Well Bears fans, we are finally at that point in the season where the football is becoming unwatchable. You always hear about the “dog days of Summer,” but is there a similar idiom for the Fall and Winter months? It certainly feels like we have entered the vortex of evil with this team.
Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling. Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes… The dead rising from the grave. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria. That may or may not be a quote from Ghostbusters, but it certainly feels like what Bears fans are experiencing right now.
The biggest story line for this game will be the quarterbacks. Even though neither will directly affect the other, the Mitchell Trubisky versus Jimmy Garappolo headlines abound. This feels like a really premature battle among fans. Did the Bears do the right thing by not trading for Garappolo and drafting Trubisky? The meatball in all of us will be on display this Sunday. There isn’t much intrigue left for the Bears, so this is something to keep our eyes on.
What to Watch For
On offense, I want to see this team rebound. Well, at least as much as this team is able to rebound. Everything was bad last week. First and foremost, I think we need to see the Bears try and get Trubisky into a rhythm early in this game. There were a ton of screens called last week, but they were predictable and poorly executed. I would like to see some quick passes early to establish a flow to the game.
The running game last week was as poor as I have ever seen. Granted, the Eagles are the best rush defense in the NFL, but the 49ers aren’t bad either. The Bears will need to go against every instinct of their lame-duck head coach, and throw to setup the run. Counter-intuitive I know, but it works. Especially when every team expects the Bears to “get off the bus running.”
Defensively, I am expecting to see Kyle Shanahan unleashing his new toy, which means that the Bears pass defense better be ready. With the pass-rush virtually non-existent, and a battered secondary, this would certainly be my game plan. Shanahan won’t abandon the run, but this is likely to be the strength of the 49ers offense going forward. Plus, they have 5 games to evaluate Garoppolo, that isn’t a lot. They will want to throw as much at him as possible before signing him to a large extension.
Who to Watch
Mitchell Trubisky: Trubisky did not play well last week for a variety of reasons. The biggest issue he is dealing with right now is footwork. Let’s keep an eye on this to see if he has been drilling his feet this week. It is difficult to alter mechanical issues during the season, but it would be nice to see him do a better job of “squaring-up” and delivering the ball on-target.
Dontrelle Inman: As the only wide receiver currently active — other than Kendall Wright — that has a chance to be here next season, I am going to look for a rebound from Inman this week. I counted 4 balls that should have been caught last week. I also thought he ran the wrong route on the first interception. He is clearly Trubisky’s favorite target right now, but he needs to do a better job of catching balls that aren’t absolutely perfectly thrown.
Danny Trevathan: The sorely missed inside linebacker should be back in action this week. First off, he is a really good player. He is able to diagnose plays and has the athleticism to make them. Beyond that, the intangibles are important here as well. It has been evident that Christian Jones should not be the one to call plays. Trevathan seems to have a knack for this, and the Bears best defensive performances have coincided with him having the green dot on his helmet.
Old Friends: Lamarr Houston and Chris Prosinski are back on the team. I can’t say that I am overly excited about this, but injuries will do that. The Bears defense is completely depleted at both outside linebacker and safety. Fortunately, these two know the system, but unfortunately, neither are very good.
Keys to the Game
Running and Passing, Passing and Running: The chicken or the egg? This existential question has baffled people for centuries. For me, the answer is simple: the egg. Don’t all chicken’s hatch after all? It’s the same thing in football. Passing the ball spreads the field, invites defensive lineman up-field, and keeps the “back-7” on their heels. In that way, the pass sets up the run. We are far removed from the game being the other way around. The Bears need to pass early and often to be able to successfully run the ball.
Shakespeare: The defense has been “close” to making a lot of plays lately. Nobody is safe from the dropsies that are spreading around the secondary like the flu through Halas Hall. Amukamara has always had poor hands, but Kyle Fuller, Eddie Jackson, Cre’Von LeBlanc, these are guys that can catch. When the opportunity presents itself, the secondary needs to make like Shakespeare and make plays!
The X-Factor: Special teams needs a rebound in a bad way. Cairo Santos was 1 of 2 on field goals — although I would contend that Fox should never have had him attempt the first one — Patrick O’Donnell had a blocked punt and a shank, the return and coverage teams were miserable. Of course, these are the sorts of things that happen when you have injuries. The special teams players are forced to play offense or defense and practice squad players fill those roles. There are a lot of roles on the 2018 team up-for-grabs, this final stretch will be import for a lot of players.