Chicago Bears

What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

What the Bears can learn from NFL wild-card weekend

The NFL is nothing if not a copycat league, with successful innovations or stratagems invariably being replicated by others. So with the opening playoff weekend of the playoffs finished, did situations unfold in the four games that can provide useful object lessons for a Bears team that may not yet have talent to pull of certain things but certainly can learn from them?

Absolutely. Even allowing for a degree of oversimplification, consider:

Playoff Lesson 1: Teams without their No. 1 quarterbacks lost by double digits.

The Miami Dolphins may have earned new coach Adam Gase serious consideration for AFC coach of the year by reaching the playoffs. But forced to start Matt Moore instead of Ryan Tannehill (No. 12 passer rating, No. 6 completion percentage), the Dolphins were beaten 30-12 by the Steelers. Moore lost 2 fumbles and was intercepted once.

The Oakland Raiders dropped down from MVP candidate Derek Carr to rookie Connor Cook, who threw 3 interceptions on his way to a 30.0 passer rating in his first NFL start.

Bears Lesson 1: Don’t get down to your fourth quarterback.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Playoff Lesson 2: Every winning team out-rushed their opponent and ran the football at least 25 times.

The Green Bay Packers ran just 25 times in their rout of the New York Giants, which was more than the Giants did, and also, any team with Aaron Rodgers as its quarterback is by definition an outlier anyway.

Bears Lesson 2: Run the football 25 times.

Or at least start with that as a minimum. Obviously game and scoreboard situations can unravel any plan, but the Bears ran the ball 25 or more times in seven of their 16 games. They won three of those games; in one (Jacksonville) the defense gave up 17 fourth-quarter points and a 13-0 lead; in one (Giants) the quarterback (Jay Cutler) threw a late interception on a potential winning drive; and in two (Washington, Minnesota II) the Bears turned the ball over a combined 10 times (see Lesson 1).

Playoff Lesson 3: 10 of the 12 playoff teams drafted their No. 1 quarterback.

Houston acquired their quarterback (Brock Osweiler) in free agency. Kansas City traded for theirs (Alex Smith). All the rest drafted the quarterback who eventually led them into this season’s playoffs.

Of those 10 drafted quarterbacks, only Oakland’s Derek Carr (2014 draft) and Dallas’ Dak Prescott (2016) have been with their teams less than five years. Of those 10 quarterbacks, more than half were drafted when their teams already had a starter in place (e.g., Tom Brady behind Drew Bledsoe, New England; Aaron Rodgers behind Brett Favre, Green Bay).

Mitch Trubisky will eventually make a glaring mistake, and why he'll respond to it well

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USA Today Sports Images

Mitch Trubisky will eventually make a glaring mistake, and why he'll respond to it well

John Fox likes to use a formula to determine how a player will respond to adversity: Events + Responses = Outcomes (E + R = O). Mitch Trubisky hasn’t experienced much adversity in his first two preseason games, but if how he’s handled the mistakes he’s made in practice is any indication, he’ll respond to those well. 

“Your response typically equals the outcome,” Fox said. “If you haven’t dropped a ball, haven’t missed a pass, you haven’t thrown a pick, you haven’t played. It’s how they respond.”

Trubisky missed a few passes Saturday night against the Arizona Cardinals and was battered a bit behind a third-string offensive line. But he hasn’t thrown an interception in 33 preseason attempts, and his final line Saturday — 6/8, 60 yards, 1 TD — was solid, though not as spectacular as his preseason debut. 

Consider this, though: Two days before lighting up the Denver Broncos (second/third/fourth-string) defense, Mitch Trubisky ended practice by throwing an interception to Deiondre’ Hall in the end zone.

“It sucks,” Trubisky said. “The rest of my day will not feel as great since I ended practice that way.”

Trubisky responded to that pick by, in the short term, making a few more throws after practice. He then went out and dazzled against Denver, completing 18 of 25 passes for 166 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. 

“It’s all about, for me, not making the same mistake twice,” Trubisky said. “So, you can make a mistake and that’s going to happen, especially for rookies, but it’s all about overcoming that, learning from it and don’t let it happen again. And I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far.”

Trubisky speaks confidently and acts that way in both practice and games. There is some general risk associated with playing a rookie quarterback before he’s “ready,” because if he struggles his confidence could be severely damaged. 

With Trubisky, though, there doesn’t seem to be as great of a confidence risk if the Bears do decide to play him early.

Of course, the best way for Trubisky to avoid a hit to his confidence is to not make any mistakes. But inevitably, he’ll throw an interception or have a bad game. That’ll be the E in that equation Fox likes. 

And, so far, Trubisky — who thought he played “alright” against Arizona —  has shown his “R” will probably be good. That’s another mark in his favor for being ready to play earlier than was expected when the Bears drafted him in April. 

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

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AP

WATCH: Deonte Thompson channels inner Devin Hester with 109-yard return in Bears preseason game

It's been a while since Devin Hester electrified the city of Chicago with his touchdown returns, but we got flashbacks of that Saturday night.

Deonte Thompson took a page out of the book of arguably the best returner in NFL history by returning a 109-yard missed field goal to the house as the first half expired during the Bears' second preseason game in Arizona.

It gave the Bears a 17-7 lead, and even had John Fox going crazy on the sideline:

Deonte Thompson, you are ridiculous?