10 thoughts after the Chicago Bears turned two early takeaways into quick touchdowns and throttled the hapless New York Giants 29-3 on Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.
1. Mike Glennon hasn’t had a worse experience at Soldier Field since April 27, 2017.
That was the night the Bears cajoled him into attending a draft party for fans at the stadium, where he watched agape as the team traded up to draft Mitch Trubisky. Glennon was under the assumption he would be the starter for at least a full season after the Bears signed him to a three-year, $45 million contract that ultimately wound up costing the team only $16 million.
General manager Ryan Pace’s maneuver blindsided Glennon — and whoever arranged his appearance that night — and the Giants backup quarterback was blindsided once again on a 24-degree day after Saturday’s snowstorm.
The Giants went with an empty backfield on the first play of the game, and Trevis Gipson whipped right tackle Nate Solder and rocked Glennon for a strip-sack. Defensive end Bilal Nichols recovered the fumble and returned it to the 2-yard line. Running back David Montgomery powered into the end zone on the next play, and just like that — 18 seconds into the game — the Bears led 7-0.
Artie Burns deflected a third-down pass for Kenny Golladay on the next series, and strong safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted to set up the Bears offense on the Giants 24-yard line. Andy Dalton quickly connected with Darnell Mooney on a 4-yard touchdown pass, and the takeaways the Bears talked about back in July and August had created a 14-0 lead before the brave souls in attendance — maybe a little more than half of the announced total of 59,594 — had been in their seats long enough to get cold.
How rare was this? The Bears had scored 14 points in the first quarter only once previously under Matt Nagy, and that was all the way back on Sept. 30, 2018, in a 48-10 demolition of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That Bucs defense, especially the secondary, is the worst the Bears have faced in the last four seasons.
Sunday wound up being an epic day for the Bears defense against Glennon and Giants coach Joe Judge, who was either super stubborn or very wise, depending on how you look at it. Judge said during the week that Glennon and Jake Fromm were both likely to play, but it wound up being the veteran Glennon all the way, and his final numbers were horrendous — 4 of 11 for 24 yards with four sacks and two interceptions.
The four sacks created a loss of 34 yards, meaning the Giants had minus-10 net passing yards. The minus-0.67 yards per attempt is the worst figure in the NFL since Sept. 20, 1998, when San Diego Chargers rookie Ryan Leaf completed 1 of 15 passes for 4 yards in a 23-7 loss at Kansas City.
In the Super Bowl era, there have been only 15 worse performances. The Falcons had minus-1.0 yards per attempt against the Bears in a 36-0 shutout on Nov. 24, 1985, at Soldier Field. The Bears averaged minus-0.7 yards per attempt in a 47-0 loss at the Houston Oilers on Nov. 6, 1977.
“It’s embarrassing,” Glennon said. “You know, not something that … you know, we work hard all week. We’ve got to have a better product.”
If the Giants had more pass plays on interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens’ call sheet, they ditched them at that point. With the Bears leading 14-0 — a cushion that grew to 29-3 early in the third quarter — 23 of the next 25 plays were called runs. The Giants wound up rushing for 161 yards on 40 carries, including 102 yards on 21 rushes by Saquon Barkley, but they never threatened to get back in the game. Golladay, a top free-agent signing in March, was shut out.
The Bears deserve plenty of credit for a good game plan, high-level execution and bringing a lot of energy in a game that affected only position in the 2022 draft, but this was a truly pathetic showing by the Giants offense.
“The plan was to run that much,” Judge said. “That was the plan of the game. You know, there’s obviously different adjustments we can make within the game. But we knew we were going to come in today, it was going to be run the ball, stop the run, cover kicks. That was it.”
Yeah, but how about minus-10 net passing yards?
“I’m not here to argue today about stats,” Judge said. “It is what it is. You know what I mean? It wasn’t good enough.”
The Giants have personnel issues that are too countless to detail here. Starting quarterback Daniel Jones (neck) is out for the season, and wide receiver Kadarius Toney, their 2021 first-round pick, didn’t play Sunday. The offensive line has struggled all season, and all of this comes at the end of a terrible season with a current five-game losing streak.
But Glennon legitimately struggled to complete even basic pass plays. The Bears used what he said was an unscouted look — a Cover-0 pressure — on the game-altering first play that was the first of two strip-sacks for Trevis Gipson, who now has 6½ sacks on the season. Outside linebacker Robert Quinn got his league-leading 18th sack, moving past Hall of Famer Richard Dent (17½ in 1984) for the most in a season in team history. Deon Bush added an interception, one of four takeaways for the defense.
It was a banner afternoon for the Bears defense, but I’ve never seen a team simply refuse to attempt to throw the ball like the Giants did. Judge said weather reports earlier in the week suggested there could be 40 mph winds. That’s true. But it was a calm day and game plans can change, right?
“We went down 14 points,” Judge said. “We weren’t going to abandon the game plan. So the focus was stick with the game plan, keep running the ball, be productive. You know, at that point in the game, guys, it’s a two-possession game. Right? We saw we got the defense out there, they were able to make a stop. We’ve got to keep playing to that and we’ve got to play to our defense and trust they’re going to keep making stops.”
There doesn’t need to be an argument over statistics to have a conversation about a poor game plan and poor execution. Judge should be big enough to admit that.
Were the Bears surprised that down 23 points, the Giants kept handing the ball off with 1½ quarters to play?
“I know they were down a lot of receivers and they’re banged up all over the place,” Quinn said. “Sometimes you’ve just got to see what you’re working with, maybe running the ball, you know all it takes is one explosive run and they could have been back in the game. At the end of the day when you’re playing with a limited amount of receivers there’s only so much you can do as an offense and I guess we were able to take advantage of it.”
2. The 1983 draft is considered the greatest of all time for quarterbacks.
Six went in the first round that year, including Hall of Famers John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino and Pro Bowler Ken O’Brien. The 2011 draft has to be the greatest for pass rushers, and a handful of them, including Robert Quinn, still are producing.
Quinn became the fifth member of that draft class to reach 100 sacks when he dropped Giants quarterback Mike Glennon midway through the fourth quarter to give him 100½ for his career. That made Quinn the 39th player in NFL history to reach triple digits in a statistic that became official in 1982. Almost 13% of the 100-sack club was drafted in 2011, and Ryan Kerrigan is only 4½ sacks away and could reach the milestone if he plays next season.
There are 10 players from the 2011 draft with more than 50 sacks (active players in italics):
- Von Miller, 1st round (2nd overall), 113½ sacks
- Cam Jordan, 1st (24th), 106
- J.J. Watt, 1st (11th), 102
- Justin Houston, 3rd (70th), 102
- Robert Quinn, 1st (14th), 100½
- Ryan Kerrigan, 1st (16th), 95½
- Cam Heyward, 1st (31st), 66
- Jabaal Sheard, 2nd (37th), 53
- Aldon Smith, 1st (7th), 52½
- Jurrell Casey, 3rd (77th), 51
It’s easy to envision Smith having 100 sacks if off-field issues had not derailed his career. It’s a special group for Quinn to be a part of, and with even a modest season in 2022, he could move into the top 25 all time.
It looked like Quinn would get the sack he needed to pass Richard Dent for the Bears single-season record on the final play of the first quarter. He beat left tackle Andrew Thomas off the edge and wrapped up Glennon, who somehow shoveled the ball to Devontae Booker before Quinn could take him down.
“I thought the refs were going to blow the play dead and they didn’t,” Quinn said. “He made a nice play. You know, that’s just football for you. Yeah, sometimes it’s just football.”
Quinn’s first career sack came against the Giants when he got Eli Manning on Sept. 19, 2011. This was the fifth time he sacked Glennon. Believe it or not, that makes Glennon No. 2 on Quinn’s all-time sack list behind Russell Wilson, who accounts for 14 of his 100½ sacks. Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick are next on Quinn’s list with four sacks each.
Glennon was part of another milestone in Quinn’s career. When Quinn passed Kevin Carter for the Rams single-season record on Dec. 22, 2013, with a three-sack game against the Buccaneers, he was bringing down Glennon. Quinn finished that season with 19 sacks.
The Pro Bowl selection was his usual understated self afterward. I get a kick out of him always talking about working to stay in the league.
“A Hall of Famer in Richard Dent, I guess to take the record it’s an honor,” Quinn said. “But you know … I’ve just got to make sure I keep building my resume the right way. At the end of the day I just keep doing my job.”
Getting the sack against the Giants means Quinn passed Dent in 16 games — the same number Dent played in 1984. Quinn knows there would have been an implicit asterisk next to his name had it taken him until the 17th game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings to pass “The Colonel.”
“In that regard, if it took 17 (games), I’m sure he would’ve called me and made sure I knew what the heck was going on,” Quinn said. “I talked to him actually (Friday) and he still made a remark — I think it was quite funny — I think he said he had 17½ and only started 10 games (that season), so he let me know the company I was in. It’s just an honor to be able to break the (record), a blessing. The powers above blessed me greatly. Greatly.”
3. The outpouring of public support for ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson, who lost his battle with cancer Tuesday, has been truly amazing.
As most know, Jeff’s wife, Caitlin, died of cancer almost three years ago, and their 11-year-old son, Parker, faces a future without both of his parents. A GoFundMe campaign the family started for Parker topped $1 million in donations Friday, less than 72 hours after it started, and many deserve credit for spreading the word.
No one has been more influential than ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who wielded his massive reach on social media to encourage donations that have come from all directions, large and small. As of Sunday night, more than 14,900 people had combined to push the fund over $1.07 million.
Jeff had a manner of making everyone feel good about themselves during every interaction, and it was a pleasure to work alongside him for two decades. As good as he was at his job — and Jeff was aces all the way around when it came to digital writing, radio and television work — he was a better guy and someone you could confide in.
The chemotherapy Jeff was receiving made it difficult for him to perform some manual dexterity, so when we would pull into the parking lot at Halas Hall at the same time this season, I would help him with a few buttons on his shirt and we’d chat about the daily events with the team or Parker’s latest sporting events. Never once did Jeff talk about the struggles he was going through. His outlook was remarkably positive every single time.
Instead of detailing how I saw Jeff grow as a fair and dogged journalist and as a father over the years, I asked some Bears players who got to know him very well about their experiences with him.
“Jeff and his wife, Caitlin, were at our wedding,” said former fullback Jason McKie, now the head coach at Carmel High School in Mundelein. “He was one of the first people I texted when my kids were born. It started off as him being a mentor for me doing media and stuff like that. It evolved into a friendship and then more like family. It’s been a crazy few days.
“Initially, I met J.D. when it was me, Desmond (Clark) and Alex Brown rotating as co-hosts on ‘Chicago Huddle’ with Jeff and Ryan Chiaverini. I had admiration for him for the way he covered the Bears, the way he worked in the media. He was objective but he was different. He was honest. He kept it real and I just gravitated to him because he had a heart of gold and he felt like someone I could trust. I wanted to do media and he was someone I wanted to model what I did after him. We’ve been close ever since.
“I would hit him up and say, ‘How did I do on this show?’ He would always text me and give me advice. That evolved into a really good friendship. He was the emcee for my foundation events. He was always one of the first people to want to volunteer to golf at my foundation events. That evolved to me going to a lot of Parker’s games, especially when he was away. I’d be at Parker’s game giving him the play-by-play when he was covering the Bears. It was like having a brother that I never had. He was always there for me.
“Last week when I went to see him, me and Rashied (Davis), I went there and tried to be strong but broke down a little bit. He upheld us. He encouraged us, which is not surprising for J.D. Just everything he was always willing to do for people. Me and Rashied were worried about his condition, but the first thing he wanted to talk about was how my boys are doing and how Carmel (football) is doing and stuff about Rashied’s family. We were trying to be there and do whatever he needed us to do in that short amount of time, but that’s typical J.D.
“In the spring and summer, we had Parker at my Carmel football camp and we were hanging out and he looked great. He looked like the old J.D. We talked about it a little, but all he wanted to talk about was how excited he was we were at Carmel and we’d always talk about Parker. He came to three football games — he was at our last home game — and he was fine. It’s just crazy how it changed that fast.
“While we were visiting last week, he was keeping us upbeat and we were trying to hold it together for him. We were asking him things he’d like us to do with Parker. It’s just incredible to me the strength and optimism he had considering where he was at. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Clark, the former tight end, first met Dickerson in the locker room, and they wound up being neighbors in Vernon Hills and their relationship grew.
“I was just sitting here talking to my brother and he was telling me John Madden died,” Clark said Wednesday morning. “I got a text message this morning about Jeff, and I said, ‘You’ve got to be (kidding) me.’ We used to live in the same townhome complex. He lived five doors down from me. We would get together, him and his wife and my wife, and of course him and I would hang out every now and again.
“Some reporters you kind of look at sideways because you don’t know if they are trying to come at you with an angle. You never felt like that with Jeff. You felt like you were talking to your buddy, talking sports, talking ball. I believe that is why him and I clicked right off because I just never felt like he had any type of negativity or an angle he was trying to get you on or anything like that. He was authentic and transparent and just a good guy.
“I got to know him pretty good. You guys in media get frustrated about certain things that go on that you can’t necessarily ask. Even with those things, some of the things he couldn’t necessarily speak to everyone about, we had conversations about. The downside of doing what you guys do, he always took that in stride. It is what it is and he kept moving forward. Just having those inside conversations with him were priceless just to understand what reporters have to do and what you guys are up against on a daily basis and kind of the politics of what is going on. We had all of those types of discussions, and it didn’t matter what we were talking about, it always wound up being a positive discussion.
“I told Jeff a lot of things that I wouldn’t tell anybody else because I knew in confidence it wasn’t going to get aired out. I could tell him my real feelings and emotions when I was not being played in 2010 and I had like every coach on the staff going to our offensive coordinator (Mike Martz) basically saying, ‘Why are you not playing Desmond?’ Just being able to talk to him about those things and not feel like someone was going to sell you out. That was always refreshing.
“When I heard the news this morning, the first thing that popped in my mind — this was 2012 — I invited a group of men and women, all husbands and wives, over to my townhome and we played a bunch of board games and it was men against women. And that was one of the most fun times I ever had when I was living up in Vernon Hills. Jeff and his wife came over and we just sat there, played games and had drinks. The other thing, my son is 10 and (Parker) is 11 and we used to take them out and have play dates with them. Those are the things that came up this morning when I heard about his passing. I knew he had cancer. I texted Jeff a couple times. I didn’t know he was sick like that where it ultimately took his life. The only thing I got back from him from all of the text messages was everything was going well. He was going to beat it.
“Jeff is one of those people, if you had a problem with Jeff, you need to go look in the mirror. He was a straight shooter and if he did have something to say or he did have to address something, he always did it in a very diplomatic way where he wasn’t throwing anybody up under the bus. You know how people can sometimes get a little feisty? Jeff was always diplomatic when he had to write a story that wasn’t necessarily a good story or a positive story about someone. He did it in a professional way.”
Former linebacker Nick Roach always found Jeff to be in an upbeat mood, which helped the reporter develop a relationship based on trust.
“I just remember his personality,” said Roach, who now lives in California. “He was always just in a really positive mood. It seemed like he was always happy to be there and felt fortunate to do the type of work he got to do. I think that his outlook really transferred over to people and he was really interested in terms of his job in sharing stories that mattered, compelling stories. He was into the art form of what he did.”
4. The Bears are hopeful for a more prosperous 2022, and it will be interesting to see in the next week or so what direction the franchise heads.
As we turn the calendar and prepare to see what moves will be made, here’s a look back at the 20 biggest stories or developments from 2021.
Jan. 13: The end-of-season news conference with George McCaskey and Ted Phillips was one the Bears couldn’t win. They didn’t have to be shellacked, though. If you were keeping score, it would have been something like 56-3.
McCaskey: “(Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy) are both, like Ted, outstanding leaders. I’ve been most impressed with how well they collaborate. I was impressed with both of them this past season, especially during the six-game losing streak.”
Phillips: “Have we gotten the quarterback situation completely right? No. Have we won enough games? No. Everything else is there, and so whenever you make a decision, in my opinion, there’s lots of ripple effects throughout other parts of the building, too, and other people’s careers. And we have a solid football foundation. We have a solid football culture.”
McCaskey: “Frankly, I don’t know that a lot of people have confidence in this course of action, but sometimes you have to take the route that you think is best, even if — when it’s not the most popular decision. And we’re aware of that and we’re prepared for that.”
It’s easy in hindsight to pick apart much of what the Bears said that day, but so much of the spin did not age well.
Late February: Russell Wilson became the team’s No. 1 priority to solve the quarterback dilemma after his agent said the Bears were one of four teams Wilson would waive his no-trade clause to join. Ultimately, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn’t want to reboot the position, but the Bears pressed the matter as far as they could.
March 16: The Bears reached agreement with Andy Dalton on a one-year, $10 million contract, and shortly thereafter they declared the veteran, who was named to three Pro Bowls with the Cincinnati Bengals, would be the starting quarterback. Sunday’s win over the Giants was Dalton’s fifth start. He’s 3-2 in those starts and has passed for 1,190 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
March 18: The Bears terminated the contract of former All-Pro cornerback Kyle Fuller to create $11 million in salary-cap savings. The 2014 first-round draft pick landed with the Denver Broncos, and his play this season hasn’t measured up to the $14 million the Bears would have had to pay him if they kept him. The release of Fuller created depth-chart issues the defense still is dealing with, but Pace probably cut bait at the right time.
April 29: Giants general manager Dave Gettleman agreed to trade down in the draft for the first time in his career, shipping the No. 11 pick to the Bears for two first-round picks and more. Pace selected Ohio State’s Justin Fields as the franchise’s latest quarterback of the future. Fields has missed four games in the second half of the season with rib and ankle injuries and is 2-8 in 10 starts.
Late May: When the team gathered for organized team activities, inside linebacker Roquan Smith was the only projected defensive starter to attend regularly. Most of the starters on that side of the ball did not elect to participate in the voluntary workouts, a concerning sign with the team promoting Sean Desai into the coordinator role. It was surprising, too, given that Desai is viewed as popular with the players, and it knocked a hole in the team’s claims about strong culture.
July 28: Running back Tarik Cohen opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list after surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury he suffered in Week 3 of the 2020 season. The next week, Nagy said Cohen likely would be out weeks rather than days, and from that point on, the Bears declined to provide any substantive updates on the former Pro Bowl returner. Cohen has missed the entire season, and his future is in question. His base salary for 2022 is $3.9 million, and $2.5 million is guaranteed for injury. It becomes fully guaranteed at the start of the new league year in March.
Aug. 18: Nagy announced offensive tackle Teven Jenkins would undergo back surgery. The Bears traded their second-round pick (No. 52), third-round pick (No. 83) and sixth-round pick (No. 204) to the Carolina Panthers for the 39th pick — which they used to draft Jenkins — and a fifth-round choice (No. 151). Jenkins missed the first 12 weeks before making his debut on special teams Dec. 5 against the Arizona Cardinals. He has made two starts at left tackle but lasted only three snaps a week ago in Seattle as a left shoulder injury knocked him out. He has played 132 offensive snaps, getting in for the final two series of Sunday’s game after Jason Peters started.
Sept. 20: In the days after the Bears’ Week 2 victory over the Bengals, the team’s quarterback plan was difficult to decipher. Fields had replaced Dalton (left knee injury) in the second quarter, and with the benefit of four takeaways by the defense, the Bears hung on for a 20-17 victory at Soldier Field.
“If Andy is healthy, is he your starter?” Nagy said, repeating a question from his Monday news conference. “That’s something that I’m not going to get into with scheme.”
When a reporter objected that the question wasn’t related to scheme but rather to personnel, Nagy didn’t budge.
“Of course it is,” he said. “That’s 100% scheme. That’s 100% scheme.”
Ten minutes after Nagy’s news conference wrapped up, a public relations official returned to the media room with a clarification: Nagy did not understand the original question, and Dalton indeed would be the starter when healthy.
A week later, the team reversed course and named Fields the starter.
Sept. 26: Fields’ first NFL start was a disaster. In a 26-6 loss in Cleveland, the offense produced 47 net yards in 42 plays. It was only the eighth time in the Super Bowl era that a team had averaged less than 1.12 yards per play. The Bears had a disastrous game plan for a Browns defense that totaled nine sacks, and the execution was terrible.
“It starts with me,” said Nagy, a phrase he reiterated five times in his postgame news conference.
Oct. 3: After missing the first three games with a knee injury, nose tackle Eddie Goldman made his season debut in Week 4 against the Detroit Lions. Goldman opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 and returned without getting vaccinated. He has shown up at times this season but for the most part has been a shell of his former self. He has been on the field for more than 50% of the snaps in only one game, the Week 8 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Goldman turns 28 on Thursday and has a base salary of $8.76 million in 2022 with a cap hit of $11.81 million. It seems unlikely the Bears will want to pay that.
Oct. 17: A touchdown midway through the fourth quarter cut the Bears’ deficit to 17-14 against the Green Bay Packers before Aaron Rodgers directed a 75-yard drive, scoring on a 6-yard run with 4:30 to play. Rodgers reacted to the angry fans in the southwest corner of Soldier Field by saying, “I still own you,” a quote that will live on in the rivalry for some time. The Packers have swept the annual series three straight years and have won 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Oct. 24: A week after losing to the Packers, the Bears headed to Tampa Bay, where they were crushed 38-3 by Tom Brady and the Buccaneers. Brady threw four touchdown passes and the Bucs rushed for 182 yards in a game that got away from the Bears instantly, a sign of how far they are from the NFL’s elite.
Nov. 8: The Bears rallied with 21 points in the fourth quarter to take a 27-26 lead in Pittsburgh as Fields directed 82- and 75-yard touchdown drives. What would have been a wonderful road rally turned into disappointment as the Steelers won the game on a 40-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining.
Nov. 19: Outside linebacker Khalil Mack, whom the team shut down after Week 7 with a foot injury, was placed on season-ending injured reserve. The hope was three weeks of rest would allow Mack to heal after he was injured in the Week 3 loss in Cleveland. The situation did not improve and he wound up requiring surgery. Mack’s season ended with six sacks, seven quarterback hits and one fumble recovery. Mack turns 31 next month, and while elite edge rushers often age well, the team has gone to him twice to restructure his contract to free up cap space. Mack is scheduled to earn $17.75 million in 2022, and his cap hit soars to $30.15 million.
Nov. 21: With Lamar Jackson out sick, the Baltimore Ravens gave Tyler Huntley, a former undrafted free agent, his first career start. Fields was knocked out of the game with cracked ribs, and a 49-yard Dalton touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin with 1:41 remaining put the Bears ahead. But Huntley helped rally the Ravens, and they won on Devonta Freeman’s 3-yard run with 22 seconds remaining. It was a disappointing loss for the Bears, who were coming off their bye week.
Nov. 23: Two days before a Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit, Patch.com’s Mark Konkol reported that Nagy would be fired after the game. It didn’t wind up happening, but the Bears bungled their response to the story by Konkol, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Chicago Sun-Times, and trotted out special teams coordinator Chris Tabor as the first member of the organization to face questions about Nagy and the report. The Bears left Nagy to dangle in the wind until McCaskey addressed the team more than 24 hours later. Some believe Nagy has known since that week he will not return in 2022.
Robert Quinn’s fantastic season: The veteran outside linebacker didn’t slow down when Mack was lost for the season — he became even more productive. He has at least one sack in eight consecutive games, a career-best streak, and it’s not like Quinn has been routinely hunting quarterbacks with the Bears holding large second-half leads.
Roquan Smith’s strong season: The 2018 first-round draft pick has positioned himself to receive a lucrative contract extension this offseason. The Bears picked up the fifth-year option in his contract and will have time to negotiate a deal with one of the young building blocks on the roster. Smith leads the defense with 157 tackles and has three sacks and one interception.
Allen Robinson’s disappointing season: Ankle and hamstring injuries and a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list have hampered the veteran wide receiver’s season. It has been a disappointment even when Robinson has been healthy or close to healthy. He has only 36 receptions for 388 yards and one touchdown, and that’s not the way he wanted to go into free agency after playing on the franchise tag for $17.9 million.
5. Jason Peters returned from a high right ankle sprain to start at left tackle after missing only two games.
It was an interesting decision by the Bears, who played the 39-year-old ahead of second-round pick Teven Jenkins. Peters was listed on the injury report as limited Wednesday and Thursday before being full go Friday. Jenkins was a full participant in practice all week despite being removed from last week’s game in Seattle after only three snaps when the rookie suffered what apparently was a mild left shoulder injury.
While the Bears went with a veteran on the left side, fifth-round pick Larry Borom started at right tackle with Germain Ifedi moving to the bench, a week after Ifedi was a captain and started at right tackle against his former team, the Seahawks. Coach Matt Nagy hinted during the week that the decision to play Ifedi ahead of Borom — who wound up playing the majority of the Seahawks game at left tackle after Jenkins was knocked out — had a lot to do with Borom’s stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list and the shape he was in leading into that game.
I asked Nagy what went into the decision process in selecting the starting tackles.
“A few things,” he said. “All these guys, whether they’re coming off an injury, coming back from an injury, you start on the left side with Jason. Jason’s been our starter this entire year. This is a Hall of Fame player that’s been playing a long time. And he battled his ass off to get back here and play. He did a great job when we weren’t sure how that was going to go.
“Teven, same thing, working through an injury from last week’s game. And so that’s the decision that we made. Like I said from the beginning, we’re going to do everything we need to do, what’s best for this team right now. That’s what we did. In regard to Larry and Ifedi, I go back to Larry coming off of COVID a few weeks ago and trying to get back into shape. We weren’t sure where he was going to be last week. He was forced into action early, and we thought he did a good job. So we go into this week thinking, again, he played well when he was in. We went with him for this week.”
The Bears wound up inserting Jenkins into the game, but that didn’t happen until 7:21 remained and the outcome had long been secured. He wound up getting seven snaps. I can understand the crowd that wants to see young players get on the field at the end of the season to give them more experience before the offseason. That’s real, and in Jenkins’ case, he has missed so much time. Nagy’s decision tells you the Bears clearly believe the aging Peters is a considerably better option right now. If it was close, they would go with the rookie.
A win was probably important to Nagy. His record with the Bears, postseason included, is now 34-32. So if he’s fired after the season finale in Minnesota, he’s assured of leaving with a record above .500. Since George Halas (324-151-31) retired after the 1967 season, Mike Ditka (112-68) and Lovie Smith (84-66) are the only other Bears coaches with records above .500.
We’ll see what Nagy deems best for the Bears in Week 18 against the Vikings.
6. It was a really nice game for Trevis Gipson, who had two strip-sacks and now has 6 ½ sacks and is tied with Robert Quinn for the team lead with four forced fumbles.
You have to believe whoever leads the evaluation of the Bears in the offseason will look at Gipson as an ascending player who can do more next season. Entering this week, the second-year pro has been on the field for 49% of the defensive snaps, and the extended time Khalil Mack has missed has afforded Gipson more opportunities.
“Man, you know (my confidence) only continues to grow,” Gipson said. “I have left some opportunities out there this season and I know what I have to work on this upcoming offseason, but as far as the opportunities and my confidence, it goes hand in hand. When I do miss opportunities, it might not go up a little bit, but when I do make those big plays, it skyrockets.
“It’s a great opportunity and a great blessing to be able to play behind (Quinn and Mack), two gold jackets soon to be. I couldn’t ask for anything else. A lot of guys (say), ‘I want to play. I want to do this, this and that.’ But I’m literally behind two pass rushers that probably are top five in the league. There’s technique, film. I get to watch their steps every day, from sunup to sundown. I’m in a great position and I honestly couldn’t be more appreciative.”
7. Don’t be surprised if Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham’s name pops up in the hiring cycle for head coaches in the next week-plus.
The 42-year-old Graham, who was born in Des Plaines, was requested for an interview by the New York Jets last year. The Giants defense doesn’t rank great statistically, but the roster is thin and the ongoing struggles for the offense have affected the defense. Los Angeles Chargers coach Brandon Staley gave unprompted support for Graham before their Week 14 meeting.
The Giants defense played relatively well Sunday. The Bears had only two sustained drives and didn’t need more after being gifted the quick 14-0 lead off of takeaways. The Giants allowed only 249 yards of offense and limited David Montgomery to 64 yards on 22 rushes.
Graham, who played on the defensive line at Yale, was a graduate assistant at Notre Dame in 2007 and 2008 before a seven-year run on Bill Belichick’s staff in New England. He coached the Giants defensive line in 2016 and 2017 before going to the Green Bay Packers in 2018, working as the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and then landing with the Giants as coordinator in 2020.
“Their defense is outstanding,” Staley told reporters. “I really have a ton of respect for their defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham. I really think he is one of the top coordinators in football. I think he will be a head coach in the league. I don’t know him personally, but I have a lot of respect for his game. He’s been around a lot of good ball and I think his team has done a really good job in giving them a lot of opportunities.
“We played them last year when I was with the Rams. It was 17-9, a really, really tough game. We scored in the end to win that game, but it was a really tight game. They are extremely well-coached.”
I checked in with a veteran pro scout to get his input on Graham, and he also gave him high marks.
“I think he’s a really good coordinator,” the scout said. “You’ve seen him put together a pretty solid defense, and there are a lot of things to consider there because he’s coaching defense for a team with an offense that is considerably limited, which hurts you as a defensive coordinator. But what he does from a scheme perspective is very good. A lot of two-deep and two-man, a lot of late movement and disguise. Look at what he’s done with his front. He doesn’t have a true pass rusher. He has Leonard Williams, a base 4-3 defensive end that is really more of a five-technique defensive tackle. Williams had, what, (11½) sacks last year?
“He’s excellent at scheming fronts, scheming pressures and scheming one-on-ones. Concept-wise, he’s ahead of the game. He’s been able to get the most out of a defense that doesn’t have a dominant pass rusher, doesn’t have a dominant cornerback. James Bradberry is a good corner. But Graham has taken guys and used guys that have a lot of versatility in the secondary and put them in a position where they can make plays on the ball.
“One of the best tapes to watch if you want to learn more about him are this year against Kansas City and what he did limiting Patrick Mahomes and that Chiefs offense. Now, Kansas City won the game because the Giants can’t move the ball. Last year, the Monday night game against Tampa Bay, I haven’t seen Tom Brady that frustrated in a long time. The Giants got consistent pressure on Brady, did not allow him to manage the pocket, put defenders at his feet the entire game. The Giants lost the game again, but they were right there with the Super Bowl champs.
“Graham is doing it without a bunch of superstars. I think he’s an excellent coordinator. Very smart. Very detailed. I don’t know how he would be as a leader of the entire football team, but he’s getting the most out of his players, he gets them to play hard and he squeezes every ounce out of those players. People around the league are very high on him.”
8. Matt Nagy is fully aware this was likely his final home game as Bears coach.
Nagy doesn’t live in a bubble and isn’t oblivious to what’s going on around him and what’s being said and speculated. There was talk the Bears might fire Nagy before Week 17 to take advantage of an early window to begin interviewing potential replacements. As I’ve said all along, that’s not something the Bears could do until they make it clear who would be leading a coaching search.
It hasn’t been easy for Nagy, whose job status has been the No. 1 storyline surrounding the franchise for more than half the season. But he has handled it in a professional manner and has done his best to maintain the focus on the next game.
“I take it day by day,” he said. “If it goes that way (and this was his final home game as head coach), it’s meant to be. At the same point in time, I’m so stuck in today’s game and the feeling that I have that I don’t even have time to really … I haven’t thought about that. Maybe I will down the road if that was to happen. If not, then I’m just going to do exactly what I’ve been doing all year long, which is prepping for Minnesota.”
There’s plenty to criticize with Nagy. He arrived in 2018 with the task of fixing the offense, and it remains a mess. That’s on him and the members of his staff. He likely will lose his job because of it. But he has gotten the players to continue to show up and play hard, and the Bears have a chance to end the season with a three-game winning streak.
“It means a lot to me,” Nagy said. “It means a lot to our coaches. I know it means a lot for the players. I just think it speaks to who our locker room is. You get to this point, it’s a long season. A lot of stuff happens. But these guys, they deserve to be credited for their ability to fight through some tough times and care. And to come out and play with this effort like they have been doing.
“This isn’t something that just kicked on the last several weeks. They’ve been playing with this effort all year. We’ve played some pretty good teams and we’ve put ourselves in position to win and in the end we didn’t win those games, and so you could get to a point where you don’t see the effort. But that’s just not going to happen here as long as I’m around helping these guys and those coaches in there. That’s not going to happen. These players, they care.”
9. The Bears continued to rotate players in the secondary.
With the Giants going with heavy personnel and barely attempting to throw the ball, the nickel and dime packages were used sparingly. The Bears actually were in dime personnel more than nickel.
According to my unofficial snap counts from the press box — which don’t include plays wiped out by penalties — starting cornerback Artie Burns, who had two pass breakups, played 34 snaps. Kindle Vildor got 21 snaps on the outside out of the 55 plays the Giants ran.
The Bears used Marqui Christian (eight snaps) and rookie Thomas Graham Jr. (four snaps) in the slot. They also moved down free safety Eddie Jackson over the slot in certain coverages. Strong safety Tashaun Gipson logged 42 snaps, and Deon Bush had 26 at strong safety and as a dime defender. I would expect a lot more of the sub packages against the Vikings next week.
10. Pretty cool note about NFL legend John Madden, who died Tuesday at 85.
The Hall of Fame coach and broadcasting icon called 576 games in his long career in the booth. According to @QuirkyResearch, Madden called 68 Bears games. That’s the sixth-most behind the Dallas Cowboys (142), New York Giants (132), Washington Football Team (91), San Francisco 49ers (89) and Philadelphia Eagles (86).
10a. The Bears defense had only one interception in the last five games and entered Sunday’s game with six for the season, tied for 27th with the 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars and ahead of only the Las Vegas Raiders (five). Tashaun Gipson and Deon Bush had picks against the Giants to give the Bears eight and ensure they don’t set a team record for fewest interceptions in a season. The Bears record low is eight, something they’ve done three times.
10b. The Bears put away the game for good late in the second quarter when they scored eight points on two field goals and a safety in the final 61 seconds. Amazingly, the Giants have been outscored 76-0 in the final two minutes of the second quarter this season.
10c. That flurry of scores was due in part to a gaffe by the Giants, who allowed a kickoff to land inside the 5-yard line. Kickoff returner Pharoh Cooper thought it was going into the end zone for a touchback, and the Giants wound up starting the possession on their 5-yard line. Joe Judge has a background in coaching special teams, so this had to drive him nuts.
10d. Judge gave a 10-minute-plus answer after the game about the state of the franchise. The Giants are 4-12, and he tried to explain how the team is in a better place than when he arrived. I’m not going to pretend to have any special insight into the Giants situation, but there’s speculation Judge could be safe for 2022 because they don’t want to fire a third straight coach after two seasons or less. On its face, that doesn’t seem like a good reason to keep Judge.
10e. Darnell Mooney caught seven passes for 69 yards and will go to Minnesota with 929 receiving yards on the season, needing 71 to reach 1,000. Have to wonder if the Bears will prioritize that benchmark.
10f. The Vikings opened as 3½-point favorites over the Bears at Westgate SuperBook for Sunday’s season finale at US Bank Stadium. ESPN’s “Daily Wager” noted last week the Bears were the NFL’s worst team against the spread in 2021 with a 5-12 record. That includes the Week 17 game against the Packers and the wild-card playoff game in New Orleans to end the 2020 season. They’re now 1-0 against the spread in 2022.
Source: Berkshire mont