Monday night’s game didn’t go according to plan, so what does that mean going forward? Personally, I believe that had this team been better coached, the Bears win easily. The offense looked undisciplined and out-of-sync. In my opinion, that ultimately lands on the coaching staff.
The undisciplined part (penalties, especially pre-snap) falls on John Fox, while the rest falls to Dowell Loggains. I have gone on record as defending Loggains and he wasn’t terrible in his game plan, but it certainly left something to be desired. One of the easiest ways to get an offense to function with more cohesion is the use of no-huddle. We really did not see that and it is something that I would like to see more of going forward.
This is a huge game for the Bears as it begins a stretch of what many believe to be the “soft part” of the schedule. If this team wants to start making its move towards relevance — and take an important step heading into the most important off-season in recent memory — then it needs to begin this Sunday at Noon.
What to Watch For
On offense, the line is going to have to play better than it did last week. The running game was solid and if not for a very questionable holding call, the numbers would have looked excellent. The pass blocking however, left a lot to be desired. I expect to see more throws downfield, simply because Trubisky is more prone to taking shots than Glennon. He needs time to do so, or at least enough to get outside the pocket to make a play.
As stated above, I would expect the Bears to give us some more no-huddle looks. It was painfully obvious that this team was lacking cohesion and rhythm. Typically, when you see a unit perform as they did Monday night, a coaching staff will do something to give them a spark or simply take some of the thinking away. Maybe I am giving the staff too much credit here, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see it either.
Defensively, the front-seven is starting to play like we thought they could. Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks were dominant last week. I thought that Christian Jones and John Timu (until his injury) were having nice games, even the secondary played well. The return of Danny Trevathan (and possibly Kwiatkoski?) will be huge for this unit and should help to prevent the kind of lapses that we saw on that Jerick McKinnon run.
Vic Fangio was a little more aggressive on 3rd down than he was earlier in the season. I hope this is a trend that continues. The defense has had some struggles on the most critical of downs, although a lot of that has been due to penalties. The aggressive blitzing and brilliant coverage disguises will need to continue for this unit to play to its full potential.
Who to Watch
Cody Whitehair: I think it’s time we stopped making excuses for Whitehair’s play. I have always believed that he was a guard that got thrust into the starting center role. I still believe that is where he ends up. The biggest issue is the shotgun snaps. This formation is a staple of what Loggains wants to run, but if your center is snapping the ball with as much accuracy as Rick Vaughn from the movie Major League, that’s a problem. Keep an eye on his shotgun snaps this week.
Dion Sims: Sims had an awful game last week. He looked to me like a guy who just didn’t want to be there. He seemed disinterested and after those dropped pass, I think he looked like a guy who was checked-out. After Mike Glennon, it’s not difficult to imagine why. That said, he needs to get his head back in the game. He has played much better this season than he showed, and for the sake of Mitch, we need to see that from him.
Danny Trevathan: Trevathan played his best game as a Bear against the Packers. Hopefully the extended rest of the long week, plus the suspension, has him chomping at the bit. He needs to fly around and make plays like he did two weeks ago, and for the majority of his Denver career. Trevethan is the best blitzing inside linebacker on the team, and with more aggression from Fangio, this could be his time to shine.
Eddie Jackson: Jackson has been close to making a huge play in almost every game this season. Could this finally be the game that we call his coming out party? He is in position and looks to be the real deal, but he has yet to be able to pull down an interception. This Ravens offense is not good, if there was ever a time for the secondary to feast, this could be it.
Keys to the Game
Play-Action Passing: The running game has done enough this season for defenses to key on it. Until proven otherwise, that will be the game plan against the Bears offense. The best way to burn teams who stack the run is the play-action pass. We saw several of these play-fakes out of shotgun and also on the bootleg. With the re-emergence of the shotgun and stretch running plays, these play-fakes have been extremely successful. This needs to be a staple — and given the predictability of the play-calling — on 1st down going forward.
Generating Turnovers: This is a huge hole, a black mark if you will, on the defense. As a whole, they are playing quite well but until they are able to take the ball away with regularity, they will just be average. This secondary has been close a lot, which is something they couldn’t say the previous two seasons. At some point, this team has to have something go there way, right? ....Right? [Crickets]
The X-Factor: The young wide receivers are going to need to step up. Perhaps the best thing for the deep passing game was Markus Wheaton going down with an injury. Make no mistake, I mean no ill-will towards Wheaton, I hate to see any player injured. Simply put, he has not been very good and with Tre McBride and Tanner Gentry, there is a chance that the offense moves the ball downfield more easily. It seems to me that those 2 simply run better routes and seem to be more complete receivers than Wheaton was. We will see of that plays out on Sunday.