It is one thing to understand the Chicago Bears’ current plight in the first year of a rebuild. But it is another thing entirely to heap praise upon them at this point too, even if you are a staunch believer in what they are doing. However, that is exactly the path that Hall-of-Fame-bound New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick chose.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a Monday Night Football clash with the NFL’s charter franchise, Belichick showed that there is light even in what many fans currently see as darkness.
The Bears are sitting at 2-4 and coming off of a trio of disappointing losses.
But Belichick’s serve as a humbling reminder of all that goes into the process of building a team, especially one as wayward as the Bears were before the arrival of general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus.
READ MORE: Is There Hope For Justin Fields?
Pats HC Bill Belichick Sounds Off on Chicago Bears Ahead of Showdown
Hoodie High on Bears O
“[Justin] Fields is a major threat every time he touches the ball, very athletic kid,” coach Belichick told reporters. [Darnell] Mooney is a really outstanding receiver. He’s had a ton of production and I can see why. He’s very good at everything, plays multiple positions. In the slot, a lot but they’ll move him around and he’s had a ton of production.” (h/t Dakota Randall/NESN)
These remarks might surprise some since Fields’ stats are among the worst in the league.
But note Belichick’s mention of Fields’ athleticism. Similar to Mooney, about whom Belichick cites versatility, it’s not the one thing that they do that makes them dangerous. It’s that they are “guys that can score on any play”.
“A lot of explosive plays. Lead the league in yards per pass attempt. They’ve hit some big plays. Some of those are catch-and-run plays and then when you add in Fields’ scrambles – which might count as running plays in the stats, but are actually pass plays, in terms of having to defend them. They’re really a lot of explosive plays there that are a problem.”
The Bears are tied for the third-fewest explosive plays this season with just 15. They’ve also run the sixth-fewest plays of any team and rank seventh in passing yards per attempt.
But to the coach’s point, they do lead the league in yards per completion. While that may mostly be due to busted coverages, it is not the only way the Bears have been successful in moving the ball down the field.
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“Then, of course, the backs [Khalil] Herbert and [David] Montgomery are very good. The running game is right there with Cleveland. I mean they literally have about the same exact amount of yardage. I think Herbert is leading the league in yards per carry. They’re very hard to tackle. They do a real good job with the running game and the play-action game, as well.”
Again, as one might expect, a spot-on reminder by Belichick.
The Bears sitting just seven rushing yards behind the Browns. Herbert is second in the league in yards per carry but only because Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson exists.
Belichick also said the Bears had a “young” but “talented” offensive line, singling out the tackles. He also noted the mix of tight ends the Bears utilize and how they throw a lot of formations at opponents.
However, per Sharp Football Stats, the Bears deploy three wideouts 65% of the time – only 10 teams do so more often.
Their next highest-used formation has been two wide receivers and one running back at 24%.
Sorry, Coach. The math just isn’t mathing.
On to the Defense
“They’re very disruptive on the ball. Ball security’s going to be a big issue. They’ve got a lot of outstanding players. They’re hard to block up front. Obviously, [Robert] Quinn is one of the great defensive linemen in this era. I mean, his numbers are ridiculous and whatever it was last year, 17, 18 sacks. This guy is a major disruptive force on the edge.”
We are fast approaching flat-out fallacy here as the esteemed head coach is overlooking that the Bears currently rank 29th against the run. And, although they rank a seemingly stout third against the pass, they’ve faced the second-fewest attempts.
That’s what happens when you allow the ninth-most rushing yards per attempt.
They also aren’t great at getting to the passer with Quinn or anyone else, ranking 32nd in pass rush according to Pro Football Focus.
“The two linebackers, [Roquan] Smith and [Nicholas] Morrow make a ton of tackles. Obviously, Smith leading the league in tackles. Been at the top of the league almost every year. He’s very hard to block and a very good tackler from sideline to sideline. He’s got a lot of range, very instinctive, gets off blocks well, obviously finds the ball and really is just a tackling machine.”
Indeed Smith is tied with Colts linebacker Zaire Franklin for the league lead with 66 combined tackles. He ranks second in assisted tackles and seventh in solo stops but the story here is the stops he hasn’t made in a contract season.
Should the #Bears shop Roquan Smith ahead of the trade deadline?
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Morrow ranks 27th in total tackles and has done well in his return from missing all of last season due to injury.
Belichick didn’t forget any position group.
“[Eddie] Jackson’s been a guy we’ve played against before that always is around the ball. Very instinctive player at the safety position. He does some different things, but he’s around the ball. Kind of quarterbacks the secondary back there. Makes a lot of plays, makes a lot of big plays, turnovers, returns for touchdowns, and stuff like that. That’s kind of his playmaking style back there. That’s a problem.”
At this point, Belichick seems to be identifying the things that he will attack about the Bears rather than simply praising them.
The former All-Pro Jackson is having a nice bounce-back season, though.
Belichick on Bears
Ever the tactician, it makes more sense that Belichick is being coy than taking some of these comments at face value. That’s not to say there isn’t talent on the Bears or that this version of the Patriots can afford to take them lightly.
But Belichick is a legend for a reason and knows that there is still a talent deficiency between his roster and the one he will face on Monday night.
He did make note of the amount of youth in critical positions and praised their adjustments.
“Coach Eberflus really has done a good job. I mean, in the second half, or something like that. You watch them play in the second half and seems like as they gain confidence, figure out what the offense is doing, make some adjustments, they’ve been able to really shut almost everybody down. That’s obviously a big concern for us as well.”
Belichick tied Bears founder George S. Halas on the all-time winning list last week and has a chance to overtake him for sole possession of second place with a win of the very team that Halas first led to glory so many years ago.
In many ways, it is poetic. But it could quickly turn into a nightmare for the Bears if things continue with the recent trend.
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