After the debacle of Week 4, the Chicago Bears have a short week to prepare for their Week 5 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday. Here are predictions for the game.
Well, the Chicago Bears are no longer among the undefeated. They made a change in quarterback yet the offensive struggles continued. New starting quarterback Nick Foles had trouble connecting with his receivers. Running back David Montgomery had trouble gaining yards. Head coach Matt Nagy panicked and stop running the ball. These are all the same struggles the offense had with the previous starter Mitchell Trubisky and the other position coaches fired after the 2019 season.
Part of Foles’ troubles could be because of his lack of work with the receivers. Because of the COVID-19 virus, there were no Offseason Team Activities (OTAs) and no preseason games. Foles wasn’t able to work with the receivers until training camp started. Even then, he split snaps with Trubisky since they were in a competition for the starting job. Working with the receivers in practice is a lot different from working with them in an actual game.
More concerning is Nagy’s actions in the game. He admitted this offseason that the running game needs to be better. In order for that to happen, he needs to keep feeding the running backs. He did that in the first three games, but when the Indianapolis Colts stopped the running game early, Nagy abandoned it. He ran the ball just five times in the second half.
Now Nagy and his crew have a short week to turn things around. They face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady. After losing their first game, the Bucs won their last three. Brady is in a good rhythm. In his last two games, he completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 666 yards (is that some kind of message?) and threw eight touchdowns.
Here are predictions for the game.
The defense needs to control the running game
In addition to Brady, the Bucs have Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette in their running game. Jones had his best game of the season last week, running for 111 yards. He filled in for an injured Fournette, who may miss this week’s game as well. Jones averages 4.4 yards per run while Fournette averages 5.1 yards per run.
The Bears did a better job against the run last week than they did the previous three weeks. The Colts averaged just 2.7 yards per rush. They allowed an average of 4.9 yards per rush in those games.
The running game helps Brady’s passing. If the defense worries about the running game then Brady could get the ball to his receivers. If the Bears defense limits the Bucs’ running game then it can limit Brady. He isn’t a mobile quarterback so, like Philip Rivers last week, he’s an easy target.
You may say “Well, the pressure didn’t really get to Rivers” but you’d be wrong. Rivers didn’t throw any interceptions but he should’ve had two. He had the ball batted into the air and Khalil Mack was just waiting for the ball to go into his hands. He dropped the ball instead. Later, Roquan Smith also missed his opportunity when he dropped an interception in the end zone.
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The Colts went on to make field goals on both drives. Take away those scores and the Bears would’ve been closer or perhaps in the lead. Those two missed opportunities could’ve changed the complexity of the game.
Mack said that the defense is close to making a flood of big plays. The players had their chances to do it last week. They do look like they’re close to breaking out.
It’s up to us. There’s gonna be a spot where we can make that play. And it’s gonna be huge. And it’s gonna be more than one play. Just waiting on that break. And it’s gonna happen.
Just like with Rivers, you need to take advantage of your opportunities. They are too good for you to give them added opportunities.
Prediction: Bears shut down the running game and sack Brady three times. They also intercept him twice.
Feed the running game
As mentioned earlier, Nagy panicked last week. He abandoned the running game when it wasn’t getting big chunks of yards. The Colts, on the other hand, kept feeding their running backs even though they weren’t impressive. The Colts ran the ball 38 times. Despite the poor average per rush, the Bears defense had to respect the run. That opened up some space for Rivers to complete key passes.
The Bears ran the ball just 16 times, however. That does nothing to help the running game get into a rhythm. Without that, the opposing defense sits back expecting the pass. In the first three games, the running attack averaged about 28 times per game and averaged 4.9 yards per run. Against the Colts they averaged 1.8 yards.
Even if he doesn’t get big yards early, Nagy has to continue to give the ball to Montgomery. It helps not only him but also the offensive line. Both can get into a rhythm and get those big yards later in the game. Also, it takes some pressure off of Foles.
Nagy said during the offseason that the Chicago Bears needed to run the ball more this season. They did so in the first three games and for some reason went away from that last week. Hopefully, that was just a blip and not a sign of Nagy reverting back to what he did last season.
Prediction: The rushing attack runs for 136 yards on 32 carries. They also get their first rushing touchdown of the season.
Get the tight ends more involved
Another area that was lacking last week was the tight ends’ usage. The group consisting of Jimmy Graham, Demetrius Harris, and Cole Kmet had only eight targets and caught five of them for 39 yards and no touchdowns.
The tight ends are crucial for the offense to flow. They give Foles big targets and really help in the red zone. Graham has already caught more touchdown passes this season (three) than the entire Chicago Bears tight ends unit did in all of 2019 (two).
There needs to be a mix of targets. So far this season, Graham has 23 targets, while Harris and Kmet have a combined 10. Having 33 targets in four games isn’t enough, though. Nagy says that the tight ends are important to the offense so he needs to call plays like they are. He needs to get them more involved.
Prediction: The tight ends get targeted 10 times. They finish the game with a combined 85 yards and two touchdowns.