Joniak's Journal: Super Bowl Lessons For Emerging Bears

Jeff Joniak
February 04, 2019 - 10:01 pm

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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(WBBM NEWSRADIO) – Jeff Joniak, the voice of the Chicago Bears, wraps up his road trip to this year’s Super Bowl, in Atlanta.

First impression

It is time to exhale. Chapter 99 in NFL history is closed with the dynastic New England Patriots once again the team to beat in the league’s centennial season. While many, including my college freshman daughter, were less than engaged with the 53rd Super Bowl, I loved every second. As I reminded my daughter, it is tough to beat experience. Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said as much in the aftermath of Bill Belichick’s outstanding game plan and strategy. I have always loved defense, and I do believe in most cases defenses win championships. I have great respect for the insights of Dallas-based NFL writer Rick Gosselin, and today his twitter post gave me great hope for the 2019 Chicago Bears.

“The Patriots finished seventh in the NFL in scoring defense this season. This marks the 46th time in 53 Super Bowls that a team that finished in the Top 10 in scoring defense captured the Lombardi Trophy,” wrote Gosselin.

The Bears finished No. 1 in the league in 2018 permitting 17.7 points/game. Eight playoff teams were in the Top 10 this season. Even with new coordinator Chuck Pagano aboard, if the Bears continue to get a handle on limiting injuries, get a little luck in that department, and continue to develop outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, inside linebacker Roquan Smith and safety Eddie Jackson, they again should be a Top Ten scoring defense. 

Kahlil Mack gets a full off-season to set examples for everyone to follow. Pro Bowl defensive lineman Akiem Hicks still has room to grow into an even more dominant figure, and cornerback Kyle Fuller has found his groove. There is a lot to look forward to with the Bears defense.

Second thought

The best coaches in football are flawless teachers of technique, who insist on repetitive excellence.  They have to excel at situational football. They also have to be top-notch schemers. Bill Belichick is all of that in his own unique way. Not everyone can play for him, nor does everyone want to play for him. He wants smart players who are physical and gritty. Every coach does. Finding the right ones is the key. 

Belichick finds them. Bears GM Ryan Pace is finding them for the Bears.  Coach Matt Nagy is well-positioned in the locker room to cultivate what he’s already grown in the meeting room and the practice field. There are growth opportunities awaiting the Bears in 2019.

They need more. They also need to build on the foundation of excellence they have established after their 12-4 season. They are so intriguing it’s already exciting to me to think about what’s next.

Third degree

Super Bowl 53 added a chapter to Belichick’s book on defending young quarterbacks. It was a clinic. Some say it was maybe his best strategic shutdown of a high-powered offense in the Super Bowl. There is no way around it, he thrives in those situations with rare exception. Rams quarterback Jared Goff suffered the same fate against the Bears in December against a prominent coordinator and schemer in Vic Fangio.

Pressure breaks pipes as Charles Tillman always reminded me over the years.  The Bears broke Goff’s pipes with consistent pressure and taking away his run game. Belichick did it in a different way and took away every weapon they had at the skill position. 

Goff was hit 12 times and sacked four times. Forty-five percent of their snaps ended in 0 or negative yards. He threw an interception, and eight of his throws were broken up by the aggressive Patriots.

“I’m going to use it as a learning experience and be better because of it,” Goff said.

Three seasons into his career, Goff is off to a great start, but he has not seen everything just yet. Neither has Mitch Trubisky and every other young quarterback. Not every defensive coordinator or head coach is equipped to dominate and confuse inexperience, but in the really big games that is something to overcome against the really good coaches.

Fourth and short

It now time for the fun to begin again. It is now time to build rosters for 2019. Getting into the college and free-agent market and the investigation involved between now and April is something I enjoy and will prompt me to continue this journal throughout the process.     

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.