Division Rivals Game Review: Chicago Bears vs. New England Patriots

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The Bears jumped out to an early lead against the Patriots. The Patriots were not playing Tom Brady, Julian Edleman, or Danny Amendola on offense, but the defense in Chicago is looking like it very well may have taken a big step this off-season. The Monsters of the Midway may very well be on their way back. Once both teams set their starters Chicago got steam rolled, as much as New England has “starters” with their odd game-planning determined line ups. In the depth battle the Bears lost, which is indicative of where they are in their build cycle. Last week the Bears got annihilated by reigning Super Bowl champions the Denver Broncos, but they looked much better in all aspects of the game this week.

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Running Backs

Jeremy Langford had a really good day after a slow start. The Patriots were not disciplined in their gap control, and Langford cut back a couple really nice runs to punish them. A few nice runs were even called back. Jaquizz Rodgers was played with the backup offensive linemen, and had nowhere to go when he received a hand off, but he has been an effective third down option for years in the NFL. The rest of the Bears’ running backs don’t really matter for the regular season barring injury. Actually even in the event of injury the Bears’ other running backs do not really matter.

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Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffrey really does a great job against single coverage when he’s healthy. He is the biggest weapon in the Bears’ arsenal this year. Kevin White looks like he’s going to get himself on Football Night in America once or twice this year, but was limited in this game. Once the starters came out the Bears’ offense ground to a halt, there really did not appear to be a good option as the third wide receiver. Josh Bellamy led the team in targets, but only managed two receptions on the night.

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Tight End

Tony Moeaki led the team in receptions but only averaged seven yards per reception. Rob Housler led the team in receiving yardage, but only had one catch. That is not a knock on either player; Housler’s reception was an impressive display of a tight end outrunning his coverage, and Moeaki was open on the routes he ran. With that said, the tight end spot is one where the Bears have not had anything to celebrate this off-season.

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Offensive Line

The Bears didn’t ask their line to do much in this game. They called nothing but three-step drops and moved the pocket around, which bodes well for them; this line was still getting crushed in the passing game. They were miles better in this game than against Denver in the running ¬†game. That is partially because of the defense they were facing, but half of football is not being the team that made the mistakes, and the Bears did not make nearly as many while the first string were in. The second string offensive line however was not very good at much of anything.

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Quarterback

Jay Cutler looked about as sharp as he ever has to open up this game. He was dropping three steps and delivering the ball accurately on quick routes before the pressure could get anywhere near him. The Bears managed two solid drives under his direction before getting their starters out of the game and were up 11-0 when Cutler left the game. Brian Hoyer immediately showed us why there were no teams looking to make him a starter, by throwing a pick. He was under duress for the entire game, and did not have a good night. Stats of 4-14 with no TD’s, 1 INT and 85 yards are the kind of figures that gives Connor Shaw a chance to be the back up in Chicago. The rookie went 4-6 for 42 yards and a TD. Against the Patriots’ third stringers Shaw looked like a real NFL quarterback, he closed out the game with a clunky and penalty-aided two minute drill that was complete with last second heroics. Shaw has better mobility and pocket presence than Hoyer. That may get him the job if Hoyer can’t play more like he did last week.

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So How Does the Lions Defense Match Up With the Bears Offense?

I still think this is no contest. The Lions defensive backs are a wiry and quick group, who defend the quick pass well. In the run game, the Bears showed what a zone blocking scheme can do to a relatively good team that plays without discipline even just for a couple plays, but that hasn’t been a huge problem for the Lions front seven. There is no contest between the lines, Detroit’s defensive line is going to have a field day if the coverage can keep the ball in Cutler’s hands.

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Linebackers

No real changes to report in this regard other than the fact that Rotoworld is dead to me. The pass rush is led by former 10 sack man Willie Young, and a trio of solid if unspectacular linebackers in Pernell McPhee, Lamar Houston, and Sam Acho, with rookie Leonard Floyd looking to make his mark Jerrell Freeman was in on four straight tackles at one point in the first quarter. Freeman and Danny Trevathan combine to make a solid pair of starting inside linebackers. There’s not nearly as much depth at that spot though and injuries inside could lead to problems for this defense.

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Defensive Line

The Bears’ defensive line had issues with the run. In the Patriots’ first drive, the Bears’ defensive line did little to stop the run game, allowing eight yards on two carries, before Garoppolo misfired on an easy completion to kill the drive. They weren’t really eating the double teams in the run game, or pushing the pocket in to the quarterback’s face. These guys are just kind of there, not really accomplishing much on most plays.

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The Secondary

Tracy Porter committed the most obvious pass interference penalty I have ever seen, and forced a fumble on the same drive. The starting secondary didn’t really do anything good, but they didn’t allow any touchdowns either. It looked like a relatively decent group but the Patriots were missing their entire first team passing offense. It’s hard to be particularly positive when assessing the Bears’ secondary because while the Patriots didn’t score, they did move the ball at will.

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So How Does Lions Offense Match Up Against the Bears Defense?

The Bears’ secondary is just not going to be able to handle the Lions’ firepower. The Lions are going to have an offense where they can create mismatches, and if the Lions can get the Bears into a dime defense, things could get ugly. The Bears’ pass rush lacks the dominant players that have been giving Taylor Decker fits; Willie Young is a good player but he is not an elite physical talent. I think the Bears are a couple of big men up front and half a secondary away from having an incredible defense. They’ve drafted to fix their weak spots on defense, but you can’t win with too many rookies in the NFL and virtually every injury on defense puts a rookie or just a bad player on the field. I think the Lions will struggle to run the ball but light the Bears up in the air.

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Lions vs. Bears

I am still picking the Lions to take both games in this match up, but the offensive play calling that the Bears utilized this week was far different from what I saw last week. The Bears are a well coached team from the head coach down at this point, and can not be relied upon to game plan themselves in to a loss. They know who they are and they changed their offense to do what they’re going to have to do to have a chance in the regular season. I give the Lions a significant edge, particularly in week 14 when injuries have had their say for both teams, and attrition has put a few more holes to exploit in the Bears’ roster but the Bears may not be the complete pushover they appeared to be in the first preseason game.

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About the Author

Ash Thompson
Ash Thompson is a fanatical football fan, and less fanatical hockey fan despite his Canadian heritage. He is sorry aboot that. His spirit animal is a beaver with a shark's head. He is also known as /u/a5hcrack on reddit, and can be found on twitter @a5hcrack