This article is going to be a combo package. I will be dissecting things that I believe are wrong with the offensive play calling in order to provide you clues as to why the Bears offensive game plan will most likely go awry on Sunday against the Packers. Don’t misunderstand, I want the Bears to succeed mightily against the Packers, but I am rapidly losing confidence that offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains is the man for the job.
He is a journeyman coach with, according to former NFL quarterback Matt Hasslebeck, an encyclopedic knowledge of the passing game. Hasslebeck commented recently in the Chicago Sun-Times, how surprised he is that the Bears are running the ball so much, knowing Loggains and his preference to throw the ball, based on the HUNDREDS of passing plays in Loggains voluminous notebook. Well Matt and everyone, having a lot of plays in a notebook doesn’t mean they are any good. The Bears need several good plays in a row to complete a scoring drive, which has been very hard to come by, during the 4 starts since Mitchell Trubisky, Loggain’s pet pupil, has taken over the starting job. No team has scored fewer offensive touchdowns in the last month than the Bears.
When I decide to sit down and write is usually based on timing. In the time after a Bears game, I will go back and watch the game on the DVR, sometimes all at once, and sometimes in pieces, because that’s when I have time. Then I sit down and write when I have time or when I feel aggravated enough or inspired to tear someone apart. Today, the disdain I have for Loggains will spill out in the next 500 to 1000 words.
That the Bears fell behind early to the Saints, wasn’t much of a surprise. The Saints coaching staff and quarterback is still largely together after winning Super Bowl 44 over seven years ago. Sean Payton is a disciple of legendary coach Bill Parcells and has re-tooled the Saints into a power running team with a young and fast defense. I mentioned in the preview of the Saints game, that they have readjusted their philosophy on defense to attack and pressure the quarterback more. To counter this, I thought the Bears needed screen passes or some misdirection to exploit the Saints aggressiveness. I watched the first half and got neither.
Opening drive for the Saints and nickel back Bryce Callahan misses a tackle and the Saints receiver goes 50 yards down the sideline. The Bears defense actually had stopped the Saints and held them to a field goal, but Kyle Fuller was off sides and gave the Saints the ball at the Bears 8 yard line. A pitch-out to running back Alvin Kamara to the far side, and he beat the Bears defenders in for the touchdown. On the Saints first two drives they called 5 screen passes or pitch outs to running backs, one for a touchdown. The Bears called none on their first two drives but did complete a 40 yard crossing route to Tre McBride to get into field goal territory and make it 7-3, Saints. The only thing the Bears did of significance early on, was rush Jordan Howard up the middle 5 times in the first two drives at about 5 yards per carry and convert 2 first downs.
The Bears defense sacked Drew Brees on third down, allowing the Bears to get the ball back. It was more of the same from the offense, a run up the middle and quarterback bootleg and an in-completion. The Bears did convert a third down with a dump off pass to Tarik Cohen after faking the hand off. This play-action play would’ve been more effective if Cohen had a blocker in front of him. He got enough for the first down on his own though. Three plays later and the Bears had to punt after Turbisky got sacked at mid-field on 3rd and 6. On that play, neither Howard or Cohen was on the field, Loggains instead had the fullback, Micheal Burton out there for his first play of the game to help pass block. Burton for some reason went to the center of the line, when the rush came from the edge. The edge rushers met at Trubisky for the easy sack. Now if you’re gonna have a back help with the pass blocking, it’s usually on the edge, so that the back can release into the open for a dump off pass. Did Burton screw up? Why not have Howard or Cohen there for a screen or dump off pass, which would’ve easily converted the third down play. It’s almost like Loggains has a mental block on this issue.
So the Bears punted with seven minutes left in the first half. The Saints drive was more of the same. Pitch left to the running back, 5 yards. Pitch right for 12 yards. That’s when the Saints, who had been getting the ball to their running backs as outside and as quickly as they could all game long, then started to go up the middle. The Bears defenders were so worried about the outside lanes, that they started to hesitate and the Saints ran 3 times up the middle for 5 yard chunks and mixed in a couple of short passes to get on the doorstep of the end zone. Saints back Mark Ingram easily converted from one yard out by going up the middle and it was 14-3.
Bears got the ball back with 3 minutes left til halftime. Trubisky completed a 40 yard pass play to Tre McBride on a blown coverage by the Saints cornerback. After being stuffed on one running play and having to throw the ball away on 2nd and long. Trubisky converted a 3rd and eleven, on guess what? An actual screen pass with blockers and everything, to Howard… first down. Now of course after that, he resorted to the same crap he’s been doing all year.
He tried to run on the next play, the formation though, with the tight end and receiver bunched near the offensive line, meant that there were 9 Saints defenders on the line of scrimmage. Cohen was of course stuffed three yards behind the line.
The next play, had a similar bunch formation, this time on the other side, is this guy creative or what? And it was a designed dump off pass to Cohen, with the tight end and receiver all set to block, except the ball was batted away. Third down and 13 from the 25, another bunch formation, two receivers left, one right, Trubisky took a sack and lost 8 yards. Conner Barth came in to kick a field goal, and of course, missed it… ballgame.
In that three play sequence after Howard got the first down on the screen pass, only one receiver was lined up outside the hashmarks, once in three plays. Sometimes in order for the running game to work or to get defenders out of the box and away from the ball, you need to spread them out with your formation. Maybe they thought noise was a factor playing on the road? But Trubisky isn’t calling an audible, the play is getting called in the huddle. Players just have to watch for the snap. now I know there was another half to play, but the play calling and lack of execution on offense was never going to allow the Bears to come back and win, not without a turnover. Which the Bears defense got.
The defense kept the Saints out of the end zone in the second half, holding them to two field goals of 45 and 49 yards. The touchdown catch by Zach Miller was overturned and turned into 3 points by Barth. That the game was there to be tied and that the officials took points off the board, says that the Bears are so close to being a good team. It’s just a shame that they have saddled themselves to a rookie quarterback, being led by a coordinator, and that they both, may not be up to the job. 60% passing is expected to be successful, not the less than 48% so far by Trubisky, who’s accuracy was the most touted pro versus con in the debate of who to play at quarterback. The Bears were ultimately beaten by the game plan that I called for, and Loggains, should recognize this. If he wants to win and develop his qb, he need look no farther than what Sean Payton and Drew Brees did to beat the Bears.
With that in mind, I would alter the game plan for the Packers slightly. The Bears are favored to beat the Pack for the first time in over a decade, because simply put, the Packers stink on offense without Aaron Rodgers. They still have Dom Capers as their defensive coordinator though, and he will pack the box with as many defenders as he can. He will cheat on coverage’s, just to stop the run.
The Bears must play from the lead, because Green Bay’s backup quarterback will not come back on them against the Bears defense. So I say during the early part of the game, the Bears need to throw the ball as much as possible, to get the lead and still make first downs, control the ball and move the chains. enough cliches for ya! Going to a hurry up offense and spreading out the formations right off the bat, might do the trick and get Trubisky into a rhythm he hasn’t had as a starter. In college, Trubisky worked almost exclusively out of the shotgun and in spread formations, with a single back or empty backfield, it’s what he’s comfortable with. The Bears have to go down the field with some passes, or just chuck it over the top to keep the Packers honest. This may force Capers to play his safety’s deeper, respect the pass and try and prevent the big play. Once in the lead, the Bears turn to a normal game plan and to the running game of Howard and Cohen to put this game away.
The early part of the game is when you can afford one mistake and still have time to come back. That’s the time for Loggains to be aggressive. Two mistakes more than the Packers and you are opening the door to next year. If they can manage to get the lead, they should manage to win. I don’t have confidence in Loggains, I do in Fox. He will take the cuffs off his coordinator and put them on later. He know’s that if this is successful, it could turn the entire season around. If the Bears become a more balanced team, they can take a big step forward, possibly toward the playoffs.