Chicago Bears

Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

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Game plan: Penetrate Atlanta's O-Line

Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011
Posted: 11:00 p.m.

By JohnMullin
CSNChicago.com BearsInsider Follow@CSNMoonMullin
Chris Harris wasnt in the mood for a scary movie when he put in the video of the Atlanta Falcons offense. But thats what he got.

It wasnt Matt Ryan passing to Tony Gonzalez or Roddy White, all three of them Pro Bowl selections and the kinds of individuals that cost secondaries, even a veteran safety, good nights sleep. It wasnt just Michael Turner running his way into the Pro Bowl.

It was the big guys bearing down on and picking on little people. Like veteran safeties.

We put on the tape and the first thing we notice is their offensive linemen 10, 12 15 yards downfield, Harris said, shaking his head. Last season and even in preseason, their line plays hard, very aggressive, and they finish blocks.

Curiously perhaps, the Falcons have not run the ball all that well against the Bears, who have never beaten them since Ryan arrived. But the Falcons may in fact be a case study supporting the kind of offensive game planning that worked for the Bears over the final nine regular-season games of 2010.

And that smash-mouth approach to running the football that was the first thing Harris thought of when talking about the Atlanta offense that ranked No. 5 in scoring.

The Bears have never sacked Ryan in the two games against the former No. 3 pick of the 2008 draft. Part of the reason: The Falcons have turned those offensive linemen loose, 30 times (vs. 30 pass plays) in the 22-20 win in 2008, 23 times (vs. 33 passes) in 2009. If you want to protect the passer, make pass rushers think about the run, and the Bears have.

They run the ball and obviously Matt Ryan is becoming an elite quarterback in this league, Harris said. Hes got the arm, hes a smart guy, and hes smart enough to get it out of his hands and to his playmakers. Theyve been a good running team and now have good skill position players just about everywhere.

The Bears virtually owned the Falcons when Michael Vick ran, literally, the Atlanta offense. In the three Bears-Falcons games of the Vick years, the Falcons scored 3 points twice and 13 once. They have scored 22 and 21 in the two Ryan games.

If it starts up front for the Falcons, it does as well for the Bears on defense, where unprovens Mario Addison and Nick Reed, at 248 and 252 pounds, were kept on the defensive-end depth chart because of their pass rushing. Whether either, if active, can stand up to offensive linemen who consistently get downfield to second and third levels, remains to be seen.

I see a lot of guys that can play, that fill our system, said defensive end Julius Peppers. We have explosive and quick guys, that's what we try and have up front. We're not necessarily big guys, heavy guys, so I see all the guys that we have fit into the system.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Could Mitch Trubisky have already shown the Bears he’s ready to start?

Could Mitch Trubisky have already shown the Bears he’s ready to start?

Could the Bears have already seen something in Mitch Trubisky that gives the front office and coaching staff a reason to believe he can start right away?

The short answer: It doesn’t sound like that’s happened yet from everything that’s been said publicly in Bourbonnais, Chicago and Lake Forest. But the longer answer, and a reason to ask this question, involves what happened with the Philadelphia Eagles a year ago.

Last year’s No. 2 pick didn’t show much, statistically, in his first (and only) preseason game. But Carson Wentz still was the Eagles’ starting quarterback in Week 1 of the 2016 season.

Wentz completed 12 of 24 passes for 89 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in his NFL preseason debut last August, and also suffered a hairline rib fracture in that game that kept him out of the final three weeks of preseason play. All that added up doesn’t exactly scream “Week 1 rookie starter.”

But through practices and workouts over the course of August, the Eagles came to believe they could trust Wentz with the starting job, ultimately shipping Sam Bradford to the Minnesota Vikings in an early September blockbuster.

The Eagles, as it turned out, saw something in Wentz that may not have shown up on his preseason stat line. Trubisky, on the other hand, had an outstanding preseason debut.

Trubisky showed last week he’s more than capable of making all the throws expected out of an NFL quarterback — his third-and-long completion to Deonte Thompson stands out — and put his pure talent on display throughout his two-plus quarters of play. Teammates complimented how Trubisky commanded the huddle, though his plays were coming off a call sheet he was able to study before the game.

The Bears (and Trubisky) have framed his excellent showing against the Denver Broncos as a small step in the right direction, with still plenty on which the North Carolina product can improve. Once again, Trubisky will be the third Bears quarterback to take the field Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals.

Consider how the Eagles opened training camp last year: Bradford was the No. 1, a veteran (Chase Daniel) was No. 2 and the rookie (Wentz) was No. 3. Sounds familiar, right? Then consider what coach Doug Pederson said about Wentz as training camp began:

“You want (Wentz) to be in a position where if there’s an injury or somebody goes down, you plug him in and you don’t have any worries,” Pederson said. “You’re fully confident in his ability to take over. Because backup quarterbacks need to be ready to go in an instant.”

The Bears’ brass hasn’t said anything along those lines regarding Trubisky, at least not yet. But there has been a scenario — albeit, not one completely congruous to what the Bears have, given the draft picks involved — where a No. 2 pick convinces a coaching staff and front office that he’s ready to start instead of a more experienced veteran. And it was seemingly based on a lot less than what we saw from Trubisky last week.

Why Mitch Trubisky has been so impressed by Tarik Cohen

Why Mitch Trubisky has been so impressed by Tarik Cohen

On Sept. 12, 2015, two current Bears were on the same field well before they became NFL prospects and promising pieces of a franchise’s core. 

Tarik Cohen, playing for North Carolina A&T, ran 15 times for 69 yards, putting together an impressive day given the opponent was a Power Five program in North Carolina. And for the Tarheels, a backup quarterback named Mitch Trubisky tagged into a blowout and had a 35-yard touchdown run, and also completed five of seven passes for 37 yards with a touchdown. 

Two years later, Trubisky and Cohen are here in Chicago and have already provided glimpses into what the Bears’ offense could be in the not-too-distant future. 

“Tarik’s always been a beast,” Trubisky said. “I’m glad we’re on the same team. He’s fearless, man.”

Cohen (seven carries 39 yards) and Trubisky (18/25, 166 yards, 1 TD) were the offensive stars of the Bears’ first preseason game. It was the biggest stage Cohen played on after that 2015 game in Chapel Hill, and in it the 5-foot-6, 181 pound rookie showed he belongs in the NFL.

“I’ve always said it’s all about heart,” Trubisky said. “You’ve got a bunch of measurables, but it’s all about heart and that’s what he goes out there and plays with. He’s fearless running the ball and he can take it the distance any given snap.

“It’s tough for me because if I hand it off to him I want to watch him run but I’ve got to carry out my fakes and stuff like that. But he’s a great teammate to have and what I love about him is he always practices hard. No one is outworking him. He’s practicing hard and he loves being out here playing this game.”