We took a look at the Bears defense last time, and pardon me for my Neanderthal take on how to deal with that…
Now let’s get a quick tour of the Chicago offense…
Les Bowen of the Philly Inquirer dug up this nugget:
“Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has a lot to figure out before his players take the field Sunday in Chicago for their wild-card round playoff game. First-year Bears coach Matt Nagy is at the forefront of NFL offensive innovation, with a varied attack that can morph toward whatever Nagy feels an opposing defense is leaving vulnerable.
“Schwartz said Tuesday that the Bears’ attack has “a lot of different layers to it.” Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer, whose team’s postseason dreams were throttled by a 24-10 home loss Sunday to Chicago, put it differently a few months ago. Zimmer complained that the Bears couldn’t possibly practice all their plays, because “they’ve got 800 of them for every game.” ‘
Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson has called Nagy’s new age attack “a positionless offense.” The leading receiver is a running back, Tarik Cohen, who caught 71 passes for 725 yards and five touchdowns this season. Five Bears racked up more than 400 receiving yards, and three, including second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, ran for more than 400.
Complex offense. Leading receiver is a small, darting running back. Trubisky is a mobile quarterback. Go back 10 or 12 years and in general terms, you could be talking about Andy Reid’s Eagles offense with Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb.
“There is obviously some Kansas City influence to it and also some Rams influence to it,” Schwartz said. “There is a lot of sort of new-age offense to it, like zone reads and RPOs and using running backs as wide receivers, jet motion, all that different stuff. And some really good playmakers there.”
Last year, the Eagles hosted the Bears and won 31-3, but Trubisky’s rookie-year coach was John Fox. Schwartz said that while many of the players are the same, the passing scheme is so different that the film from that game doesn’t help much.
“They’re unique. We have to treat them as unique. We can’t treat them like our offense or K.C. or the Rams or anybody else,” Schwartz said.
Trubisky is effective distributing the ball but his stats aren’t extraordinary – 3,223 passing yards, 66.6 percent completion rate, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, a 95.4 passer rating. He has taken only 24 sacks, and has gained 421 yards on 68 carries – 6.2 yards per carry.
“He’s sort of a point guard out there moving the ball around to a lot of different guys,” Schwartz said. “He does a really good job of executing what they’re doing in their run game, with all their layers of zone reads and RPOs. They run a lot of the different RPOs: three-by-one, two-by-two, slants, slant-flats, stick-outs, hitches, speed-outs. I mean, all of those.
“Just because it’s a run [initially] doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a pass. He makes the right reads, puts the ball in good position. He’s also a really good athlete and can extend plays. Throws really well on the run. All those things will be challenges for us.”
Trubisky has come a long way in his development over the past season, but he is still far away from measuring up to the Aaron Rodgers-style prototype he idolizes. Trubisky has played pretty well in his second NFL season, but he’s not going to put the fear of Drew Brees into the Eagles.
“Chicago doesn’t have anyone at wide receiver, tight end or running back who can’t be covered by one defender. The multifaceted Tarik Cohen is probably the Bears’ biggest weapon, but I expect safety Malcolm Jenkins to keep him in check. Jordan Howard isn’t Ezekiel Elliott or Todd Gurley. The Bears own the sixth worst overall rush average in the league and have averaged just 3.9 yards per carry on first down. Chicago coach Matt Nagy has done a wonderful job catering to the skill sets of his players, but there’s been a cap at quarterback with Mitch Trubisky. He can be forced into mistakes, and I think that will ultimately be what gets the Eagles over the top.”—Jeff McLane, Philly.com
The educated guess is the Eagles defense commits to stopping the Bears from running the ball and Trubisky doesn’t make enough plays. If Trubisky extends drives with his feet, that could be the “to be or not to be” difference.
Here is the essence of Trubisky’s game plan: he has the ability to either hand the ball off or throw it, and it all depends on the “read defender.” Whomever the offense decides to read on any given play – whether it’s a lineman, a linebacker, or a defensive back, if that player decides to play the pass, the quarterback hands it off. If that read defender plays the run, the quarterback throws it. It’s ultimately that simple for the offense, and it can be tough for a defense to stop. For that reason, the Eagles have to make sure they all do their containment jobs. The moment any one defender tries to do more outside of his 1/11th, that creates trouble and the potential for a big offensive play.
The two main Chicago ball-carriers are Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. This “Thunder and Lightning” combo can create big plays between the tackles, typically with Howard, and outside the numbers, usually with Cohen, though both guys cross over at times as well.
“Howard is a physical, instinctive runner who can churn out tough yards and be a factor in their various downhill schemes. The Eagles completely erased him in last season’s matchup, holding Howard to 6 yards on seven carries. Granted it was a different scheme, but the Eagles will need a repeat effort on Sunday.”— Fran Duffy, PE.com
Cohen is the lightning rod, and he will be the X-factor for Chicago in this battle. He can execute those inside runs as well, but he’s so effective out on the perimeter in the option run game. The Bears use him much like the Eagles utilize Darren Sproles on draw plays as well as in the screen game. As Greg Cosell noted this week on Eagles Game Plan, however, Cohen is a vertical weapon in the passing game as well, and they love getting him open down the field.
“The Bears love using Cohen on the boundary side of the field (the short side). Why? Wouldn’t you want him out in space? The answer is because on the boundary side, a lot of defenses play man coverage. Even when the defense is in zone coverage, teams will typically play straight man to the short side of the field, so the opportunity to get Cohen matched up on a linebacker or a safety on some kind of a rub route is increased. This will be a challenge that awaits the Eagles on Sunday.”—Fran Duffy
Along the same lines, the Eagles must have a plan for Trey Burton as well. Eagles fans are well aware of what the versatile tight end can bring to the table, and he was a big part of the Bears’ offense this year. Cohen led the team with 14 targets in the red zone, and Burton was right behind him with 13. He lines up everywhere – and wins. He made plays for the Bears at all three levels of the field this season. Who will match up to Burton in man coverage when Cohen is also on the field? This is a big question that must be answered.
The Bears completely overhauled their receiving corps this offseason, bringing in Burton to play tight end but also acquiring both Allen Robinson II and Taylor Gabriel in free agency while selecting Anthony Miller in the second round of April’s draft. These weapons have given quarterback Mitch Trubisky more options in a more dynamic passing game.
There are a lot of targets in this passing game that the Eagles must match up to. It certainly presents a big challenge for the secondary. What is the answer? They must get to Trubisky. Don’t give him time to find these weapons down the field.
But Trubisky has emerged as one of the better scrambling quarterbacks in the league this year, and his ability to get away from trouble for first downs has been frustrating for defenses all season long.
“The Eagles have given up plays to quarterbacks running the football this season – Houston’s Deshaun Watson ran for 49 yards, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles ran for 43, Carolina’s Cam Newton ran for 49, Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota ran for 46, and Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck ran for 33. They can’t allow Trubisky to escape in key situations, so being disciplined in their rushing lanes will be pivotal in this game.”— Fran Duffy
A big key matchup on defense vs. Trubisky and the Bears offense:
Bears guard Kyle Long vs. Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox
Much will be made about Long possibly going head-to-head with his older brother, Chris, a pass-rushing defensive end with the Eagles. But an equally intriguing matchup will pit Kyle Long against Cox, who was voted to his fourth straight Pro Bowl this season and leads Philadelphia with 10.5 sacks.
After missing eight games with a foot injury he sustained Oct. 28 in a win over the Jets, Long returned to start at right guard in last Sunday’s regular season finale in Minnesota and played 29 snaps, all in the first half. The Bears are hoping that he will be able to handle expanding playing time in Sunday’s playoff contest against the Eagles.
“We’d love to be able to put him out there, start and play a whole game,” coach Matt Nagy said earlier this week. “We just have to see how he holds up. Even after 29 plays, I felt good with where he’s at, but we wanted to make sure we were being smart throughout that process with his health and where we were at as a team.”
The EYE prediction: A lot of moving parts in this one, but I’m going with the concept that we’ve handled and limited mobile quarterbacks well enough this season to expect we can contain Trubisky and force him into some tough spots. We capitalize upon one or two mistakes by the young quarterback to get the edge— Giving the Bears defense their due, I’m calling it a tight game down to the wire: Eagles 19, Bears 17, the game won or lost on a final-seconds FG made or missed by either team.