last several games that the Bears have a strong foundation for an explosive passing game in place with Robinson and Miller.

The goal in 2020 should be to make sure the explosive duo is unleashed much sooner in the season.

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