All posts by Josh Buckhalter

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Bears Put Clamps On Rams

Bears defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris (95) and Chicago Bears defensive end Akiem Hicks (96) sack Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) in action during an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Chicago Bears on December 09, 2018 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL

(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Well then. There are a number of superlatives that could be thrown out to describe what happened. ‘Lockdown’ seems to be the most fitting for a game the Bears won 16-5. That was the Chicago Bears defense on a night when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was…awful.

Missing high and long all night, Trubisky showed every bit of a two week layoff; finishing 16 of 30 for 110 yards one touchdown and three bad interceptions. It is not a new issue, but it is one he had done better with before getting injured against Minnesota. He will need to be better, but not much if the Bears defense manhandles opponents like it did Los Angeles.

The running game was a different story. Jordan Howard (19 runs for yards) and Tarik Cohen (9-69) gave the Bears what they had been missing for weeks: consistent positive yardage on the ground. It was especially nice to see Howard, a focal point the past two years, get rolling. With the playoffs drawing nearer, having a 230 pound sledgehammer to wear down defenses is going to pay dividends.

If Trubisky was awful, Goff can only be described as putrid. Yes he finished with more yardage — going 20 of 44 for 180 yards — but he threw four interceptions of his own and absorbed three sacks, one of which was a safety. Some will say that two of the picks were “fluky”, but the Chicago front seven had Goff under duress the entire night.

His supporting cast did not fair much better. One of Jukes & Jumpers keys to victory, the Bears took the NFLs leading rusher completely out of the game. Todd Gurley finished with 11 carries for 28 yards; tacking on 30 yards by way of three receptions. Every time Gurley touched the ball, there was a defender hot in pursuit. Typically one of the most explosive runners in the game, Gurley was repeatedly kept to two- and three-yard carries; with a long of 12 yards.

With Goff being off his game, his receivers were not able to do much. Robert Woods was the only one to have an impact; catching seven passes for 61 yards. Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds combined for six catches and 58 yards. Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara are playing great football right now; while Bryce Callahan is also having an under-the-radar good year, though he did leave the game with an injury.

The Bears defense came in to the night in the discussion for best defense in the League. They made their claim in front of a raucous crowd Sunday night. Perhaps the most satisfying part was the sound tackling and pressure late in the game. Both issues have haunted the Bears most of the season

Next up, an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot and avenge a tough loss next week; when the Packers (5-7-1) come to Soldier Field. The latest meeting in a long and storied rivalry, the circumstances are quite different this time around.

Keys to a Bears Victory on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 18: A detailed view of the jumbotron at Soldier Field displaying a Bears Win sign is seen after game action during a NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on November 18, 2018 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — As the Bears prepare for their toughest test to date, here are the keys to a Bears Victory:

Offense

1) Get Mitch, offense in a rhythm early: There should be a LOT of points scored in this one, so Matt Nagy needs to get Mitch Trubisky going quickly. Mitch will undoubtedly be rusty, having missed two weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Why not call some quick hitting plays? Get the ball out of Mitch’s hands and into one of those playmakers; let them do the heavy lifting.

2) Control the clock: It has been an issue all season, but against the League’s second ranked offense, it would behoove the Bears to establish a consistent ground game. The Rams are actually middle of the pack against the run. The issue is teams typically do not get the chance to stack carries. The Bears need run it early and often, and not abandon it if unsuccessful early.

Defense

3) Stop Todd Gurley: Perhaps this should say ‘slow Gurley’ but the idea is the same. Make the Rams one dimensional, something the Bears have done all season. It should be mentioned that Gurley is also a threat in the passing game. Which brings us to the final key…

4) Get after the quarterback: Jared Goff is having a wonderful season. He has even been mentioned in MVP discussions. But the Bears have a player who specializes in terrorizing his position. Vic Fangio needs to get Khalil Mack back in early season form. Not that his impact has not been felt recently, but he was sacking quarterbacks and taking the ball away at a blistering pace to start the campaign. The Bears hope to see that version tonight on the lakefront.

***Bonus Key***

Show up in the fourth quarter defensively: For all the well-deserved praise the Bears defense has gotten, this is one thing that certainly sticks in players, coaches and fans craw. The Bears have given up far too many points and yards in the final frame. The biggest reason has been poor tackling allowing insane amounts of yards after catch. The Bears must be technically sound and bring down the Rams explosive weapons when they have the chance.

Bulls in Familiar Territory with Youth Movement

Wallpaper of Derrick Rose with Michael Jordan in the background
Photo by: RyanHurstDesigns

CHICAGO — In all fairness, it was time to trade Derrick Rose, and it is clear who won the first Jimmy Butler trade.

This group also has intrigue. Lauri Markkanen looks like a special player, Lavine can go off on any night and Wendell Carter’s play has made his seventh overall draft cost seem like a bargain. The jury is still out on Kris Dunn, but when on his game he is a tough defender with a knack for closing games.
The elephant in the lineup is at the small forward position. The hope was that Parker would be a case of talent overcoming fit. Now the hope is likely that Jabari is elsewhere next season with an incoming rookie manning that spot.

It is not all on Parker, though he has not exactly put his best for forward. Although undersized, Jabari is a natural power forward and is a square peg in a defensive hole on the wing. Not that his post defense is great but you live with it because he is such a mismatch for most bigs in the Association.

That is another issue. The average power forward is closer to Parker’s profile than when he came in to the NBA. His advantage is diminished with each new class. Make no mistake, Jabari Parker has All-Star ability. Just not at small forward, and probably not in Chicago.

Part of the the thinking behind Jabari at the three is Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr both look like solid blocks to build on. The failed experiment has resulted in Parker coming off the bench; something I’m sure neither side foresaw.

With the team drafting guys like Denzel Valentine and this year’s second first round selection, Chandler Hutchison, signs point to the Bulls selecting a wing player in the upcoming draft. Duke forward Cam Reddish perhaps?

Whoever the Bulls choose, it will likely be Gar Forman and John Paxon making the pick. Whether that is a positive or negative remains to be seen. Hopefully the Bulls get it right, regardless of who is calling the shots.

Bulls Out of Luck Against Celtics

Bulls || Image Source: cdn.fansided.com/wp-content/blogs.dir/24/files/2016/06/nb...
Photo by: David Berkowitz Chicago

CHICAGO — History was made at the United Center Saturday night. 133-77 was the final, but the Bulls came out on the destroyed end.

Coming off a thrilling victory versus the Thunder, the Bulls suffered the worst home-loss in franchise history; a 56-point dismantling by the Boston Celtics, who earned their fifth straight win.

Frigid from all over the floor, Chicago’s starters were held scoreless the first 9 minutes. Head Coach Jim Bolyan rightfully benched them. It appears firing Fred Hoiberg has fixed all that is wrong with the Bulls. Go figure.

Perhaps a roster thin on talent and depth is more of an issue. Maybe it was the first month plus that saw three members of a young core out with injury? How is Jabari Parker’s homecoming going? Amazing how firing one guy did nothing for 90 percent of those things. If only there were more people to fire.

Seemingly gifted infallible job security, John Paxon and Gar Forman have spent their tenure building up to disappointment. The gift that was the Derrick Rose era coming closest to a championship run. The Jimmy Butler era helped spur the current rebuild.

This iteration of the “baby” Bulls is long on youth, and a quick look at the standings suggests Chicago will be picking high in the lottery yet again. Another youth movement. When you never finish you’re never done. GarPax will live forever.

Nagy, Bears Not Thinking Hibernation

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 18: Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy talks into his headset in action during a NFL game between the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings on November 18, 2018 at Soldier Field, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

CHICAGO — Sunday marks a turning point for the 2018 Chicago Bears, but coming off a tough loss to the Giants, the Bears have a chance to propel their season from good to great. Yes the playoffs are a few weeks away, but this is a little more important at the moment.

With such a young team — the Bears did not start a player 30 or older start until Chase Daniel on Thanksgiving — it is imperative they learn to win the tough games. A near-interception away from an opening day victory over the Packers, the Bears bounced back against Seattle at home. The following weeks saw Chicago trade a pair if wins with a pair of losses; then rattle off four straight, snapping a divisional losing streak along the way.

Week 12 was a reality check. Daniel was shaky at best as he spent the majority of the day fumbling snaps and holding the ball too long. There was also this. Matt Nagy’s questionable timeout before halftime seemed to turn the game. Credit the specter of Eli Manning for not getting in the way of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham.

Such opportunity might not exist this Sunday. Los Angeles comes in sporting the best record in the NFC. Even after losing Cooper Kupp to injury, the Rams still feature a pair of explosive playmakers in Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks. They keep defenses honest for the NFL’s leading rusher (No, not Derrick Henry.) in Todd Gurley.

The Rams “weak link”, the defense is just as star studded. Aaron Donald, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, is having another dominant season. With him wrecking lines, it would be easy to overlook other difference makers such as Marcus Peters and Ndamukong Suh; deadline acquisition Dominique Fowler and Aqib Talib returning from injury.

Prior to the season the Bears were a bit of a mystery. Opting for health over giving the starters significant reps together, the offense was certain to take some time to click. It has since proven more than capable of putting up points in bunches. They should have their chances Sunday night at Soldier Field.

They will need to do so without some of the mistakes and penalties of recent weeks. This would also be the perfect time to finally get the ground game going. In the playoffs, the ability to keep it away from an offense is just as important as actually defending it.

On paper these teams are more even than might be assumed. While the Rams offense is more better at this point, the same is true for the Bears defense. The last time the Rams played in cold weather they won, in Denver, but it was not overly convincing. Sunday’s forecast is 27 degrees. While not always reliable, you take whatever advantage you can.

I will not tell you that the Bears are definitely going to come out of Sunday Night Football as the winners. I will not tell you that a win or loss Sunday makes or ruins the Bears’ season. I will tell you that if they do win, it might be time to start thinking playoff seeding and potential matchups. What a difference a year makes.