Akiem Hicks

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

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USA TODAY

Putting Bill Belichick’s complimentary comments about the Bears in context

Bill Belichick had plenty of good things to say about Matt Nagy and the 2018 Bears during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Some of the highlights:

 

On the Bears’ season as a whole:

 

“The Bears have lost two games, one on a game when they were in control of the game and another one they lost in overtime. This really looks like a 5-0 team to me, if you change one or two plays. You can say that about a lot of teams, but that’s the league we’re in.”

 

On Mitch Trubisky:

 

“I think he’s done a good job of getting ball to the players that are open or in space and letting them be playmakers. He has a lot of them. That’s the quarterback’s job is to deliver the ball to the playmakers and let them go. I think he’s done a good job of that. He’s a tough kid, which I respect. That’s what we would ask our quarterbacks to do, to make plays to help our team win, to get the ball to the players that are open and in space. It’s not about stats. It’s about doing what you need to do to win.”

 

On Tarik Cohen’s usage:

 

“He plays about a little bit less than 50 percent of the time and he’s in a lot of different places, he’s hard to find. He’s a dynamic player that can run, catch, really threaten every yard of the field from sideline to sideline, up the middle, deep. You can throw it to him, you can hand it to him and he’s elusive with the ball and he’s elusive to be able to get open so the quarterback can get him the ball. Those are great skills to have. Any one of those is good and he’s got several of them.

 

“He’s very hard to tackle. But they do a great job mixing him, not just putting him in the game but who he’s in the game with, what the combinations are and then where they locate him and so forth. There are a lot of multiples. It’s hard. Coach Nagy does a good job with that and he’s a special player that you gotta know where he is at all times.”

 

On Trubisky’s 54-yard bomb to Taylor Gabriel on Sunday:

 

“That’s about as good a throw and catch as I’ve seen all year. The execution on that was like 99 out of 100. It was a great, great throw, great route, great catch. There was like a few inches to get the ball in there 50 yards downfield and that’s where it was.”

 

On Akiem Hicks’ impact, who played for the Patriots in 2015:

 

“He’s hard to block. It doesn’t make any difference what the play is, you can run to him and he’s hard to block. You can run away from him, and he makes tackles for loss on the back side. He’s quick and can get around those blocks when there’s more space back there because everybody is going to the front side. He can power rush. He can rush the edges with his quickness. He’s a very, very disruptive player. He’s hard to block on everything.

 

“I appreciate all of the plays he makes. He makes plays on all three downs, against all types of plays, whether it’s reading screen passes or power rushing the pocket to help the ends, to help (Leonard) Floyd and Mack and (Aaron) Lynch rush on the edge. He’s a powerful, disruptive guy. (Eddie) Goldman has done a good job of that. (Bilal) Nichols has done a good job of that too. They have some really powerful guys inside that are hard to block, and they change the line of scrimmage in the running game and the passing game. It really creates a problem, frees up the linebackers in the running game and helps the ends because the quarterback can’t step up in the pocket in the passing game.”

 

On Matt Nagy:

 

“Obviously he's done a great job, as has Ryan with building the team. They have a lot of good players. They have a really experienced staff and they do a great job in all three areas of the game. They're good in the kicking game, they're good on defense they're good on offense. They have highly-skilled players in all three areas.

 

“It's a well-balanced football team that does a lot of things well. Run the ball. Stop the run. Throw the ball. Rush the passer. Intercept passes. Return kicks. Cover kicks. Cover punts. They're at the top of the league in all those categories. Turnovers. Points off turnovers. It doesn't really matter what area you want to talk about, they're pretty good at all of them. That's why they're a good football team.

 

“Coach Nagy and his staff certainly deserve a lot of credit. It's not a one-man band. They're all doing a good job. It's a good football team. I'm sure there will be a lot of energy in the stadium this week. It will be a great test for us to go into Chicago and be competitive against them.”

 

While listening to Belichick rave about the Bears, this missive from former Patriots general manager Michael Lombardi stands out:

 

“Whenever Belichick tells the media on Mondays or Tuesdays that he has already moved on to the next game, trust me, he’s not lying. I worked with Bill for five years in Cleveland, and then during the 2014 and 2015 seasons in New England. Belichick treats every game like a Super Bowl; no detail is too small, no possible scenario or situation goes overlooked. I have heard Belichick break down a bumbling Jaguars team as if it was the reigning two-time Super Bowl winner and treat Blake Bortles like he’s the second coming of Aaron Rodgers. Belichick does it with tape to back up his claims, only showing his team the opponent’s greatest strengths. (With Bortles, I swear, he must have used George Lucas to doctor the video.) No Patriots opponent is underestimated or taken lightly — EVER.”

 

One of the myriad things that make Belichick the best coach in the NFL — and maybe the best coach in NFL history — is how he never takes an opponent lightly, and then how he’s so successful at scheming against what an opponent does best.

 

The Bears are undoubtedly better in 2018 than they were in the John Fox era, or when these two teams last met in 2014 (when New England waxed a moribund Marc Trestman side, 51-23). And a lot of Belichick’s points are valid – that throw Trubisky made to Gabriel was outstanding, for example.

 

But Belichick talks this way about every team he faces. And that, again, is part of what makes him the best at what he does.

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

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USA TODAY

Akiem Hicks makes Pro Football Focus Team of the Week after strong game against Dolphins

The Bears defense was not its usual self in their overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. The pass rush was minimal and tackling looked optional, and Brock Osweiler threw for almost 400 yards.

There was plenty of blame to go around, but a few individual defenders had success while their teammates struggled.

Defensive lineman Akiem Hicks made the Pro Football Focus Team of the Week for Week 6 with a 92.2 overall grade.

He recorded seven tackles that resulted in a defensive “stop,” the most of any defensive lineman according to PFF.

Chicago’s next highest-graded player was cornerback Kyle Fuller (78.2), who intercepted Osweiler twice but also missed two tackles.

Offensively, wide receiver Taylor Gabriel led the way with a 76.9 mark. PFF credited four of his five catches coming against Dolphins cornerback Torry McTyer in coverage.

Meanwhile, outside linebacker Khalil Mack had the lowest-graded game of his career (47.8), while linebacker Danny Trevathan (29.9) and safety Adrian Amos Jr. (47.5) each had their second-worst games.

Some of the Bears’ best players were at their worst in Miami. They’re going to need to get their act together for the New England Patriots on Sunday.

A gassed Bears defense needs to prove loss to Miami was an aberration

A gassed Bears defense needs to prove loss to Miami was an aberration

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Through the first four games of 2018, the Bears’ defense allowed on average 295 yards per game, 5.1 yards per play, 3.9 yards per run, a 33 percent third down conversion rate and 16 points per game.

Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins was, with that backdrop, a bloodbath of an aberration. Or so the Bears hope.

The Dolphins — quarterbacked by Brock Osweiler, who’s been more of a punchline than a threat over the last few years — racked up 541 yards, averaged 7.2 yards per play and 5.2 yards per run and converted eight of 17 third downs (47 percent) en route to score more points in one afternoon than the Bears had allowed in their last two games.

“Everybody knows that’s not the type of defense we play — we don’t miss tackles, I don’t think we’ve ever had that during the whole season,” safety Eddie Jackson said. “We gotta come in and work on that and get ready for next week.”

It wasn’t just that the Bears allowed that level of production — it was how it happened. Albert Wilson had 155 yards on six catches, and turned a pair of short passes into 43- and 75-yard touchdowns, both of which led to Miami tying the game in the fourth quarter. Frank Gore carved up 101 yards on 15 carries, with a Miami offensive line missing its starting left guard and center generating an excellent push for the future Hall of Famer.

“It all starts with stopping the run,” outside linebacker Khalil Mack, who suffered an ankle injury but stayed in Sunday’s game, said. “I feel like we didn’t do a good enough job with that today.”

Gore’s 100-yard game was the first by a running back against the Bears since Latavius Murray hit that mark in Week 5 of 2017, and Miami’s success on the ground did open up plenty for Osweiler.

But that doesn’t completely explain how the Bears didn’t notch a sack and only were credited with four quarterback hurries (the Dolphins committed, and succeeded, to selling out to stop Mack’s pass rush). It doesn’t explain how poor the Bears’ tackling angles were all afternoon, and how many missed tackles this group piled up when they did get in position (anecdotally, it felt like a Dolphins player hurdled a Bears defender at least once a quarter).

“I missed a couple that I make usually 100 percent of the time,” safety Adrian Amos said. He was only talking about himself, but he hardly was the only player to uncharacteristically miss a tackle on Sunday.

No Bears player was willing to admit the impact of the hot and humid conditions on Sunday, but this was a defense that looked gassed, especially in the second half. And while the conditions on the field were the same, they weren’t on the sideline — the visiting sideline at Hard Rock Stadium was engulfed in sunlight all game, to the point where Bears staffers had to hold up what appeared to be folding tables over the benches on the sideline to create some makeshift shade.

“It was hot,” defensive lineman Akiem Hicks said. “It was hot out there. You gotta play the game anyway. You don’t get a choice. You gotta play. They’re playing, we gotta play too.”

“There’s a lot you can say about it,” outside linebacker Leonard Floyd said. “We haven’t played in a week, the weather is quite different from Chicago — it’s a lot of things you could say but at the end of the day you gotta execute, and we didn’t do a good job of that.”

The Bears’ defense responded well to blowing a 20-point lead in Week 1’s brutal loss to the Green Bay Packers, holding the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to incrementally fewer points each week. This group will have to respond against the diabolical Bill Belichick-Tom Brady New England Patriots offense in Week 7, which presents a far greater challenge than an undermanned group led by Russell Wilson did in Week 2.

There’s no reason to hit the panic button on the Bears’ defense, not when they’ve only had, really, two bad quarters out of 20 all year (though on the other hand, that those both came in the fourth quarter in road games is a little concerning). The Jacksonville Jaguars, widely considered to have the NFL’s best defense before the season, gave up 40 points to a Dallas Cowboys offense that hadn’t shown much promise before Sunday. These things can happen.

And there’s plenty of confidence within the Bears locker room that it won’t happen again.

“This is a building block,” Jackson said. “This is a huge building block for us, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I’m going to keep repeating that because we hold ourselves to a very high standard. We just gotta put this one behind us. It’s going to be tough. Everybody’s seen it. It’s going to be tough for us to do, but we’re looking forward right now. We got a long season ahead of us.”