Chicago Bears Reckoning Tour Continues Against Bridgewater, Carolina

2020 has been all about facing past decisions for the Chicago Bears and the reckoning continues in Week 6 with a matchup against the Carolina Panthers on tap. The proverbial demon the Bears will be looking to exorcise? Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who Chicago wooed this past off-season but wanted to compete with Mitchell Trubisky for the starting job.

Bridgewater, Panthers Next on Bears Reckoning Tour

Teddy Two Gloves

Bridgwater joined rookie head coach Matt Rhule and embarked on the post-Cam Newton era in Carolina. It got off to a rough start. The Panthers started 0-2 with Bridgewater throwing two interceptions to just one touchdown. They have since reeled off three straight wins, most recently a 23-16 win over the Atlanta Falcons that resulted in their firing of Dan Quinn.

From Week 3 on, Bridgewater has thrown for 824 yards and, more importantly, five scores to just one pick. Carolina is also fourth in passing yards. It’s a welcome sight for Panthers management and fans after many questioned if his five-game stretch in relief of Drew Brees was a fluke. He’s less than a percentage point from leading the league in completion percentage, is sixth in passing yards, and is approaching franchise records for the Panthers.

There will surely be some added motivation for Bridgewater to stick it to the Bears. After all, they wanted him to compete with the guy the ended up benching. His weapons on the outside are formidable in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson but the Bears have done a good job against wide receivers, giving up their first receiving touchdown to Mike Evans last week. It’s fill-in running back (and former Bear) Mike Davis that has been a surprise for the Panthers in Christian McCaffrey’s stead. Carolina is 12th in rushing attempts and yards. Meanwhile, Davis is averaging more yards per tote than McCaffrey was and is 11th in receptions in the NFL. Chicago has had issues with running backs on the ground and through the air all season.

Chicago will need to replicate their performance from Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they got consistent pressure on Tom Brady and sacked him three times. Bridgewater is one of the least pressured quarterbacks in the league despite his offensive line ranking middle of the pack in DVOA, per Football Outsiders. That shows the challenge Chicago is facing if they struggle to get to the quarterback again.

 

The Full Monty

Carolina’s defense is nothing like it once was. The surprise retirement of Luke Kuechly has left a defense that was already showing cracks under the old regime in flux. They rank eighth as a team in Pass Rush Win Rate, per ESPN, and second-year man Brian Burns is fourth among EDGE defenders. Still, they are tied for dead-last in sacks with just five on the season.

Nick Foles has put up stellar numbers in the face of pressure but this could be a smash spot for David Montgomery. Carolina is 17th in Run Stop Win Rate despite defensive tackle Derrick Brown ranking eighth at his position. Montgomery got off to a solid start before seeing his rushing averages fall of a cliff against the Colts and Bucs in back-to-back weeks.

He’s only had 10 carries each of the last two weeks. He has contributed through the air, though, catching 10 of 14 targets for 60 yards and a touchdown. His versatility was one of the traits touted upon his being drafted and with Tarik Cohen out for the season it will be even more crucial to the Bears success.

The Panthers are allowing 5.4 yards per carry, second-most in the NFL. They have also given up the most catches to running backs. They just allowed 121 yards to Todd Gurley, a player his own coach has said isn’t what he once was. That’s 8.6 yards per carry for those of you keeping track. They also let Chargers runners gain 102 yards on 20 carries combined and let Kyler Murray get 78 yards on the ground.

 

Bears Surviving Reckoning…So Far

At 4-1 (and with an expanded field) the Bears are in great shape to make the postseason. There is a long way to go, though, and they are being forced to confront all of their decisions from the past year-plus. As such, it might be tempting to try having Foles air it out on the Panthers; trying to prove they made the right choice. They are allowing the 10th-highest completion percentage but not a lot of yards or scoring, giving up just three passing scores. The best path to a Bears victory seems to be on the legs of Montgomery. Carolina has allowed the second-most rushing scores with eight.

Defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano called one of his best games as a member of the Bears staff. He will need to find that groove again on Sunday. Blitzing affects Bridgewater aversely but if Moore or Anderson get behind the defense it could be trouble. Honestly, thou Matt Nagy and his tendency to abandon the run are what threatens to derail the Bears in this one. Stay committed and maybe they can force the Panthers to play catch-up. Carolina is 0-2 this season when trailing at half time.

 

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