It’s hard to get excited about much of anything happening with the Bears right now. In the last four games, our Beloved Bears have had three embarrassing losses and one disappointing close loss to the Lions. A week ago against the Eagles, the Bears' franchise hope Mitchell Trubisky seemed to regress, unable to make anything happen while repeatedly backed up against a great defense and often reverting to poor mechanics leading to off-target lobs.
Last Sunday against the 49ers, the Bears' offense looked hopelessly ineffective against a middling defense, and was ultimately responsible for another disappointing loss: the Bears' defense, despite many flaws, was able to keep the 49ers out of the end zone and hold them to 15 points in the 39 minutes they were on the field.
Given the 7 offensive points the Bears scored in this game, it's easy to assume Trubisky played another bad game. Happily, the tape tells a different story. Below, I list every pass play the Bears' attempted on Sunday, with the result in bold for all you lazy skimmers out there.
- 3rd & 8: Shotgun snap. MT looks left with no open receivers. Looks right to a very narrow window to Butterpaws Bellamy. Decides to run and gets caught from behind by Elvis Dumervil. Sack.
- 1st & 10: Shotgun snap. MT looks middle. Looks left. Inman open on slant. Hits Dontrelle Inman in stride. 13 yard completion.
- 3rd & 7: Shotgun snap. Defense offsides for a free play. Trubisky throws to Daniel Brown in coverage who can’t bring it in. 5 yard defensive penalty.
- 3rd & 2: Shotgun snap. MT looks right and sees Kendall Wright open on a slant. Hits him in stride. 11 yard completion.
- 2nd & 10: Shotgun snap. MT looks left, holds his gaze left until Dion Sims finishes curl and hits him in the muffin-grabbers. 5 yard completion.
- 3rd & 5: Shotgun snap. MT looks left and follows Inman’s crossing route. Does a cute little jump and intentionally plants his feet correctly delivers the ball to Inman in stride. 8 yard touchdown completion.
- 1st & 10: Shotgun snap. Play-action fake to Howard. MT looks downfield to covered receivers, throws check-down to Jo Ho, hitting him right in the butter-churners. Drop-incomplete.
- 2nd & 10: Shotgun snap. Play-action fake to Howard then screen to Cohen who catches and scampers for a 25 yard gain while Charles Leno Jr. one-hand ragdolls a 49ers corner back to the ground. 10 yard offensive holding penalty.
- 3rd & 10: Shotgun snap. MT looks middle, looks right, looks left, looks right. Only open receiver is a curl route short of the sticks. Scrambles left for 9 yards. 9 yard gain leading to wasted challenge and punt.
- 1st & 10: Shotgun snap. MT looks middle then throws screen to Cohen left who cuts it back due to an unblocked DB. 2 yard completion. Bears give up on scoring before halftime.
- 1st & 10: Under center snap!?! Play-action. MT looks right, middle, left. No open receivers, scrambles. 4 yard run.
- 2nd & 6: Shotgun snap. MT looks left. Looks mid and sees Sims open on curl, leads Sims away from defender and ball hits Sims’ hands as he dives and/or falls to the ground. Drop-incomplete.
- 3rd & 6: Shotgun snap. MT looks mid. Looks left and sees Wright open on a short post. Hits Wright in the taco-folders. 14 yard completion.
- 3rd & 6: Shotgun snap (high and outside). MT looks right. Looks mid. Sees Daniel Brown open with interior pressure. Runs back and throws the ball away. Throw away-incomplete.
- 1st & 10: Shotgun snap (low). MT fumbles and recovers. 6 yard loss.
- 1st & 16: Shotgun snap. MT looks mid. Looks right and sees Cohen open. Hits him in the pizza-holders. 10 yard completion.
- 2nd & 10: Shotgun snap. Niners show blindside blitz pre-snap. MT looks mid, looks right, looks mid, sees open receiver and ball is stripped by blindside blitzer mid-throw. Biscuit recovers. 14 yard loss.
- 2nd & 9: Shotgun snap. Play-action fake left to Howard. Immediate pass right to Cohen who hops and trots for a 21 yard gain. 21 yard completion.
- 2nd & 9: Under center, 3-step drop. Trubisky looks right. Sees Bellamy open and throws the ball to Bellamy’s bread basket. Bellamy doesn’t drop the ball, but does drop himself to the ground. 4 yard completion.
- 3rd & 5: Shotgun snap. MT looks left, mid, then right to see Daniel Brown open on a T-route, hitting Brown in stride. 13 yard completion.
- 2nd & 6: Under-center play-action screen to Howard. Missed block and Jo Ho ironically catches the ball this time to be tackled in the backfield for a loss. -5 yard completion.
- 3rd & 12: Shotgun snap. MT looks left, mid, and right. Scrambles. Inman gets open on the cut of his deep in route, just as Trubisky starts his scramble. 6 yard gain. Punt. Niners drive down the field and set Robbie up for the in-your-face game-winning field goal.
Surprising Pass/Run Ratio: The first thing that stands out from this list is that although the box score only shows 15 Biscuit pass attempts, there were actually 22 plays called. Sacks, fumbles, penalties, and scrambles make up for the rest of the passing calls. In contrast, there were only 15 called runs in the game.
This surprised me after watching the game because my initial impression was that Fox was forcing the run at the cost of allowing pass attempts. The poor running performance (43 yards on 15 RB carries for under 3 yards a carry) did force many of the pass attempts to come in unfavorable situations, but the lack of passing attempts was mostly due to the low time of possession for the Bears, who ran less than half the offensive plays of the 49ers.
Impressive accuracy: After his worst performance in terms of accuracy, Trubisky came back proving that his greatest asset is still in his toolbox. I've always maintained that Trubisky's off-target throws have been due to a combination of bad mechanics, rushing throws, and nerves, and Sunday's performance makes me feel vindicated in that opinion.
Trubisky attempted 15 passes in this game, all of them hit his intended receiver in the paws. Two of them were dropped, and one was a contested incompletion on a free play. He also had one obvious throw-away to avoid a sack. According to Pro Football Focus, his adjusted completion percentage was 100%. I'll let that speak for itself.
Intentional, specific, and measurable improvement: After the Eagles' game, Trubisky said he knew he had problems setting his feet correctly before throwing causing poor accuracy. He said he would work on improving that. He clearly did. Not only were his feet set properly every time I checked, a couple of times I saw a conscious last minute adjustment before an on-target throw. The results were measurable and impressive (see above). For a young quarterback with limited experience and a high ceiling, this calculated improvement is probably the most encouraging thing you can see.
Bears offense continues to find new ways to be predictable: Anyone notice a pattern of shotgun snaps on passing plays? 19 of 22 plays called were shotgun snaps, with two under center play-action passes, and one under center dropback. In contrast, 11 out of 15 runs were under center. If the 49ers used only whether the play was shotgun or under center to predict whether it was pass or run, they would be right 81% of the time. Add in the fact that the Bears are exceedingly predictable in terms of personnel and down-and-distance play calling, and it's no surprise I didn't see any stacked boxes as I watched through these passing plays.
Limited full-field reads: It's never easy to know how much of a quarterback's progression is based on the play calling, or the Quarterback's own comfort going through his progression or tendency to hit his first target, but there were only a handful of plays where Trubisky looked over the full field before making his throw. This is something I hope will progress over Biscuit's development.
Scramble-happy?: There have been times throughout the season when I've felt Trubisky was too quick to scramble leading to lost opportunities downfield. This is a fine balance because being decisive about scrambling makes in much more effectively, and Biscuit has picked up some crucial and impressive gains on the ground. Right now, I know he's kicking himself for missing Inman getting open beyond the sticks when he decided to run on what was the Bears' last offensive play of the game.
Fumbles getting trendy: Biscuit technically had two fumbles in this game, although the second was a strip from an unblocked defender and was more of a sack awareness than a ball-control issue. These seem fluky when they happen, but they've happened a lot. I'm hoping as Trubisky builds chemistry with a consistent center and gets more comfortable in his skin on the field, these will subside. But it's happened enough that I can't give him a free pass.
Overall, I’m more pleased by Trubisky’s performance on tape in this game than I thought I would be. His accuracy was relieving to see come back to form, and in general he made the most of limited opportunities against what turned out to be good coverage against the Bears' struggling receiving corps. He missed a couple opportunities to hit open receivers, and he should have been aware of the free blitzer on the strip play, but he's not the reason the Bears' offense struggled on Sunday. If I was going to point fingers, I'd point one at the receivers, one at the run-blocking (mostly in Dion Sims' direction) and the other 8 at the play calling.
If only there were something the Bears' management could do that would lead to a drastic change in play calling...