Thursday, December 2, 2021

Chicago Bears: The First Third – 1/3 season review

6 games into the new 17 game regular season, we’re as close to 1/3 of the way through as we can mathematically get, without getting too pedantic. I think it’s a good time to stop, step back and see how we, the Monsters of the Midwest, the Ditka Digesters, Da Bears are doing. Now, this is a longer read, so Bear with me…

Let’s be very honest, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. 3-3 is very evens-Stevens and feels similar to the last 2 seasons of 8-8 and 8-8. Looking at the season stats, the Bears’ 1st downs are quite evenly split with 48 coming from rushing and 45 from passing. It’s the same story with yards as total yards is 1477, 774 for rushing and 703 for passing.

You would think having an even-keeled team would allow for a great stability. But looking further into the stats, the Bears are 23/69 on 3rd down conversions and 2/9 on 4 downs. That paints a starker opinion of how much the Bears shape up, crumbling when the pressure starts to mount.

It doesn’t offer the greatest hope for any major change going forward, even after the acquisition of Justin Fields in the draft. That has to be the highlight of the season so far, the idea that the Bears have finally got their franchise QB for years to come – ooo it’s music to my ears.

The saving grace has to be a defense that had the roughest of starts in game #1 but like the phoenix, has risen from the ashes to be one of the most formidable. Sean Desai, the new Defensive co-ordinator has brought back fight and a tactical side to the Bears D that we have missed for some seasons.

Without them, we certainly wouldn’t be on an equal record of 3-3. They were the sole reason the Bears beat the Bengals in week 3 and week 1 showed that if they aren’t at the races then we will be run over – even if it was against the LA Rams.

At this point in the season, they lead the entire NFL in sacks with 22, the majority of which has come from Khalil Mack and the reborn Robert Quinn. Quinn is now showing the reason the Bears paid so heavily, with him almost tripling his total tally of sacks of last season already (2020 – 2 sacks, 2021 6 games – 5.5).

And it’s a good job too with the offense being below par, especially the passing game. As it stands there does feel to be a vibe of missed opportunity and a lack of organisation about the Bears in regards to the offense – to me at least. You need to be concise, organised and have great communication, all of which has been lacking at some point in the season so far.

BEARS FUTURE ARRIVES AS FIELDS TAKES THE FIELD?

When we drafted Justin Fields in the first round of 2021 Draft, after trading up woth the Giants, there was that whole debacle about who would be the starting QB going forward. Nagy lay on thick about keeping promises to Andy Dalton and giving him the #1 even though based on raw talent, Fields is the much better prospect.

I can understand his reasoning as Dalton is a seasoned pro and definitely outways Fields in experience at this level – but was it the right decision? Well 2 games into the season and an injury sent Dalton out and Fields in. And that was it. If Nagy meant it about Dalton being #1, then why would he not put him back in after being 100% fit?

2 games in Fields is made the starter but all off-season, because of Nagy’s decision, he was training with #2 guys. He wasn’t the main guy training with the starters and that just feels negligent. Sure he will get some reps, but nowhere near what he could have got and now it just seems like wasted time.

Hindsight. Who wants it right? I mean thinking logically you can’t predict every little thing. But Nagy is paid to make sure that hindsight is on his side, that he proves the doubters wrong and makes the right calls. It hasn’t and doesn’t feel like it’s working to me. Something just isn’t connecting, decisions made after the fact always seem like part of “the plan”.

Nagy just seems like a guy who just wants everyone to like him. He tries to be nice to everyone, pours sweet honey into everyone’s ears; and then actually ends up putting himself into silly situations that end up with a lot of people questioning what the heck he is doing.

I mean, look at the play calling. Last season Nagy fired himself from play calling which saw an upturn in form, only to rehire himself again for the 2021 season leading back to poor games, a 1-2 record and a drumming at the Browns that could have left Fields in a hospital bed on another day.

Luckily play calling was relieved to Bill Lazor and the Bears hit 2-2, even if Nagy weirdly denied that Lazor did take over. It was good to see the change. The majority of Nagy’s play was a stale, easy-to-read, throwing-heavy style that left a lot to be desired; whereas when Lazor came in, the running game was more heavily used.

David Montgomery using his strength and determination, led the Bears with 3 TDs and 309 yards, well on the way to over 1000. He went down to a knee sprain in the NFC North win against the Lions and would then be out for 4-5 weeks (now 2 more roughly). Montgomery was 5th in rushing before he went out, so a big loss was feared.

However, Damien Williams came in to give a bit of stability, getting himself on the TD chart with 2 for 137 yards, before going out with an injury himself. But not to fear, up stepped Khalil Herbert. The 6th rounder has looked assured and taken the mantle of #1 RB with 179 yards and 1 TD from 2 main games he was involved in.

The running game has totalled 774 yards from 175 plays and 7 touchdowns. Due to injuries, it has been a combined effort and that’s what you want to see from your team. You can rely on one guy all you like, but if he goes down you need to know the other guys need to step up. That is something we can have comfort in knowing.

It’s definitely something that the passing game needs to start looking at. Fields has had a turbulent start at the Bears with his games have been laced with rookie mistakes you would expect to see. Could the lack of reps Fields had with the #1 guys preseason could be a factor? Well with only 4 weeks at starter, he will need more time.

Looking at the stats (once again) the Bears have 90 completions on 149 attempts, a 60% rate with an average yards of 6. It’s not atrocious, but it’s not inspiring. These stats should be posted by any starting QB in the NFL. Tough then seeing these similar numbers when your Head Coach is meant to be a offensive guru.

You can summarise the offense with one situation to prove that the passing game isn’t working fully… the disconnect with Fields and Allen Robinson. ARob had been franchised tag (rightly or wrongly) but would have licked his lips to play with a talent like Fields who would be the most naturally talented QB that he has ever played with.

Yet the link isn’t there. ARob has amassed 234 yards from the 21 catches which is an average of 11 yards per catch. The talent is clearly there, just not the volume. He has 21 catches in 6 games so far, that’s only an average of 3.5 catches per game, that’s just not enough to utilise his talent. It’s a big difference on last year.

Last year ARob had 102 catches and 6 TDs, and that was with Nick Foles and Mitch Trubisky. If we carry on his trajectory in 2021 he’d have 63 catches for 3 TDs. You can’t tell me something isn’t going right here when you have a top 10-15 WR and they aren’t using him effectively.

Even Darnell Mooney isn’t getting the best score. He has 306 yards off 25 catches, so an average of 12yards per catch, but only 1 TD. Last year’s YD leader Jimmy Graham isn’t even getting snaps, let alone targets. Keeping Graham being another missed opportunity when he had to let go of Kyle Fuller for cap reasons.

So where do we go from here?

Going forward I can see some improvement on the offense happening, it has to. We have started to settle on an identity and so allowing Fields to gain more experience in it and learning within it, will only benefit us. With a solid running game, a strong defense we could have some potential to push on.

The only issue is that we are already treading water with our RBs having only one left available and there is only so many times the defensive will be able to save us from impeding offences with the schedule becoming it’s hardest in the next few weeks. It all hinges on getting the offense and Fields sorted as quickly as possible

I can see us taking a couple of Ws back to the Midwest, but without a firing offense, I can see us getting more losses and end up on a losing record.

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