Film Study: Five takeaways from the Bears’ 16-14 victory vs. Cardinals
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Quarterback Mitch Trubisky made some good throws in the Bears’ 16-14 victory Sunday against the Cardinals.
His touch, accuracy and arm strength were on display on a 25-yard completion to tight end Trey Burton and on a 39-yarder to receiver Allen Robinson.
‘‘Those are the type of plays we need to continue going forward,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘‘It sparks the offense and shifts the momentum.’’
But Trubisky’s missed throws are adding up, too. He knows he needs to be better.
That said, here are five takeaways after watching film of the Bears’ victory:
More misses from Mitch
Through the first three games, the Bears have averaged nearly 10 minutes more in time of possession than their opponents. But they’ve scored only four touchdowns on 30 possessions.
The Bears’ five-minute drive in the second quarter that ended with kicker Cody Parkey’s 20-yard field goal featured two missed throws by Trubisky that could have gone for touchdowns.
The first was another overthrow of receiver Taylor Gabriel on first-and-10 from the Cardinals’ 36. Similar to a miss last week against the Seahawks, Gabriel started in the right slot before crossing the defense and heading downfield.
Gabriel wasn’t as wide-open as he was last week — Cardinals cornerback Jamar Taylor chased him in coverage — but a better throw by Trubisky would have resulted in a touchdown.
Two plays later, Trubisky had Robinson open on a post route on first-and-10 from the Cardinals’ 21, but he threw off his back foot. Coach Matt Nagy said pressure affected Trubisky’s timing. Defensive end Markus Golden was penalized for roughing the passer.
‘‘A little off here or there,’’ Trubisky said. ‘‘They’ll drop sooner or later. I promise.’’
It starts with fine-tuning his mechanics and finding a rhythm on such plays. Trubisky also overthrew Robinson on a fade on the goal line and underthrew him on a deep ball down the left sideline. Robinson had single coverage on both plays.
Playing from behind
Trubisky has completed 69.2 percent of his passes this season. But according to the NFL’s ‘‘Next Gen’’ statistics, 24 of his 72 completions have been made behind the line of scrimmage, including eight Sunday. Trubisky is averaging 3.7 yards through the air on his completed passes.
Some of those completions are shovel passes, but Nagy’s heavy use of quick-receiver screens stands out. Such plays can be viewed as an extension of the running game, but the Bears’ receivers have struggled to maintain their blocks.
On second-and-10 in the first quarter, Cardinals safety Budda Baker blew up Robinson’s block to tackle Gabriel for a three-yard gain.
Early in the second quarter, Kevin White was called for a block in the back on a screen to fellow receiver Anthony Miller, who gained four yards.
White’s limited playing time also is a tip for screens. He hasn’t been targeted this season. Instead, he has been used primarily to block for others. Against the Cardinals, White got 12 offensive plays, six fewer than Josh Bellamy.
The Bears’ best receiver screen was Miller’s 15-yard gain in the second quarter. Miller’s route went beyond the line of scrimmage. Nagy also used tight ends Dion Sims and Ben Braunecker as blockers, not other receivers.
Simplifying an attack
The Bears test defenses with their various formations and personnel groupings, but a simpler approach might work better in short-yardage situations.
The Bears’ only touchdown drive against the Cardinals featured a crucial fourth-and-one conversion by Robinson. The play was a tweak of the shovel-pass option play that Burton scored on in Week 2.
The Bears were fortunate to convert, too. Right guard Kyle Long pulled ahead of Robinson and missed linebacker Gerald Hodges, whose tackle nearly prevented the first down.
‘‘You trust it in practice when you see it,’’ Nagy said.
Another play that stood out for its complexity came on second-and-goal from the Cardinals’ 2 in the first half. It resulted in an illegal-shift penalty.
With lineman Bradley Sowell in as an eligible receiver, the Bears ran an empty-set, sprint-out play to the right. Braunecker, Sims and Burton were Trubisky’s options. Running back Jordan Howard blocked on the right edge.
Trubisky threw the ball at Braunecker’s feet because no one was open. But the play was doomed from the start. Sims was called for a five-yard penalty because he wasn’t set on the line.
Eyeing Mack’s attack
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio continued to move outside linebacker Khalil Mack around.
On third-and-nine in the third quarter, Fangio featured a four-man rush that included, from left to right, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, Mack, nose tackle Eddie Goldman and defensive end Akiem Hicks. Safety Eddie Jackson intercepted Sam Bradford on that play.
Mack’s first sack Sunday came from the right side and out of a three-point stance. He powered his way through left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati to take down Bradford for a seven-yard loss late in the first half. It put the Cardinals out of field-goal range.
Mack’s sack and forced fumble on Bradford in the fourth quarter came from an upright stance on the left edge. He didn’t stop pursuing Bradford and raced past right tackle John Wetzel.
‘‘I’m glad [Mack is] on our team,’’ Nagy said. ‘‘And that’s being about as calm as I could possibly be.’’
The Cardinals made a concerted effort to go after undrafted rookie cornerback Kevin Toliver in the fourth quarter after Prince Amukamara suffered a hamstring injury.
Rookie receiver Christian Kirk beat Toliver on an out-and-up route for a 32-yard gain. Rookie quarterback Josh Rosen also completed a 10-yard throw to Kirk and an eight-yarder to receiver Chad Williams in front of Toliver’s soft coverage.
The Buccaneers likely will go after Toliver, too, if he starts in Week 4. Bryce Callahan is the top reserve in the base defense, but he still handled the slot in the Bears’ nickel and dime packages.