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Bears can’t afford to marginalize WR Allen Robinson in game plan vs. Saints

Robinson is the team’s best offensive player by far, and the Bears need to make sure he’s getting 10-15 targets in their playoff game Sunday.

Allen Robinson put up his third 1,000-yard season in 2020.
Allen Robinson put up his third 1,000-yard season in 2020.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

For most of this season, wide receiver Allen Robinson was the only good thing about the Bears’ offense. He carried them on his way to 1,250 yards receiving, so it was odd that he got just five targets and had two catches against the Packers in the final game of the regular season.

His best play was probably a block that bought time for Mitch Trubisky to hit Darnell Mooney for 53 yards, and while it was a much-needed chip, that’s not the way to maximize a star receiver. He had been targeted nearly 10 times per game before that, and that’s what should be in the Bears’ game plan every week.

“I mean my job is to play,” Robinson said of his quiet game. “I’ve never really gotten too caught up into [telling the coaches he needs the ball more]. Coaches coach, and players play. I trust in the plan that they have, and it’s just my job to execute.”

That’s the right thing to say, and given Robinson’s exceptional professionalism, he probably means it. But the Bears aren’t going anywhere if Robinson isn’t more involved. He’s their most talented, productive offensive player, and the Bears need to get him the ball as much as possible.

Robinson doesn’t need to say that, it’s obvious.

“Anytime you have 100 catches, teams know that that’s a guy that you want to get the football to,” coach Matt Nagy said. “We need to make sure that we do a good job of mixing it up and making sure that he’s still getting opportunities.

“Last week, there weren’t a lot of opportunities or targets for him. Obviously, we want to be able to change that.”

The Bears need to be operating at full capacity to have any chance against a Saints’ defense that allowed the fifth-fewest points and had the third-most takeaways this season, and that starts with Robinson as the centerpiece of their offense.

Amid all the turmoil at quarterback between Trubisky and Nick Foles, the unsteady offensive line and minimal help to draw attention from him, Robinson put up the second-best season of his career. He had 102 catches (sixth in the NFL), 1,250 yards (ninth) and 22 catches of 20-plus yards (22).

It’s a familiar position for Robinson, though he never points this out. He had 1,147 yards receiving last season despite the Bears’ struggles and hit a career-high 1,400 for the hapless Jaguars in 2014.

In his lone playoff appearance, when the Bears lost to the Eagles two years ago, Robinson was the only one to top 60 yards of offense. He had 10 catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, accounting for 40% of the team’s total offense and marking the best receiving game in franchise history. He had 55 of the Bears’ 115 receiving yards in the fourth quarter.

“In big moments, he’s making big plays,” Nagy said. “We learned some things as a staff, too, that we’ve talked about, that, ‘Hey, if we get back in this situation again, let’s do this. Let’s remember this.’ ”

“Unfortunately, last year we didn’t make the playoffs, so we weren’t able to put that into fruition, but here we are right now. And we’re using our experiences to help us be better for this next opportunity that we have. A-Rob is a part of that.”

He needs to be the biggest part of it, especially with Mooney looking doubtful because of an ankle injury and the Bears’ other skill players being unproven. Regardless of that, the Bears have depended on Robinson throughout his three seasons with the team. He has been the emergency option repeatedly for Trubisky, and there likely will be plenty of emergencies Sunday.