For this week’s amateur adventures in film I decided that rather than take a look at an individual player I would take a look at the Chicago Bears’ offence and specifically how Matt Nagy and his staff and schemed up the open receivers that allowed Mitch Trubisky to throw for six touchdowns.
Now I am cheating a little as I heard Greg Cosell talk about this a little in the week and so I know that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play a relatively straight forward zone defence where they tend to only rush four and when watching the tape it quickly became apparent how much the Buccaneers were playing with a single high safety. This was what most of the big passing plays took advantage of but I shall get to that in a minute.
The Bears used a few different personnel groupings, but it wasn’t easy to keep track of them as the all twenty-two film was shot from a surprisingly low angle to what I’m used to as so identifying numbers etc were not always easy to see but they were not afraid of using heavy sets with three tight-ends on the field as well as the frequent eleven personnel in shotgun formation. They also came out multiple times with two running back with Jordan Howard in the backfield and Tarik Cohen lined up in the slot. What was also obvious was the way they frequently lined up with lopsided receiver sets and then used these groupings of receivers to attack multiple levels of the defence and this is how they kept springing long plays. Multiple times they would force the high safety to play one or two players attacking deep that allowed a player to run a combination or under route to catch the ball in space and pick up a lot of yardage or score. I thoroughly enjoyed watching how the routes of the receivers interacted, particularly as there were often several other players kept in to protect the quarterback. It’s not every week that my long suffering partner here’s me muttering about how clever a coach is
The other thing I noticed, which I believe is happening more across the NFL these days, is that apart from your classic play-action or the quarterback initially looking one way before turning to where the play is designed to go, I the use of multiple fakes and consistently using them on the majority of plays. This was also present in the read-option run plays where Trubisky would run even if he’d handed off the ball, but in the passing game the Bears would say start with a standard play action fake handoff, then fake a receiver screen throw before turning to actually throw the ball to the other side of the field. There is so much more deception going on and this puts the single safety in a real bind, which the Bears were able to take advantage of as they kept asking the difficult question of the Buccaneers’ high safety who did not have an easy adjustment to make to solve the issues that were being caused.
So did Trubisky look like a quarterback capable of throwing six touchdowns? Well the flippant answer is yes because he did. However, it was not all simple throws to open receivers. He also threw balls with timing and made some difficult throws even if there were also misses and he is far from the finished product. Yet Trubisky did throw six touchdowns against the league’s worst defence by DVOA and was able to execute the plan that Matt Nagy laid out and that is all you can ask of a quarterback. There will be more difficult tests for both Nagy and Trubisky, but this is a hopeful sign that the Bears could really compete this year and with the various options available to the offence they have the chance to do so given the way their defence is playing.