By Thomas Gibbons
It was a tough one at Soldier Field on Sunday. It was a beautiful day at the Lakefront. Not a cloud in the sky. But the Bears failed to play a complete game, surrendering two special teams touchdowns in the 38-31 loss to Tom Brady and the Patriots.
There were high hopes for Mitch Trubisky and the Bears entering this one. The offense had been clicking and the defense was ready to handle whatever Tom Brady. Khalil Mack, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan were active and ready to take on whatever Brady and Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels threw at them. They were not perfect but in the fourth quarter when it was time to get the offense back on the field, they answered with an interception from Kyle Fuller and stopped the Patriots in the final minute to give Trubisky a chance to tie the game.
As for the offense, Trubisky had a rough day. According to ESPN Stats and Info, he was 2-12 on “tight window” throws and 15 off-target throws. A day to forget for Trubisky. Trey Burton and Trubisky connected all day but he did not have it going with his other receivers. It’s back to the drawing board as they prepare for the New York Jets next Sunday at Soldier Field.
Here are my takeaway’s from Sunday’s game at the venerable Soldier Field.
Trubisky may have had a rough day, but it was promising to see him make plays with his legs. His pocket awareness is improving and he has the ability to get outside or step up in the pocket and move the sticks. He was credited with 81 yards rushing and had a touchdown on the crazy scramble play in the final minute of the first quarter.
Another positive from the second-year pro was his connection with Burton. Burton finished with nine catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Scheme and alignment set up Burton for success on Sunday and his crisp route running allowed Trubisky to sling it to him. Nagy likes putting Burton on the backsides of 3×1 sets, otherwise known as a TRIPS formation. It allows Burton to attack a matchup and win that one on one.
Trubisky took a step back in his development this Sunday. You saw the stats from ESPN, it was a rough day at the office. Outside of his own production, the Bears failed to get the running game going, forcing all the pressure on QB play. Plus, it did not help that Allen Robinson was banged and that took away shots down the field.
The passing chart was not as pretty as week’s past. It was going to be a heavy work-load for Trubisky and he made some poor decisions and underthrew some guys.
I know it’s tough for fans to read and listen to Chicago sports radio every week and hear “it’s going to be a process.” Bears fans are hungry for results. But I am here to tell you to continue to believe in this kid because you have seen flashes and the potential this offense holds. The New York Jets are a favorable matchup and Trubisky could have another big performance. This was just his 6th start in this offense. Don’t be so quick to judge. A lot of football left.
Khalil Mack was active on Sunday after dealing with an ankle injury all week, but the All-Pro linebacker totaled just one tackle and was nowhere near Tom Brady all afternoon.
It was obvious his ankle is still not 100% but Mack was not going to miss a game, he hasn’t yet in his career. He knows how to get ready for Sunday’s. But no production from him or any of the other pass rushers gave Tom Brady all day to find a receiver. Brady finished with 227 yards passing and 3 TDs.
We knew a forced fumble from Mack every single game was unrealistic but we expect him to create havoc in the trenches every Sunday. But when you have a bum ankle, it’s going to be tough.
It will be interesting to Mack’s activity this week at Halas Hall. It would not the wrong move to sit him next week but I doubt he’s going to let that happen.
Trey Burton dominated on Sunday, and this could become a weekly thing. I referenced him above but’s his performance is worth bringing up again.
As we have seen, Burton is not your average tight end. He rarely gets in a three-point stance and does not spend his time on the field blocking. It’s not his game and they didn’t pay him the big bucks to block big defensive ends. In this offense, he’s a pivotal part of the passing game. His ability to win one on one matchups and win by alignment is why Trubisky found him often. I’ll have a post out this week dissecting all of Burton’s catches from the All-22 view.
Jordan Howard is fading away in this offense, and that is not good for just fantasy owners. Nagy’s offense relies on versatile backs like Tarik Cohen and Kareem Hunt from his days in Kansas City. While Howard has improved his pass catching, he cannot do what Cohen does. And on his 12 carries today, he managed only 39 yards.
Howard was the centerpiece of the offense the last two season’s under John Fox. He had back to back 1,000-yard seasons and was another late round draft hit for General Manager Ryan Pace. But once Nagy got hired, all the talk was how Howard does not fit the system and the Bears should move him. But Nagy’s offense still has plenty of zone play-calls, Howard’s bread, and butter. But he is not capitalizing on his opportunities this season. And when you put the football on the carpet on the one-yard line in Miami, that is an easy way to warm up the bench.
It will be interesting to see his role going forward. Do the Bears get back to the ground game versus the Jets? Howard can handle a big workload and maybe it’s time for that.
Another late-round draft pick showed up Sunday and that was Bilal Nichols. Pace has hit on another low-level prospect and that is the best news you can ever get for a general manager.
Nichols started to pop out on the tape against Tampa Bay a few weeks ago. The 6′ 4″, 290-pound defensive tackle showed his speed and strength again versus the Patriots tallying 3 tackles. There is plenty of unpacked potential in the 22-year old and he could turn into a foundation piece and maybe even a starter opposite Akiem Hicks.
Danny Trevathan was credited with 10 tackles, all solo. It’s good to see him flying around out there and being a force in the middle. If can avoid injuries and put together a full season, the Bears could be thinking about locking him up this summer. Along with Roquan Smith, these two could be one of the better duos in the league. Something to think about it.
Speaking of Smith, I was looking forward to him covering James White but we did not see that matchup. Smith was praised for his ability to match up with quick backs but it was not showcased. Instead, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio had Leonard Floyd and Mack dropping into coverage and taking care of the underneath routes. It was an interesting move by Fangio, one that is being criticized. Both Mack and Floyd have the ability but I want to see them go after the QB and stop the run. Smith, who had five tackles and a sack, will get his chances in one on one matchups. And he has the ability to dominate. His speed and aggressiveness is what makes him a special player.
Before Mack showed up, Smith was going to be center stage on the Bears defense. Now, he’s been put on the back burner. Everyone is so focused on Mack and it seems at times we forget that we have one of the best college linebackers in college football last season. It’s fantastic though. And I’m excited to see his growth this season and beyond. He’s due for a big game and it could come next week.
That is it for my takeaways. I could go on and on but I’ll save some analysis for Johnny. Be on the lookout for my Trey Burton post coming later in the week.