Joniak: 'Silver Lining' Is At Hand, Bears' Nagy Says

Jeff Joniak
November 06, 2019 - 4:22 pm
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LAKE FOREST (WBBM Newsradio) -- The Bears (3-5) were back at work practicing Wednesday as they prepare to host the Lions (3-4-1) on Sunday.

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Let's take a look at the news and observations of the day:

--There is nothing black and white about the Bears' offensive struggles. It is becoming a house of cards when they strike out on their opening drives. The first drive of the game is a foundation drive. It sets up the rest of the first half, and quite possibly the rest of the game. Self-inflicted wounds are primarily the reason for the failures.

--The Bears have squeezed seven points out of eight first drives. Interestingly, one of the powers of the NFC, New Orleans, has none. Baltimore, with its dominant run game, has 40, scoring six times. The Bears scored on the first drive against Minnesota in week four. Nothing more before or since that game.

--In the first quarter, the Bears have scored only 24 points, tied for 27th in the league, but the defense has permitted only 15 points, so they own a +9 differential. 

--By the fourth quarter, the Bears are a -25-point differential, one of the five worst in the NFL, and all the teams have losing records.  

--The first-drive burden is reducing the impact of the first 15 scripted plays on the game. In many cases this season, Matt Nagy is not able to stack those first- and second-down plays to create an identity, tempo or rhythm. “When you don’t have a lot of plays and you’re not getting first downs, you can’t get into all of that,” Coach Matt Nagy said.

--As the play designer and play caller, Nagy is frustrated. “It’s been a test, it’s been challenging, it’s been everything you can possibly think of,” he said. “There’s not many people around that are trying to find that ‘why’ more than us in this building and myself.”

--There is no balance in the passing game. Allen Robinson is the go-to receiver, with 71 targets. The next closest wide receiver on the list is Anthony Miller, with just 28 targets.  Taylor Gabriel has 25 targets. “To me, one of the beautiful parts of this offense is that you have so many different players and weapons that you can get the ball to, and you saw that last year,” Nagy said. “There was a lot of distribution. That hasn’t happened this year.”

--Tarik Cohen is second on the team with 51 targets, but many of those are check downs for minimal gain. His yards-per-target is a miniscule 3.8-yard average. In 2018, it was 8.0, and in 2017 it was 5.0. “I think just getting some more reps in practice, throwing him the ball, and just letting him do his thing, and calling his number more in the game will help him get those explosive plays that we know he’s capable of,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

--Nagy said Burton is not 100-percent healthy and recovered from his off-season sports hernia surgery. “There’s some opportunities that we’ve had here or there,” Nagy said. “It hasn’t been nearly as much as we wanted to. That’s definitely a part we would like to improve at.” Burton is playing the impactful “U” tight end in Nagy’s offense. The same one flourishing in Kansas City and Philadelphia is similar offensive schemes.

--All that said, Nagy feels the keys to unlock the doors to the offense are within reach. “There’s a silver lining," Nagy said. “There really is. People can say it’s cliché and they can say it sounds good. I fully in all my heart believe that. I don’t know when it’s going to happen. It’s somewhere. It’s somewhere. When you finally knock it down, you figure it out, and you get it. Somewhere there’s a silver lining in this whole story.”

--A year ago against the Lions at Soldier Field, Trubisky played one of his best games. So did Anthony Miller. If that connection becomes impactful, it could result in a huge confidence boost to the offense.

--Trubisky is calling the first half of the season a learning experience: “Just got to take it one day, one week at a time.”

--Anthony Miller said it’s win or go home. For the rest of the season.

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