The Falcons are sitting at 0-2 and hosting the 2-0 Chicago Bears in Week 3. Chicago is coming off of victories against the Lions and Giants in their first two games as they look to reclaim some of the 2018 magic that helped them with the NFC North.
Ahead of the matchup, I got the opportunity to interview our friends over at Windy City Gridiron — SBNation’s official Chicago Bears website.
The Bears are off to their first 2-0 start since 2013. However, they were also 3-1 to begin the season last year before finishing 8-8. Is Mitch Trubisky finally starting to figure things out, and what will the team possibly look to do differently from last season to not repeat the same results?
Well, it’s obvious that the Bears have not played a complete game yet. They struggled for much of the Lions game before a furious 4th quarter comeback and played a stellar first half against the Giants before spending the last 30 minutes holding on for dear life. Obviously, you’ll take 2-0 and figure things out as you go, but the Bears, like many teams around the league, are still doing just that - figuring it out. While Trubisky and the Bears offense never did figure it out in 2019, wasting a good defense in the process, this iteration of Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears is at least teasing you with enough good looks to allow for the possibility they’ll put something sustainable together. Head Coach Matt Nagy called a pretty good game last week, mixing in a fair amount of play action with a strong running game, elements that were both lacking last year. If they can continue building their own version of this Andy Reid offense that fits the players, they might be interesting.
If that sounds like I’m dancing around your question, I am. I absolutely think we should all just enjoy the fact that football is back in our lives and realize that this weird offseason has impacted teams differently and we may simply need to see a larger sample size of games before we truly know if teams are good or not.
Allen Robinson is one of the best receivers in the league, but has gotten off to a bit of a slow start with 107 receiving yards and no touchdowns through two games. Is this just a minor speed bump to start the season or is there something more to it than that?
I think it’s just a small sample size. The targets are there (9 each game), he just hasn’t connected on a big impact play just yet. He’s actually attracted 151 targets in each of his first two seasons with Chicago and so that’s essentially where he’s at now. There were a few inaccurate balls thrown his way either preventing a catch or limiting YAC and a couple he probably could’ve pulled down but didn’t. He’s still running sharp routes, getting open, and serving at the primary option in the offense. He’s even managed to record some highlight-reel catches already. The numbers will catch up.
We know about the damage that stout Bears defensive line can do with the likes of Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn, and Akiem Hicks, but who are the names to watch in the secondary against this Falcon passing attack?
From a football nerd standpoint, I’m incredibly excited to see how this secondary stacks up against the Falcons passing attack. The Bears boast two All-Pros in CB Kyle Fuller and FS Eddie Jackson. Fuller is probably the most underrated Bears player and I imagine that’s mostly due to his quiet demeanor. Eddie Jackson is a bigtime playmaker who will line up all over the field to make his presence known. His pick-six last week should’ve salted away the game, but was called back on a pass interference call that was somewhat borderline in my opinion. On the other side of Fuller is rookie CB Jaylon Johnson who has shown maturity from the jump. He’s an exciting young player with a chance to help make this defense special. It will be fascinating to see how Matt Ryan attacks this secondary.
What’s the prevailing opinion on Matt Nagy? He was the coach of the year in 2018, but that success seems to have been attributed more to the work of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (like how the Falcons made it to the Super Bowl in 2016 mostly due to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as opposed to Dan Quinn). After taking a step back following Fangio’s departure in 2019, could Nagy find himself on the hot seat if the team has another season of 8-8 or worse or is his status secured no matter what?
So, I’m going to disagree with you a bit. Vic Fangio is great, taking nothing away from him, but Vic Fangio was with the Bears from 2015-2018. The Bears defense was fine in 2015-2017, but nothing to write home about, winning 14 games over 3 seasons. It unlocked in 2018 with the acquisition of Khalil Mack and Eddie Jackson coming into his own at FS. The defense was flat out dominant in 2018, but the offense provided them with a few positive game scripts and kept the defense fresh due to Matt Nagy’s influence. Nagy also brings an incredible level of leadership to the organization, someone who seems to truly understand what it takes to lead an NFL ballclub. That’s far from a given with a first time Head Coach. 2019 could’ve tanked in a bad way if he lost the locker room but that team held on to be competitive in most of their games.
He retooled his offensive staff and appears to have incorporated a lot of changes on his offense. 2019 was supposed to be the “202” version of the offense and it simply fell flat and they never recovered. 2020 seems to be the “new and improved” Nagy offense, and while still under development, gives me hope that he’s willing to learn and adapt as a play-caller. Because of that, I think he’s fine this year, particularly with the weirdness of the COVID offseason. I think this team would have to crater pretty hard and he’d have to have some kind of locker room turmoil for the Bears to be coach shopping in January.
How do you see this game playing out, and who wins?
~insert shrug emoji~
I don’t know, but I’ll answer it this way. For the Bears to win this game, they need to control the tempo. I don’t think the Bears want a shootout here because they are unaccustomed to winning such a game. Keep Matt Ryan on the bench and keep that pass rush fresh. Feed David Montgomery the ball and see if this offensive line can take over the game. If this game gets into the 30’s, something went terribly wrong.
My thanks to Windy City Grindiron writer Jeff Berckes for answering these questions.