Film Study: Five takeaways from the Bears’ 38-31 loss vs. the Patriots
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It didn’t take Patriots quarterback Tom Brady long to identify what the Bears’ defense was trying to do against him.
“Yeah, I think they had a certain game plan they tried to execute, and they made some plays,” Brady said. “We made some.”
Brady is being nice. The Patriots made plenty of plays against the Bears’ defense, which tried to slow him down by dropping more players into pass coverage, including outside linebackers Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd.
Here are five takeaways after watching the film of the Bears’ 38-31 loss:
Brady vs. coverage
As players explained after the game and coach Matt Nagy further detailed Monday, the Bears’ defensive game plan called for dropping into coverage instead of attacking Brady.
The problem, though, was that the Patriots managed to find the matchups they wanted because Brady had ample time. Brady’s five-yard touchdown pass to running back James White in the second quarter was an easy completion against that plan.
On third-and-goal from the 5-yard line, Mack and Floyd didn’t rush Brady. The Bears only sent three rushers. With time, Brady found Floyd in space one-on-one against White, who used a quick inside move before breaking outside for the easy touchdown catch.
The Bears value Floyd’s versatility, especially in coverage. But the Patriots liked their matchups against him when they got them.
White also beat Floyd on third-and-two for an eight-yard catch on a drive that ended on kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s 29-yard field goal that tied the score at 24. Mack also was in coverage on that play.
“You never know how a team is going to decide how to match up against you,” White said. “No matter who is covering me, I just try to win my match.”
Brady vs. coverage, Part 2
The Patriots had seven second-and-10 plays against the Bears. It included White’s seven-yard run, but Brady went 6-for-6 with completions of eight, 20, six, three, eight and 55 yards.
Mack and Floyd only rushed Brady once each during those six pass plays. They never rushed together. On the first two, Floyd actually was aligned in coverage in the slot. Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch also dropped into coverage on second-and-10 from the Patriots’ 49.
On Josh Gordon’s 55-yard reception, the Bears sent four rushers after Brady on his play-action play: Lynch and defensive linemen Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Roy Robertson-Harris. Mack was on the field, but he jammed tight end Dwayne Allen off the line of scrimmage. Brady wasn’t pressured.
The Bears’ coverage plan for Brady meant using a five-man front (three defensive linemen and two outside linebackers) often, which resulted in less playing time for rookie linebacker Roquan Smith.
It was an interesting decision because Smith was drafted eighth overall for his speed and coverage abilities, among other talents. He was on the field for only 35 plays, or 55 percent of the defensive plays.
Mack, who missed two practices last week because of an injured right ankle, didn’t look like his dominant self in the final four minutes when the defense needed to stop the Patriots from running out the clock.
It started with White’s five-yard run around Allen, who not only handled Mack one-on-one but flattened him to the ground.
Allen also drove back Mack two plays later on third-and-one. White cut through the hole that Allen helped create with receiver Julian Edelman, who impeded safety Adrian Amos and cornerback Prince Amukamara.
Mack was then removed from the game on the next two plays. White gained eight and three yards on those plays, which forced the Bears to use their final two timeouts.
It was apparent that the Patriots weren’t overly concerned with Mack’s potential for impact at that point. Mack returned for the Patriots’ final three run calls, the last being a sweep on his side to White on third-and-six.
Mack was better on that final play. He was sent to the ground by Allen and left tackle Trent Brown, but he still affected White’s path. Amukamara tackled White for no gain.
Playing off play-action
The offense has produced without much help from running back Jordan Howard over the last three games, but quarterback Mitch Trubisky would benefit from a more reliable ground attack, whether it’s Howard or Tarik -Cohen.
That was evident Sunday. Howard gained only 39 yards on 12 carries, while Cohen had 14 yards on six carries.
The Bears rank sixth in rushing yards, but that’s deceiving. Their backs have produced only 495 yards on 128 carries.
Rams running back Todd Gurley leads the NFL with 686 rushing yards on 144 carries. His success has immensely helped quarterback Jared Goff, too. He’s the NFL’s best quarterback when it comes to play-action plays.
According to Pro Football Focus, Goff operates in play-action on 39.1 percent of his drop-backs, which is the highest percentage in the NFL. The Eagles’ Carson Wentz is second at 30.6 percent. The Panthers’ Cam Newton and Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes rank third and fourth, respectively.
Trubisky? PFF’s analysis has him at 28th, with play-action plays accounting for 19.7 percent of his drop-backs. Trubisky went 0-for-5 on play-action throws against the Patriots.
“The run game, trying to figure out the identity of who we are, has taken a little bit longer than the pass game,” Nagy said. “When you’re not good in the run game and you become one-dimensional, you’re in trouble.”
The Patriots lived up to their reputation for taking away an opposing offense’s best threats, especially when it comes to receivers.
Taylor Gabriel had three catches on four targets for 26 yards, while Allen Robinson had one catch on five targets for four yards.
Cornerback Stephon Gil-more often trailed Robinson, who played through an ailing groin, and nearly picked off Trubisky in the end zone on a fade in the third quarter.
The Patriots bracketed Gabriel, a speed threat coming off the first two 100-yard receiving games of his career, with their coverage.
“They mixed some things up as far as their zone and man [coverages] and their two-man stuff, the way they played,” Nagy said. “But, no, [Gabriel] did everything that we asked him to.”