Following up on this week's Team Notes
. ... According to ChicagoBears.com's Larry Mayer, after the Bears failed to score on their first five possessions last Sunday against the Giants—including three three-and-outs—running an up-tempo no-huddle offense provided a much-needed spark.
The Bears marched 59 yards on nine plays in just 1:47 to set up Eddy Pineiro
’s 26-yard field goal with :08 left in the first half. Mitchell Trubisky
completed 4 of 5 passes for 42 yards on the drive.
Mayer reminded readers that Trubisky and the Bears have had similar success in hurry-up mode in other games this season, in part because it simplifies what is required of the players.
“[The defense] can’t substitute and we’re not substituting either,” Trubisky said. “So everybody knows where their spots are at and we’re playing fast, and I think that’s when we play free and guys are getting in the right spots and guys are making plays.
“I’m seeing the defense, and they’re not doing a bunch of crazy looks because we’re going fast and they’ve got to respect that.”
Head coach Matt Nagy understands the value of utilizing an up-tempo offense; the Bears have run 101 no-huddle plays this season, second most in the league behind the Cardinals.
“You see some tempo that goes on and I think that’s good,” Nagy said. “We’ve really done it for a lot of the season. There’s been a lot of games.
“There’s pros and cons to it. It’s always good when it works, and then when it doesn’t work, you’ve got to be careful with that. We like it and we think it’s good and we know that Mitch feels comfortable in that and I think our offense does so we want to definitely keep that going.”
Trubisky is comfortable with the no-huddle offense in part because he ran it at North Carolina.
“You're seeing the defense and you’re kind of just reacting, and it’s something I’ve been doing my whole life, so it’s more natural for me,” Trubisky said. “I mean, it shouldn’t be any different than in the huddle. If we just have that tempo and urgency and everybody is mindful of doing their jobs, they should have the same result. But I think just the comfort level that we have with our two-minute offense is a strength of our offense right now.”
So if Trubisky excels in the no-huddle offense and enjoys running it, why don’t the Bears employ it all the time?
Well, for starters it limits the formations and plays that can be called as well as substitutions that can be made to create favorable matchups.
It also prevents changing personnel groupings based on down-and-distance.
Another huge factor in not utilizing the hurry-up offense all the time is that a three-and-out puts your defense back on the field much quicker than usual—and the Bears have already struggled at times this season keeping their defense fresh.
Of course, anything that might generate more offense is something fantasy owners can get behind.
Still, things aren't looking great heading into today's game against Detroit as Trubisky will be trying to deal with an attack further diminished by injuries at tight end and wide receiver.
Starting wide receiver Taylor Gabriel
and tight end Ben Braunecker
will to miss the game because of concussions.
“Injuries are one of those things, you’ve just got to deal with it,” Trubisky said.
Tight end Trey Burton
is on injured reserve (calf) and tight end Adam Shaheen
is out with a foot injury. Braunecker and Gabriel made TD catches in the Bears’ 20-13 win on Nov. 10 over the Lions.
So the Bears will be relying heavily on their fourth and fifth tight ends in J.P. Holtz
and recent practice squad callup Jesper Horsted
They could also have wide receiver Riley Ridley
active for the first time, as well.
“I mean, they’ve been around in training camp and stuff so we’ve got a good chemistry with those guys,” Trubisky said. “But it’s got to be an exciting opportunity for those guys to step up and see their first action.”
Horsted played wide receiver at Princeton and was an undrafted free agent this year, before converting to tight end. In a brief debut last week, he made a 4-yard reception.
Ridley was drafted in the fourth round and has been on the active roster all season without suiting up on game day.
Even when the Bears were at full strength, their offense struggled.
They’re ranked 29th on offense
and haven’t been higher than that since after the season opener, when they were 28th. The passing attack is 30th and hasn’t been better than 28th since Week 1 and rookie running back David Montgomery
has been a disappointment.
Since putting up 147 yards and one touchdown on 31 touches back in Week 8, Montgomery has failed to clear 60 yards in a single game and has a total of two touchdowns (both came in Week 9) during the four-game span. As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Montgomery has struggled with efficiency, averaging 3.5 yards per carry or worse during nine of his 11 games.
In fact, the rookie's 3.33 YPC is fourth-worst and his 55 percent catch rate second-worst among running backs.
On the plus side, Montgomery has managed at least 13 carries in five consecutive games and has handled at least three targets in five of his past six outings.
But more broadly, the Bears have fallen into a rut of scoring little or nothing in the first half of games.
Then in each of the past five games, they’ve come out of the locker room at halftime with touchdown drives. Nagy said he can’t explain why they fail to start the first half like the second half but does like the second-half starts.
“What I take from that is when things aren’t going well our guys aren’t just folding up shop,” Nagy said. “They’re understanding, let’s make some corrections and let’s get better.
“But that’s probably our No. 1 objective right now. Let’s come into these games with a faster start and let’s see what happens when we do that.”
It’s possible playing only four days after their most recent game helps solve the problem.
“Obviously playing a team in our division that we are familiar with, hopefully that helps us get off to the faster start,” Trubisky said. ...
Getting off to a faster start won't be any easier with Trubisky's favorite target, Allen Robinson
, facing Detroit shutdown corner Darius Slay.
As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Slay has shadowed Damiere Byrd
, Keenan Allen
, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
, Stefon Diggs
, Zay Jones
, Robinson, Amari Cooper
and Terry McLaurin
this season. Despite the tough assignments, Slay has been targeted on 18 percent of his coverage snaps and is allowing a strong 0.25 fantasy points per coverage snap.
In other words, Slay is still operating at a high level.
But there is reason for some optimism.
When these teams met in Week 10, Slay shadowed Robinson all 10 of his perimeter routes but only four of 15 slot routes. Robinson ended up with a solid 6-86-0 receiving line on nine targets.
As Clay suggests, Robinson should be downgraded some in this matchup, but he'll also run 40 percent of his routes from the slot, so there's still plenty of reason to expect a solid performance. Detroit has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the slot this season.