View from the Moon: Bears loss to Denver a bad early statement

View from the Moon: Bears loss to Denver a bad early statement

Definitive conclusions – positive or negative – are never usually possible out of first preseason games. Or seconds. Sometimes even thirds. After all, the last two times the Bears went to the playoffs – 2006 to the Super Bowl, 2010 to the NFC Championship game – they lost their first preseason games by double digits.

But these games tell coaches about their teams collectively and players individually. And Thursday’s 22-0 loss to the Denver Broncos was a jolt for the Bears, who didn’t see themselves as road kill, even for a reigning Super Bowl champion, particularly one that they were within a failed two-point conversion of taking to overtime last November.

“Obviously I was disappointed and our team was disappointed,” said coach John Fox. “We were expecting more. I don’t know that we executed as well as any of us expected. It is preseason, you don’t game plan, it’s pretty basic, but there’s plenty room for improvement.”

There’s always room for improvement, but after adding some veterans at key spots, even with the losses of Martellus Bennett, Matt Forte and coordinator Adam Gase, the expectations were – and should have been – far beyond this performance.

The fight that was present in too many practices this training camp was conspicuously absent from Soldier Field Thursday night. Since teams seldom game-plan or do any opponent-based scheming for first preseason games, one conclusion is that the Denver Broncos even with pedestrian quarterbacking are vastly superior to the Bears in straight-up football, no tricks.

The need now is for the jolt to sink in, and fast, with a booster shot next week against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

“Obviously as a competitor you don’t want to look up and see a 22-0 score in the fourth [quarter],” said guard Kyle Long. “I know this group of guys. We’ve been in some fights with this group beyond the field. I know what they’re made of.

“We’ve got to be better. We understand that and we know what it’s going to take.”

Perhaps. At least many of the players – linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, offensive linemen Ted Larsen and Bobby Massie – come from successful programs.

But knowing what it’s going to take and doing what it takes are not the same thing. And fighting on the practice field says nothing about a football team or football character…

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The woeful performance of the offensive line – seven sacks, two of Jay Cutler on the Bears’ first two third-downs, suggests that all the pieces may not be in place for a group with multiple changes coming into training camp and then losing center Hroniss Grasu to a knee injury.

“We didn’t execute as well as we need to, or as well as we should have,” Fox said. “Part of it’s recognition, getting it communicated, and we didn’t do that as well as we should have.”

The Bears are not a staff that panics. But the Bears went all the way through preseason trying to find a right tackle from between Charles Leno Jr. and Jordan Mills and were forced to jam Long into that spot at the start of the week leading to the Green Bay game.

Whether Larsen solves the post-Grasu problem remains to play out. And GM Ryan Pace has signed veterans as backups, albeit ones with health concerns (guard Amini Silatolu, knees; tackle Mike Adams, back).

Rookie Cody Whitehair started at left guard, then moved to center in place of Larsen. The rookie, who spent virtually zero time at center during training camp, proceeded to suffer through a sequence of holding and hands-to-the-face penalties, a sack allowed followed by a snap nearly over the head of quarterback Brian Hoyer.

But Whitehair spent more snaps at center than he did at guard. How coaches grade the film and how both practice and play at New England project to settle a situation that looked very unsettled on Thursday night.

“Really you use these preseason games for young people, particularly rookies. He played guard and center, and that’s a lot to ask for a rookie learning a new offense. But those were learning experiences and good lessons”…

…Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery played, which puts him ahead of last year’s pace at this time. He caught one pass, on the Bears’ first play.

But Jeffery’s production is a distant second to his availability as far as a pivotal factor for the Bears offense. Now questions about him move to New England and the Bears’ joint practices, followed by a game next Thursday, with the Patriots.

And the Bears are still without injury prone Zach Miller at tight end and Eddie Royal at wide receiver, both with concussions, and even No. 2 tight end Greg Scruggs. But seeing Kevin White take the field for the first time was a franchise boost, even with White catching only one pass, a flanker screen in a trips-left formation, for three yards.

“I thought it was real critical,” Fox said. “Both he and Kevin White – Kevin missed all of last season and this was his first football in the NFL in game conditions – having them both out there is good. We still have guys who have to get out there – Eddie Royal and Zach [Miller] so we’re still short some guys that hopefully we’ll get back this week.”

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks reveals what makes him so good against the run

Akiem Hicks finally earned the recognition he deserved in 2018 with his first trip to the Pro Bowl, and playing on the NFL’s No. 1 defense provided the national attention he should have received in his first two years with the Bears.

He’s a solid interior pass rusher, but where he dominates is in run defense, leading the NFL in run stops last season according to Pro Football Focus.

When Hicks beats an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage to make a big tackle in the backfield, it’s a work of art, and he revealed the secret to those flashy plays on NFL Game Pass.

He broke down the film of a play against the Green Bay Packers where he beats center Corey Linsley because he knew right guard Jordan McCray was going to pull to the left.

“I read it before the snap happens. I know that McCray is going to pull just based off his stance,” Hicks said. “I know his stance for every play that he’s going to do. I’m going to be at least 75 percent right.”

Hicks looks at how much weight an offensive lineman is putting on his hand, how far apart his legs are and how much bend is in his hips.

“If you do your due-diligence as a defensive lineman and prepare like a professional during the week, you’re going to know,” Hicks said.

Any little deviation from a normal stance is an indicator to Hicks of what the play is going to be, and that pre-snap knowledge keeps him a step ahead of the blocker in front of him.

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Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5


Vegas sets Mitchell Trubisky’s pass TD total at 26.5

If Mitchell Trubisky has the kind of break out year in his second season under Matt Nagy that Bears fans are hoping for, he should have no problem cashing an OVER 26.5 passing TDs ticket for bettors who want to back him.

Per Bet Chicago, Caesars is rolling out division props and they set Trubisky’s touchdown pass total for 2019 at 26.5 and his pass yard total at 3,744.5.

While both those marks would be career highs for Trubisky, this number will surely be seen as a slight by the hometown fans and continue to add to the polarizing nature of the quarterback formerly known as the Pretty Boy Assassin.

In Chicago, and if you’re team Mitch, this number is ridiculously low and you’re probably already pounding the over.

Outside of Chicago, and with some analytical support, there’s a lot of doubt about Trubisky’s future as a viable option as an NFL starter, so I’d guess the Pro Football Focus crowd is probably gonna take the under.

We rolled out some props of our own on the Under Center podcast last week including:

Will Mitch Trubisky pass for 10 or more touchdowns than Craig Kimbrel has saves? (Including playoffs for both)

26.5 regular season passing touchdowns probably gives Kimbrel the edge, but it’s right in range. 

And that Trubisky – Kimbrel prop prompted this bold response from our own Bears insider JJ Stankevitz:

I don’t think I’m in the 40 club with my guy JJ, but the OVER certainly feels like the move here. At least it better be if the Bears are gonna make any sort of NFC North title defense.