The Chiefs defense is brimming with confidence after several great performances in a row — and they get to line up against a Bears offense that’s averaging just 18.3 points per game.
The Bears do have some weapons of note on offense — and head coach Matt Nagy will want to prove his offensive prowess against his former head coach.
As we do every week, let’s take a look at the Bears personnel — and a concept they might use. We’ll then break down what the Chiefs defense can do to slow down the Chicago offense.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky isn’t having quite the season many pundits predicted. Playing in roughly 13 games, Trubisky has racked up only 2,774 yards passing — an average of 213 yards per game. He’s thrown just 17 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. But in the past three weeks, he’s had two games where he’s passed for more than 300 yards.
Arguably the biggest danger on the Bears offense is their running back. Iowa State rookie David Montgomery leads the Bears on the ground, putting up 719 yards on 206 carries this season. Montgomery is a hard player to bring down, showing excellent contact balance to shake off tacklers.
Tarik Cohen is a game-breaking talent out of the backfield. He doesn’t get many touches on the ground, averaging just over four rushing attempts per game. However, Cohen gets plenty of volume as a pass-catcher, totaling 90 targets this year. He’s not been as effective as in years past, averaging just 5.8 yards per catch. That being said, he’s still a dangerous threat for big gains any time he touches the ball.
Chicago’s wide receiver group can pose a threat as well. Allen Robinson has been Trubisky’s highest volume target in 2019. He has 83 receptions on 130 targets for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns. His abilities to gain separation out of breaks and win at the catch point have kept this offense from being in the doldrums for much of the year.
Now in his second year, Anthony Miller gets his share of the passing game; he’s caught 50 passes for 649 yards. Despite Chicago’s poor passing offense, he’s developed quickly — and could easily break open opposite Robinson. Taylor Gabriel usually operates out of the slot for the Bears, but he’s recovering from a concussion; on Sunday, we might see Cordarrelle Patterson or rookie Riley Ridley instead.
The Bears tight ends have been poor since Trey Burton was injured. Jesper Horsted and J.P. Holtz are the only tight ends on the active roster who have been targeted this year. They have combined for 16 targets — and of late, they haven’t factored into the passing game.
Chicago’s offensive line has been poor throughout the year. Charles Leno Jr. and Bobby Massie bookend the line at tackle. They’ve allowed power rushers to crush the pocket — and that bodes well for Chiefs pass rushers. In Week 15, the interior offensive linemen James Daniels, Rashaad Coward and Cody Whitehair were dominated by Green Bay’s Kenny Clark. We should see a big day from Chris Jones.
The offensive concept: Dagger concept
CHI checked and changed a lot at the line against GB, including this Dagger concept.— Craig Stout (@barleyhop) December 19, 2019
Slot runs the post, occupying apex. Horizontal stretch from inside reciever pulls the hook to the sideline. Safety opens hips to carry slot, and the deep dig is wide open. pic.twitter.com/znm7WYyog9
In the past couple of games, the Bears have often called in their plays late — or checked out of looks — after seeing what the defense has offered. One of the route combinations that the Bears have used out of those checks is the Dagger concept we see here.
It’s designed to be a high-low read for the quarterback. The slot receiver runs a post route to carry the apex vertically and occupy the safety. The inside receiver stretches horizontally to pull the hook defender out of place, while the boundary receiver runs a deep dig. Since the post is occupying the extra help to that side of the field, both the underneath and dig routes get single coverage; the quarterback has a simple read to identify which of the receivers has the most separation.
If the safety can peel off in these situations, the dig can be taken away. Lately, the Chiefs’ secondary has bracketed the best offensive weapons, so collapsing on these routes that are designed to free Robinson and Miller can force the checkdown to a tight end. With Trubisky’s inability to attack a defense with explosive plays, forcing the checkdown and pushing to another down might just be the best course of action.
The bottom line
Some offenses are greater than the sum of their parts, producing at a high level without top-level talent. But the Bears offense might be less than the sum of its parts.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the Bears should be taken lightly. Cohen, Robinson and Miller are all supremely talented players; with the ball in their hands, they can do damage to a defense. Matt Nagy still has fantastic offensive concepts that he can unleash. Montgomery and Trubisky could easily put yardage on the Chiefs defense with their legs.
That said, the Bears offense isn’t a particularly efficient unit. It’s relying on Nagy and the offensive staff sending calls to Trubisky all the way up to the radio cutoff and then making adjustments. Steve Spagnuolo can take advantage of that with late alignment changes and simulated pressure. The Bears have mainly utilized Cohen in the passing game, allowing Spagnuolo to cover him as he did James White and Austin Ekeler in recent weeks: as a receiver. This takes away that element of surprise, keeping the Chiefs’ slower linebackers on the sidelines in favor of safeties.
Finally, the Chiefs four-man rush should find success against a leaky offensive line. Chris Jones should be able to beat the interior of the Bears line, while Terrell Suggs and Frank Clark can win on the outside with power. Spagnuolo will be able to run some games up front against the Chicago’s longer-developing vertical passing game, forcing Trubisky into more mistakes.
While this league presents challenges in every single matchup, Sunday night’s game should be one where the Chiefs defense can find success.