Inconsistent Chicago Bears Melt in Miami

Inconsistent Chicago Bears
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The Chicago Bears run to the playoffs took a major hit in south Florida this past weekend. The Miami Dolphins‘ 31-28 overtime victory exposed Chicago’s inconsistency and inability to play a full 60 minutes of football. This is in spite of having the league’s defensive MVP to this point, Khalil Mack, leading a top three defense. The Bears have now blown leads and lost, in two games they should have won. Is there a larger issue connecting these games that were blown?

Inconsistent Chicago Bears Suffer Disappointing Loss to Miami Dolphins

Bad Start

The Bears and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky were held scoreless in the first half against Miami, two weeks after torching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home, 48-10. That game was supposed to be Trubisky’s coming out party with six touchdown passes in one game.  But any momentum the Bears had was apparently sapped by the bye week…maybe it was overconfidence. After playing the Tampa Bay secondary two weeks ago, it must have been a shock to see Bears receivers actually covered most of the time.

Tampa Bay’s defense played so badly, that a correction in confidence, execution, the score, and stat sheet, was inevitable against a Miami team whose strength is in their secondary.  The first half play calling didn’t help Trubisky, as long pass plays over coverage with touch, are not his strength. Head coach Matt Nagy got greedy with some of these routes and play calls that didn’t come close to connecting in the first half. Perhaps Trubisky had some bye week rust.

The defense didn’t play too bad in the first half, after giving up a pretty smooth scoring drive to backup quarterback Brock Osweiler, who was filling in for injured starter Ryan Tannehill. There was a definite lack of pass rush though, which may have seemed surprising for Bears fans.

Local Beat

Local beat reporters were talking all week about how banged up Miami’s offensive line was supposed to be. They also continued their habit of talking about betting lines. Betting on the Bears new defensive prowess is becoming a cottage industry around Chicago.  Especially after the pounding they gave a completely clueless Tampa Bay defensive secondary. Guess no one checked the depth chart to see that Dolphins backup guard Ted Larsen was a former starter for Arizona and is a pretty accomplished player. Or that left tackle Laremy Tunsil cleared concussion protocol on Wednesday and would start the game. Hopefully, Bears fans who are chasing betting lines haven’t gotten suckered too much by the enthusiasm of local reporters, and their pursuits of not so easy money.

After the Half

The Bears came out after halftime like a new team. They scored on the opening possession of the second half to tie the score. Trubisky hit Trey Burton on the patented shovel pass from the two yard line, the Bears have used three times this year already. Nagy may need to find another short-yardage way into the end zone, as this attempt was almost picked off. The Bears took advantage of a turnover and converted two more touchdowns in the first eight minutes of the second half to take a commanding 21-10 lead.

One of the reasons the Bears had no pass rush was that Mack had injured his ankle in the first half. Mack is currently listed as day-to-day as they await the results of more tests.

Playing with the lead, the Bears didn’t seem to play with a great deal of urgency.  Postgame, coach Nagy and some players admitted the humid conditions may have sapped some players energy during the course of the game. That may have also contributed to the lack of technique in tackling and pursuit angles. Bears safeties Adrian Amos and Eddie Jackson were left behind, or on the ground, on some of Miami’s biggest plays in the second half. Not to mention that Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller was hurdled twice during the game, as he went low on tackles that had no chance.

Miami converted several big plays to Albert Wilson who had two touchdowns of 43 and 75 yards in the fourth quarter, leaving Bears defenders gasping for air.

Intangibles

There were many reasons the Bears lost: a missed kick, awful tackling, and Nagy’s overtime brain cramp. The most overlooked reason is that Miami head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains were former Bears offensive coordinators, who worked against defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for years.

They were able to pilot backup quarterback Osweiler, who knows Gase’s system from years ago in Denver, into making the right play calls. Fangio’s defense has always been the “bend but don’t break” variety. On Sunday, they broke against plays that are designed to score from long distance if blocked properly.

Gase and Osweiler shredded the Bears defense with quick-hitting screens, slants, check downs and play action that were designed to keep the pressure off. All of these plays were run with the purpose of finding soft openings in Fangio’s defense and cutting back against pursuit. The real heroes for Miami were their receivers and tight ends with their downfield blocking on Wilson’s long touchdowns.

The Answer is… Outcoached

It should not have been a surprise that Miami’s offensive coaches outcoached Fangio. It was only a month ago that Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers did it. Fangio has long displayed an unwillingness to blitz and find creative ways to dial up the pressure, especially mid-game. Reports are that he has never been too willing to make in-game adjustments. This is something that played into the hands of Green Bay’s and Miami’s offensive coaches.

How do you think Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniel and Tom Brady will fare against Fangio and the Bears defense with these games on tape. The Miami game was reminiscent of games from a year ago when the Bears didn’t seem to bring much pressure, even though the Bears ranked seventh in the league in sacks.

Remember Last Year

Remember the Bears brought back their entire secondary intact from a team that finished 5-11 a year ago. Counting on improvement from Jackson’s rookie season at safety was a sure bet. But counting on greater improvement from cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller might be a stretch. If you believe Pro Football Focus, they rated Amos among the top three at the position. Factor all of that against what you witnessed against Miami.

Fangio’s defense looks good with a healthy Mack blowing things up every few plays. When he hasn’t been on the field this season, bad things have happened. Green Bay went no-huddle in their comeback win, and Miami came back with a backup quarterback, a banged-up offensive line and a coordinator in Loggains, that the Bears fired a year ago.

Inconsistency

This is something that will plague the Bears going forward, especially if Khalil Mack insists on playing through his ankle injury, instead of sitting out and letting it heal properly. This may be the mantra of their season with so many new parts, and a rookie head coach that will make an occasional mistake.

With this being the 10th anniversary of Dennis Green‘s rant, the Bears are still, “Who we thought they were!”, and they let Miami off the hook.

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