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Two in a row, six wins overall, and a team record for Robert Quinn in a 29-3 victory over New York.
Chicago jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back. This was the kind of win that hasn’t been seen in Soldier Field for quite some time. The Bears took advantage of Mike Glennon, a quarterback that ironically was brought into the Windy City in 2017 to babysit then rookie Mitch Trubisky, not unlike the role that Andy Dalton has played this season, providing tutelage for Justin Fields.
The Giants were so bad that their first two drives resulted in turnovers the Bears used to build that two touchdown lead. The New Yorkers didn’t even get onto the scoreboard until well past the midpoint of the second quarter. They wouldn’t score for the remainder of the game.
I want to compliment our players and coaches for being able to come out here and get another win,” stated Matt Nagy. “It’s good for the effort, the defense, to be able to play the way that we played today, we all know the stats, to hold somebody to negative passing was great. [It] starts off with the very first play, and for that to happen and for the offense to score early on, I think complementary football, you get to the two takeaways and two touchdowns, that’s 14-0, but the turnovers really jumped out, 1-of-11 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth town, hold them to three points. Special teams making the plays when they need to, and then offensively, being able to, again, early on score touchdowns and then do enough.”
You know how this league is. You never know how it’s going to go. Games are won a lot of different ways, and I think it it’s just kind of where we’ve been at and kind of everything that’s gone on this year, I think this one felt good to have this one go like this.-Andy Dalton
Dalton finished the game 18 for 35 with 173 yards passing, plus a touchdown and an interception. David Montgomery ran for 64 yards and two touchdowns. Glennon attempted a mere 11 passes, and connected on only four of them for two dozen passing yards. He was sacked four times. The 34 yards lost, netted the Giants a negative 10 total passing yards. Saquon Barkley led all rushers with 102 meaningless yards.
Based on some of Giants’ coach Joe Judge’s post game comments, you might think the outcome was different. “All right, stopping the run, this was a balanced team. It was a very good run attack. I’m pleased with the defense overall today. Overall, we was able to eliminate them in the run game and not let them going on track like we did in the past some games. And, you know, for multiple reasons, in terms of covering kicks, we didn’t let their explosive playmakers in the return game get going.”
The other big story of the game was Robert Quinn, who broke Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s single season team record with his eighteenth sack of the year. That moment occurred with 8:56 left in the game when he tackled Glennon at the Giants 46 yard-line for a strip sack.
Quinn had an earlier opportunity to notch the sack, having Glennon in his grasp, but the refs did not blow the whistle, and the New York QB was able to flip the ball to Devontae Booker and deny Quinn his record breaking sack.
After the game, Quinn was asked to describe the play from his perspective. “Well, I look at the football, and as soon as it flinches, I’m gone,” he said. “And, well, I guess a got a good jump. Well, actually Trevis Gipson, he was heating up early. He had me stressing. Not stressing, but pressing trying to catch up to him. I think he had two [sacks] in the first half or whatever it was. At the end of the day I was just trying to get off on the ball as fast as I can like any pass rusher [would] want to, and I had that one good jump, and I knew I had the corner, so quarterback was still there. The secondary had their man, their guys on lock, and I guess I was able to make history.”
Nagy, on Quinn’s record sack. “Personally, for Robert, to be able to get the sack record was neat. He hasn’t and doesn’t talk about it very often. That’s who he is. But to see him get it was cool. To have 100.5 sacks in his career, that’s a lot of sacks, and not to overshadow Trevis Gipson who I think having two sacks and starting the game the way he did, sometimes that can happen but that defense just really bought out. They played hard. Again, the effort from these guys is what really jumps out to me and we appreciate that.”
Andy Dalton also chimed in, noting that he had been in the same draft class as Quinn. “I followed him from the beginning,” noted Dalton, “and you look at there’s so many great seasons that he had. He just broke the Bears’ record and I don’t think that’s the most he’s had. He’s had nineteen sacks in a season. That just goes to show the type of player that he’s been for a long time, and you’re just so happy for him, a guy that’s worked really hard and does everything the right way, and for him to have the success that he’s had and to get not only a hundred sacks, but to break the Bears’ record, too, of same sack, was pretty cool, pretty special.”
Gipson, a second year player from Tulsa, was asked about playing behind stars Khalil Mack and Quinn. “You know, it’s a great opportunity and a great blessing to be able to play behind those two guys, two gold jackets soon-to-be and I couldn’t ask for anything else. You know, a lot of guys, I want to do this, this and that. But I’m literally behind two pass rushes that are probably top five in the league, and it’s technique, film. I get to watch their steps every day, you know, from sunup to sun down. I’m in a great position and I honestly couldn’t be more appreciative.”
Next up, the season finale at Minnesota. Then the judge, jury, and executioner will decide Matt Nagy’s fate. It seems likely that even if the Bears could end the season on a winning streak, the Nagy’s tenure is all but over in Chicago. He will finish the season with a winning career record, regardless of the outcome on Sunday.
Editor’s note: Now that we are in the midst of the bowl games, see below how we would have seeded this hypothetical NCAA football tourney
We cheered when college football went from a two team arbitrary championship game to a four team playoff system.
However, with four teams and five power conferences, a team the deserves a chance to compete will get shut out.
So instead of bitching about the system, I am proposing a (better) solution.
Let’s expand the field to twelve teams.
So who gets in?
The winners of the ACC, Big Ten, Big-12, SEC, and Pac-10 have an automatic berth, regardless of record. If a team with four losses beats an undefeated team, too bad. Just like the men’s basketball tournament. Win and you’re in.
The highest ranked four would get a first round bye.
The next five spots would go to the winners of the American Athletic, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, Mountain West, and the Sun Belt.
The final two slots can go to the highest ranked teams that didn’t win their conference. Say for example, LSU loses at Alabama, and it’s their only loss of the season. If the Crimson Tide go on to the SEC Championship game, the Tigers would likely be a top ten team. Since they are in the same division, they cannot represent the SEC West in that game. A 10-1 LSU team deserves a shot as a 11 or 12 seed in the playoff. (see below how it works for 2021).
What about Notre Dame or other independents? Glad you asked. The Fighting Irish play every other sport in the ACC. So time to get with it, and join the conference for football. Certainly NBC can work something out for the lucrative home games. Notre Dame already has five ACC teams on their schedule. They might have to drop the Toledo or Navy game, but they can keep the USC rivalry alive. For that matter all games against the Louisiana Techs and Georgia States by the football behemoths should be banned. I know those schools are willing to get beat 70-7 for a nice payday. Perhaps there’s a way to give them a game in one of those 100,000 seat stadiums. Perhaps a Friday nite / Saturday doubleheader, so to speak, paired with a big non-conference matchup, like Alabama – Oregon. Now that teams are vying for the all important conference title and seeding, strength of schedule should mean everything.
Now that the 2021 season is over, here is how we would set up a real college football playoff.
Automatic byes: Alabama, Michigan, Cincinnati, Baylor.
sorry Georgia, you were an undefeated team and lost in your conference playoff. The good news the Bulldogs will get an at-large bid. Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma State, better luck next year. Win your division. Win your conference, and make the playoffs. Simple as that.
Utah (Pac-12) vs Northern Illinois (Mid-American)
Pittsburgh (ACC) vs Louisiana (Sun Belt)
Georgia (at large) vs Utah State (Mountain West)
Notre Dame (at-large) vs Texas- San Antonio (Conference USA)
Good luck to all these teams in the faux college playoffs.
It is unlikely to change the course of Matt Nagy’s tenure in Chicago, but his decision to go for a two-point conversion finally gave Chicago a much needed win.
Nick Foles found out on Friday before the game that he would be starting.
“I did my job,” said Foles. “I knew my teammates needed me because of the situation. It’s been really unique this year in Chicago. There’s no vindication. I just did my job. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first string, second string or third string. You have to know who you are as a human being, and what’s you’re identity. I was the third string quarterback tonight. I’m grateful for my teammates for being there for me tonight.”
Foles finished the game 24-35 for 250 yards, a touchdown to Jimmy Graham, and more importantly, no interceptions. Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery added scoring runs.
On the defensive side, rookie Thomas Grant, Jr. continued his impressive play. He got burned on a early touchdown pass to DK Metcalf, but then settled down and held his own against his offensive counterparts.
Nagy talked about the strategy during the final, game-winning drive. “You have the clock working for you, and against you at the same time. Because you know once you get down there, you are in four-down territory. You also know you have some time outs left. But you also have to be careful of scoring too quickly, because now you’re going to give Russell (Wilson) and that offense time to kick a field goal and win.
We all knew before that drive we were going for two.-Matt Nagy
Nagy explained the rationale for taking the chance on the two-point conversion. “In the weather conditions, on the road against Russell Wilson, in that moment we felt pretty good about the play call. It was pretty evident from the players, coaches, all of us that we felt really good in that situation. It was one of those games when you’re behind the entire game, and you can end it like that. I felt like that we would have definitely done that.”
Nagy affirmed that even if a playoff spot was on the line, they would have made the same choice to go for two. “On that two point play, they showed man.” At that point was where Nagy got technical, but he basically explained that the Seahawks focused their coverage on Mooney, leaving Byrd open, and he “broke off his route, and Nick saw that.” Foles described it as “backyard football” where Byrd improvised and got open.
That two-point conversion doesn’t happen unless Foles connects with TE Jimmy Graham. “Who’s covering Jimmy?” explained Foles. When he noticed that Graham was in single coverage with a much shorter defensive back. “I’m just going to throw a nice little ‘two-ball’ and let him close the cushion and do his thing.”
Not entirely lost in the moment was Robert Quinn’s sack of Wilson to tie Hall of Famer Richard Dent for the team’s single season record. “I’m just doing my job” said Quinn, with same nonchalant demeanor he has displayed all season.
More from Nagy: “The execution of the players being able to rebound back from some negative stuff was good, and our defense being able to stop them at the end and not let them cross midfield.”
Several players from the practice squad were called up to fill vacancies on the active roster due to players sidelined by Covid protocols. One of those was North Carolina rookie Dazz Newsome, who was given punt return duty, after Damiere Byrd completely whiffed on his first punt last week against the Vikings. Newsome made the most of his opportunity, returning his first punt 28 yards to the Seattle 15, leading to Chicago’s first score.
Nagy continues to echo his “completely empty your cup” philosophy. “I believe in hard work, I believe in doing this the right way, and I believe in fighting. I believe in fighting when things aren’t good or when things aren’t easy. As we know, going into these final two games, not being able to make the playoffs, we have an obligation to do that, plain and simple.”
Next up for the Bears, a real chance to win again, as the (4-11) New York Giants come to Soldier Field.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any stranger than they were in 2020, say hello to 2021. Due to positive Covid tests, the Chicago Bears had to activate eight players from the practice squad to suit up for Monday night’s home game against Minnesota.
It would have made for a great Cinderella story, a bunch of practice players taking on a Vikings team, fighting to stay alive in the playoff hunt. Instead, inopportune turnovers, bad penalties, and the inability to score in the red zone doomed the Bears yet again.
“You look at this and you see where we had five possessions inside the 21-yard line and came away with three points. It’s not good enough, ” Matt Nagy said after the game. “I was really proud of our defense. I thought, man, to have your entire secondary out, the way they played, it was relentless, twelve possessions, six three-and-outs, the interception. Just you felt the energy, you felt the passion, you felt the fight.”
And fight they did. The Monday Night Football announcers could not stop talking about DB Thomas Graham, Jr., and what a great job he did against the Minnesota receivers. QB Kirk Cousins finished with 87 yards passing, mainly due to the patchwork secondary, and the persistent pass rush.
Cousins spoke about the great effort put for by the patchwork secondary of Chicago. “It was an interesting game because they played a lot of two deep, so they weren’t trying to ask any new or young players to put them in a tough spot. They were a lot of two deep. Weren’t a lot of chances to throw the ball down the field. There weren’t a lot of chances for explosive gains, but I don’t know if we threw it too much. I just think that it was hard to ever get anything more than a few yards because of the way they were kind of keeping everything in front of them.”
Nagy added, “So for our defense to come out and get the amount of three-and-outs that we got, man, that’s impressive. That’s what probably is what’s frustrating is that you come into this game and you know you’re depleted in the secondary and you figure, okay, yeah, we’ll see what happens with them trying to throw the ball on you and do different things, and then we can go and score points on offense.”
Vikes coach Mike Zimmer was happy to get out of Chicago with a victory. “Good to get a win tonight,” he stated. “Again, I thought there was a lot of good things. Some things we need to definitely clean up. I thought we were in control of the game for the most part the entire time. It was disappointing offensively. We didn’t move the ball very well, I didn’t think, in the second half. Gave them too many opportunities, and defensively we had some turnovers. I thought they played real hard. I thought we did a decent job on the quarterback running, but for the most part I thought we played a good football team. Their pass rush is definitely outstanding with Quinn and Hicks, all of the guys they have, but it was good to get a win tonight.”
One of the key plays was a fourth and one at the Minnesota 21 that Chicago was unable to convert. There was some confusion at the line of scrimmage, but as Fields rolled out to his right, the Vikings had covered the play, and Justin took a sack. “I mean, that’s football,” he said. “You win some, you lose some. I think that’s the name of the game. I mean, you’ve got to give credit to them. At the end of the day it just can’t be all us. But again, I think overall, I think that we did shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties, and I think if we get rid of those, then we win the ballgame. But yeah, at the same time, you do have to give the defense credit. Sometimes they’re going to guard and play well.”
Darnell Mooney (five catches for 63 yards) echoed his teammates frustration. “Yeah, it was just a recycle of last year when we played them on Monday night. We didn’t score at all last year, and it was just a repetitive thing. Definitely frustrating just not being able to score and honestly just keep telling yourself, damn, we need to score, we need to score. Very frustrating, though.”
Nagy: “We have to understand that you have to score in the red zone. Field goals do you no good. Missed field goals do you no good. You need touchdowns. That’s what this came down to, nine total penalties, five personal fouls, one including myself.”
It was an emotional game, and I think that it sucks losing, but when I’m talking to the guys and just knowing for me to understand where they’re at and to see their fight, I appreciate that.-Matt Nagy
Fields showed a lot of poise down the stretch when the Bears finally went no-huddle. Why it took three quarters to get there is a good question. “I think outside the pocket,” commented Fields. “I think I do pretty well there. I think when we, like, do no-huddle plays, I think our offense is very efficient doing that just because we know those plays. It’s literally no thinking. We line up and run those plays, and I know where all the answers are to whatever coverage they give us to those hurry-up offense. I think that kind of gets our offense in a rhythm.”
Chicago has three games left, and none of their opponents have a winning record, including a rematch at season’s end at Minnesota. Perhaps the team can build on the effort and salvage a win or two. The best chance comes against the Giants at Soldier Field on January 2nd.
The lead in for this story was going to be “Tale of Two Halves” until I saw a teaser with that exact wording on NBCSports Chicago’s post game show.
So the new lead really needs to be “Aaron Rodgers ownership stake in the Bears increases.”
The seventeen year NFL veteran showed why his dominance of his NFC North foe continued, with a 341-yard, four-touchdown performance in front of a nationally televised audience.
Right off of the second half kickoff, the Packers erased a 27-21 Chicago halftime lead with a nine-play 75-yard scoring drive. The Bears then handed their rivals an early holiday gift with a sack fumble in their own territory, which Rodgers capitalized on at the Chicago 23-yard line. Aaron Jones was the recipient of a touchdown pass on the ensuing play.
Chicago may have had a swagger at halftime, but Green Bay rebounded in the second half outscoring the Bears 24-3. They were finally able to free up Davante Adams just before halftime, and he scored the Packers’ final touchdown on first and goal with just over four minutes left. Adams ended up with 10 receptions for 121 yards.
Rodgers commented on how Randall Cobb’s absence helped Allen Lazard. “Once we weren’t able to get (Davante Adams) going early in the game, Allen was going to start in the slot for us. Definitely, there were some opportunities for him, and he made the most of them, beginning with the first catch in the game on a third and long. It’s fun to see him come out tonight and have a really solid game, make some really important plays for us in important game situations.”
The majority of stats don’t mean much, but this rivalry does mean a lot to me.-Aaron Rodgers
He also commented on the fact that he has thrown more touchdown passes against the Bears than any Green Bay quarterback. “I’ve lived here for seventeen years and started for fourteen. I know how much this rivalry means to our fans. To be a part of it has been special. To follow Brett and know how successful he was over his time, and how many big games he played in against them. It’s a sweet rivalry, and one that is very special to me.
Justin Fields ended up starting this game when Andy Dalton became unavailable. He finished 18 of 33 for 224 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, one of which was a pick six that Rasul Douglas returned 55 yards for the score. To his credit, three plays later, Fields hit Damiere Byrd on a perfectly executed pass over the middle, who then outran the coverage 54 yards to the end zone. “We knew coming in from the first half, but we had to finish the second half strong. I felt like I played alright. You know, there’s always room to improve, so I got to keep getting better.” He told the media after the game that he felt “about ninety percent” and was just trying to protect himself out there. He showed more flashes of his upside, which included 74 yards rushing (or scampering) which led all ground gainers.
Matt Nagy commented, “I thought that Justin in the second half, he was really, really good with his decision making, or whether it was push up or push out in the pocket. He didn’t take a lot of hits. He scrambled. he got down, and he kept his eyes downfield. I was really impressed when I went back and watched the tape, with just how creative in making things happen when it wasn’t there.”
Nagy was also asked about Fields’ continued development at QB. “That part of his game, when he stays within the progressions, and the the second part using his legs, and then being smart – not taking any extra hits, knowing when to get up and out. That’s going to be a big time growth for him. When defensive coordinators know that, it’s scary. He can make some special throws. It’s going to be a big weapon for him.”
The real question is why this team has deteriorated so much from 2018 (12-4) to 2019 and 2020 (8-8) to this season’s 4-9, so far. I posed it to football writer Hub Arkush prior to Monday’s press event. He commented that it mostly translates to personnel changes, and I wondered how the loss of Vic Fangio, former defensive coordinator, and current head coach in Denver factored in. “Fangio is one of the best defensive minds in the game,” he replied. I asked him if the Broncos have better personnel that Chicago. “Yes,” he quipped. Arkush also noted that injuries to Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack have played a role as well.
Hicks was also sidelined in 2019, and Eddie Goldman sat out 2020, which had to affect the defensive capabilities of the Bears. That doesn’t account for the weakness on offense. That really falls on GM Ryan Pace. His second round pick Tevin Jenkins didn’t do much to help Pace’s case, as he was flagged several times and had difficulty containing the Green Bay pass rush.
Next up, the Bears have another nationally televised game, next Monday at home against the Vikings, who’d like to use their two remaining games against Chicago to bolster their playoff chances.