The Bears game Sunday afternoon brought a mixed bag with a surprising result. As much as people were freaking out over the “John Elway” esque performance of Mitch Trubisky, laying out who he is as a player in a hot take on Twitter isn’t the answer. Mitch will always have glimpse of competency, but asking for that an entire game, or large chunks of the season is fools gold. Again, depending on your narrative of Mitch, you can shape the game however you want to. I thought it was great he kept his head down and kept attacking within the constraints of the offense, but there were some very poor throws that in the first half that wouldn’t have made the situation so dire in the second half. That’s true for any game, but especially true for quarterbacks. To be polite and objective, Mitch brutally struggles reading zone coverage’s at the NFL level. It’s kind of the job description, even if the other lesser needed intangibles he has are fantastic. The chess match of an NFL play is such a big jump for Mitch, his processor can only function at a certain speed, sort of like a modem.
So, what gets Mitch out of that? Moving, running, and seeing man coverage. You know, sort of the reason he was drafted so incredibly high after that one year of tearing up the ACC??? (Narrator: he did not). In that scenario with man coverage, if you ever played backyard football because you are over the age of 30, you can kind of anticipate when a guy has enough of an open window based on how he and the other defensive player move. With zone, there are so many open and closing windows, safeties spinning down, corners feigning zone and going to man, or whatever the hell an NFL DC can pull off of their play sheet, that Mitch sort of goes haywire. The Bears saw plenty of man in the second half, as the Lions love to move use man coverage more times than not, and he got comfortable and ran with it, figuratively speaking.
Big boys in the Coaches Booth
Look, the Bears stole a big W, and that’s half the battle, but there is way more to it than that. The onus has been that Nagy has sort of been on his own island trying to game plan, and call plays, so he brought in former NFL offensive coordinators to help with the former, and though I am not in the headsets, they were also brought in for in game chess moves as well. With actual functioning tight ends (no offense to Ben Braunecker) this year, the Bears rolled out double tight ends with a small healthy dose of 13 personnel (1 back three tight ends, AND, it wasn’t at the goal line where it is commonly seen) on half of their play calls. These groupings provided the Bears with an added push to their run game, which by all accounts was tremendous compared to 2019, and in turn allowed them to max protect on a few play action passes. OF course, Mitch did not throw these gimme intermediate throws with any accuracy, but hey, open receivers were targeted. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Nagy didn’t try to get too cute either. As an example, Patterson was in for just more than enough plays with different formations so he couldn’t be keyed upon, as opposed to last year when he came in for maybe a small amount of plays, which makes it blatantly obvious he is going to be involved. Some of the pairings of those jumbo three tight end sets with tiny Tarik Cohen in the backfield actually produced some good runs. Nonetheless, everyone wants to come down on the offense, even though I thought they did fine…until it came to third down. There were some missed throws, but again, the concepts were there, and they weren’t behind the sticks seemingly all of the time, so I am satisfied. However, apparently each side of the ball decided to flip roles, because……
Is Chuck Pagano a legit DC? A thread for the season?
Let’s give credit where it is due, Matthew Stafford was carving up the Bears on intermediate routes. The Lions had just enough of a semblance of a run game to force run blitzes, and maybe the safeties weren’t spinning and replacing properly, but it seemed like guys were running free through the Chicago secondary. As much as Chicago fans on the local twitters wanted to pine that Danny Trevathan looked like 2012 Brian Urlacher on his last dying breathe, I got the feeling after rewatching the game that Chuck Pagano seems a tad outmatched when it comes to in game chess. This is sort of my thesis for the season, and it will take a bit more research, besides making innocuous hot takes like “He called a bad game”, or “This guy sucks”. Chuck is a noted DB’s coach, and his run with the Colts as a Head Coach was very solid. But he has only been an NFL DC for two years before this. This is by no means me trying to undermine Pagano, who is very respected in league circles, but it is something worth following for me. Of course, with evidence, and not just bare bones hot takes to get likes.
There is a big divide between those right brain chess playing play callers, and charismatic leaders of men. It’s okay to be either one. Vic Fangio has been a DC for 20 years and a damn good one, but he might not be the game managing Head Coach he should be. John Harbaugh never coordinated either side of the ball as he was a special teams coach, but has been a leader of men for the Ravens for over a decade. I know the guys on the Bears like Pagano, they like his stuff, and frankly, it might have been a game of making wrong calls, and that’s the downside of being a defensive coordinator. As a DC, all you have is film and tendencies, and you make your call.
The Bears weren’t getting a rush at all with Quinn being out, and if enough pictures pop up showing Mack getting held every play. In turn, the Lions found dudes on deep crosser more times than not. This isn’t a case of coverage breaking down, and players plastering to a receiver, it’s if Bears are in a zone, passing offensive players off from one side of the field to the other requires three zones to be in sink. When a tight end can lumber across the hashes and end up 18 yards deep on the other side of the field, it’s apparent they weren’t “N’SYNC.”. It’s a luxury for an offense to be able to do that, and it sure as shit doesn’t happen without a semblance of a pass rush. It’s something the Bears need to rectify in some form of fashion, as well as finding a nose tackle to avoid the running lanes that made Adrian Peterson looks 25 years old, if they want to push for the playoffs.