On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers get their second shot at the division rival Chicago Bears this season. Kev H of Windy City Gridiron was kind enough to answer some questions about the Bears and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: Marc Trestman is now a season and a half into his tenure as Bears head coach. Speaking about his coaching staff as a whole, which areas have proven successful and which need to be addressed this offseason?
The offense is sort of working, I suppose. Expectations for them were set somewhat high after the high amount of success they had last year, so they're underperforming compared to that. This is a group that talent-wise should be able to do it, but the scheme seems to sometimes overthink things and take them out of the opportunity to make big plays organically. Then, when they get backed in a corner and need to do things, they try to force the play and mess it all up.
What needs to be addressed? Absolutely the defense. After a few solid, if unspectacular, games early in the season, they stopped being able to do a whole lot right around the time the Packers came to Chicago. Since then they haven't been generating the pressure or turnovers they need to win games, and it shows up in their 3-5 record.
For the defense, it really seems to be scheme/coaching over talent. Even the game in Atlanta, where the Bears started three backup linebackers, the linebackers were able to play if they kept it simple.
APC: With eight games to judge Chicago's defense, what are your impressions of the unit? How have Phil Emery's defensive free agent additions and draft picks performed?
How to say this without coming across as a bitter fan...they suck.
There's just not cohesion to what they're doing. Sure, they've been hit by the injury bug, both the unfortunate (Tillman reinjuring his arm) and the idiotic (looking at you, Lamarr Houston), but even before those they weren't great.
There are some definite flashes. Kyle Fuller seems to be legit, and the two rookie defensive tackles (Ferguson and Sutton) seem to be able to play. The free agents are another story. Willie Young has been impressive, but Jared Allen seems to be about ¾ of a step behind most of the time, and the linebackers (Briggs, Williams, McClellin, if they're healthy) have mostly been garbage too.
To me it seems at this point like it's a bad job of the coach tailoring the scheme to his personnel. They've been called out for about a season and a half, so it'll be interesting to see if Mel Tucker figured anything out over the last two weeks. (Protip, he probably didn't.)
APC: Do you expect to see any significant schematic changes from Chicago coming off of the bye, and if so what areas of the team will be affected?
On offense, I think they'll try to work some more vertical pass plays into the gameplan, but hopefully only organically. The best bet for them is still Forte underneath on the short pass game, or Marshall and Jeffery working underneath. Stretch the field with an arm that can do it a couple times, and they should be able to settle down and attack more.
On defense, no, not really. I'm not convinced at this point that Tucker is capable of changing things that dramatically during the season, or that he can even identify the changes to make. The players aren't generating when they're on the field, so it's tough to know how to change to make things better. If there are any changes, I'd expect him to work up some more blitz concepts, which as you're well aware, if you don't get to Rodgers immediately, he's probably just going to burn you with Jordy.
APC: While the Bears currently sit in last place in the NFC North, they only have three games remaining against teams with winning records. What is the most realistic scenario for them qualifying for the postseason?
I see two situations. We'll go least likely, then on to the slightly more likely but still highly unlikely scenario:
Situation 1: The Bears run the table against the division, everyone else loses just enough that the Bears sneak into a division winning spot at 9-7
Situation 2: The Bears get themselves to 9-7, and that secures a sixth wild card spot. They promptly lose in the first round of the playoffs, and the cycle of defensive mediocrity continues.
I'm not a person who roots for the team to fail just to get draft picks, because I've seen the terrible NYG figure out how to play football for two months and win two championships lately, so I guess I'll cling to situation 2 and hope.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?
The Packers will likely win, as they have the better run offense and a top-level quarterback. That said, I'm a gambling man so I am going to put one confidence point on the Bears and say the Bears sneak it out at 23-20 because they get overlooked as the Packers prepare for the fierce Mark Sanchez Eagles. (Read those last few words with a lot of sarcasm just dripping off ‘em)
We'd like to thank Kev and Windy City Gridiron for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Bears. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Bears vs. Packers.