1st-and-10: Allen Robinson sends a message — and Bears need to take notice
The Bears wide receiver — who doesn’t make waves — seemed to express frustration with negotiations on a long-term contract when he eliminated references to the Bears in his Instagram and Twitter accounts. It might be time to get the deal done.
I don’t know much, but I do know this: If Allen Robinson is miffed at you, the problem is you and not him.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace has a checkered ledger on player acquisition. But he has been consistent on two fronts: signing players who earned a contract (Eddie Jackson, Akiem Hicks, Kyle Fuller, Cody Whitehair, Charles Leno, Danny Trevathan) and dropping players who didn’t (Mike Glennon, Cody Parkey, Mike Davis, Leonard Floyd, Adam Shaheen).
So what’s taking so long to sign Robinson to a long-term contract? On a team that values culture as much as performance, Robinson is the perfect Pace/Matt Nagy Bear. He arguably is the most valuable player on the team; without his 98 receptions for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns last season, Joe Burrow might be quarterbacking the Bears today instead of Mitch Trubisky.
He’s as dependable as he is productive. He’s clutch. He plays well against the Packers. He’s a security blanket for the fledgling Trubisky. And he’s an invaluable role model for fellow wide receiver Anthony Miller, helping Miller develop into a star in his third year while curbing his diva instincts.
And, as a team player who speaks his mind but knows where to draw the line and set an example of professionalism, Robinson exemplifies the culture that Pace and Nagy cherish so much.
So when Robinson eliminates references to the Bears from his Instagram and Twitter account bios — as he did after the Lions game — and has his representation inquire about a trade if a deal can’t be done, according to a Sun-Times source, the pressure has been turned up on Pace.
Even if Pace wants to let the 2021 salary-cap dust settle before he makes the deal, as he intimated last week, Robinson’s message is clear: Every game he plays carries an unnecessary injury risk. The deal needs to get done sooner rather than later. It’s a fair request.
2. What to make of that 27-23 victory over the Lions? The Bears’ opener historically has been a pretty good barometer, from the victory over the Packers in 1963 to last year’s dud against the Packers at Soldier Field. The three-phase 26-0 rout of the Packers in 2006 signaled a new day under coach Lovie Smith — a wave the Bears rode to the Super Bowl. Even competitive season-opening losses to good teams in 2001, 2005 and 2018 were harbingers of playoff seasons.
The mixed-bag results against the Lions — from Bad Mitch/Good Mitch on down — present all sorts of possibilities. But based on Sunday’s game, this season could be similar to 2012 under Smith, when the Bears started 7-1 against a weak schedule (including a timely opener against Chuck Pagano’s Colts in Andrew Luck’s NFL debut), then lost five of six against good teams and finished 10-6 and out of the playoffs.
3. Trubisky’s three-touchdown fourth quarter notwithstanding, the Bears’ running game was the best sign of future success. The Bears ran early, often and even when they were down 20-6 in the second half — with consistent effectiveness. They gained 149 yards on 28 carries (5.3 average).And they had 14 carries of five yards or more — a total they exceeded only once last year, against the Vikings’ subs in the season finale. Only once Sunday did they have back-to-back carries of fewer than three yards.
4. Here’s an example of how a good running game impacts the entire team. When wide receivers coach Mike Furrey was asked if there was a subtle performance from his group that he felt good about, it wasn’t his receivers he pointed to.
“It started from the first play of the game with a six-yard run,” Furrey said. “Our offensive line and the running game and the way Cordarrelle Patterson was hitting the middle, and [Tarik Cohen’s] spurting out some big runs, and [David Montgomery] doing the same thing in the run game.
“Our wide receivers are looking back saying, ‘Hey, you can’t just drop seven or eight people every play now. You need to respect our run game.’ [Robinson’s] big play over the middle on the dagger, [Darnell] Mooney’s ball that he caught for the first catch of his career — some of those catches that we’re getting now that are longer than what you guys are probably used to, those are gonna start happening a lot more because of our run game.”
5. One more note on the running game: New offensive line coach Juan Castillo can expound on any subject, but he was as succinct as he’ll ever be when asked what he saw Sunday that portends success.
“The guys came off the football,” he said. “They finished the plays. And that made them physical. Pretty simple sometimes.”
6. Is head coach Nagy feeling the pressure? He has been getting more and more into all-business mode early in this season. His complete shutdown of injury information — whether fans care about such information or not — is a departure from previous seasons. And his explanation (“Going to do everything possible to win”) is more revealing than convincing.
And perhaps it’s the distant nature of Zoom teleconferences, but Nagy doesn’t seem to be enjoying the back-and-forth with reporters anymore. His news conference Monday after the Lions game lasted 11 minutes — and that was after a win. Last year, he talked for 30 minutes about the discouraging season-opening loss to the Packers in the day-after news conference.
7. Thursday is the 100th anniversary of the Sept. 17, 1920, meeting at Ralph Hay’s Hupmobile showroom that gave birth to the American Professional Football Association, which became the National Football League in 1922.
George Halas, who, as the story goes, conceived the idea of a professional league, represented the Decatur Staleys. And the rest is history. The Bears and the Cardinals are the only two remaining franchises from the 11 that were awarded at that meeting.
8. It didn’t take long for the Bears to miss nose tackle Eddie Goldman — or look like they did. Adrian Peterson gained 19 yards up the middle on his first carry for the Lions en route to a 14-play, 93-yard game. When Peterson faced the Bears and Goldman last year with Washington, he was held to 37 yards on 12 carries.
As Bilal Nichols gets acclimated to being a full-time nose tackle, that’s one area where you can expect improvement.
“[Nichols] did some good things and some things he can improve on . . . pad level and hand-placement and eyes,” defensive line coach Jay Rodgers said. “But that was the same across the board. This was the first real bullets these guys have seen this year, and we’d love to start out perfect every game, but he had some opportunities to affect the passer. He had a couple good rushes in there. It didn’t materialize to any production, but it showed some promise and showed some growth.”
9. Josh McCown Ex-Bears Player of the Week Award: Linebacker Leonard Floyd had an impressive debut with the Rams, including a fourth-quarter sack in a 20-17 upset of the Cowboys. Still too early for regret, though.
10. Bear-ometer: 9-7 — vs. Giants (W); at Falcons (L); vs. Colts (W); vs. Buccaneers (W); at Panthers (W); at Rams (L); vs. Saints (L); at Titans (L); vs. Vikings (W); at Packers (L); vs. Lions (W); vs. Texans (L); at Vikings (L); at Jaguars (W); vs. Packers (W).