Ciarán’s Comments: Bears Panthers Preview

Ciarán’s Comments: Bears Panthers Preview

As always, I begin by looking behind (the Ravens game) before looking forward (the Panthers game).

The Chicago Bears earned an important victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the most dominating performance from a Bears defense since the Lovie Smith era. The defense was simply flawless and the offense did just enough to win the game. However, this game left a sour taste in the mouths of all Chicago Bears fans because it illustrated the ineptitude of the Bears coaching staff. There were mind numbing play calls on offense and the special teams effort was nothing short of woeful. The mistakes made by the team were a direct correlation to inefficient coaching and a lack of preparation for the Baltimore Ravens excellent Special Teams unit.

With 5 minutes left to play in the game, the Bears blew an 11 point lead. Against a more potent offense the Bears would be explaining what would have been a very embarrassing and disappointing loss. However, time was on their side which halted the Baltimore Ravens from attempting a game winning field goal. The coaching staff needed to wear this and take full responsibility for the lack of execution from the team.

The Bears were lucky to come away with a victory. That is the sad and disappointing part to Sunday’s game because the defense played an excellent game of football and deserved better. The Ravens’ offense scored zero points. While the defense did this…

On  offense Mitch Trubisky was asked to manage the game and he did. While Jordan Howard was forced to carry the load… and he did.

Unfortunately, these performances do not gloss over the real problems with this football team. It all stems from the head coach, who has continued to show his true colors. John Fox has failed to open the playbook and the criticism by Denver Broncos fans have followed John Fox to Chicago. Before being hired in Chicago, there was an outcry explaining the reasons fans were happy to see him leave Denver. It was his conservative style of football. As Bear fans we are seeing this first hand. He refuses to let loose the reigns on a talented QB and is relegating him to a hand full of passes and a whole lot of handoffs. All this is an overreaction to insuring Trubisky not turning over the ball.

This is a very dangerous tactic in developing QBs. The last thing the Bears want to do is stunt the growth of Trubisky and make him into a different QB than they drafted. It’s a mistake to solely drill into his head that his job is primarily to not make mistakes. Instead, the coaching staff should encourage Mitch to make plays when the time calls for it. The Bears while altering the playbook for Trubisky have not opened the playbook and that is an important difference that some fans have not picked up on. While there have been bootlegs and the movement of the pocket, there have been very few play action throws inside the pocket and slants.

For those of us who studied Trubisky’s tape from North Carolina this is so strange because these are two aspects of his game that transcended college football and made scouts take notice. Unless the playbook is opened and Trubisky’s handcuffs are taken off this football team will find it difficult to score more than 17 points per game. Take a look at this video showcasing Trubisky’s athleticism and capabilities.

However, other than the obvious coaching blunders and special teams fiasco, the Chicago Bears played a very good game against the Ravens and there are a few players who need to be congratulated and given praise amongst the fanbase.

Firstly on offense the one spark and soul of the offense is #24 Jordan Howard. Even when he looks beat he makes a play. He is working extremely well with Trubisky. For the next several years both players will be part of the cornerstones of the offense.

Two players on offense really disappointed me and both were offensive linemen: Cody Whitehair and Bobby Massie. Whitehair’s snaps are becoming a big problem and his constant penalties are really setting the offense back. He needs to get back to last year’s form where he simplified his assignments and was aggressive at the point of attack. Whitehair is one hell of an offensive lineman but its his mental mistakes and his snaps that are starting to worry me. Massie has been below average for the entire season and that can probably be said for an offensive lineman on every offensive line in the NFL. There are two possible reasons for the lack of quality offensive linemen in the league and the overall poor play.

  1. The CBA and the lack of game scenario repetitions. Guys are hitting a lot less and this may have a direct correlation with the poor performances.
  2. College football. Personally, offensive linemen are not trained to succeed in the NFL like before. The assignments in college have become more simplified and often selecting an Offensive Lineman has become one of the most challenging areas of the draft where once it was almost a guarantee of a good player if you were sleecting a LT early in the NFL Draft. However, offensive linemen responsibilities in college are now very limited and there is a much bigger learning curve now more than ever for future NFL offensive Linemen.

On the defense, almost every player stepped up big and made critical plays from Akiem Hicks and Eddie Goldman disrupting the Baltimore offensive line, to Danny Trevathan running around the field with aggressiveness and passion to the defensive backfield with the excellent performances from Kyle Fuller, Adrian Amos, Bryce Callahan and Eddie Jackson. All of whom made critical plays to turn the game into the Bears favor.

Fuller may be the most improved Chicago Bears player all season. He has come in healthy and with a chip on his shoulder after his 5th year option was declined. He’s been impressive throughout the regular season. Fuller has to be a prime candidate for a contract extension. However, that will not be an easy task for Ryan Pace as he’s previously indicated a lack of a strong desire to staying in Chicago.

Recently, Alec Lifschultz wrote about the Bears defensive backfield and how the position is now one of of strength. It’s important that general manager not let another integral layer (Alshon Jeffery is another) to leave the team. Pace must surely realize that Fuller is now a core player. He must maintain the team’s core players and add to that core through the draft.

Overall, I came away from the Bears and Ravens game feeling content with the development of many cornerstone players on this roster but my feelings towards John Fox have gotten worse and have made me even more confident that a coaching change is necessary at the end of the 2017/2018 season. Listen and see how Draft Dr. Phil breaks down the predictable playcalling from Dowell Loggains.

The ineptitude of the coaching staff, the baffling play calls, the selection of talent and the accountability are all reasons why I don’t believe another season of John Fox football benefits the Bears in any shape or form. Decision making needs to change and that starts with the head coach.

Chicago Bears Vs Carolina Panthers Preview

The Bears face a 4-2 Panthers team that looked very impressive with road wins against the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions. However, the Philadelphia Eagles dealt them a crushing blow in week 6 when beating them 28-23. The score of the game was close but the game really was not. The Eagles easily pounded the Panthers.

Carolina is one of those teams that on a good day can be almost impossible to beat. But, when the Panthers play poorly like they did against the Eagles and in week two against the New Orleans Saints they lose badly. (The Saints game was a 13-34 home loss.)

The defensive star of the Panthers, inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, has been ruled out for the games. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is expected to play Sunday but will almost certainly be hampered by a knee injury he suffered against the Eagles. His practice time this week was greatly diminished.

Kelvin Benjamin’s knee injury suffered last Thursday against the Eagles

Kuechly actually appeared to be progressing through the NFL’s concussion protocol, but the team is taking a very cautious approach to getting him back on the field. Speaking from my personal experience in Rugby and Football coaching, concussions only get worse and it is advised by many medical professionals that no sports contact should be made for 23 days after injury. It has been six days. And, remember Kuechly has a concussion history. I’m happy to see he’s not playing Sunday and it has nothing to do with the Bears getting a competitive edge if he’s not on the field.

Overall, the Panthers are a very fast, aggressive and balanced team on offense and defense. And, of course, they are  better coached team.

The Bears, however, will have opportunities to make plays. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the league at turnovers. In their loss to the Saints they were -3. Against the Eagles -2. If the Bears are aggressive and follow the ball, there will be plays for Fuller, Callahan, Jackson and Amos to get their hands on the football. On offense the only interception the Panthers have this season was back in week one. By Luke Kuechly.

Captain Obvious tells me that for the Bears to win this football game, the running game needs to be effective. That is the biggest question I have coming into this game on Sunday. Can the Panthers halt the Bears rushing attack? And if so, how will the Bears make effective in game adjustments. The Panthers have an excellent rush defense with Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short to go with their impressive linebackers.

Loggains need to open the playbook for Trubisky as I can envision the Panthers at some stage having a two score lead and the Bears will need to pass the ball effectively. Last week’s game plan was effective because they were winning the game. However, against an explosive Panthers team it is imperative that not only can the Bears run effectively but they must also take shots downfield when the opportunity presents itself. That is how the Bears offense should run.

The second important question is how can the Bears defense stop Cam Newton and his high power offense?  The Bears need to jack up the pressure on Newton. When Cam is pressured, as can be seen in the Super Bowl, he struggles mightily with his passing accuracy. There will be times that the Bears will have an opportunity to make a play on the ball and it will be imperative that these opportunities are taken and that the Bears offense is given short fields to work with.

Assisting the Bears defense is the Panthers’ anemic rushing offense. Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey are both averaging under three yards per carry. The team is 30th in the NFL in average yards per rush with 3.4 .

 

Bold Prediction:

The Safety Duo get at least: 1 INT, 3 Pass Breakups and a forced fumble.

I believe this is the game where we see both Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos announce themselves as one of the up and coming safety tandems in the league. Amos delivered a bone crunching pick 6 against the Baltimore Ravens and Jackson’s pursuit to the football showed Bears’ fans exactly why they can get excited over this new dynamic safety duo.

This is a game where there will be opportunities to get the football and Amos and Jackson have been all around the football in recent weeks.

My overall prediction for the game is tricky, as in my heart I want to pick the Bears to win the ballgame. They have looked dominant on defense and the offense has done just enough to win games. However, I am still not fully convinced that if the Bears go down by two score that there will be a way back. The gameplan in recent weeks has been too conservative and that is where the Panthers usually feast on teams. For the Bears to win this ball game, all three phases of the game need to be aggressive. There needs to be a balance on offense with passing and rushing but also the defense needs to continue from its dominant performance against the Ravens and finally win 2 games in a row since 2015.

My Prediciton:

Panthers 24
Bears       17

I’m betting Panthers (figuratively) 24-17 because even without Kuechly they have too much firepower for this Bears team to handle. With the Bears’ conservative gameplan the Panthers know exactly how to counteract that style of play. I expect to see the Carolina come out and Ron Rivera be aggressive and get early scores to put pressure on Chicago and Trubisky. Therefore I have the Panthers winning this football game.

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Tags assigned to this article:
Adrian AmosJohn FoxJordan HowardMitch Trubisky

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