Category Archives: NFL

Chicago Bears Seek Vengeance, Playoff Berth in Week 15

The Chicago Bears are looking for a little vengeance in Week 15, and a playoff berth wouldn’t hurt either. Life is funny sometimes. One moment the sky is falling, 14 weeks later and everything is falling into place. Yes, that is a very specific length of time. It happens to be the exact length of time since the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers shared the field. Funny.

Are Vengeance and a Playoff Berth in the Chicago Bears Future?

Best Served Cold

Bears fans surely remember that game; opening night at Lambeau Field. The Bears started the season with a bang, going up by 20 on their most hated rival. They even managed to knock out Aaron Rodgers…almost. Rodgers came back to throw three second-half scores on the way to an improbable victory. One that apparently has stuck with more than just fans.

Kyle Fuller remembers. So does Akiem Hicks, who also took exception to remarks Rodgers made about going to “Chicago, a place we’ve won several times, beat them…”. Hicks responded in no uncertain terms that he is “excited for Aaron to come down here…”. Chicago is coming off a huge primetime win over the NFC leading Rams, who were held to 214 yards for 6 points on two field goals. It was an inspired performance, to say the least; one the Bears will look to replicate this weekend. They will have to do so without their impressive slot corner, Bryce Callahan, who was diagnosed with a broken foot.

An Old Foe

Green Bay (5-7-1) is in unfamiliar territory. Having fired their head coach and his top assistant, most teams would play out the string. They would take this time to evaluate the young talent on the roster. Most teams, however, do not have Aaron Charles Rodgers at quarterback. He alone allows the Packers to develop their young defense – Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams are the only current starters over 27 – to learn on the job as the offense does the heavy lifting. Add the rejuvenated ground attack led by Aaron Jones and these Packers pose a bigger threat than their record would indicate.

The Packers will probably look to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly with short passes. Slants to Davante Adams are always a good idea, but they might be inclined to target the Bears fill-in slot corner, Sherrick McManus. That could mean lots of Randall Cobb and yards after the catch. It is a tactic that has worked against the Bears this season; the Packers among the teams to exploit it. They should also look to establish a ground game to keep the potentially-explosive Bears offense on the sidelines. That is easier said than done.

Be You

For Chicago, the game plan should be similar to last week. Smother the Packers offense. That means shutting down Jones out of the backfield; like they did Gurley. It means getting after Rodgers so he cannot just sit in the pocket, but it also means containment. Rodgers is a master at extending the play, a characteristic certainly not lost on the Bears. The front seven got to Jared Goff early and often Sunday night. This time around they will have a much taller task.

The hope is that a game and two full weeks of practice gets Bears quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, back on track. He was awful against Los Angeles and was lucky to get bailed out repeatedly by his defense. Trubisky has struggled with accuracy throughout the season, but he had been trending upward in that regard as he built chemistry with his pass-catchers. He gets a feisty Green Bay secondary that is physical and fast, but also young and burnable. The Bears would do well to lean on Jordan Howard and the rediscovered run game; the less Rodgers has the ball the better.

Chicago Bears Seeking Vengeance and Playoff Berth

Clearly, there is no love lost between these two teams. The Packers have tormented the Bears and their fans for years. This meeting, however, is different. This time around it is the Bears perched at the top of the NFC North and gearing up for their first postseason appearance since 2010. On the other side of this role reversal, the Packers are fighting for their playoff lives and needing help to do it.

Could there be a better setup for the 198th meeting between these two historic franchises? The bully trying to maintain their dominance versus the young upstart with a lot to prove. The season started with heartbreak in Chicago and another campfire tale in Green Bay. This week it could end with a Chicago playoff berth and a long trip back to Wisconsin for the Packers. Not exactly the stakes expected after opening night. Again, funny.

Trubisky Awful on SNF

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 09: Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) hands the football to Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) 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 — Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky returned to action Sunday night after missing the previous two contests with a shoulder injury. He finished 16 of 30 for 110 yards and three interceptions. Bad interceptions.

Whether the injury or rust was the cause of his erratic play last night remains to be seen. To clarify: Trubisky has been perhaps the most erratic quarterback in the NFL this year. It goes deeper than game-to-game or even series-to-series. Trubisky will look like two completely different quarterbacks from one play to the next. It is a major flaw, but is something he had done better with before getting injured.

Prior to Sunday night, Trubisky had not completed less than 60 percent of his passes since week eight against the hapless Jets; a game he finished with two touchdowns and zero intercepts. In fact, this was only the third game of the season with a completion percentage in the 50s.

Look, Mitch still makes too many bad throws, period. His reads are usually correct however. He has also shown the ability to make every throw, and we know about his running ability. Where he lacks is consistency, but that will come as he continues building chemistry with his surrounding cast.

The Green Bay Packers come to the lakefront next week. They just embarrassed Matt Ryan and the Falcons for a 34-20 victory. It was not nearly as close as the final score suggests.

Surely they would love nothing more than to hang a loss on the Bears in defiance of any changing-of-the-guard narrative. A Bears win not only locks up the first playoff appearance since 2010, it would also put a nice little bow on what has been fascinating season to follow.

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.

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.